Let’s talk about family travel gear, the stuff we’ve used and loved in the last 3 years of full time travel with kids and point you in the direction of the things you actually need. There are a lot of travel gadgets that nobody needs, ever, we won’t tell you to buy those! We’ve been travelling with the kids since they were babies, every climate, every continent except Antarctica, cities, jungles and mountains. So if anybody knows what you need and what you don’t, it’s us. Welcome and I hope you find this post useful! On our travel gear page we have recommendations under the following categories, Travel Gear and Accessories, Kids Travel Gear, Travel Books, Travel Resources, Travel Wash Kit and Medical Kit, Kids Travel Gear, Travel Gear for Babies and Toddlers. Scroll down to find what you need.
We’ll also try and help you make the big choices, Suitcase, Travel Pack or Backpack ( click through for this post) and Carry-On or Checked Luggage. We’ll also be talking about just what you need in your carry-on bag and what you’re allowed to take.
You could spend a fortune on fancy travel gear or accessories. I know I love browsing the shops and online catalogues. But do you really need all that stuff?
Remember that most of what you choose to pack is personal choice, I carry a travel organiser in my day pack because I just love being organised, we also sometimes carry a travel coffee maker when we’re heading somewhere without easy access to good coffee (think, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India). You may find both items totally pointless, but to me they’re important. Use your discretion, consider your own needs, don’t buy things just because some travel blogger, myself included, tells you to.
What Clothes Do We Take Travelling?
There is a reason I don’t write packing lists. I think they’re a sales gimmick.
We take whatever clothes we own and rarely buy special clothes for trips. We don’t own any special, branded travel clothes or underwear. They’re unnecessary for the travel we do.
What you wear is largely your choice. I wear jeans in every climate and have done for years. Some women like skirts, others like shorts. Your own comfort is not the only thing you need to consider, please be aware of cultural norms in your destination country and cover up.
We’re very aware of how damaging the sun is, so you’ll find long sleeved T shirts and cotton shirts with collars in all of our packs.
The old rule ” one to wear, one to wash, one spare” is a good one, but I never stick to it. I’ll carry 14 pairs of knickers and 15 tops if I can cram them in.
You will always find lovely things that you want to buy in your destination, so pack less, buy more. Laundry is usually very easy to organise, and cheap. Exceptions include India and sometimes Sri Lanka or Nepal, laundry can become troublesome in those countries.
I hand wash a lot of items, shampoo or hand soap are great for this. I dry clothes on plastic coat-hangers. I carry 2 in my pack, it’s easier and quicker than using a washing line.
I carry 2 pair of shoes, trekking or trail running shoes and rubber flip-flops. They cover all bases, from beach to Mount Everest. Rubber flip flops are sometimes vital for showers and bathrooms so I would never travel without them to Asia.
So please don’t ask me for a packing list.
A Travel Organiser Can Be Your Best Friend
Heading into our 4th year on the road I discovered travel organisers, ordered one and had it in my hands within hours thanks to Amazon Prime, it’s a traveller’s best friend, another thing. I wish I’d known about years ago. Mine keeps all of my electronic gadgets, Kindle, phone, power pack, chargers and leads, free from sand, sunblock, chocolate, sweet wrappers and other related kid-debris in my day pack or purse. I can easily grab the whole organiser to relocate it to a different bag or hang it on the seat back on flights for long journeys with easy access. No need to stand up to get anything from the overhead locker and disturb the sleeping child on my lap. I LOVE it! See our post on travel organisers here, or click through below to inspect and order. You’ll notice they’re great for nail files and pens too, or even make-up, or jewellery. Of course you can also buy travel organisers for your passport, cash, phone etc, those are in the post too.
For Short Trips We Fly Carry On Only
Recently, now we have a home base and are no longer truly nomadic in that we don’t have to carry everythng with us, all the time, we sometimes travel carry on only. It’s not my favourite way to fly, but it saves a few dollars on budget airlines,
You can read all about the hows and whys of lightweight travel here, sometimes there are advantages, sometimes not.
My number 1 tip for flying with kids, take hand sanitiser!
The trays and arms of airplane seats are filthy, keep their fingers clean before they end up in their mouths.
Antibacterial wipes work well too if you prefer zero chance of spillage. With sanitiser you’ll need tissues to wipe surfaces down.
Travel Gear We Don’t Use
Neck pillows ( although a new neck pillow invention looks set to change my mind on that), secret money bags and pouches and zip off trousers/shorts are three that come to mind immediately.
Add rubber sink plugs, electronic currency converters and medical needles kit. We’ve owned all of the above and not found a use for them.
Family Travel Gear and Accessories
We don’t think you need much. There are a few items that we love for their practical usefulness, packability and low-cost, we wouldn’t travel without them.
Hover over this image to bookmark it to Pinterest.
Travel Gear Recommendations
If I were setting out into the world to travel for a while, I would recommend the following items.
1. A Good Backpack for Mum, Dad, Maybe the Kids.
After much research, I opted for a travel pack (US version here) rather than a conventional backpack. This means it has a harness that zips away for flights and a zip opening around its circumference. It is SO much easier to gind your gear! It also has internal pockets and compression straps and a handy built-in rain cover. The zips can be padlocked closed, that’s a huge advantage over most conventional packs. Mine is 60L and fully loaded weighs between 15 and 20Kg, you can see it in the picture above. I could carry more but I couldn’t manage with a smaller pack. We don’t advocate flying carry-on only other than for short trips. This women’s Lowe Alpine travel pack is almost identical to mine click through the photo to compare spec. They’ve recently changed the design of the travel trekkers, I haven’t actually laid hands on the new version, sorry but I lobe the new grey/orange design. The version available in the US looks the same as mine, maybe a little smaller. Lowe Alpine are a top-quality brand, we use a lot of their gear and it ‘s never failed us.
Your pack must be comfortable, secure, big enough and tough. I posted about how I chose and bought my pack in the post “Backpacks and Travel Packs“. I’m delighted with my ND 60 , it’s still good as new after 3 years of solid use.
Find a similar pack on Amazon here Lowe Alpine Travel Trekker II ND Travel Pack ( US version) . And on Amazon UK here. I prefer a travel pack to a conventional top-loading backpack because it’s just easier to find stuff! The fact that the harness zips away for plane, bus or train travel is a big bonus too.
Are in the kids’ travel gear section, below.
2. A Good Day Pack for Laptop and Carry-On
Your day pack will also be your carry on luggage on planes and buses, so for me, it has to take my laptop. If you can find a daypack that will take your computer and keep it protected, it’s a very good investment. My husband has this one and loves it, it will take one, or even both, of our laptops.
Columbia Manifest Technical Daypack (Black)
If you just want a lightweight day pack/trekking pack/ carry on bag, this is the one we all use, from my 1o year-old son to my 50 year-old female self. This is the pack I take on planes when we go carry on only and the pack I carried around Everest.
3. Packing Cubes
I’d be lost without my e Bags packing cubes. We bought a 3 piece set as shown below 3 years ago and they’re still good as new, mine are pink, but there’s a huge range. They work just as well for backpacks or suitcases and if you’re like me, love to be organised, you probably need to buy a set for everyone in your family, right now. Packing cubes minimise packing stress and help you find things.
Indispensable, totally awesome, we love them. Excellent for storing all the leads and adaptors of your electronic equipment, they’re really tough. These E bags packing cubes were one of the cheaper choices and are still as new. check prices and availability here. If I was buying them again I’d possibly buy multiple small and medium sized cubes, not the larger one. They’re a great piece of travel gear for kids too, let the children fill them with their favourite toys.
5. A Travel Towel
I own this exact one plus 3 other smaller travel towels. The larger size travel towel is great because it’s big enough, at 150cm, to wrap right round me after a shower. These travel towels can also make good impromptu blankets or clean sheets. They wash and dry quickly and easily and I never leave home without mine, we each have our own, with smaller ones for the kids.
Some travel bloggers will tell you that you don’t need a travel towel, well we’ll tell you that you do! As a young single traveller I managed with a sarong, now, as a more mature mum, I want towels. You won’t need to use it all the time, but on those occasions when you do, you’ll be so glad you bought one. For trekking of any sort you will need one, also for some hostels and budget guest house. If you are taking a day trip to any sort of swimming hole, waterfall or river activities, you’ll need a travel towel.
We are now travelling with 4, 2 are the old style micro towelling, still good after 15 years, our 2 newer ones are microfibre, we are pleased with their performance and durability and they certainly pack smaller and lighter while drying ultra fast.
We even use these “at home” in London and Romania, they’re so much easier to machine or hand wash and dry. Click through to buy this exact one here Mountain Warehouse Mega Microfiber Travel Towel 150 x 85cmexact one
Or browse all travel towels here.
6. A Kindle and Kindle Cover Family Travel Gear Essentials!
We can’t carry books and book exchange shops are becoming rarer on the backpacker circuit. You need a Kindle, or 2 or 3, I lost mine to my son quite a while ago. You can download your guide books onto Kindle, fill them up with first readers or young fiction and use them for school work. My neoprene Kindle cover is vital to keep it safe and I’m very happy with it but a case with a light attachment would be handy for my nocturnal book-worm son .
We prefer the Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ for reading, I’ve read that the Kindle Fire isn’t as easy on the eyes.
7. Travel Plugs and Power Adaptors
Most families carry a lot of electronics. That makes keeping them powered up essential and adaptors a very important part of your family travel gear.
We needed 3 adapters and a pencil to get an Australian 3 pronged plug into a Sri Lankan socket. Choose wisely!
8. A Reusable Water Bottle
We love our Siggs!
Sigg water bottles are the Rolls Royce of the water bottle world. Yes, you need one, most certainly for any sort of adventurous travel, particularly trekking or hiking. Sigg water bottles are clean, green, BPA free, ultra stylish and pay for themselves. We have tried cheaper bottles from supermarkets, the lids broke. Our Siggs are over 10 years old now and we love them.
9. Wash Kit
The things you need to keep you ( and your clothes) clean and smelling of daisies.
We travel full time, so little miniature travel sized pots and bottles aren’t part of our family travel gear.
But, for short trips, where you can decant from your large bottles at home, they are sensational. I own an excellent set from Avon, with lids that seal vacuum tight and never spill. If you want to travel carry on only, make sure they are under 100mls and keep them ready in a clear plastic bag.
This Travel Bottles Set is TSA approved and claims to be leak proof. A few small plastic pots are useful too, for things like moisturiser, toothpaste or hair products. With that in mind, I’d be tempted to go for a set like this, they are from e bags, I know their packing cubes are excellent quality.
Some people like to use special “travel” wash bags . The ones that have lots of little compartments and zip open to hang from a hook in the bathroom. I’ve tried them and found them to be useless, heavier and more bulky than a regular soft wash bag. My tip would be to have at least two wash bags, take a separate one for the tooth brushes and paste so you can pull it out quickly when you need it and collapse into bed. Lately we just carry our toothbrushes wrapped in a clean mini-towel.
We recommend Agoda ( click here to browse) for their easy to use site, great customer service, good prices and good range. Agoda are a global booking agent, most well known for excellence in Asia, we also find them good for London bookings.
Our preferred way to find the best bargains on flights is to use Skyscanner (click here to start researching) , this tool is fairly simple to use and allows you to discover which days and routes will give you the most travel for your dollar. If you need a tutorial on how to use it like a pro, we have some great hints and tips in this post.
I’m going to put together individual posts with country specific recommendations. An important part of travel for us is making sure the kids get as much out of the experience as possible so we keep them well supplied with general travel books and books relating to specific countries. I’m still in the process of creating those pages, but for now, here are some general recommendations, all from the mighty Amazon.
Lonely Planet have been our guide book of choice for many years. OK, these days you can do all of your research online, but for me, nothing beats having a copy of The Planet in my daypack. It’s handy for learning about the country’s history, culture and food along with working our exactly where we want to go. Lonely Planet give you plenty of maps, hotel and restaurant recommendations and an introduction to the local language. Totally awesome, we love them. For the last couple of years we’ve travelled without a guide book because of weight restrictions, but for our recent trip to Romania I went out and bought myself a hard copy. It was like running into an old friend again.
Find your country specific Lonely Planet guide here on Amazon. Or you can find them as hard copies or E Books on the Lonely Planet Shop website.
General Travel Books For Kids
You can’t go wrong with these for older children, the Lonely Planet Not for Parents Travel Book. They’ve also started doing smaller city or country specific books in the same series, for instance, this is the London Lonely Planet, Not For Parents London: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know .
For smaller children I’d go with story books to introduce them to a country or region. Maybe something like Madeline in London.
Kids Travel Gear
A lots of people ask me about kids travel gear, quite honestly, they don’t need anything special for kids, just clothes and a very few toys. Older children need their own backpacks or luggage, but sometimes I still carry my younger son’s gear in my big bag. We find that the more bags you have, the more complicated travel becomes and the higher your risk of losing one. Most families share wash bags, medical kit, towels etc. But there are a few pieces of gear I’d recommend you pack for kids.
Obviously kids’ paracetamol is in there, I’m very glad that Calpol (UK) now do solid, chewable tablets for older kids rather the bulky, sticky syrup bottles. Panadol (Australia) also do chewables now. I don’t know what’s available in the US, sorry.
The only special piece of medical kit we carry because of the kids is a compact electronic ear thermometer , it’s by Braun and I love it, it always tells the truth and lets me know if I should panic or not.
Kids’ Backpacks and Luggage
My boys, at 6 and 8, started with little 18L kids backpacks like the one in the above image. They were cute, but not great packs. The hip straps never stayed snug so all the weight was on their shoulder straps. My elder son, at 9, graduated to a 45L small adult pack, it’s only half full so it’s not too heavy, but the great harness design and air flow cooling system make it much more comfortable for him. It’s a Mountain Warehouse Extreme pack and we’re all very pleased with it. We adults and kids all use this one as hand luggage from time to time, it works great if you want to fly carry-on only and I used it as my trekking pack during our Everest trek. It’s a good buy.
Trunki bags are all the rage with trendy travelling tots at the moment, sensational for little ones as they can take a rest in long airport queues by sitting on these robust rollers.
Travel Clothing for Kids
Essential kids travel gear for us, are sun (UV) protective rash vests or sun sirts ( rashies) ideally long sleeved and high necked. They wash and dry quicker than T shirts and cover your child’s delicate skin more completely.
In some parts of the world, including Queensland, our former home, a one piece stinger or sun suitlike the one above is needed at certain times of the year. They do double service, protecting your child from potentially deadly jellyfish while at the same time keeping them sun-safe. If you’re planning on snorkelling anywhere in tropical seas, get one. Jellyfish can be deadly. The Australian reef boats carry them to compulsory hire to visitors, but having your own for the beach or reef is great, much less hassle than sunblock, pain or (possible) death.
Other than these, we take no special gear for the kids at all, they just have sun hats, regular shorts or long trousers, T shirts and long sleeved shirts.
On their feet they wear Crocs or similar. They can walk just fine in them, they love to be able to slip them on and off easily and they’re water-tough.
My kids often have far more toys with them than you should carry!
This is because we don’t usually have the option of leaving things “at home”. Every special toy has to go with us.
We also carry some travel toys and games to keep them amused at airports and bus stops and when we’re just hanging about. You can find our favourites in our travel gifts post.
Baby and Toddler Travel Gear
Baby travel gear you will need includes:
Keep it simple with travel changing mats to reduce bulk. All you need is a clean, slightly padded surface that you can wipe with antibacterial wipes or sanitiser so that you KNOW it’s always clean for baby.
The Graco Playard is as simple and pared-down as you will find. A travel cot needs to be lightweight, these things are heavy! We carried our Graco all over the world and it saw us through 2 babies.
The ultimate baby hands-free-kit. On uneven pavements and dirt tracks you’ll be very glad to have a sling not the stroller.
Two baby travel accessories that we always found absolutely indispensable were a UV and mosquito protector for the buggy and a baby mosquito net. We used the Shade a Babe mosquito and UV protector for years and years, both boys always slept better under it.
There’s no way you will ever travel light with a baby, but luckily the big gear, like travel cots, are not generally included in your airline baggage allowance.
Want to See What Other Travel Gear We Are Packing?
Over the last 3 years of family travel, we’ve learnt what’s essential and what’s not, we don’t have room in our packs for travel gear that doesn’t pay its way. Above are the things I wouldn’t leave the house without, add to that list cameras, medical kit, a few toiletries, basic clothes and laptops, but there are other items that have been incredibly useful over the last year, check out the following posts.
Travel Medical Kit you DO need supplies!
Why We Don’t Travel Light (usually!) because I love my kids and my electronics.
How to Pack and Travel Carry on Only family carry on only packing and flying.
Travel Gear Gifts For Children and Families toys games books and gadgets.
Travel Essentials what we needed and what we should have left at home.
Backpack, Travel Pack or Suitcase which to choose for your travel?
Best Travel Organisers! My new best friend.
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