Often, the most stressful part of a family vacation is getting everyone packed and out the door. The chaos of departure makes arriving at your destination that much sweeter. You can truly savor the moment when you finally drop your shoulders (and your bags) and exhale, knowing that vacation is about to begin… except when you forget something.
Trip-specific packing lists can help. But we asked family travel experts what they think parents should never travel without.
The One Thing You Should Never Travel Without
The last thing you need when you go to show your mobile boarding pass or call an Uber is a dead phone. Yet, between GPS, streaming video, games, and social media updates, your phone battery seems to die even faster when you’re traveling. That’s why a portable power bank is essential to any vacation. Road warrior Kristin Luna from Camels & Chocolate recommends the Lynktec portable power bank.
14 Other Items You Should Never Travel Without
When traveling with little ones, Melissa Pezza from The Mommyhood Chronicles knows that something is bound to happen to at least one of them and it’s best to be prepared. Prep a travel first-aid kit with bandages, antibiotic cream, cortisone cream, pain reliever, cold medicine, antihistamines, and, of course, any medications that might be needed, including EpiPens, inhalers, and prescription medicines.
Eric Stoen from Travel Babbo always travels with blue painters tape. This lightweight, easy-to-tear tape is handy for a variety of uses including covering up electrical outlets, sealing up liquids, taping back curtains, marking water bottles, and making crafts to entertain the kids.
Sometimes earplugs just aren’t enough, or they don’t stay put in little ears. To truly mask outside sounds and create a better sleep environment, Keryn Means from Walking on Travels always packs a portable sound machine. One with a variety of sound options and the ability to control the volume works best.
Hotels don’t always do a great job of room darkening, so Katie Dillon from La Jolla Mom recommends the Slip Silk eye mask. There are plenty of generic eye masks, but the Slip brand locks in moisture to help you look fresh, even after a night of travel.
Whether it’s wiping down tray tables or cleaning restaurant highchairs, a travel pack of sanitizing wipes is a must! Corrine McDermott from Have Baby Will Travel also recommends carrying diaper wipes (even if you don’t have kids in diapers!) This is a great way to clean hands and faces without the extra chemicals of sanitizing wipes.
Accidents happen when you least expect them, but most traveling parents know that it isn’t a matter of if there will be a spill, but when. If you’re packing light and need to rewear clothing, Hilarye Fuller from Dotting the Map always travels with a Tide Stain Remover Pen for fast, easy, and portable stain fighting on the go.
Airplanes are notoriously cold, so even if you’re traveling to a tropical destination, Sarah Wilson from The Wandering Rumpus suggests a pair of warm socks to wear on the plane. For long flights, you may want to invest in a pair of compression socks that will promote healthy blood flow during those long periods of inactivity.
Shobha George from Just Go Places recommends always packing a travel scarf. Not only does it help keep you warm on the airplane, but it can also dress up outfits for a nice dinner out. This Waypoint Goods travel scarf includes a hidden pocket for storing your passport, wallet, or phone to keep it safe and handy.
Finding great travel clothes that look fashionable, but pack smart is the Holy Grail for frequent travelers. Lillie Marshall from Around the World L is a big fan of Leota dresses. These wrinkle-free dresses come in a wide range of colors and patterns, are machine washable, and easily air dry—perfect for rolling up and jamming into a suitcase!
Whether you’re going to Disney or strolling through the capitals of Europe, travel usually equates with a lot of walking. Kirsten Maxwell from Kids are a Trip recommends wearing a comfortable pair of walking shoes (plus wearing them saves room in your suitcase!). Skechers are family favorites with cute, lightweight, comfortable styles for the whole family.
If you have sensitive eyes, or you just don’t want every family photo marred by squinting faces, Jurga from Full Suitcase recommends always packing a pair of sunglasses. Polarized, scratch-resistant lens with a durable frame are the way to go when you travel. Maui Jim offers a wide-selection of styles with dependable wearability.
Marta Correale from Learning Escapes recommends bringing along refillable water bottles for the whole family. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be doing your part for the environment. It’s worth splurging for an insulated water bottle, like the Eco Vessel, which can keep liquids hot or cold for hours, even in extreme weather.
Travel Power Strip
Traveling with cameras, devices, and multiple phones that need to be charged can present a challenge in many hotel rooms, where easy access to power outlets is at a premium. Mark Wyld from Wyld Family Travel recommends carrying a travel power strip with multiple outlets and USB ports. Ideally you should pick one that can rotate to fit into any tight spot. This is also a sure way to make friends at the airport!
Tamara Gruber lives in Rhode Island with her husband, daughter, and two cats. She shares her family’s travel adventures on We3Travel.com and is the co-host of the Vacation Mavens family travel podcast.
What to Pack for Your Next Trip
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