Editor’s note: This article was written pre-COVID-19. When planning a vacation, please reference the latest CDC guidelines for travel.
Any trip that lasts longer than four days when you have small kids is a lot of preparation — mentally, mostly. Like most things with toddlers, it’s a series of repeated steps and boring jobs no one else wants to do, but someone has to do. Because no matter how helpful your tiny tots are, it benefits no one to show up at any destination with a suitcase full of toys, a pull-up, and one swimsuit.
Here’s a helpful and realistic guide for what to pack for a vacation with toddlers:
1. Pull out suitcases a week before to mentally and emotionally prepare for the daunting task that lies ahead.
2. Find suitcases the night before, because your toddlers have used them as forts, cars, and space shuttles for the cats.
3. Empty toys and random items your toddlers packed, like used Band-Aids and the “sleeping” moth someone caught last summer and kept in a jar.
4. Look at the mountains of laundry to do. Then, look at the mountains of laundry still needing to be folded from three weeks ago, and say, “Fuck this shit,” and get a glass of wine.
5. Ask the kids to help you pack their things so they can take 2 shirts, 12 pairs of underwear, a sock, and no pants.
6. Unpack everything your kids packed, re-fold what you’re keeping, and pack what they need while mentally debating the possibility of fitting a bottle of wine into their tiny Paw Patrol suitcase.
7. Make a list of items you shouldn’t forget, like children’s ibuprofen for your teether, small nail clippers, and your children.
8. Make a list of things you can buy after you arrive at your destination, like more diapers and the children’s ibuprofen you forgot because you lost the list.
9. Make a list of destinations that you wish you were going to without your family.
10. Watch Shark Tank and drink more wine.
11. Make a list of things you love about Shark Tank and wine.
12. Check to see if the laundry still needs to be folded.
13. Discover that it does and have more wine.
14. Ask kids to pack their backpacks.
15. Unpack their backpacks that contain every item they own, and replace with a blanket, snacks, crayons, and books.
16. Check to see if the laundry folded itself.
17. Drink more wine to numb the pain.
18. Fold the laundry you plan to pack and put the rest back into the hamper because with the laundry that’s coming after vacation it won’t matter.
19. Manage your pets, including leaving four weeks’ worth of food that one of your cats will completely consume before your vehicle gets to the end of your driveway.
20. Call your aunt and arrange for her to check in on the cats to make sure none die because they ran out of food 20 minutes after you left.
21. Clean your house, because the only thing worse than coming home to a messy house is having to pack for vacation. Procrastination station.
22. Pack your teether’s toothbrush and toothpaste so you can forget to brush his teeth for eight days.
23. Wonder if it’s too late to back out of this vacation. After all, memories are made every day and everywhere. Does a 3-year-old really know Disneyland isn’t the Target toy section?
24. Make sure everyone’s suitcases are placed neatly by the door to be loaded into the car in the morning. Except yours, because, laundry.
25. Frantically pack your suitcase last while everyone is hollering for you to hurry up and get into the car.
Once you get to your destination, you can go to a store near your hotel to purchase your makeup and toothbrush you forgot because you were too busy doing everything else. While you’re there, grab a bottle of wine too. You’ll need it when you pack up to go home.