Traveling is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids because you expose them to a world outside of the four walls they see every day. Once you commit to taking a family-friendly trip, the preparation begins soon thereafter. The reason parents plan way in advance is because it is quite the endeavor to go to a new destination with little people. They require a lot of “stuff” and planning to make another place feel like a home away from home. For example, when your children are still teeny tiny, a travel stroller is an absolute must to make the transporting of them and their stuff less arduous.
Additionally, road tripping with the family itself can be a fun adventure: to take in sights along the way and to break up a trip into smaller, digestible segments so it becomes less taxing—although you may still have to prepare yourself for the inevitable repetitive question, “Are we there yet?” Finally, once you arrive at your destination, keeping the kids on a sleep schedule can also make or break a trip.
Because of all these reasons, the convenience of staying at an Airbnb (or VRBO), which can have all the amenities a family could ever need, may be more appealing for an easier and more comfortable travel experience. Having separate rooms with multiple bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a private yard space are just some of the benefits of staying at an Airbnb versus a hotel. But let’s be honest, traveling with young children is never going to be a walk in the park. However, with some planning—and some lowering of expectations—you can have a fun trip for all! Fussy babies might still be fussy and toddler tantrums will still happen, but your trip can still be memorable and amazing.
To help prepare you for an epic family vacation at an Airbnb of your choice, we have curated our essential items that we recommend for any of your upcoming trips.
1. Disinfecting Wipes
Even though we are very tired of the pandemic by this point, the harsh reality is that it is very much still present in our lives. Airbnbs have strict COVID cleaning protocols that require them to thoroughly clean and sanitize after each guest’s stay. Nonetheless, if you are wanting some reassurance, we recommend taking some disinfecting wipes to do an extra wipe down of commonly used surfaces and household items, which can include door knobs and faucets, remote controls, toilet seats, and counters. Consider this just extra insurance during a period when COVID is still rampant. I always carry kid-friendly sanitation wipes in my bag because little ones tend to touch everything in sight (and put it in their mouths!).
2. Food for First Meal(s)
Traveling with young kids will probably involve multiple stops/delays along the way. This is inevitable and comes with the territory, so lowering expectations regarding strict time schedules is encouraged. If you are traveling by car, you might arrive at your Airbnb later than anticipated. Taking a cooler with items for your first meal in the Airbnb can save you some “hangry” moments with your little traveling partners who will probably already be exhausted from the trip.
Of course, purchasing those perishable items locally is best, but taking any of those not-so-perishable items with you to prepare for the first meal at the location can save you and your kids some hunger-tears. I like to make the first meal as simple as possible, so pasta and some cut tomatoes are what we usually take, and then we purchase a protein (probably chicken) at a local grocery store.
3. Limited Toys and Books
If you ask your little cuties to take some of their favorite books or toys, you’re going to be needing more than one suitcase! Rather than do that, we suggest placing a quantity limit on toys and books so that it doesn’t become cumbersome and you also don’t lose them in transit. Some of the toys they may bring are small and can be easily forgotten in the traveling excitement. They also have the power of calming your little readers and preparing them for nap/sleep time.
If you want to make it extra special, you can reveal a new book at the Airbnb that shares something about your trip or your current destination. For example, if you are going to the Grand Canyon, consider bringing a book about this national landmark. Regardless, placing a quantity limit on toys and books can teach kids to filter through items and understand prioritization. To make it extra fun, have a small luggage for the kids to put these personal items in so they have an added investment in preparing for the trip!
As soon as your kids get into the Airbnb, they might start exploring and running around. You never know how slippery or cold a floor can be, so having little slippers handy for your little explorers can make sure they’re warm and safe at the vacation place. I tend to always run cold, so I like to pack some for myself, too. If you are wanting to be extra cautious when using the showers, you can also pack shower slippers (flip-flops) to use when swimming and/or in the shower.
5. Night Light
For kids, it is an adventure to be in a new place. However, at night, they may think differently. They are in an unfamiliar location that is now dark and can appear scary. Having night lights on hand to curb those fears can help your littles go to sleep comfortably and safely. I take a few night lights to place them in commonly used areas at night, like the bathroom and the kids’ room. We also carry flashlights with us just in case the power goes out and you have to go outside to the fuse box. This has happened more than once to us, so lighting does come in handy!
6. Laptop (or Tablet)
When traveling with young children, you need to prepare for anything to happen because sometimes those things do happen. Having the convenience of a laptop to search on Google rather than a smaller screen on your phone is helpful because you never know when you need to search for a local urgent care or the best kid-friendly restaurants in the area. Laptops can also give grown-ups some time to catch up on work (if it’s a “working vacation”) or just some personal time to unwind and get lost in the internet when the kids go to sleep.
7. Toddler-friendly Cutlery, Plates, Cups, and Bowls
Your Airbnb’s kitchen will surely be stocked with all the items you may ever need to cook. However, they rarely come with child-friendly cutlery, plates, cups, and bowls. To avoid any accidents when using the provided kitchen supplies, we recommend taking your own break-proof cutlery, plates, cups, and bowls so you can rest assured that they will eat without causing any damage to the kitchen items. Bringing your kid’s own personal kitchen items can also help them feel more at home in their new vacation “home.”
8. Diaper-Changing Materials
If you are traveling with a child who is not yet potty-trained, changing diapers will be a frequent occurrence at your Airbnb. Bringing all the diaper-changing supplies can help execute this task and not have you running to the store to purchase any of these items late at night. Wipes, lots of diapers, diaper rash cream, a warmer (if you use them), and a pad or towel to place your baby on are all recommended items to make the diaper-changing experience easy for all.
9. Toilet Cover and Step Stool
If your child is potty-trained, we suggest bringing a toilet seat cover and an easy-to-pack step stool to help make using the potty and washing their hands seamless for your little ones. New toilets can be scary (and hard to reach) for some kids, so having a familiar bathroom item can encourage potty independence.
10. Thermometer and Medicine
We hope you never have to use a thermometer and medicine during your vacation, but we recommend packing them just in case a little one starts showing symptoms of illness. Of course, you can purchase these items at a local pharmacy, but having them readily available at a moment’s notice can help make the trip less stressful, and having a thermometer can provide reassurance for the whole family. Make sure you have the proper medicine dosage on hand for your kid. Don’t forget to bring any medication, special skincare products, or other essentials your little one is already using that may not be easily purchased at your vacation destination.
We hope these recommendations get you excited to start planning a family trip. Traveling together is one of those special gifts you can give to your family that can create the most memorable moments you will all look back on throughout the years. We wish you a happy, safe, and as-carefree-as-possible family vacation!