Top 10 Mom Essentials for Travel
Updated: Mar 9
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With summer quickly approaching and spring break almost gone, I thought I'd give you my "TOP 10 Mom Essentials for Travel". We've always loved traveling with kids. Recently, we got the opportunity to live in Europe and travel constantly. With four kids, I've learned some things along the way. I continue to learn. I wanted to share what I bring to make travel easier. PSSST...I even love to pack.
These essential items are not related to weather, age of kids, or destinations. These are things I always bring to help our trips go smoothly. I bring these "mom essentials" on every single trip.
I have included some Amazon links to make your life easier. I'm so happy when people include links on their posts. The chance of me remembering the name of specific items with my mom brain, is pretty slim. Living in Germany, I buy almost everything for travel on Amazon. Amazon and I are besties.
Top 10 Mom Essentials for Travel:
Travel Journal: A travel journal can be any type of notebook or journal that you and your child can write, draw, and create with. I can not say enough about the importance of travel journals for a child's memories. We use it to write down things that happen in our travels. Every age child can enjoy a travel journal. My kids love collecting their tickets throughout the day and gluing them in. We pull it out at restaurants and draw pictures of tourist attractions while waiting for food. For the kids that can't write, I will write for them and add my own thoughts about them on the trip. I love to write down funny things my kids said or did on the trip. I ask them to draw pictures of things they saw that day. It's a great tool for quiet activities once your back in your hotel room. The possibilities are endless. Do I sometimes make my older kids journal when they don't want to? Absolutely! Do they enjoy it once they get started? Yes! (Insert mean mom voice, "we are making memories people"... jk kinda). If you are traveling and pregnant, start an early travel book for your baby. I still tell my kids they were on trips with me, even when I was just pregnant with them. It's adorable to see how their journals transitions through different ages. Let your kids be themselves with this travel journal. If you have a baby that scribbled all over a page, write the date and place next to their masterpiece. You want them to feel like its their own. It's a positive outlet to express themselves and recap their trip. It may not be charming that they chose to color all the eyes red on an art brochure you picked up at the Louvre, and then glued it into their travel journal. It's ok. It's a memory of a certain age, time , and place in their life. That in itself should be celebrated.... also hilarious later in life. Any notebook will do. My kids have several they switch back and forth between. They know that for every trip, that travel journal needs to be packed.
Rolling Mini Suitcases: If you have an active toddler, mini rolling suitcases are your best friend. Have your toddler/preschooler pick one out and let them put their favorite activity books, toys, and comfort item inside. This gives them a purpose en route to destinations, rather than climbing furniture, and bolting for whatever catches their eye. It will make them feel big and in charge of a task. Let's face it, little kids love anything with wheels that can be pushed or pulled. When having your child pick out a backpack, you want it to be small. You want your child to be able to pull it without struggling. Keep in mind, at some point you may end up carrying this suitcase. It helps teach responsibility and they will get better at it. Honestly, 2 of my kids pulled their own suitcase from 18 months on and never needed help.
For Older Kids, have them bring a large backpack to put their favorite activities.
Clear Plastic Bags:These will be your best friend on every trip. I have seen some adorable toiletry bags with lovely prints, or maybe a sweet monogram. THROW THOSE OUT! If you are traveling on a plane, you must put everything in clear bags. I bring all toiletries as a carry-on item. Toiletries are things I will always need and if our luggage gets lost..das ist nicht gut. When you're going though security, I take out that clear toiletry bag, along with my clear snack bag and put it in the security tray. My stuff doesn't get stopped. Security can pick up those clear bags and look at them, without even opening them and rifling through. My kids each have their own toiletry bags that they keep in their carry-on activity bag. They know to get it out and put in the bin at security. My kids have these bags from amazon:
I like these clear toiletry bags because they come in different colors. They are less likely to get mixed up amongst my gaggle of children.
Put your epic load of kid snacks in a clear bag. Even if you don't have liquids, but security sees food, they will search your bag. When I roll up to security with my four kids in tow (often alone), I can see the look of fear come across TSA's face. I pull out my plastic bags with toiletries and snacks items (some of which include liquid), and they break out in a smile. I have even had TSA pat me on the back (literally) and say, "you've done this before mom". TSA has a job to do, so let's make their life, and ours, easier. Use plastic bags. Clear plastic ziplocks are perfectly acceptable and what I used for years...until I got fancy.
Even if you aren't traveling by plane, using clear and plastic bags is a helpful. Plastic is very easy to wipe out and clean. Toiletries can get messy. Magnify that mess by 10 when kids are involved. You'll need something that can be cleaned out quick. Clear bags allow me to take a quick look at the contents inside before I toss it in my carry-on bag. Fishing out snacks from the same clear bag, saves you time because it won't take long to find what you need.
Non-technology Activities: It is important to bring things to keep little people entertained. There are always lines, plane rides, car rides, restaurants, and down time when packed activities are a lifesaver. We don't typically bring technology on trips because our kids behave better without it. If your kids are used to the iPad and technology based activities, then by all means bring it. You do what works for your family. We definitely have trips where they might watch a movie or do something on technology, but we definitely limit it. I find my kids get disengaged on trips when they have a screen available. Traveling without technology does create some more prep on the parents part. You have to make sure activities are packed. I bring workbooks, maybe a small bag of legos, books, coloring pads, pencils , Mad Libs, sticker books and other calm activity options. These are items that you can give them and they can enjoy without your constant attention. I see you moms... trying to nurse a baby on a plane, while your toddler needs stimulation so he doesn't go into full meltdown mode. It's also nice to have a little sticker book handy for when you want to sit at a charming cafe with a glass of wine and actually talk with another grown up.
*Mom tip for these activities: Do not let your child see these items before the trip, or the appeal factor goes down dramatically. Also, try not to let them see all of your activities at once. They will spend less time on each item if they know there are more activities available. I pack my own little stash of activities for the kids, that they don't know about. I do like travel games for older kids, but it's also important for them to bring quiet activities that they can do themselves.
Here are my favorite non-technology activities to bring for kids:
These are my favorite. no mess coloring books. They make them with all different characters. Kids, two and older will sit and color these pads. I even catch my big kids on them.
Any reusable stickers are awesome. Toddlers love to stick them to windows in planes and cars. They come right off and are easier for them to manipulate on their own. Also ,good for fine motor skills. Sticker books are my younger kids favorite thing to do for quiet time. Sticker books give me hours of quiet time. My daughter loves the Usborne dress up books.
Portable charger: I can't believe I've only had my portable charger for a couple of years now. I bring it on all of our trips... even just day trips. During most adventures, I am taking so many pictures and sending them to the Oma and Opa, that my battery struggles to keep up. I even use it at home when I'm trying to research trips and my battery is low, and I can't be bothered to sit next to a wall charger.A portable charger will charge your phone/ipad much faster then a wall outlet charger, which is necessary when there are more adorable pics to take. I definitely need 500 hundred pics of the cheese museum, right?
Medications: Guess what? Kids get themselves and everyone around them sick. Sometimes this happens on a trip. My go-to meds to always toss in my toiletry bag are adult ibuprofen, kid/baby ibuprofen, and Vic's Vapor rub /eucalyptus oil. The ibuprofen will knock out most mild pains, fevers, general kid ailments. Unfortunately, it doesn't help with moodiness...I've tried. Vic's vapor rub knocks out most coughs for everyone in my family, so I don't go anywhere without it. Plus you can get it in a cute travel size. I prefer Vic's to liquid cough medicine because it usually doesn't work as well as Vic's. I can stick it in my toiletry bag and not worry about a sticky spill. It's another opportunity for me to reduce the amount of liquid that has to be dealt with by TSA (again TSA and I are buddies).
zip lock plastic bags: pack yourself some big and small plastic baggies. Big plastic bags can be used in so many interesting mom scenarios. I'm talking about those scenarios you'd never know you'd find yourself in, until you became a mom. If you are about to eat, maybe refrain from reading this section until you're finished. WARNING: this is a precautionary measure. Not intended to scare you away from traveling with children.
Big zip locks are the best thing to give a puking child in a plane or car. They can wrap the top around their mouth as they puke, so it doesn't spray everywhere. You can use the double zippier seal to close up that vomit until you get to the nearest trash can (outside of the vehicle). Every boy mom knows that in a tough spot, a bottle is the best receptor to give a kid to pee in. But if you still have some Perrier in your bottle and aren't ready to give it up, a LARGE (you'd be surprised how much pee those little guys can hold) Zip lock is the next best thing. Again, zip it up and toss it out. Soiled clothes... no explanation necessary. Throw them in a zip lock to wash later. Keep one in your purse/carry-on EVERY DAY. I bring one clean outfit in a zip lock and throw it in each child's activity bag for trips, so we have a back up. If we need to change, i replace their dirty clothes with clean clothes and put the dirty ones back in the zip lock. Great for early potty trainers.
On a less gross note, small plastic bags are great for packing up uneaten food in restaurants. In Europe, most places don't offer doggie bags. I'll usually grab some uneaten food from my toddler and put in a baggie for later. Plastic bags are easier to throw in a backpack, then most take away containers from restaurants. They are also great for packing some extra snacks from continental breakfast. If I have to bring liquid medication on trips, I like to place it in a small zip lock bag before putting it my toiletry container. If it leaks, it won't leak all over the other toiletry items. Ever have your kid lose a tooth on a trip? Say it with me: ZIP LOCK BAG. Also, way easier to find a tooth in a zip lock bag under a pillow.... the tooth fairy told me.
Bento boxes: I bring my two youngest kid's bento boxes with me everywhere we go. They are my pickiest eaters so I like to have some healthy options available to them throughout the day. I usually make a little market run on most trips. I pack up their bento boxes in the morning, before we go out for the day. I even bring out their bento boxes at restaurants. With my husband and I ordering food, I've never had a restaurant get upset when I give my preschool age children their own food from home. It provides less drama for the restaurant and the other patrons when little kids are happy. Other times, I put little snacks in bento box's for the whole family to share. EX: nuts, olives, dried fruit, veggies... (potato chips are a vegetable, right?)
My two youngest have yumbox'. They hold up forever. They are hand-me downs from their older siblings. Pack any container you want for you kids. I find these are the easiest so I don't need to pack a bunch of snack containers or baggies. These make my life easier in staying organized on trips.
Mom/Dad back pack: Grab a cute backpack and you are ready for the day (cuteness is not a requirement). Luckily, mini backpacks are in style at the moment. There are so many to choose from. You can grab a small or large one and fill it with your day's essentials. The weight is evenly distributed on your back, so your hands are free to play. I love a stylish crossbody bag as much as the next girl, but they aren't as functional as backpack when walking around all day with kids. When looking for the right travel bag, make sure it has a travel theft safety feature. This doesn't mean it has to have the travel theft seal of approval....those bags can be kind of boring. Look for backpacks that have a hidden zipper in the back of the backpack (the part touching your back). You want secret pockets that someone can not easily open and grab your valuables. Make sure straps are thick and not easily pulled apart. Kids can be quite distracting and some very famous travel spots are rampant with pick-pocketers. Better to be safe than sorry. Ain't nobody got time for that! Make sure your backpack is made of light material because you have enough kid stuff adding weight to your back. Leather can get very heavy. My favorite bag is black, nylon, with a hidden back zipper by Rebecca Minkoff. I use this bag for all kid adventures, not just traveling
Comfortable travel pants: Whether you drive or fly, you want to be comfortable. This might seem silly. You are confined in a small space with tiny humans you're responsible for. The last thing you need is to be uncomfortable. I want to be ready to explore new places once I arrive, so a flowy skirt, loose gaucho pants, mom jeans, or a comfy dress are my go-tos for travel. I do not travel in sweatpants or work out clothes because I don't feel like myself. It's not me and I don't like walking around all day like that. If you do, go for it. You do you! I find it very important to bring clothing items with a loose waistline for the day you leave your designation. If you're like me and like to eat all the tapas and drink all the sangria, then those tight skinny jeans just aren't going to fit the same on the way home. Plan those comfy outfits for your travel days. This isn't really a "traveling with kids" necessity, more of a necessity for all travelers. I do know its a lot harder to be patient with your kids when your uncomfortable...mainly your pants are too tight. Grab those sporty joggers and maxi skirts. Throw a couple in your bag. Your welcome in advance!
Have fun and enjoy your children on all of your adventures! I hope some of these tips help you. What do you pack on trips? I'd love to hear form you. Thanks for reading!