How to pack for a family holiday like a total pro

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Planning a relaxing (said no mum ever) break away with the kids? Here's Rachel Tompkins' advice on what to take and how to pack it...

Going on holiday with a baby, child, or both, is a whole different ballgame. But experience has taught me that the journey and the holiday go a lot more smoothly when I pack like a pro…

1. Prioritise

Sounds obvious but bear with me. We all know that having enough sleep is the main aim on holiday. And if your baby sleeps, you will. So take the things that will help to make this happen (NB no tranquilisers allowed!). On our first trip abroad with a baby we took a travel cot mattress to go with the travel cot that the hotel provided, only to discover upon arrival that it didn’t fit. Who knew travel cots came in different sizes? Take your baby’s cot sheet (so that it smells of home) and any comfort toys they sleep with. Yes, they take up precious suitcase space, but no amount of clothes/shoes will look good if you haven’t slept all night.

2. First in, last out

No, I’m not talking about the admission policy for the resort nightclub (chance would be a fine thing...). I’m talking about the order that you pack your case. Remember, whatever you put in first will be at the bottom. If you’re due to arrive just before bedtime, make sure all the bedtime essentials are at the top. Every precious moment counts when there’s a screaming, overtired baby to contend with.

3. Don’t overpack crap

Again, the voice of bitter experience talking. First time abroad with baby number one, I dedicated at least half of the case to plastic fantastic child entertainment, and the other half to a baby holiday wardrobe that would put JoJo Maman Bebe to shame. Upon arrival, it quickly became apparent that playing with the TV remote in our room and the empty suitcase itself were far more alluring than any flashing fire engine or plastic shape sorter from home. As for the clothes, less is more when the sun’s shining. Same goes for nappies. Yes they’re essential, but unless you’re going to Tristan da Cunha (the most remote inhabited place in the world FYI) they’re pretty easy to come by nowadays.

4. Bag it

Buy some plastic sandwich bags before you go. Use them to decant baby/toddler snacks into for the plane and once you’re there. My boys are partial to a particular brand of flavoured rice cakes and ‘healthy’ flapjacks. There’s no point taking them in their original packaging as it’ll waste room in your bag/case. Plus, if you put them into resealable sandwich bags it’s much easier to keep them fresh after they’ve been opened – avoiding mess and waste. I usually put all the children’s medicines in another sandwich bag to avoid spillages in the case and ensure it’s easy to spot, and do the same for the sun cream so it doesn’t explode all over clean clothes.

5. Make a list

Sounds obvious I know but it’s how you make the list that’s crucial. Try and make a list of what to take over the course of a few days, and in different rooms of the house, rather than just sitting down on the settee the night before and writing it. That way you’ll remember the different things you need at different times of the day, as and when you use/see them. It’ll save you forgetting all your coats and shoes like I did one year because they were all in the cupboard under the stairs.

6. Think outside the box - and don’t panic

You’re guaranteed to forget something but don’t panic if you do. A bit of thinking outside the box and most things can be sorted (apart from the crucial soft toy that they won’t go to sleep without of course!). Tin-foil on the windows works just as well as a black-out blind, and sticks with just a bit of lick (gross, but if you’re used to being splatted in baby body fluids you won’t flinch). You can download a baby monitor app which works over two mobile phones, and you can sterilise bottles by boiling them in a saucepan. And if all else fails, you can reach for the wine...

@RachTompkins @mushmums