Travel. Every dad wants to do it. Every mom fears it. Why? Because of all the prep involved. There’s the planning. The laundry. The bookings. The budgeting. The reservations. The cleaning of the fridge. I can go on and on. There’s a reason when I asked my husband what he couldn’t travel without when it came to traveling the kids, his first response was, “you.” Everything else he figures he can buy when he’s there. Because people live there.
But it’s not that simple with kids. Imagine if you forgot Lovie or their favorite stuffie! Irreplaceable. And what happens when your kid gets sick on the trip? Or if you have a long-ass flight? Those in-flight magazines are just not going to cut it. (We miss you SkyMall, the greatest mall of all!)
So after many a flight and car-trip, after dozens of countries, after motion sickness, and norovirus, and pretty much anything else you can throw at a parent, here is my list of the 10 things I must pack to help make the magic happen. Or at least stave off whatever evil things the kids might expel.
10. Canvas bag or tote. Yes, it’s the ecologically sound thing to do, but it’s also practical. Make sure your tote is super easy to fold up and put in your purse. That way, when you’re buying all that water in the airport before boarding a flight, you have something to put it in. Also, when you are tired of eating at restaurants, you can always pop into a grocery store or market and buy dinner. It also doubles as an extra bag when you buy too may trinkets or, let’s be honest, “shut-up stuffies” that you know you’re going to buy just to keep your kid from melting down.
9. Coloring. Bring either a small notebook, or a coloring book, and a pack of colored pencils or crayons to keep the little monsters entertained at restaurants, on planes, trains and the hotel. Do not, under any circumstances, pack magic markers. You will only hate yourself later when you have to explain to the flight attendant why the back of the tray table has been Banksyed by your toddler.
Monster Tip: If you go the notebook route and you travel a lot, consider getting a special notebook for each location. Then the kids can draw the places they saw, their memories, and you have their very own memory book to take home.
The Monsters Recommend
We loved these “briefcase pens” as the monsters named them. They were small, came with their own case, which kept pens from falling off the table and getting lost, and best of all, you buy one and Yoobi donates one to a child in need.
8. A Candy/Food Stash. Although the husband doesn’t believe in carrying food, this is essential for so many reasons. A lollipop or piece of candy can be used during take off or landing to help manage the little ear pops. Or you can use it to bribe them to stay in their seats when they are gnawing through their seatbelts. It also makes sense to pack a few favorite snacks, just in case you can’t find a restaurant or the kids hate plane food, or, in the case of jetlag. When I magically produced a bag of snacks at 3AM, so we could sleep another 2 hours while the kids breakfasted and watched a movie, the husband didn’t complain so much about packing food.
7. Sick Bags / Sticky Bags. This may the opposite of that canvas tote, but you should always have something on hand in case your kid is prone to motion sickness. Or if your kid is a kid. Because they will spill sticky juice on their pants, put their elbows in ketchup, or even pee or poop on themselves. So have a plastic bag to throw that crap in, or a well designed sick bag on hand. Because sometimes, you’ll just want to throw it out instead of taking it with you. Which brings us to numbers 6 and 5:
6. Wipes. Always have a pack on hand. For when they puke. For when the airplane tray table is sticky. For when there is ketchup. For when they sneeze and gob all over the person sitting next to them. You will never regret packing wipes.
5. Laundry Bags. If your kids’ room typically looks like a jungle of laundry, with clean stuff hanging out of drawers and dirty stuff hanging from the lamps, then get yourself laundry bags for the trip. When your kids are trained to separate the dirty from the clean while traveling, they are less likely to smell like feet. Plus, since we all just stuff everything in the luggage at the end of the trip instead of folding it, everything is already “packed” and ready to go on the last day.
4. Packing Cubes. If you like buying small containers to put other containers in, then you already know the joy of packing cubes. For the rest of us, however, let me explain how valuable these things are. You can stuff more things into a suitcase or backpack; you can pack multiple family members in one bag; and when your kids’ bag gets torn apart by security 30 minutes before your flight takes off because they secretly decided to pack several rocks and their favorite battery operated light saber, the clothes won’t have to be repacked.
3. Mifold Booster Seat. I feel sorry for those parents that drag their car seats with them through the airport. Especially when you’re not going to be spending lots of time in cars. Small enough to fit in the water compartment of my backpack for easy access, the Mifold has been great for us. We can whip it out in taxis and rental cars. It takes a little bit of practice to be able to install it efficiently, but it does the trick every time. We’re also super excited to see that Mifold has developed a booster that also has a headrest, so that it’s easier for the littles to sleep on longer car rides, and we can’t wait to try it out for the littlest monster.
The Monsters Recommend
This small foldable booster seat keeps kids safe in the car. We love it because it fits easily in a purse or backpack.
2. Noise Limiting Headphones. If you feel guilty for letting your kids watch shows, first of all, stop it. Let them get to know and love their third parent. And if you feel extra guilty that they may damage their little ears, then make sure you get the noise limiting headphones, which keeps things from getting too loud. We find that bringing headphones helps because the ones you get on long-haul flights are always too big for kids’ heads. And then you’re spending your entire flight holding your hands against your child’s ears so they can watch Captain Underpants for the 76th time.
Monster Tip: If you forgot the headphones for the kids, and you find yourself with those airline headphones that could fit a helium balloon, take a pair of socks, and wrap first one, and then the second around the top of the headphones. It will provide enough cushion that the speakers should align with your kids’ ears. Check your seats for airline supplied socks (really!) when you fly premium economy or higher. And if you fly cattle-call, then go ahead and take off those socks of yours and put them to good use. Like you even need warm feet on a 9 hour overnight flight!
1. Tablet. I haven’t met a parent who doesn’t thank their lucky stars they have kids in the digital age. Having a tablet means you can let your kids watch a show, practice reading or math, all with one convenient platform. We use the Leapfrog tablet, which includes Kindle, and several games, and have added Amazon Prime with 3 or 4 downloadable movies we’ve purchased. It’s great for planes, car rides, and hotel rooms when your kids wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and you still want to sleep.
The Monsters Recommend
This is a must-have for travel. Load it with apps, Netflix and your Amazon Prime videos. Just so you can have a few minutes to yourself on every trip, and not have to hear “are we there yet?”
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