I’m writing this post from Tokyo, Japan while here with my 7-year-old. Japan is my 48th country with kids, and in the course of all of that travel we’ve learned what to take and what not to take on trips – to the point where we typically don’t start packing until 7pm the night before we’re leaving for somewhere.
Of course every trip has its own requirements, and we’ll pack clothes and shoes based on weather and activities. But we also have a standard packing cube filled with extras that automatically goes into our suitcase, whether I’m traveling with just one kid or we’re traveling as a family. I’ll guarantee you that every trip we’ve needed at least a few things from there. We also have a few items that don’t fit into the packing cube that travel with us everywhere.
So what do we always pack?
Our Standard Packing List
Inside the Packing Cube
- Band-Aids and Neosporin.
- Blister Wool. eNZees Foot Soother is great. A lifesaver when we get blisters, and good at preventing them as well.
- Blue Painters Tape. For protecting new purchases (taping up bubble wrap), labeling water bottles, doing fast repairs, taping toiletries and sunscreen closed, kids crafts, and much more.
- A Bungee Clothesline. For drying clothes on the road. We can find a way to set this up in virtually any hotel room.
- Electrolyte Tablets. We’ve ended up in the hospital twice with dehydrated kids – in Hawaii and southern France. Now we carry electrolytes so that it hopefully doesn’t happen a third time.
- Extra Earbuds. If someone forgets earbuds/headphones, or they break (which happens often with the kids’ headphones especially), we have a small backup pair.
- Feminine Products. Ok, I may take these out if I’m just traveling with my son.
- A Frisbee. Whether we’re at a city park or a beach, it always comes in handy.
- Hand Sanitizer and Baby Wipes.
- Insect Repellent. If we’re going somewhere with a lot of bugs we’ll pack a larger spray bottle, but we make sure we always have a small 2oz tube of repellent (lotion with DEET) with us.
- Instant Coffee. Starbucks Via is our default when we’re somewhere without convenient coffee options. I wish every hotel room had a Nespresso machine, but they don’t…
- Kids’ Medicines. Specifically we always travel with Children’s Pepto, Children’s Advil, Aquaphor (for eczema) and Children’s Zyrtec (for allergies), since they’re not easy to find on the road.
- Playing Cards.
- Scissors. We couldn’t bring these if we were carrying on a bag, but we virtually always check luggage.
- A Sharpie.
- A Thermometer. We use the Nokia Thermo. It’s fast/accurate and connects to my iPhone for temp trending and health information based on age and symptoms – helpful when abroad.
- Travel Detergent. For doing laundry in hotel sinks. Tide Travel Sink Packets work well, although a hotel’s body wash or shampoo can work too.
- Ziplock Bags (Quart and Gallon). Useful for packing new liquids (e.g. purchased honey), and keeping electronics dry when it’s raining.
Outside the Packing Cube
- A Parental Consent Letter. I take one-on-one trips with my kids all the time, and some immigration officials have asked for a notarized letter from my wife. My letter is HERE.
- An Extra Duffel. Our default is the 45L Patagonia Black Hole Duffel, since it’s light and fairly small. We don’t do much shopping when we’re overseas, but it’s nice to have the extra space just in case.
- A Linen Towel. This comes in handy as an actual towel if you have an impromptu stop at a beach or the kids play in a fountain, but more often we use it as a picnic blanket.
- Power Banks. I like the power banks from Ventev, since they come with built-in lightning cables – one less thing to remember.
- A Power Strip. I always take along a 220v strip with a European plug and a converter (if necessary for countries without European outlets). Plus several USB chargers and cables of course.
- Sunscreen. SPF 30 or 50. I still prefer Coppertone Sport.
- Travel Information. I still love old-school Lonely Planet guides. And AFAR is my favorite inspirational travel magazine. You should subscribe!
If there’s anything on a trip we’ve thought we could have used, we’ve added it to the packing cube / list for the next trip. But we may still be missing something obvious? What would you add?
NOTE: None of these links are affiliate links. That means that I don’t make money by recommending things, and I don’t post about anything that we don’t use and like. We paid for virtually everything here, except for the Nokia thermometer and the Ventev power banks which were sent to me without any assumption of positive coverage. I’m an ambassador for AFAR magazine.