As we gear up to leave next week for a road trip and again in mid-July for two months, I think about all those tough early days traveling with the kids. I specifically remember how rough it was with my younger one until she had a breakthrough within a few days of her 5th birthday in Colombia after being dragged around on buses for weeks. Now that they’re almost 7 and 11 they’re incredibly excited about travel, even though much of the time it’s hard for them. They leave their friends, grandparents, neighborhood pools, tacos, and familiar home for foreign countries where they can’t easily play with other kids on the playground, but somehow enjoy the experience enough to ask “where are we going next?”
It was so difficult when they were babies and toddlers. It’s not as easy now as it was for me alone in my 20s (Ha!) but it’s just so good for their souls.
I was all set to write up a post about why kids should get to see as much of the world around them, but then I found a post that explained it much better than I could here.
Over 10 years of travel with kids I’ve compiled the ultimate list of what you need to take with you. Traveling without too much stuff is really important on our trips since we tend to move around a lot. Here’s what you need to go anywhere in the world and what to do in the days before you leave your house on a long trip. (**This page contains affiliate links)
Print this list and use a black permanent marker to cross off everything after it goes into the bag. Really wait to cross it out – I’ve been burned running around the house with this one! And don’t walk out the door until that sheet is blacked out.
This list has worked for us for trips from one to six weeks. I hope it makes leaving home a little easier.
lower A/C (morning of)
close any curtains on exposed windows
put some lights on timers
take trash out
diapers, wipes, diaper cream (unscented baby wipes come in handy for bigger kids too and if you can’t shower for a while)
insect repellent – hard to find at times abroad. Do not get aerosol or liquid – get some kind of lotion type one. Sawyer controlled release is fantastic if you’re going to the jungle and need all night coverage. It also doesn’t smell. We used it in South America with no problems. If you’re just going to the lake in the US, definitely go lower Deet though! Sawyer family formula is good too – and effective for ticks.
GoToob bottles for liquid toiletries:
shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion
any meds you may need, but not much of them. You can buy at any pharmacy worldwide and often much cheaper: Dramamine, ibuprofen, benadryl, a few cough drops and melatonin for jet lag
benadryl bite cream (bring this! I always need it)
travel size baby powder
disposable ear plugs
hair brush and a wide comb
minimal first aid kit – at least bandaids, neosporin
small travel towels (we have the Aqua Sphere Towel) – really bring a couple of these at least. If you do any swimming on your trip you most likely won’t have enough towels to take out with you, and these help with hand washing laundry too since they soak up so much water and dry quickly. Worth the space in the suitcase.
baby size washcloths (there are never enough for a family anywhere we go).
spray and wash stick – I always use this thing, and if you can’t get to laundry for a while you will probably need it. Hard to find abroad.
ziplocs – small and large.
shopping bags for when you go for groceries.
booster or car seat if needed (TRY NOT TO NEED IT!)
tiny scissors and/or hair scissors (needs to be checked). Pocketknife with scissors will work too.
permanent marker (thin)
sleep masks if they’ll help
gloves, hats, long underwear, ski socks
toy erasers (the best kid toy for travel and restaurants)
markers and paper
passports and shot records, save copies of all online where you can reach them
copies of auto insurance
laptop charger, line out cable, headphones, chargers for all devices
headphones for everyone’s devices
phone, ipad, laptop
power converter / plug adapter (example here but make sure you get the right one for the countries you’re going to visit)
flip flops for all / comfy pair of shoes
tampons or other supplies
markers and paper
glasses, my sunglasses, kids sunglasses
pillows and blankets
comfy hoodie or jacket
jeans / pants
extra small purse bag for destination
winter hats, scarves, gloves
a pop up sponge for kitchen
Specifically for a road trip:
knives and dish towels (never sharp or enough in kitchens we stay in)
Foil, Plastic Wrap, Ziplocs, laundry detergent
tea filters, loose tea if you drink it
olive oil or any oils you use (because you don’t need to buy one on a trip for a little bit of oil use)
reusable water bottles for kids to fill at airport
coffee – my husband is not a Starbucks guy, but he swears by the Starbucks Via instant French roast packets (and Walmart online has the best price). Target has them in-store too for slightly more.
Groceries to pick up for arrival
laundry soap (or pack powder if a shorter trip)
olive oil or cooking oil
nuts, choc, fresh produce, cheese
dried fruit and snacks
If you feel you need to take a whole lot more, at my previous job I once found a copy of a trip list with everything you can imagine on it. You can find it here.
Head to the airport, and on your way check out what’s good to eat at your flight stops. Chances are, there’s a foodie who has put together a guide and you won’t have to eat bad airport food ever again. See this one from Newark, for example.