The Ultimate Packing List for All Family Summer Vacations

Here's what to bring, no matter if you're going to the beach, taking a road trip, or crossing the Atlantic.
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Remember those days when you and your partner or your bestie could simply grab a backpack and jet set off for a weekend? Traveling sans-kids is arguably a bit less stressful than with a carload of toddlers—but there's nothing as magical as showing the country (or the world) to your babes. Summer traveling requires a bit of prep work, as you head out on a cross-country adventure, an ocean-side hang, or a red-eye that leaves everyone cranky. Luckily, these goodies and must-haves make your vacation more seamless—and okay, Instagram-worthy.

Here, the essential guide to packing for family vacations during the hottest season of the year:

Pack for a road trip

Regardless if you're taking the children and booking it to another state—or merely to visit Grandma for a week so you can get a break—multi-hour stints in a cramped car require some prep work. After all, when it is hour four and you have two to go, your 4-year-old might start to get bored of 'We're almost there' every single time they ask you about your arrival time. Here's what to pack:

Chalkboard travel set

For the toddler who is constantly soaking up every piece of knowledge they can, this trace-and-erase portable chalkboard will maintain their attention as you wind through country roads. Since it's tech-free and educational, you won't feel any parent-guilt—even if you play your music instead of theirs.

Dino backpack

Other than cookies, is there anything your toddler likes more than a surprise? For your road trip, fill this dino-themed backpack up with all sorts of goodies, games, and activities. Your little one will love digging through it, and then she can wear the backpack for all of your trips to come!

Snack bags of dry cereal

The perfect road trip snack is crunchy but not crumbly, sweet but not sticky, and does not require utensils (or help opening, cutting, anything, from an adult). So go for a kid-favorite dry cereal like Cinnamon Toast Crunch from General Mills—the bite-sized squares are made with real cinnamon. Split up a family-size box into several resealable snack bags so the kids, and even you, can grab on when you need a sweet treat between rest stops. 

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Pack for a beach vacay

Is it the sand or the margaritas that call to you the loudest? While lounging on a beach takes on a new meaning when you're looking after your kids, at least being in your swimsuit under the warmth of vitamin D will help you somewhat relax. In addition to kid-friendly sunscreen that'll last past their tantrums and dips in the ocean, bring these along, too:

A kid-sized sun hat

While you might be mostly tempted to purchase one of these Hat Attack sweet pint-sized hats because of the massive amount of photos you'll take of your baby when they see the beach for the first time—it is also a practical purchase, considering it'll protect his or her little, bald sensitive noggin'.

One piece swimsuit

You and your mini-me can wear matching one-pieces. Try on an Appaman one piece for size—it comes in 2T through adult 10. The swimsuit will keep their skin protected, while ensuring you have plenty of Instagram story updates in your future, too.

Baby sunglasses

Yep, they're cute. But they're also necessary: these 'babiators' offer 100 percent UVA/UVB protection. They also feature pliable rubber and shatter-resistant lenses, so they can play for hours with them on their nose—without any extra worry from you.

Pack for a long flight

Even when you're without kiddos, any flight that takes you over the Atlantic or is more than five hours can be difficult to sit through. Between leg cramps and exhaustion, time zone tangoing is even more stressful on antsy kids. To make it more bearable to seek foreign lands, consider these carry-on friendly finds:

A stroller pack

Instead of bringing your massive diaper bag, you'll need to condense your supplies when you head to the airport. Consider using this pram pack from Stokke that attaches to 99 percent of options on the market. You can leave everything clipped on, right until you board, since most airlines allow you to check a stroller plane-side.

An extra pair of clothes

Diaper blowouts, spit-up, and a slew of other less-than-savory accidents happen—even when you're confined to a plane. To prepare for the worst of the worst, make sure to pack an extra change of clothes, like this cute set from Tea. After all, no one needs to know you went through three outfits before the pilot prepared you for landing.

Pack for a city getaway

Always dreamt of hailing a taxi in NYC? Or listening to live jazz with your baby in New Orleans? No matter where you decide to roam, cities can be a fun place to tour with children. But smaller spaces and narrow streets mean being strategic about what you bring. Here, a few picks.

Versatile clear bags

Small apartments you can rent on AirBNB might be fun to call your temporary home, but they typically don't offer a ton of space to sort through suitcases and unpack everything you brought for your children. Keep yourself organized by packing this set of five travel-friendly pouches. You can separate all of your must-haves and quickly find just what you need when you need it.

Hook-on high chair

You want to eat on the promenade or the city center, but not all cities are created equally in terms of being kid-friendly. Luckily, you don't need to worry if the restaurant as an available high chair, since you can bring your own. For toddlers up to 37 pounds, you can trust the 5-point harness to protect your babe from all their dinner-time squirms.

Photograph by Priscilla Gragg

Packing for a trip off the grid

Between keeping up with your babysitter, checking-in with work, and keeping yourself updated on Facebook—technology may feel like the center of your day-to-day routine. That's why an off-the-grid vacay with your family is a great release to connect and unwind. But remote places mean you won't have access to many of the luxuries you have at home. Here's what to bring to prepare for anything:

Multi-purpose travel blanket

If you're going somewhere exotic—say Belize or Costa Rica—and are concerned about temperature control in your cabana, this multi-use Nook blanket will come in handy. It's lightweight and prevents overheating. It can serve as a cover for sleep and a beach towel for lazy lounging days.

Travel sound machine

Since you can't lug around your light-up turtle sound machine from the nursery, pack a portable one instead. The LectroFan Kinder from Sound of Sleep has 75 options—from white noise and fan sounds to nature melodies and lullabies. This way, baby can sleep, no matter where you put him or her down.

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