WAYB loves family travel, and we know that the right gear can make all the difference in having a safe and fun trip. Besides our award-winning, ultralight Pico car seat, here are some other must-have items to make every trip awesome.
- Something Old, Something New
- Keep Cozy
- Reusable Bottle
- Take Care of Ears of All Sizes
- Kid and Reef-Safe Sun Care
- First-Aid and Meds
- The Right Documents
1. Something Old, Something New: One comfort object and three little gifts
Don’t leave home without your kiddo's favorite comfort object; it’s worth the space to have that soft toy or most-loved board book with you. And also don’t expect it to work miracles: a kid having a melt-down mid-flight may not be soothed by their lovie, but leaving it at home can cause an unnecessary freakout. Along with the familiar, pack at least three small, new items. If you are feeling extra, you can even wrap them. It does not matter how small or inexpensive; the novelty and the specialness of a gift can really shift a kid’s mood. For my kids, a small book of stickers or activities (like the Dover books), one small treat like a fun-size bag of candy or a lollipop, and a small toy or stuffed animal got us through a lot of long flights. I’d save these for key moments like staying buckled through takeoff or landing, or as a reward after a nap.
2. Keep Cozy: An all-purpose blanket / shawl / scarf
I like to pack light, and I’m always tempted to skip a blanket. But they come in so handy for keeping cozy on a freezing-cold flight, using as a pillow, creating shade over a stroller or in a car, using as a beach blanket or even a towel. Get a really lightweight, soft, and oversized one and you’ll be glad you did.
3. Reusable Bottle: Stay hydrated and eco-friendly
If you haven’t heard, single-use plastics are the worst. Something that gets used once clogs up the earth and ocean for hundreds of years. Skip it and bring a bottle for each person on the trip. Just remember to empty them before TSA (you can refill them before a flight). For kids, we’ve liked Thermos Funtainer bottles (pro-tip: unscrew the lid for your kids after the flight is in the air; it pressurizes and if they just flip up the straw it can spray their faces. If you are like me, the hardest thing about this is not laughing). Now that our kids don’t need straw bottles we use Contigo Autoseal bottles. For adults, we like Klean Kanteen with a Cafe Cap for coffee or water. Ok fine, I have also taken a cocktail to go in it. It keeps drinks hot or cold! And Klean Kanteen is a B-Corp, meaning they care for people and the planet.
4. Take Care of Ears of All Sizes: Headphones, ear plugs, and lollipops
We always pack headphones for our kids (we use Kidz Gear ones with volume control) in case they want to watch in-flight entertainment (if you are going screen-free, you can do a free audio book from your library through Libby or download music like Spotify playlists). We always pack earplugs so that if either my spouse or I can catch a nap on a flight or have a noisy hotel room, we can get some zzzzs. When our kids were younger and prone to screaming on red-eyes, we also offered these to neighbors on the plane. Finally, for ear pressure during takeoff and landing, I nursed or bottle-fed the kids when they were babies (sucking can help with the pressure) and later gave them lollipops. The lollipops were also a nice distraction so they wouldn’t take their seatbelts off just before landing (I wish I’d had a Pico car seat so they had a harness seat that was easy to bring on a plane!).
5. Kid and Reef-Safe Sun Care: Protect your skin and the planet
If you are traveling to a sunny spot, you must bring good sun protection, but safe sunscreen can be hard to find. Check your favorite on the EWG’s Skin Deep database to find out if it has toxic chemicals in it, and check the label to see if it is considered reef-safe if you’ll be on the beach (read here for why “reef-safe” is a murky label). My favorite is ThinkSport which is super-safe for people and as reef-safe as any other sunscreen on the market. My kids love the stick sunscreen, and I use their tinted sunscreen for my face. If you order from them directly, they also donate a small amount to charity. Better yet, cover everyone up as much as possible with sun shirts, rashguards and sun hats to minimize sunscreen which makes kids and reefs happy. We like Patagonia hoodies for sun shirts, REI rash guards (their own brand for kids; Carve Designs brand for women), and Sunday Afternoon or Fair Ends hats.
6. First-Aid and Meds: A small kit can make a big difference
Kids get scrapes, fevers, and bloody noses everywhere. It’s just a little more hectic when it happens during travel. Keep a small first-aid kit handy (and carry it on an airplane) including instant hand sanitizer, band-aids, neosporin, tweezers for splinters or ticks, children’s Tylenol / acetaminophen and Advil / ibuprofen (they come in chewable tablets so you don’t have a big liquid container), and tissues. We also always bring our thermometer. It’s kind of bulky, but kids can develop a fever so fast and it’s hard to know if you have a slightly sick kid or an emergency without one. In the middle of the night or on a super-long flight, it can provide a lot of peace of mind to monitor a sudden fever.
7. The Right Documents: Paper is your friend
After all the packing and planning, don’t forget the most important item: your travel documents! It’s easy to think everything is on your phone, but if you're without service or your battery dies, you are up a creek. I’m all about saving paper, but it’s a good idea to print boarding passes, your full travel itinerary, and copies of IDs like passports. If we are traveling internationally I always print out a map and directions at least to our first destination in case our phones don’t work, or we want to be sure we took the right bus, or that our taxi driver understood us. And it’s good to check entry requirements. Do you need a visa? Many countries require six months left on your passport - is it expiring soon? Are you traveling alone with kiddos? You may need a notarized document from the other parent giving permission.
What are your must-have travel items? Post a picture and tag @hellowayb.
About the author: Amanda Reid is the former Head of Brand and Social Impact at WAYB, and is currently living on a sailboat with her family. She spends her time writing, steering, boatschooling, and planning the next adventure, big or small.