top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeslie

3 Things We Regretted Packing on Our International Trips with a Baby and Toddler

Travel with Kids Mistakes Family Travel Mistakes
We brought this travel cot with us on our trip to Portugal. It was heavy to lug around... and not worth taking!

We did a lot of packing trial and error when we first started traveling with kids. Many things that seemed “smart” to bring along with us just didn’t make sense when we were switching up locations and getting around by trains, cars and ferries (not to mention navigating airports!). 

For starters, we like to be nimble when we're traveling, and carrying too many things (including too many heavy things) just takes some of the fun out of the trip. We're achy and tired, and chances are we're going to forget something along the way. Plus, we only have so many hands to carry things — and sometimes our kids also want to be carried, thus making light packing essential.

Plus, not everywhere you go will have a cart to help you carry it all (unless you're sticking to one hotel the entire trip and you find a cart in each airport).

That's why we learned to pack only the essentials — and weed out anything that isn't completely useful. Here’s the breakdown of our top three packing regrets we made with a baby and toddler (so you don’t have to make them). Cheers to a lighter — and more fun family trip!

Mistake 1: Bringing a travel cot. We brought a travel cot with us on two international trips (Portugal and Austria), and on one trip to Berlin, and we regretted it each time. Not only are they incredibly heavy to carry around, but our daughter, a baby at the time, didn’t like sleeping in it anyway! As soon as we put her down, she would immediately begin to cry. Poor thing! It also hurt our back to gently place her down into the cot every time (they typically sit very low to the ground).

There was no point in bringing it, but I think because we bought it and it was called a "travel cot" we felt obligated to take it with us on our trips.

For those trips we should have booked apartments that had cribs to borrow or rent, or had her sleep with us in the big bed (which we started doing later on, anyway.) 

Mistake 2: Packing an outfit for every day. As parents, you always want to feel like you’re prepared. So early on when we first started traveling with our daughter we packed way more clothes than she actually needed, “just in case.” Sometimes, I'd even pack three or four sleep sacks, again "just in case" she might not be into one, and spit up on another, and...

Also, I wanted her to have all of my favorite clothes I thought she looked so adorable in, so I would bring a pile of extra dresses and things that she would only wear once (if we were lucky!). Surprisingly, all of those baby clothes can really start adding up as weight in your luggage (and chances are your baby or toddler isn't pulling their own suitcase to help, haha).

The thing we realized later on, though, is that you can always wash their clothes on trips (or buy more when there). We now love staying at apartment rentals or "aparthotels" that have a washer (it's a bonus if they also have a dryer!). We created a packing hack, too, to help us bring less. The secret? Pack early! (Check out our other "Packing for a Family Trip Tips" here).

We don't stuff everything in our suitcases right away, but instead we just prep the piles at least a week in advance, and then take the last few days before the trip to weed out anything we (or the kids) don't really need. This allows us to put more thought into what we're bringing (rather than filling our bags to the brim with whatever will fit).

Mistake 3: Bringing backpacks when our kids weren’t ready for backpacks. Little kids are so cute when they’re wearing a small backpack. It’s just facts. But chances are if your littles are, well, little, you’ll end up carrying the backpack. That means it's one extra thing for you to have to lug around (and remember) on your trip. And, chances are, you're already holding a lot (hopefully not a travel cot, though!), so that's one extra thing to carry physically, and have on your mental load as well... which ups the odds that you'll forget it.

Speaking of forgetting things, it happened to us on a trip to Ireland, when we lost our daughter’s backpack. We had just arrived and were getting a quick bite to eat at the airport before heading into Dublin. My daughter packed all her favorite things in the backpack, but just wasn't ready at the time to be "in charge" of carrying it around with her. So, without realizing it, we left it at the airport restaurant. Thankfully she didn't realize she was missing her backpack until we got home a few days later. But it wasn't fun when she pieced together that her favorite cat stuffed animal and book were gone.

So, just be sure that if your child brings along a backpack, they’ll really be able to wear it and watch out for it. If not, always clip it to your own backpack or luggage (or just skip it entirely).

For more tips on traveling with littles, be sure to follow me on Instagram @bigworldlittletravelers or check out my posts here on Also, here's my reel below (that shows the mistakes we made IRL).



bottom of page