Packing for a Family Vacation: Things to Consider


child sitting on a suitcase

The Search for Lost Treasure

“Ugh, I can’t believe I forgot to pack it. I didn’t even think about it!” I yelled toward my husband who was helping our toddler in the bathroom.

We were on vacation at an Airbnb house for two weeks in Neskowin, OR, and hadn’t even finished unpacking. My husband chimed back, “Yeah, we’ll have to buy a new one stat!”

We both sighed.

I suggested going into town for lunch and stopping to buy a fill-in product for the beach house. We drove 20 minutes south to Lincoln City and dined at the 60s Cafe and Diner. After we enjoyed our burgers and fries, we headed across the street to Safeway.

No luck. I walked to Rite Aid, just a handful of stores down in the strip mall. Nope. We crossed Hwy 101 to peek in to the Walgreens, our fingers crossed. No luck.

We studied google maps to help us in our search. Maybe Bi-Mart? No.

Kids’ consignment shop? Already closed.

Small town food market just for fun? Another strike out.

We had gone into every single store in Lincoln City that could have possibly sold our forgotten item. Our kids were tired and screaming, and we were defeated.

Rocking the baby to sleep, I searched Amazon and nearly cried at the thought of waiting at least two days for delivery.

We had looked south. Time to look 45 minutes north in Tillamook. Being a sort of savvy mom, I decided to make a day trip out of it. We ventured to the Tillamook Creamery before stopping in Fred Meyer as the ultimate stop to find what I needed.

I looked on the baby aisle where the item should be. Wasn’t there. I traveled to the bathroom aisle. Not on these shelves. I looked at the camping section, the toy section, and was about to cry in the middle of the store.

But behold, a random endcap held the long searched for treasure: a portable toilet seat.

paw patrol themed portable toilet seat

All this for a little toilet seat that I forgot to pack. I’m not a bad mom. I’m not even a forgetful mom. I had three pages of packing lists, front AND back, for this trip. So in my defense, the last time we vacationed at the beach, my toddler was not toilet-trained. Furthermore, our toilet at home has the children’s toilet seat nested in the lid.

My husband was relieved at my success to find a replacement toilet seat for our vacation. His arms were still sore from keeping our 38 pound toddler from falling into the toilet bowl. My toddler was also just as relieved to be able to use the bathroom comfortably.

Arrrggghhh, Matey!

After a few more days of settling in, I unearthed scenarios that were new to my vacationing experience. I came to realize that I had packed and prepared for a vaction with two babies, just like the year prior. But I was going to come out of this experience equipped to vacation with a baby and a toddler.

mom, dad, a baby, and toddler on the beach

The two other discoveries I made seemed equally important and also sent us traveling north to Tillamook’s Fred Meyer to buy extension cords and doorknob safety covers.

The doorknob safety covers were an unforeseen safety issue. Our toddler could now reach the doorknobs. And the padlocks. He had the independence to open all the exterior doors at his leisure while we were preoccupied with cooking or taking care of the baby.

Why don’t these Airbnb houses come babyproofed? I wondered.

The extension cords were more of a lifestyle issue. Rental houses never leave open outlets for guests’ items. And we had many items.

Two noise machines, a fan, phone chargers, laptop chargers, Nintendo Switch chargers, reusable battery chargers, and baby monitors.

A few strategically placed extension cords made our rental house feel more homey and continued the flow of care a little more seamlessly.

Land Ho!

After this two-week stay at a strange house with a baby and a toddler, I feel seasoned enough to share what I’ve learned. My hope is that these tips will help you plan effectively for the family you have and the vacation you want.

As the weather warms up, school ceases, and vacations are planned, try to think outside the box while making your packing list.

Some helpful questions to ask yourself:

-What has changed in our family dynamic from our last vacation to this vacation? Think of your child’s growing developmental changes and consider the impacts to childproofing, toileting, and mealtimes.

-Which items help you care for your children easily and safely? Think of items such as baby monitors, noise machines, child-sized eating utensils, and highchairs or booster seats.

-What lifestyle flow do you crave for your vacation? Think of those non-negotiable items that make your house a home to you. This could be your own blankets, gaming devices, your Chemex coffee maker, a fan, or nightlight.

Which unconventional item would you pack for your vacation?

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Amanda is a 31-year-old wife and mom, occasional secretary, on-pause knitter, sparse writer, and postpartum doula. Amanda neglects her dishes and laundry to play with her kids. She stays up too late and wakes too early. She loves volunteering at her sons’ school. One of her goals is to get a macaroni and cheese tattoo because she loves pasta that much. She enjoys learning about nature and early childhood education psychology. She’s a strong enneagram 4 which brings all the feelings. She hopes to grow into the hardcore, cool boy mom of her dreams. She mostly grew up in the Portland metro area but has also lived in AZ, VA, ND, and CA. She has been married to her sorta high-school sweetheart for almost 9 years. She and her husband have two sons - Oliver(4) and Osten(1). She currently lives in Unincorporated Hillsboro renting an old farmhouse there.