How I Flew My Family of 4 to Florida In 1 Carry On

July 23, 2017

My whole family flew down to Florida for a seven day family trip. We rented a house one block from the beach that the whole family stayed in. Week long trips don’t come cheap, so to save some money flying our family of four down there we decided to choose the cheapest DIRECT flight down there that we could (we avoid stops with kids as much as possible to reduce tantrums and stress of navigating multiple airports). As you know, most ‘cheap’ airlines charge an arm and a leg to fly with luggage-carry on or checked. We knew we needed to scale back on what we brought to make the trek a little easier. The great thing is that airlines allow you to bring kids car seats and strollers along to check for free! In the end, we got a beach tent, pool float for our one year old, and all of our clothes, toiletries, and accessories to fit in one 25 inch carry on suitcase! Here is how we did it.

Download the free printable packing list for travel with kids here …

  1. Color coordinate clothes and stick with 1 color scheme. I decided the color scheme we were going with was navy. So for each family member we packed accordingly. All shirts, shorts, socks, and shoes went with the navy color scheme and could be mixed and matched. This allowed us to pack less because everything went with everything. We got away with bringing one jacket and one pair of shoes because no matter what that person decided to wear those accessories matched everything.
  2. Plan ahead for what you will be doing on the trip. Will you need a nice outfit for a special event, will you be spending most of your time inside or outside? What will the weather be like? Will you spend most of your time in the water or sight seeing? Answering these questions helps you decide what kind of clothes you will need to bring with you and what can be left home. Also, pack clothes that won’t wrinkle as easily from sitting in the suitcase.
  3. Bring powder laundry detergent. Know that you have the option to wash clothes while you travel. Kids can’t seem to stay clean and accidents happen. If you are staying in a house that has a washer and dryer you can pack just a few outfits and rely on washing clothes. If you don’t have a washer or dryer you can wash clothes in the sink or bathtub (which every hotel has) by hand. Hang clothes to dry on the balcony or in the bathroom on the shower curtain rod or towel racks. Try to pack clothes that dry quickly, especially for the kids, like dry fit or nylon clothes.
  4. Skip non-essentials. When you travel to a new place there are so many new things for your kids to experience. Skip the toys because unexpected items can entertain your kids. Let your toddler pour water between two hotel cups. Give your infant a spoon to play with. Play ‘I Spy’ with your preschooler, giving them things they need to find that are unique to the area you are in.
  5. Bring entertainment in small packages. We had one backpack as our free personal item and packed it with everything we could think of to entertain our four-year on and 1-year-old on the airplane. We downloaded Netflix (or Hulu) on both of our phones so the kids could watch a variety of shows and movies. Bring a tablet or iPad with different educational games on it. Buy a new game for the tablet or bring a brand new coloring book so they see it as a treat. Bring multicolored pipe cleaners and let your kids get creative. The smaller the item the more you can bring. 
  6. Bring food! If you are traveling with kids make sure you always have food on hand. We packed food that would take them some time to eat like goldfish crackers, Cheerios, puffs, raisins, and turkey jerky. Food comes in handy if you need to distract your kids or to prevent meltdowns because they are hungry. Over half of our backpack was food ‘just in case’.
  7. Rent if you can. Most destinations have services where you can rent the larger items like car seats, strollers, pack n play, and high chairs. If you are renting a car ask if they include complimentary car seats or if you can rent them, most of the time this is an option. Call your hotel ahead of time to see if they provide a pack n play. We found a rental company near our rental house that allowed us to rent a stroller, pack n play, pool toys, and a beach cart that they then delivered to the house and picked it up before we checked out. It was convenient and cheap.
  8. Buy when you get there. Food, diapers, milk, formula.  If it is heavy or takes up a lot of space, skip packing it and buy it when you get to your location. We made a grocery store run on the drive to the house to pick up regular diapers, swim diapers, and any essentials we needed. You can even buy things that you intend to leave behind, like a $20 umbrella stroller, $10 pool floaty, or $10 sunscreen.

Traveling with kids can be tricky, how do you make family travel easier? What would you add to the list?

Travel Packing List



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How I Flew My Family of 4 to Florida In 1 Carry On
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How I Flew My Family of 4 to Florida In 1 Carry On
What I did to get my family of four to Florida with only a carry on and a small backpack.

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