After many trips abroad and interstate over the years, we have gotten pretty good at travel packing and can do a fairly awesome job of packing relatively light, even when travelling with kids. But there are a few things we learnt the hard way early on, and looking back now, they are mistakes we won’t make again. That also means I now have quite a few travel must haves that I never leave home without.
Disorganised packing is the worst… cramming everything in and hoping for the best. It just gets messier with each day and each stop, to the point where you have no choice but to repack everything from scratch!
Not taking enough for entertainment for the kids. That is a nightmare. Kids get bored and travel has a lot of down time while in transit or waiting in lines or waiting for meals, so we now know to be prepared as best we can for mini meltdowns.
And of course comfort is a huge one, because without it, no one is having a great time. I still remember back to our first European trip when I had new snow boots that caused painful swelling in my ankles and knees… and if you’ve been to Paris, there are a lot of attractions with stairs. Seriously… THE WORST!
MY 10 TRAVEL MUST HAVES
There was once a day when the mobile phone did not really come into it so much when we travelled. I would shoot home the occasional text message to my parents or a one off phone call the year we were away for Christmas, but otherwise it was more of a just in case gadget in case of an emergency. These days my phone is easily my communication back home without costing a small fortune. Thanks to wifi around the world, I can now jump on Facebook, email, Instagram etc and be able to update friends and family back home, or research the next days travel plans. It also lets me check my travel finances on the move. Plus these days we take a lot of photos via our phones just so we can instantly share it online. What can I say… we’re a little bit addicted to social sharing!
So while we love the social share capability of a mobile phone, let’s face it, DSLR photos are usually next level when travelling so we can’t leave home without our Nikon D3100 and the 50mm lens that I’m obsessed with, even though it’s not always a great choice. It also means if by some unfortunate means some incident happens with either your phone or camera, you don’t lose all your photographic travel memories.
The day we started using packing cubes when we travel was the day our travel packing ways changed forever. These useful little travel bags mean we have all our clothes sorted in easy to find sections. Clean clothes, dirty clothes, shoes, swimwear, underwear, etc, or if we are travelling short term and sharing suitcases, it means we can find each of our clothes easily without a disorganised mix of the whole family’s clothes in one bag. Game changer!
When we travel overseas, we always use travel cards as our main source of money. Travel cards are provided for free usually from most banks, financial institutions and leading travel services. We usually use the Virgin Velocity card, which is the frequent flyer membership card which now has the debit card capability so you can use it almost anywhere in the world like a credit card or bank card. This means there is online access to your account too if you need it, so you can cancel it pretty quick if needed, check your balance and transfer more funds while you travel. If you are going abroad to work a while you vacation, you will need a visa, when I went to Asia, I got my Vietnam visa on arrival, it’s a service I would recommend strongly as it relieves so much of the stress of having it done before hand.
I learned the hard way during our first international trip that I swell… bad… when we fly. I made the mistake of being complacent on the way home and left my European winter thermals on under my jeans, with closed in shoes. By the time we got to Malaysia for our stopover, my arms and legs were so puffy. Thankfully it eased up once removing the lower layer but I now know how important it is to wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing while travelling via plane.
But not only that, comfortable clothing throughout travel is essential. You want to wear breathable light fabrics that won’t cling to you when you’re out exploring, especially if you are travelling somewhere humid. Aim for less synthetic materials when on the road.
In fact, one of my favourites right now that will be coming with me on our upcoming trip is my running tee from new Aussie company LaSculpte. So comfy and breathable since it’s designed for running… and I don’t really run! But perfect for our hot walks around the city walls in Dubrovnik in a few months time.
Like I mentioned before, the wrong shoes can threaten to ruin a trip, so make sure you consider your footwear carefully. Sometimes we need special footwear, such as when travelling in the snow, but try and wear them in as much as you can before you travel if that’s possible. Otherwise, always choose shoes you know are tried and true for comfort. Good walking shoes are a must. Although a pair of casual slip ons are a good option too, especially for warm destinations and plane travel. And since I’m from Australia, thongs are almost always on my travel must have pack list… and by thongs I mean flip flops… not underwear!
There is nothing worse than getting hungry while on the move and not having the chance to grab something to eat. I may be known to get a bit HANGRY at times too – hungry/angry. Plus travelling with kids, well they are always hungry. So I make sure to keep some type of snack in easy access at all times, whether it be a quick sugar fix or something more sustainable, especially for little people. Baby food pouch or rusk, healthy snack foods for older kids.
Depending on where we are headed, our travel must have items do change a little. Heading to the freezing cold, my thermals are my best friend, along with a scarf and a good beanie. But if it’s warm where we are going, the essentials are definitely sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, aloe vera gel in case of sunburn and anything else that we may need for our tropical destination. Bug spray is often a big one too. Sometimes you can even get a combined sunscreen and bug spray in one handy bottle to reduce your toiletry items.
Travelling is pretty darn entertaining on its own, but there are moments when you are waiting or having downtime when a little extra entertainment doesn’t go astray. Especially during family travel. Entertained kids are happy kids and happy kids make for happy parents. So we do always pack a few entertainment items for every trip, with the type depending on the type of travel. If we are heading somewhere within Australia, we might just grab a couple of the kids favourite small toys, but when travelling overseas, our travel must have entertainment items take a bit more thought. We look for things that are compact that will also provide lots of entertainment. During our trip to Vietnam with a 16 month old, we got a lot of joy from a quiet book (fabric activity book) and Peppa Pig episodes on my phone, mostly while waiting for meals in restaurants. Small gifts that are new are good for kids too, like a new toy car or little doll that is wrapped up. For us adults, I like to take a book or these days, sometimes a digital book to avoid the extra luggage. Plus usually the iPad travels with us now too for toddler entertainment and mummy blogging/social media time.
When traveling, I used to take some dorky travel specific money wallet but I found they weren’t that functional so these days I take a normal purse that is wide enough to fit my cards and money, plus sometimes even big enough to fit my passport. However I do still take a travel wallet. I actually sewed my own a couple of years ago, and felt pretty darn fancy having done so. It was one of my first attempts at sewing and it was rough but good enough to hold my airline tickets, travel documents and other important info when travelling overseas. While most things are digital these days, having paper copies of booking documents can be reassuring too so we keep ours in our travel wallet, along with our passports during transit. Having it all in one place for the whole family is easy!