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What to Pack for Vacation with Your School-Age Child

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Travel with School-Age Children is Easy if You Know What to Pack
Photo by Carissa Rogers - Flickr

As your children become older, traveling with them becomes easier. Deciding what to pack for a vacation with school-age children can be just as easy. Use the checklist below to make sure you arrive at your final destination with everything you need.

Your Carry-On - What to Pack for Your Child

  • Clothes - one extra outfit just in case your child spills something, gets wet or would simply be more comfortable in a fresh set of clothes. Put the entire outfit (pants, shirt, underwear and socks) in a large resealable plastic bag.
  • Lightweight jacket or sweater
  • Individual powdered drink packets - such as Crystal Light or Gatorade. Simply add to a bottle of water when your child is thirsty. If flying, you'll be able to take the packets through security and purchase bottled water once you are at the gate.
  • Snacks - pack snacks with a low mess factor such as goldfish, cheesesticks, granola bars and apple slices.
  • Medicines - pain reliever, fever reducer, and stomach medicine. School-age children have an uncanny knack for getting sick while traveling.
  • Gallon-size storage bags - pack at least three. Use them for wet/dirty clothes or for empty snack containers and wrappers when you don't have any other way to dispose of them.
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • 3-ounce can of disinfectant - to use in public restrooms at airports, rest stops or gas stations. Children don't seem to have the same aversion to public bathroom germs as their moms do. You'll feel better if you disinfect the facilities before they use them.
  • Gum and mints

Backpack - What Your Child Should Pack and Carry

  • Portable DVD Player - fully charged. Be sure to include the power cord and a set of headphones. Not all of your fellow travellers may enjoy the same music or movie as your child.
  • Favorite DVDs
  • Portable Gaming System - fully charged. Be sure to pack the power cord as well.
  • Activities - books, paper, colored pencils, crayons and stickers are good choices. Consider letting your child pick out a few new items at the Dollar Store prior to your trip.
  • Gum - especially if you are traveling by air. Even if you don't normally allow your child to chew gum, make an exception to prevent your child's ears from hurting during take-off and landing. 

Luggage - What to Pack

  • Jeans or shorts - that can be worn more than once. Choose basic colors like blue, black and tan.
  • Shirts - pick basic colors that mix and match with multiple bottoms.
  • Pajamas - pack two sets of pajamas.
  • Robe and slippers
  • Underwear and socks
  • Shoes - pack two pair of tennis shoes and a pair of sandals. Make sure the shoes are not brand new. Vacation is not the time to break in new shoes.
  • Toiletries - Shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, cotton swabs, brush, comb and hair accessories. Pack in gallon-size resealable bags.

Equipment - What to Pack

Wait Until Your Arrive - What Not to Pack

  • Bicycle - many vacation resorts have bike rental locations. Don't just rent one for your child; rent one for yourself as well.

It's the Little Things...

  • A current picture of your child - if you and your child should become separated for any reason, you'll be glad you have a recent picture with you. It's the first thing the police, airport authorities or security personnel will require to help find your lost child. You might also consider writing your cell phone number on a piece of masking tape and attaching it to the inside of your child's shirt. If the two of you become separated, tell your child to give it to a person of authority so you can be contacted. Even better: help your child memorize the number.
  • A Disposable Camera - your child will love having the ability to take pictures during your trip. At the end of the trip, get the pictures developed and encourage your child to create a vacation memory book.
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