Traveling can be a frustrating experience without the right gear, so today is your lucky day! Here are our very favorite travel items. We actually use every single one of these things and find them valuable in our travels. This list only includes items that we have been using for years and have held up and continue to work for us.
If you want a list of our newer favorites click here.
If you want a list of our favorite road trip essentials, click here!
Carry on bags
This backpack/satchel is my absolute favorite! The straps are wide and comfy and it is very roomy. I like that it has handles to carry through crowded plane aisles. It opens wide to allow me to see everything inside of it and it also has a zipper in the back to grab things out when you can’t access the top. It is strange to be enamored with a backpack, but it is a fabulous one. It has made dozens trips with me and is still going strong!
My boys obviously prefer a really basic backpack and this one fits the bill. They love this one because there is a cord you can attach a battery pack to so they can keep their electronics charged on the go. There are also lots of pockets! There is a laptop space as well. The straps are wide and comfortable and they clasp in front to make for easier carrying for my smallest guy.
We favor suitcases that can double as carry on items. When you are traveling with kids, you want to keep costs down, and make sure that at least your bigger kids can carry their own. These hardback ones from American Tourister are our favorites. They come in fun colors, to help your suitcase stand out from the sea of black suitcases. They also pull very easily or roll standing up. They continue to work for us trip after trip!
I used to think packing cubes were just a gimmick. I thought they were another way to get travelers to spend money. Well, I admit I was completely wrong. They have changed my travelling life. Packing cubes mean I don’t have to dig through my suitcase and ruin all my nicely folded clothes. They mean I can always close my suitcase, and my dirty clothes don’t get mingled in with my clean ones. My kids even like them. We have gone on month long trips, where we have packed one very large suitcase, and we all have different colored packing cubes, so we were all able to share. Here is some great information about the different kinds of packing cubes, and what will work best for your family!
The J Pillow
This is hands down my favorite travel accessory! I love my J pillow. It is great for road trips, flights, and to double when I don’t like a pillow at my hotel. When I lost my original one at the Vancouver airport, I bought a replacement while waiting at the gate. It is that good!
The Trtl pillow
My sister gave me this pillow for my birthday last year, and it has quickly become a staple for my husband! You read that right! My husband claimed it as his after our first flight with it. (I was okay with that because I really am partial to the next pillow on the list.) He slips it into his carry on for every flight and generally has it on before we even take off! This pillow wraps around your neck and has a flexible insert that helps cradle your chin so you can sleep upright.
Great for light packers and people who get middle row seats!
If you are doing any overseas travels you will need a good adapter/converter. We love this one from Bestek because there are 3 places to plug in your technology and it includes a 200 watt converter. We still carry around the box it came in and it has been on every international trip we have been on for the last 7 years.
Zip up pouches
Every person in our family has one of these small zip up pouches to store headphones, chargers, aux input cables, watch chargers, etc. In fact, we never unpack these! I have dedicated accessories just for traveling, so no one needs to unpack them to use in their everyday life. They are always waiting for us to grab and go. Any bag will work at all, but for your reference, this is the bag I use.
These are a must have for long haul flights! No one likes swollen ankles, and these help protect you against travel blood clots. If you have to wear them they might as well be cute too! I put mine on just before leaving for the airport and have had so much less swelling than I did before I used them.
Great for pregnant women or anyone who gets swollen ankles when flying!
I have spent far too many flights shivering. I have spent even more of them, giving my jacket, or blanket to shivering kids. I had had enough of it, so I bought all of us these travel blankets. When we have to pack really light, we can get by sharing, but for long haul flights we all pack them. They fold up nice and small and can be used as a pillow too! I have even used mine in a few Airbnb’s that didn’t have enough bedding!
Spill proof travel bottles
These amazing refillable bottles keep your shampoo, lotion, contact solution, etc in the bottle. I once had a bottle of lotion burst in my suitcase after an overseas flight. I had to throw out half the clothing in my suitcase, because I could never get the oily stains out. These little guys don’t leak, don’t burst, and last a very long time. We decant products in them and label them with a label maker. (Sharpie wipes right off of these.)
Gone are the days when my carry-on was weighed down with books! I love to read on an airplane, at our destination, basically I love to read. Before the kindle, I would bring enough books to make sure I didn’t run out of things to read. Now if I run out, I just upload a new book anytime. The kindle is lightweight and easy to stash in your bag and at 7 oz. it wont break your back!