It’s your holiday to suit your taste, and your choice of how you holiday. For some, not cooking for 2 weeks can seem like a dream, and for others using local produce to whip up a meal is what holidays are all about. It's your taste and your choice of how you holiday.
There are 8 key areas to consider and our handy free checklists will go into more details on what to pack.
The General Stuff
It’s difficult to figure out what you might need for your trip. The Tested By Tots packing list will cater for travelling with both a newborn and young children. All products have been reviewed on our product pages with handy links to where you can purchase them from.
If you’re flying with a family, try and spread the weight of your items evenly. When your packing, take into consideration what time of day you might arrive. For example, if you arrive with time to dip in the pool, keep the swim stuff at the top of the bag. Likewise, if arriving later in the evening, ensure you have bedding and pyjamas to hand. The same packing tip can be used if driving to your destination too.
The 'General Stuff' is a list of items that will make your holiday more comfortable. It's worth checking with the property what they provide already, as some items may be included or you can purchase a welcome pack. Some properties and holiday accommodation units only carry the very basics. To cut down on what you take, remove all outer packaging and use zip lock bags to keep it all together. For example, dishwasher tablets, tea towels and sponges can go in together to make life easier when you unpack.
Newborn and young children need very little clothing, they tend to spend most of their day in swim wear and then change in the evening. So a few interchangeable items is really all you need to take. Check with the resort/reviews on what the mosquito situation is, as you may want to pop them in light weight long-sleeved evening wear.
Whilst flip flops and sandals look lovely, they’re completely impractical for young children, so opt for a closed toe sandal. Out in resort, pavements are often unfinished and the ground is uneven, so there is a high risk factor of grazed and stubbed toes. Wet shoes for the pool and the beach are another great idea, something that they can paddle in and walk around the pool in without slipping or sliding and great for pebbly beaches and hot sand! If you are thinking of sending your little one to a Kids Club throw in a pair of trainers just in case!
Most self-catering accommodations have access to a washing machine, and it doesn’t take long to dry clothes if you're in the European sun! But, if your holiday doesn’t include nipping to the washing machine, just calculate what you need based on the number of nights you are travelling. Alternatively, pack a small amount of hand wash in case of emergency for a favourite t-shirt if required.
You can split this down into 3 categories:
Sun Safe | Mosquitos | The First Aid Kit
1. Sun Cream. Sun safe is really about getting that sun cream on. Before you head out into the sun you will have to let it sink in for about 30 mins. Make it part of the morning routine before you head out the door. Reapply before you head to the pool again allowing 30mins to sink in before they dive in. Use a high factor sun cream - some of the children's creams are coloured so you can see where you haven't applied it. Reapply at lunchtime and let them have an ice cream in the shade whilst it soaks in. Keep the water up!
Whilst a white little bum is ever so cute, a sunburnt child is irresponsible and exceptionally dangerous. If you’re unsure whether they need any more, just put some more on!
Some children (like mine) have an allergy to sun cream, and there are several allergy ones out there. Don't leave it to chance that you will pick up another bottle in a resort, just put an extra bottle in your case. Our recommendation is on our product pages.
2. Mosquitos. What is the flipping point of these horrible little insects? Unfortunately they do exist in many European resorts. Whilst you can buy plug-ins for your accommodation, it's not that easy to keep them off you in the evening. One simple way to keep them off you and the kids, are Mosquitoes Wipes, once they are out of the shower run them over the kids' skin to keep them at bay. Some children get bitten more than others and, if they do get bitten, afterbite cream can help with the itching. If they do get really munched, reach for those antihistamines; these won't hurt them and will ease their discomfort.
Have a think about what they wear in the evening and if cool enough pop them in something long sleeved as it will help keep the little critters away. Also have a think about where you are sitting. As romantic as it might be to watch your darling run in and out of the fountain whilst you sip your cocktail, remember this is where they are most rife! Do your research on your resort and find out what real threat is from them, and if heading further afield look for advice on malaria via the FCO.
3. The First Aid Kit. Our detailed list will help you create the most robust safety kit to take with you. Don't rely on what's left in the cupboard to throw in the bag. Whilst there are doctors and pharmacies in all resorts it’s about your confidence in what you give your child when they are unwell.
Experiencing food from a different country is all part of the holiday experience. From a young age getting their taste buds craving foreign food makes the experience so much more interesting. Let them try a little of yours or order a starter for them to try. Engage them at all levels. To turn that restaurant outing into an experience we suggest that you take with you a small handbag game, something like 'Pass the Pigs', UNO or Top Trumps works well.
If you have a fully weaned little one, it's worth packing a small toddler knife, fork and spoon; there is nothing worse than waiting for the giant adult-sized fork to poke them in the eye! It's about creating enjoyment for everyone! Take with you a full bib that can be zipped and folded away without your bag being covered in spaghetti bolognaise after the meal. As part of that handbag feeding kit, get a couple of reusable straws; most places won't have plastic straws and there is nothing worse than watching your child bite the side of a glass or chewing paper straws!
Please do not drink the water out of the taps if abroad. Whilst most water is safe to drink it contains other proteins and minerals that aren’t present in UK tap water. To avoid any tummy bugs just stick to bottled water to be safe. That also goes for ice. You can always take with you reusable ice shapes that can be frozen. This will encourage the child to drink more, and don't forget the squash for this reason too. What’s important is you get the fluids in them to keep them hydrated.
Take a water bottle for 'out and about' and also a leak proof bottle or cup for bedtimes, to avoid them leaking over the bed.
Most accommodation units have high chairs and booster seats so make sure you request one in advance and ensure you’re happy with how it works and it’s safe before you pop your child in it.
If you are bottle feeding a baby, you will need to think about sterilising them. Ensure you have steriliser tablets that could be used in cold water, or bottles that can be sterilised in the microwave.
Toileting and Washing
If your little one is still in nappies take what you need with you. Yes, of course you can buy nappies if overseas, but if you're used to a certain type or have a sensitive baby it's worth just sticking with what you know. Think about what you use on a daily basis in terms of creams and just take it with you.
As we have mentioned before, be sure to pack in a couple of night pants for your toddler as the over excitement and over-tiredness can throw their routine out and lead to frustrating accidents.
Give each child their own wash bag with the things they need in it; this helps with forming independence and less fighting about brushing teeth. If you’re intending to swim everyday get a good quality body wash and don’t skimp on the moisturiser. By the time they have been covered in sunscreen, mosquito repellent and in and out of the pool all day their skin will need a treat. Make sure you test the cream out before you travel with them to ensure they aren't sensitive to anything.
Take a facecloth, sponge or mitt with you. If you're on a campsite you may find you are limited to showers, and getting them clean in the quickest possible time is key to a happy child. If you are in a shower with them have something to cover their eyes to avoid soap getting in there.
Ask yourself the question: who is going to get anything out of this? Especially, if you’re travelling with a newborn or young children. Just think…is your romantic sunset boat trip going to be that much fun if it’s bed time? Will you need to feed your baby? Or is your child over-tired on the night you're booked on? When you start to think about what you can do, start small.
The trip to the pool on the first day and a meal on the balcony or terrace might just be enough. What we are saying is on those first family trips, just focus on the quality of the time together. When you think of what to pack, start with the swim stuff and what you and your child need to have confidence in the water. UV suits and hats really give them an extra layer of protection and extra time in the water. Don’t forget any swim aids or floats.
If you are planning a couple of days out, or even hiring a bike for a ride to the local market, just ensure you keep them covered up, consider a longer t-shirt and shorts for extra sun protection. Keep a hat to one side for evenings and days out, something that keeps the back of their necks covered.
Pool or water shoes, as we have already said, are highly recommended especially if your accommodation has a pool bar. Broken glass could cause an unnecessary heartache and pain that you just don’t need.
Toys and Home Comforts
You might have got everything you need, but just remember all our children need a little of their home comforts. Games, favourite toys or books. It could be their favourite feeding spoon or t-shirt; whatever it is - pack it. It’s worth thinking about downtime and using a tablet device for a few downloaded cartoons that they love.
Simple games that you can play at the table or in the evening sun, like Snap or Dobble, create the perfect family time - chilling out and making conversation... Don’t underestimate the power of a sticker book or colouring in! Sometimes it's just being with them, and investing some time in them, away from the normal grind, that creates the happiest memories.
Whilst the late evenings, restaurants and entertainment are all part of the holiday experience, you still need your little one to get a good night’s sleep avoiding a cranky child the next day. A few home comforts will help this. Check if your accommodation provides bedding, if not a simple toddler duvet cover is light weight to pack, but also acts as a sleeping bag. We would always advise taking your own pillow case to avoid any reactions to unknown fabric or the pillow content. With children up to 36 months the infant sleeping bags with the poppers on the shoulders are a great option.
If you are the proud parent of a potty trained toddler, you may want to consider popping them in a night pant which will help with any accidents. The change of routines and the later nights might throw them off or they may just be too tired to get to the toilet. If in Europe we recommend taking a night light that is battery operated or works off a European plug, to avoid them getting disorientated in the night.
If you have booked a package holiday with a tour operator you may be able to request an infant pack or a toddler pack which will include items that will avoid you carrying them with you. However, if it's something your little ones really need for a good night's sleep don’t skimp on taking it with you.