Traveling can be stressful: the planning, the packing and the hauling. Add a kid into the mix and every minute truly becomes precious, so here are some easy tools that will hopefully make the trip a whole lot smoother—and save your sanity.
Personal Info Cards
As I mention in my piece on traveling safely, you should have personal info cards for each of your kids. On them, their names, nationalities, your contact info, an emergency contact back home, and any relevant health info. On the back, put the name of your hotels and the dates you’re staying there, along with the native script and phone number if possible). Laminate these and make sure each kid has a copy on them at all times, as well as one tucked into their backpack.
A Digital Itinerary and Photos of your Passport and Visa
You’d be surprised how often you will need this info: for immigration, for cab drivers and more. That’s why I always create a document with all the flight and hotel info (including name in the native script and phone number, for emergencies) and passport numbers. Then, take photo of everyone’s passport and visas and keep them in the same place.
This way, whenever you need to fill in an immigration form or take a cab, you don’t have to search through a pile of papers, or even open your bag. Just whip our your phone and all of the info is right there.
Send this document to yourself, your partner and your kids, as well as relatives back home.
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Yes, really. This stuff is a blessing and can be used to substitute a ton of other handy tools. I’ve used it to fix shoes, cover an overly cold AC at night, glue my husband’s nose to keep him from snoring (don’t tell him!), make a rope to haul some things, glue an iPad at eye level, make makeshift Band-Aids, as a privacy seal on luggage, to cover a drain with funky smells, make a rain coat out of a plastic bag, and more.
Buy a small roll (unless you’re roughing it) and step on it to flatten it out. That will make it easier to pack! Carabiners are also super handy for clipping water and umbrella to your bag. Again, the less you have to open your bags, the better.
The Family Charger
Rather that dragging around 10 chargers, I bought a multi-charger on Amazon and attached five different chargers: one iWatch, three iPhone, one Android. Once I get more duct tape I also plan on wrapping the chords in paper, then duct tape, to further reduce the mess. I keep this charger in the top of my carry-on so that it’s always available in a flash when our phone, kindle or iPad runs out of juice.
The Living & Entertainment Bags
I am a little neurotic about packing (I make laminated check lists so that my husband doesn’t put things in the wrong bag), and I live by these two bags: the living bag, and the entertainment bag.
The living bag has your next change of clothes, tooth brush, comb, and blush, or whatever you deem most important. It would also have formula, bottle, medicine… anything you might need on your first night in a hotel. The point is to have a small bag with everything you need the first night so that you’re not dealing with a bulky suitcase when you should be sleeping.
The entertainment bag is my personal item, and it’s filled with fun stuff: an iPad, drawing supplies, snacks, games, and books. Basically anything Mr. Toddler might need on his flight. I also keep an empty water bottle and wireless headphones in there.
A fully loaded iPad
OK, parents, let me have it: Kids shouldn’t use technology! They should be looking out the window! Letting their imaginations roam!
I am all for those things, but in my experience, doing a 24-hours a day with jetlag and long bus trips can make kids really grumpy. When we traveled to Asia I brought the iPad for emergencies only, but quickly scrambled to download some episodes of Curious George (or as I call him: Saint Curious George) for those times when the flight is just too long, or his dad and I need to work together to pack luggage without the help of a toddler.
These things are hard to beat! They and substitute for anything and everything, from makeshift mini toiletry bag, diaper bag, container for water, to hold some clean, wet microfiber cloths (my fave in summer and dusty places), toys, your phone on the beach (use this plus diaper for the ultimate water and theft protection), and more! Like duct tape, it’s extremely versatile and takes up almost no space.