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Whether you’re taking a road trip just out of state to visit relatives or boarding a plane to visit a foreign country, there are a handful of essential items that can help ensure your journey is smooth and your visit enjoyable. Of course there are the bare essentials–your passport, money, and medications. But after you’ve packed all these, what are some go-to items you should consider?
1. A checklist. Okay, okay. While technically not something you’ll actually take with you, making a list ahead of time (not the night before your flight!) will help ensure you don’t leave home without anything you need, and give you time to shop if need be. Listing things out can also help you think of other things you’ll need. If you’re planning a particularly big trip, start making a list well ahead of time and add to it as you think of things. Also make a list of to-do’s before departure (put a hold on mail, arrange dog sitting, and so on). If you’re an app junkie, there are lots of apps to help get you organized. Check out Packing Pro ($2.99) for a nice app that let’s you make lists by trip, category, has a bunch of common items you can add to your lists, and even lets you share your list with friends and other users.
2. A quality, durable point-and-shoot camera. Everyone should have a good, small camera that they can throw in their bag and go. Camera phones may suffice for capturing day-to-day moments, but a point-and-shoot with a higher megapixel count is worth the investment for documenting a trip. Look for underwater digital cameras, many times they will also be shock proof (so, you can let your kids be the photographer and not worry if they accidentally drop it) and able to withstand more extreme temperatures. Even if you’re an advanced DSLR user, sometimes it’s nice to leave the bulky camera and lenses behind and travel light. If you’re a photography nerd, the underwater Canon PowerShot D10 (shown above) can be hacked and made to shoot in RAW format, which can lend an even better quality to your photos after post-processing.
3. Books and toys to keep the little ones occupied. Probably one of the first things mom or dad packs is the “entertainment bag”. Depending on your child and your family, this could include anything from books, to dolls or figurines, to coloring or sticker books. Check out B. Toy’s Alphaberry, a small toy with lots of buttons (which many kids seem to love!) that teaches them the alphabet and plays music. If you are a frequent traveler, you can try setting aside a favorite toy or book for car or plane rides only. Another fun item that the whole family can enjoy is an audio book or sing-a-long CD
4. A variety of fun and healthy snacks. Let’s face it, gas station and airline food often leave something to be desired. Even if your itinerary includes meal time, healthy snacks can always be a good pick-me-up, especially if you’re making a long trip or are jet lagged. Airlines serve meals on a strict schedule (and might serve you dinner when it’s breakfast time at your origin), and stopping at gas stations for snacks may slow you down if you’re trying to make good time. Lastly, packing a good supply of non-perishable snacks that you’re used to eating can help with digestive problems in a foreign country with unfamiliar food.
5. A toothbrush and toothpaste. A toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, hand sanitizers, or whatever toiletries you need to freshen up. These are nice to have and use at your last stop before you, for example, arrive at your in-laws big holiday celebration after a lengthy drive. These are essential to have if you’re making a multi-leg trip abroad and find yourself on a plane for 16 hours or waiting in an airport on a layover. If you’re traveling by plane, don’t forget the TSA size restrictions for carry-on liquids.
6. A pillow and blanket. If you’re taking a car trip, consider packing a big fluffy pillow for your big kids and any other passengers. If you’re flying coach, a neck pillow can be a real life-saver if you’re on a long flight and you can afford the luggage space to tote it around at your destination. An extra pillow can supplement the flimsy ones provided and can help getting comfortable in those cramped seats easier. An extra blanket, wrap, or sweatshirt for everyone can also come in handy, even if you’re traveling in the summer–the A/C on airplanes can get pretty chilly.
7. Chargers for all your gadgets. Consolidate where you can, but if you own a variety of brands you may need to pack a bunch of those proprietary cords for charging. The release of e-readers has been great for travelers–you can take a ton of books with you so you have a wide selection to chose from. But it won’t do you any good if your battery runs out of power. Many airlines have USB ports for charging on long flights. However, if you don’t have access to one or are taking a car trip, look for an external battery back like the one pictured above which comes with converters for popular devices (Kindle, iPhone 4 and earlier, Droid, etc.). And if you’re traveling to a foreign country, don’t forget to check the voltage, frequency, and plug type at your destination to determine if you need a voltage converter or an outlet adapter (hotels or airports can have them but you may pay a premium price).
8. A medium to large structured travel bag with lots of pockets. Take along a reliable bag, preferably one large enough to fit the essentials (important documents, money, snacks, gadgets, a few extra diapers) but small enough to be a carry on (if flying). The LowerPro Sling, pictured above, is an example of a good structured bag, made for photographers to hold a DSLR plus personal items, it can even hold taller items like a compact umbrella, a bottle of water, or a small tripod.
What are some of the essentials that make it into your luggage? Share in the comments below!
Image of crackers courtsey of thanunkorn; bananas – adamr; nuts – Grant Cochrane; toothpaste – digitalart; toothbrushes – thephotoholic; pillow – John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net