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I am a serious over-packer. Deciding what to pack or not pack on our family holidays and adventures always involves hours of contemplation, checklists, putting things into suitcases…and taking it out again.
Even after 10 years of travelling with children I still don’t get it right. In a brilliant mother-fail, on our last family holiday to the USA, I forgot to pack any underwear at all for my daughter on a three-week road trip. Thank goodness for Walmart.
I hope to eventually get the hang of this packing business and to make your life a whole lot easier, I asked over 25 of our favourite travel families what their must-have travel items are.
Between them, these amazing families have journeyed to every corner of the globe with children of all ages. So let’s find out what their family travel packing essentials are.
Family Travel Packing Essentials
Bron from Smiths Holiday Road
“We love our kid’s ID tags that April from Globetrotttinggrommets made. They have all their details including email addresses and medical information. We popped them in a little plastic pouch and add in Hotel business cards or Airbnb details depending on where we are staying. Makes me feel like the kids could then share this information if we happened to get separated.
Marianne from Mum On The Move
“The 1st Class Kid Travel Pillow is an inflatable pillow that fills the legroom gap on the airplane, effectively turning your child’s economy seat into a flatbed. It’s a bit of a game-changer for travelling with small kids on long-haul flights, allowing them to stretch out and get comfortable – making the flight more tolerable for everyone!”
Take a look at Marianne’s review here.
Keri from Our Globetrotters
“Since our first baby trip where I think we packed everything but the kitchen sink to travel to an all-inclusive with a 3-month-old, we have definitely narrowed down our most essential item that still gets packed every trip and that’s our Ergo baby carrier. It can be worn front or back, however, is comfortable for you, and can still hold children up to 3 years plus. It slips easily underneath a stroller and we pull it out whenever little legs are tired and children need shuffling around. We love it most though for travelling around busy places like airports, or markets where a stroller might not be so easy and you need to keep your tots nearby and hands-free”
Christina from Adventure Together
“We love packing cubes when we travel because they keep our belongings organised and we can pack more with them. We each have different colours so we don’t mix our stuff up and we even each have a designated packing cube for dirty laundry. We keep toiletries, vitamins and medicines, first aid kit and even snacks in them too. It makes packing and finding things easier when we travel, which for a mom of two messy boys is a necessity!”
Cathy from Mummy Travels
“I have a couple of portable battery chargers which are invaluable but the Kit 2-in-1 Micro USB International Travel Charger is a great addition for travel, especially in rooms without many plugs – there are two USB slots so I can charge two devices and the plug itself charges up as a spare battery. Not quite as compact as some, but for a three-in-one charger, it’s fantastic.”
Karen from Big Adventures For Little Feet
“Our all time favourite travel item for travelling with kids was the Phil and Teds Traveller porta cot. It was super light weight and packed down to a small tubular bag which fit easily inside suitcases or travel packs. Meant we were always self-sufficient for the kids bedding when they were little and saved on cost as we never had to book hotel rooms with multiple beds.Kids always found it fun too climbing in and out of the side windows that zipped open.”
Evie from Mum Pack Travel
“Ziplock bags are little travel treasures – we use them to keep snacks from the breakfast buffet fresh, isolate toiletries that may leak and to store small pieces of clothing like smelly socks that need a wash. I’ve also stored washing powder, vitamin tablets leftover coins in them. They’re definitely a must-take on your travels.”
Nicci from Travel With Boys
“I can’t do without my Hedgren crossover handbag when our family travels. It’s very sturdy, waterproof, has a number of zipped pockets to stash things in, including a RFID pocket for passports. I also love that it leaves my hands free to take care of the boys while being very secure.
Mark from Wyld Family Travel
“Whenever we travel we always take a power board with us. You know one of those things that accommodate multiple power plugs and USB cords. Lots of hotels and apartments have limited power points. When travelling with the whole family everyone will have a device that needs charging. Everything from phones to tablets to laptops and cameras. The power board is one of the first things packed by Wyld Family travel.”
Ariana from World of Travels with Kids
“Our Ergo Baby Carrier is a must have item as a travel family! It means that you have instant mobility, rolled up in a tiny space at the bottom of the backpack. Certainly, when the children are toddlers it’s a given that they can’t walk far; but we used it every day in Bali with our 34-month-old … and even now he is getting close to 4 it’s still with us every day! (only used occasionally)”
Eileen from Families Go Travel
“When my daughter was smaller I always travelled with stickers, coloured pencils, paper and party size tins of Play-Doh. The TSA does not like the big cans, but the smaller ones are ok. 3-5 colours plus a small rolling pin and some shape cutter were ideal for airplane tray tables and kept her busier longer than anything else. Now that she is older (9) we always travel with card games. The box is always twice the size of the deck so I just put the cards and directions in a zip lock for travel. They’re handy for airports, airplanes, restaurants and for nights when we finish dinner early. Uno, Frog Juice, Settlers of Catan, Coup, Mille Bourne, Twisted Fish, Spot It, Exploding Kittens have all come with us. I usually bring one that I know we can play quickly (good for restaurants) and one that I know takes a while (good for plane rides).”
Toni from For You Son
“How many times have you found out that there are not enough dryers where you are staying. A travel clothesline is such a great little item that can be used anywhere. For our family with young children trying to find a dryer can be so difficult. And if you have to get in the car and drive to a different town to dry your clothes (yep this happened in Holland where it was a 40 minute drive to a laundry, with no idea of where to find it. Only to get there and find out it was shut), then something as simple as this is a hit.
Toni loves her Kathmandu clothes line.
Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew
“The most essential item we travel with is a good kids multivitamin. With unpredictable diets, while travelling and little hands and mouths that MUST touch and/or lick everything gross, I do everything I can to keep my kids from getting sick on the road”
Thassia from Family Off Duty
“Our most essential travel item is a 20L Quechua backpack. Its isothermal system keeps food and drinks cold without ice for blocks for 7 hours. Perfect for our daily travel activities. it is very comfortable to wear and has side pockets to keep phones and keys dry.”
Marta from Learning Escapes
An item we never travel without and made a huge difference in terms of ease of movement is Trunki ride on luggage. It is a small kids bag with wheels and it works as a suitcase and a seat at the same time: small children can ride on it while parents pull it with a strap or they can pull it themselves as if it was a little pet – the bags come in animal shapes so they are really cute and my children usually insist on being in charge of them! They fit under plane seats and they are our go-to luggage for family travel”
You can see exactly how they work in this post
Jo from Rejecting Routine
“UV Sun protection suits – Both my children wear these whenever we go anywhere hot. I’ve found that it’s nice to have peace of mind that they are well protected from the sun while playing on the beach. They are also very quick drying and have lasted us well considering how much they’ve been worn. I wouldn’t be without them now!”
Bryanna from Crazy Family Adventure
“My must have item for travelling with my family is my waist pack. I love that it allows me to be hands-free so I can hold the kid’s hands, carry someone, or just have a free hand to hold the many treasures they find along the way. A purse always seemed so bulky and like it got in the way. With a waist pack, it is tucked close to my body and well out of the way!”
Narelle from A Little At Large
“The Aussie Kid Survival Pack. Potato chips, a small jar of vegemite, arrowroot biscuits, maltase’s, tic tack and two-minute noodles. We can get through anything in a country with these staples onboard and hangry can become happy in a flash.”
Christine from Adventure, baby!
“I can’t travel without travel clothes wash! I buy a small bottle from a shop like Kathmandu before each trip of concentrated clothes wash that I can use to wash clothes in our hotel sinks as needs be. When travelling with kids clothes always end up filthy so I tend to need to wash at least a few items every day if not every second day. This definitely keeps the amount of clothes we need to bring to a smaller amount and also means we don’t need to waste time at a laundromat as often.”
Carrie from Flying With a Baby
“When travelling long haul and using an airline bassinet, I found the the CoziGo bassinet cover invaluable. It fits all the airline bassinets and shields your little one from the cabin lights or bright daylight. Worked a dream on our numerous flights. As a bonus, it doubles up as a UV stroller cover too!”
Sal from Our3kidsvtheworld
“At our3kidsvtheworld we always travel with at least one portable charger each, have you ever been on the receiving end of when the charge runs out 15 mins before the end of a movie and have the kids looking at you like someone took their birthday off them!! Well with portable charges, that never happens. We also found them great on this trip for charging camera/GoPro batteries which were fantastic. Especially since we left the spare batteries for both at home!! They have been invaluable this trip and on every other. The charge them up at night just like everything else.”
April from Globetrotting Grommets
“I have a Seagate expansion small portable hard drive that I take travelling for extra storage – I’ll generally transfer photos from my phone and GOPRO onto the laptop and the hard drive to keep my space free and make sure they are safe. One of my biggest fears is losing my phone and all those precious photos.”
Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters
“We love our Nomad Travel Cot (aka our son’s ‘little tent‘). During our 10-month adventure in South East Asia with our 1,5-year old, we used it every day. It gave our little world traveller a safe and predictable place to sleep. The cot is lightweight (2.2kg without inflatable mattress) and you can easily tie it to the outside of our backpack.”
Madison from Points Family
“A sharpie marker. When my kids were younger I used to put an ID tag with their information in a zippered pocket in case they got lost. But if they didn’t have a pocket, I wrote my cell phone number on their arm! You wouldn’t believe how many people saw it and commented that they should do the same thing.”
Ruth from Exploramum
“I travel with a small French press and coffee as I like to start my day with a good cup of coffee and detest instant.”
Leah from The Kid Bucket List
“When I’m out and about with my family I need to juggle cash, cameras, spare jumpers and all the other paraphernalia that comes with being a mum. My Travelon backpack by Samsonite has become one of my key travel tools, offering a safe way of carrying everything without needing to jump on board the money belt option. Not only is it super light but it also features Anti-Theft RFID Blocking, Cut Proof steals and locking zippers. I also think it’s pretty stylish. ”
And what about us?
My most essential family travel item is my camera. Being able to look back on the special moments we have had as a family when we travel is priceless to me. I find that sometimes I forget some of the small details…or how quickly children can grow but one glimpse of a photograph takes me straight back to that magic time, even if I have forgotten my kid’s underpants that trip.
Do you think we forgot anything? We would love to hear what extras you would add to the list.
If you need more help planning your family holiday head over to our Resources page
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