Traveling for 3 months with a suitcase and pack for two adults and a preschooler. Hmmmmm.... I was skeptical that we could do it. But for the most part we have! We've been savvy with not taking too many clothes (the downside being constant washing) and not taking anything we could buy as we needed along the way. We read lots of 'travel with kids' blogs before we went to get some good ideas about what we needed for Sam, the essentials, but also what not to take. But there are many thing we learnt along the way. So here is our list of essential things we wouldn't do extended travel without again (unless we're going to a hotel/resort somewhere where you don't need to bring anything of course!)
1) A flannel! In Europe these are not a thing. And sometimes wet wipes only go so far. And then there are the nights when you have a tired child who can't stay up long enough for a shower and requires a "sponge bath". A flannel is essential! We have a microfibre one from Kathmandu.
2) A vege peeler. Sounds weird but... if you're in a hotel (or even some apartments don't seem to have these) it means you can prepare healthy snacks like carrot sticks for lunchbox snacks because the choices for healthy kids snacks and meals is always limited when you're traveling.
3) Which brings me to a lunchbox! This has been used every day! We pack snacks for a day out, for a plane or train trip or just even to transport snacks that need a container. We would never travel without this. A drink bottle you can buy (and we've had to when we lost Sam's beloved Arsenal bottle when we arrived off the plane in Paris). But a lunchbox, now that's something worth bringing along with you.
5) A travel knife. We have one of those little coloured knives with a cover. The cover is great for traveling and because it's small it doesn't take up room. We initially had a pocket knife, but we lost that in the first 2 weeks, and actually, this knife has been better. We use it for chopping vege sticks, lemon for drinks etc.
6) Headphones - for everyone. Sam is actually on his 3rd pair of headphones. We lost a cover off one side on the plane ride from Singapore to London, which made the first week or so until we bought some at a service station in England a bit tricky. Those headphones lasted until Iceland when Sam used them as a toy to have the cats chase and then they ceased to emit sound. At Keflavik airport we acquired his latest (and hopefully last!) pair which came with bonus stickers for him to decorate the headphones. Anyway, why are these important? Any trip we've been on, some kind of distraction has been a godsend, when you're on a long train ride, or you when just need two minutes to actually think. An audio book, a playlist of favourite songs, an ipad game, a movie - none of these sounds need to be heard by the rest of the world. And similarly, headphones for us have meant we can watch something together when Sam is asleep in the room with us, or together on a plane. And of course, for zoning out by ourselves when needed.
7) Rain jackets. Well that's just a "duh" one. These are worth the room they take up to travel with them in a day pack. They can also be handy to cover bags when waiting for public transport in a downpour. And also good as a windbreaker if you forgot a jumper but remembered your jacket was still shoved in the bottom of the day pack.
8) Day pack! Again, "duh". Why wouldn't you want something you can wear on your back to carry all your essentials and often to carry groceries?
9) Packing cubes. These are amazing and a tip we got from one of the travel bloggers, I forget which, because everyone who travels for a length of time swears by them. We have a different colour for each person which means packing & unpacking is easy. And the different sizes of cubes / pouches mean you can have one for smalls, one for jumpers & pants etc. We have one for toys, one for medication and so forth. In fact, there are no loose items in our pack & suitcase, everything is in a bag or cube. It means we always know where things are.
10) Travel washing line. These have come in handy soooo many times. In hotels when you hand wash items and even in some apartments where they have a washing machine but no rack (why? And what do other people do to dry their clothes?). Ours is from Kathmandu and we got it for our first Europe adventure 10 years ago and it's great to put it to use again!
11) Good shoes. Obviously. You do a lot of walking when you travel and comfort is essential! Sam was lucky enough to be gifted a great pair of velcro water proof half-boots from Future Feet by his grandparents before we left. And both Nick and I have enjoyed our All Birds. The benefit of these is comfort, all weather breathability and the ability to machine wash them! You can also wear them without socks without stinking them up, which is super handy when you're running low on washing.
12) Smartphone (+ local SIM card, + battery pack). We use Google Maps all the time. So without access to the web life wouldn't be as easy. And we know that there are those who love a good ol' fashioned map, but we now rely so heavily on the internet as our source of information, including public transport info, which Google has been super-reliable with across multiple countries. So without a phone, life wouldn't have been as easy. We both got SIM cards in England that have roaming through Europe at the same local rates. We opted for bigger data plans and we top up each month for about 20 pounds. So worth it.
13) Sewing kit. This is just one of those freebies you get from a hotel, but I have used it to mend things a couple of times now (including when my one pair of togs broke a clasp - having to buy a new pair would have been a pain but it was easy to fix!)
14) Manicure set. Ok, so not everyone would agree here - but 3 months of nail growth... nah, you need to hack those babies back.
15) First Aid Kit. Well again, "duh". Especially with us being so accident prone. But this kit meant that when Nick needed stitches ... no, I didn't do them... but I did have the means to change the dressings & remove them without us having to find another medical centre.
16) Semi-formal shorts. So, Nick has found that shorts are the best thing for him when traveling because he's normally the pack-horse & gets really hot. But some places sports shorts just don't cut it, especially stained ones you've been wearing for days, so this is his biggest "I wish I had packed..." item.
17) Cooler pack. Nick decided we needed this in week 1 or 2 of our adventure, so it's been with us a while. We bought a small foldable one from Marks & Spencer and it has been so handy! I was skeptical, I'll admit. But it's held snacks, ice for drinks, cold drinks on the beach... and once folded flat it doesn't take up much space.
18) Duct tape. Soooo many times the duct tape has come out. Minor repairs on things, holding up a makeshift blackout curtain, temporarily fixing our dodgy shore power cable on the canal boat. Nick's broken glasses are currently held together with it. Duct tape, 'nuff said.
19) Travel credit card. This has been awesome too. We have one that you load different currencies on so you tap & go just like a credit card but without the conversion fee each time. We use Loaded for Travel by Kiwibank, but most banks have an option available. We were told to expect a 70% success rate using it in Europe - in reality it has only us failed twice in 3 months and one of those turned out to be a connection problem with the vendor anyway. Yes, you still need cash some places, but this has been used every day. Because you're pre-loading currency, it's also a handy way to track and manage what you're spending.
20) Reusable shopping bag. This is one of those ones that folds up to a small square. It's in my hand bag & I pull it out for groceries or purchases all the time. Definitely one of my best savvy packing ideas (thanks to Past Annamarie for your foresight).
So there it is, the 20 things that have been most useful to us. You're welcome x
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.