Travel Essentials for Family Trips

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Ready to hit the road? Make sure that you have these travel essentials to make your family trip safe, fun, and trouble-free.

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

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After almost 20 years of traveling with kids, I’ve learned a few things. College boys probably won’t love your music choices, yet 7-year olds still get excited about Veggie Tales — even if you don’t. Someone will say that they have to go to the bathroom just as soon as you pass the last exit for the next 20 miles.

And, inevitably, you will have forgotten to pack something.

Packing for family trips can be a complex experience, particularly when you’ve got little ones, big ones, and ones in between. I’ve spent good money on things that I had duplicates of at home because someone forgot to include them in the luggage. Or we’ve run into unexpected emergencies that necessitated first aid or other medical care that wasn’t negotiable.

And I’ve cleaned up puke in the middle of the desert in 90 degree heat.

Let’s just say, I’ve been around the block a time or two. 😉 Equipping yourself with a few helpful items can transform your family travel. Remember these travel essentials to make sure that your next trip is fun, easy, and trouble-free. (Hint: they also make great gifts!)

Travel Essentials for Family Trips

If you’re traveling internationally, be sure to check these tips for safe travels. Whether home or away, these are things we’ve found helpful.

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

RFID-blocking travel wallet and money belt

My regular wallet is this one: a Pacsafe RFID-blocking wallet that Pacsafe sent me to review several years ago. (You can read my review of Pacsafe products here.) It was invaluable abroad, but I use it all the time now. Identity and digital theft is just too risky these days.

For foreign travel, we also used RFID-blocking money belts. This is where we carry all our cash, cards, and tickets when traveling. We don’t use them at home, but they are must-have’s abroad where pickpocketing is rampant.

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

Electronic devices

I’ll be honest. I know that technology should not be a babysitter. But I do it anyway. Having certain electronic devices along, like our Kindles, iPads, and the boys’ Nintendo DS have helped us all keep our cool in any number of long waits and delays.

So, yes, we have pictures like this where pretty much everyone is using a device, except Sleeping Beauty:

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

Phone and device chargers

Be sure to have all your chargers onboard. It’s really hard to take pictures or check the GPS when your phone goes dead.

On our last trip, I didn’t have my car charger for my phone and it made a big difference — especially being on the road for 3+ hours at a time. I ordered this as a replacement.

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

A laundry kit

If you’re going to need to laundry while away from home, it helps to be equipped. I have a regular travel laundry kit that includes a stretchy clotheslineShout wipesa lint rollera rubber sink stopper, Dizolve laundry sheets, and lots of laundry bags. (If we’re going to wash laundry at home, I’d rather the kids just keep their dirty stuff in a laundry bag in their luggage.) A roll of quarters for the laundromat, if traveling domestically, is a good idea, too.

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

Potty stuff

When you gotta go, you gotta go. I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, particularly since I had girl babies. Over the last nine years, I’ve made it a practice to keep a kit of potty stuff with me: travel potty seat, disposable, paper coversdisinfecting wipes, and mini spray cans of Lysol.

I am also a big fan of this lavender hand sanitizing spray. Love it!

A carsick kit

Our girls are both prone to carsickness. We’ve had clean ups as close as 20 miles from home and far off in the desert in the middle of nowhere. I’ve learned through experience that we need to have supplies with us.

Prior to our recent jaunt north, FishChick8 stressed all week about the possibility of getting sick on the 3-hour drive. We were prepared with our carsick kit for cleanup as well as these items to prevent it in the first place:

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

First aid

I’ve had to make emergency stops at pharmacies in strange towns and countries on more than one adventure. I finally learned to pack basic OTC’s with us, like


A friend told me years ago how her military sister carries a flashlight whenever she travels. You never know when you’ll be in the dark.

That made sense to me, so now we always pack mini flashlights on trips. They come in so handy whether at home or away. We used them all the time to navigate dark streets or hotel rooms, to dig in bags, and just for play.

Travel Essentials for Family Trips | Life as Mom

A Smashbook or other journal

If you’re going to be traveling for an extended period of time or make it a regular habit, it’s great to keep a travel journal like a Smashbook. It is perfect for sticking in mementos and other souvenirs since the pen is also a glue stick. I love our journal of a our trip to Europe.

Travel-sized games

Not only do travel games like Spot-it and Skip Bo make great travel companions, they’re also great to keep in your purse for long waits at restaurants or doctor’s offices. Having a few games on hand is always a good idea.

I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten. I always forget something! Let me know in the comments.

What are YOUR travel essentials?

Originally posted December 2, 2015. Updated April 18, 2017.

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  1. One of the things that I have learned to pack are reusable shopping bags. I hate having to pay for them when I can easily stuff a few in the luggage.

    1. That was actually one of my questions for the UK. I know in France and here we have to bring our own or pay for a few bags. Thanks for the confirmation!

  2. I always take an eye mask because I can’t sleep in a light room, and it’s amazing how many hotel rooms have curtains that don’t close properly. On my last trip away, there was a light on right outside the room *all night* and paper thin curtains… aargh! Also (when travelling domestically) a few sachets of hot chocolate because it’s not always supplied and it makes a nice change from tea/coffee (and it helps soothe my daughter to sleep in a strange bed). Oh, and I have a mini sewing kit in with my laundry bits, because you can never tell when a button is suddenly going to ping off or a seam get ripped.

    1. Good tip! Virgin gave those to us on our last flight. Hopefully, they’ll come through again. lol Sewing kit is a great reminder. Thanks!

  3. Extra clothes in a gallon zipper bag. Maybe extra shoes or boots in case of farm “dirt”, mud or way too much rain. Having to go through puddles / runoff halfway of an adult’s calf gave us a chance to buy new shoes all around. Having extras would have been nice.

  4. Interesting post. I had never heard of a couple of the items on your must have list including the Dizolve laundry sheets and the child-size seabands. A couple of my must haves for car trips include a package of moist towelette wipes for the inevitable sticky hands, a warm blanket in case of car trouble or you just need a quick nap in the backseat, and ear buds for the electronics. Dueling electronics from the backseat while driving 65 mph on a crowded interstate do not mix well. Just saying.

  5. We have the same potty seat, and I love it!!! It has really helped my 3 year old use the potty when we are out and about without “falling in”!

    I spy Tom Binh containers in your first picture. Did you use those for your trip abroad? What about here in the U.S? I am swooning over the Aeronaut but don’t really have that kind of money just sitting around… but I love the idea of each of us having our own bag, instead of packing in random duffels, laundry baskets, etc. as we often do (on car trips).

    1. Tom Bihn sent us a couple Aeronaut 45’s to review. (Read that here: We LOVE these bags. They became my teen boys’ bags and they continue to use them for all trips. I am going to go out on a limb and say that these would last a lifetime. I’m wanting one for myself for next time, except that I don’t think I’m strong enough to carry it. I have a rolling Pacsafe which I love and use all the time.