Last updated on Jun 17th, 2021 at 04:23 pm

I used to be the world’s worst packer – until I had kids. Once you’ve tried to negotiate a busy airport on your own with a screaming 5-month-old, a toddler running amok, a pram, a travel cot, a car seat, several unwieldy bags crammed full of nappies and hand luggage that’s WAY heavier than your check-in allowance, you would also wise up to travelling light.

Now, I am a packing ninja! I can fit all our clothes into one suitcase with one hand luggage bag, keep the kids in check and even catch the Gautrain to the airport.

As mothers, we have an innate need to provide for our kids. When it comes to packing, our nesting instincts kick in and we try to take the whole nursery, because Woolies obviously isn’t nationwide and heaven forbid little Johnny doesn’t have all his creature comforts on holiday!

Don’t spoil your trip with excess baggage and unnecessary airport stress – learn how to travel light and be that calm “I don’t know how she does it all” mom in the check-in queue with these 10 travel tips:

1. You can ALWAYS buy stuff on the other end

Unless you’re travelling to the middle of nowhere, which let’s face it, you could never could do with tots in tow, there are always shops at your destination. Just pack enough nappies, wet wipes, formula, etc, for the flight and buy the rest when you land, including medicine. Put that mega first aid kit away, paranoid mama!

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2. Pack only 2 outfits a day per child MAX

Just like there are shops on the other side, there will also be – surprise, surprise – washing machines! You can even buy handwashing powder when you get there and just wash as you go. Who knew? Another handy tip when it comes to the actual packing is to roll up the clothes to save on space.

3. Book the flight over nap time

If your kids sleep mid-day or mid-afternoon, try and get a flight that falls over that time so you can smugly sip your glass of Sauvignon Blanc and page through your favourite mag while your kiddies sleep like angels on your lap.

4. Take extra bottles

While I’m an advocate of less is more when it comes to packing for kids, always take an extra bottle with boiled water for formula or expressed breast milk in case your flight is delayed. You don’t want to be stuck with a baby screaming from hunger because you have to wait an extra hour or so for your flight.

5. Don’t pack a car seat

In the interests of travelling light, your best bet is a pram with a car seat attachment so that you can wheel the baby right up to the plane. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one from a friend. Provided your lift to the airport has a car seat, you can request one on the other side from your hire car company.

6. Don’t pack a cot

The term “travel cot” is misleading because, as all moms know, there’s nothing travel-friendly about a heavy, awkward-to-pack travel cot. Let alone the hefty mattress that comes with it! Rather try to borrow a cot from a friend on the other side, or ask if your hotel or cottage can organise one for you.

7. Strap your baby into a baby carrier or sling and your toddler into a harness with a leash

It’s the only way to keep control in a crowded airport. My Baby Bjorn is my hands-free kit – I can soothe my little one by bouncing her around in it, while running after my toddler, with my hand luggage inside the pram. The bonus is, you will also have both hands free to collapse your pram when you get to the plane.

8. Don’t take a handbag or nappy bag

I know you feel powerless without them, but the fewer bags, the better. Rather pack your purse, phone and baby-changing essentials into your hand luggage bag. Strategically packed hand luggage that can fit under the seat in front of you is the key to stress-free travel with kids – everything you could possibly need should be within arm’s reach. Don’t be that hysterical mother clambering over fellow travellers, with a screaming baby mid-flight, while you scramble desperately in the overhead locker looking for his illusive dummy. While we’re at it, wear something with a pocket where you can easily access all boarding passes and IDs.

9. Invest in a tablet

Yes, too much screen time is bad for kids, but a tablet or a smartphone with loads of videos and games on a flight will save your sanity and you having to crawl under a seat to retrieve a lost toy. It will also spare you from disparaging looks from child-free passengers.

10. Don’t be a sucker, take a sucker

But don’t under any circumstances give it to your toddler mid-flight – you don’t want to deal with the sugar rush and sticky mess in a confined space. Rather, reward him with it for being such a good boy on the descent – and the sucking will help relieve sore ears and keep things blissfully quiet for at least 10 minutes.