You’ll find helpful packing lists all over the web, but one rule remains constant: Pack light whenever possible. With children of all ages, you’ll want to focus on separates made of fabrics that don’t wrinkle, wash easily, and can be worn in restaurants and museums. Leave the logo gear at home; U.S. sports teams, concert t-shirts, or anything with garish writing just screams “American!” and has no place at, say, the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
The light load is especially important when packing kids’ carry-ons. If they are old enough to walk unassisted, then get simple, lightweight daypacks, like Jansport’s bag or Pottery Barn Kids’ rolling bags, which have separate compartments that can be used for day excursions upon arrival. Pack versatile toys and books that can be used in different ways throughout your journey – LEGOs, markers, journals for “sketching” what they see, cheap digital cameras to encourage young photojournalists, fully loaded/charged iPads – plus copious amounts of special snacks that will carry kids through long flights and inevitable delays. Personal experience has taught me that granola bars, nuts, cheese sticks, crackers, apples, and the occasional M&Ms or lollipop do the trick, providing a wide range of tastes and a little protein without getting soggy or squashed in transit.
The rules for baggage when traveling internationally vary greatly, so it is best to check with your carrier before buying that new carry-on bag or enormous suitcase. Generally speaking, the baggage allowances are less – both in terms of weight and dimension – but factors such as your airline frequent flyer status and your itinerary can affect how much you’re allowed to bring on board. In addition to checked luggage (generally 50 pounds maximum) and a carry-on bag (45″ in total dimensions), adults are usually allowed to check several infant items such as a collapsible stroller, a bassinet/cot, or a car seat. To get a sense of various airline baggage requirements, visit Eco-Photo Explorers for links to many international carriers.
And while we’re all for traveling light, you’ll save money by stocking up on sunscreen, batteries, and over-the-counter medicines before hitting the road, so make room for these items in your luggage. For the best bets on what gear to bring, consult helpful sites such as Travel With Kids and Hip Travel Mama for the latest info on everything from lightweight strollers (go with the Maclaren Volo for portability, a sturdy ride, and the sunshade) to convertible car seats to travel beds.