Packing it: Our family travel essentials

Our family travel essentials

This post was written in collaboration with Vision Direct 

I am what one would call a ridiculously light packer. Whether I’m travelling with the kids in tow or flying solo, I hate lugging luggage. So much so I’ve been known to rock a fortnight-long holiday with nothing more than a carry-on.

The kids on the other hand are notorious for trying to pack everything they own, except clothes, into our suitcases. But as we frequently fly on budget airlines with minimal luggage allowance, and I ain’t carrying them,  I am ruthless at eliminating items that aren’t essential or useful to reduce weight.

But there are a few travel items that this girl simply can’t live without and I insist on packing in my carry on. Here are my family travel essentials.

1. A quality travel organiser 

I carry a travel wallet less because I am anal, and more because I am a vague ditz who has a tendency to misplace things like passports, tickets and currency and ends up in a full blown panic attack every thirty seconds in transit. Thankfully, my much calmer and less ditzy children have become like an external memory bank and always watch when I put stuff away so when I cant find it, they can tell me exactly where it is, and don’t have to watch me having yet another embarrassing meltdown.

2. A set of spare clothes

Over the course of hundreds of flights I’ve only ever had one bag lost in transit, and though it found its way back eventually, I was stuck for days without clothes in a country that didn’t really accommodate the sartorial requirements of a 5’9 human. Suffice to say, I stunk. Ever since I make sure I pack a spare set of clothes in my carry on, in case my checked baggage doesn’t end up holidaying at the same destination as me. The kids too carry a change of clothes, but that’s more because they are total grots.

3. A vat of Rescue Remedy

Despite the huge number of flights I have survived, I have yet to overcome being a gutless wonder who is shit scared of flying, so I always pack a full bottle of Rescue Remedy, which I tend to knock back like water on take off and landing.

4. A stylin’ scarf

There is perhaps no other more useful garment in my carry on than a large scarf or pashmina. Not only does it double as a blanky on chilly flights, which is almost always stolen by one of the kids, it’s perfect for hiding the great blob of airplane food I always manage to spill on my shirt mid-flight.

5. Stolen slippers

Another in-flight packing secret is that I steal the towelling slippers from hotels for me and the kids. They weigh nothing, slip easily into our hand luggage and make the perfect fix for scuttling around the plane, hygienically.

6. A magic wand 

I’m as vain as the next person and Yves St Laurent Touche Eclat is hands down the best beauty product ever invented for travellers (or those folk with a tendency for rocking killer hangovers). I do not leave home without it. A touch under the eyes and a spot here and there and I can almost pass for a human being after a red-eye flight.

7. Some sassy shades

Sunglasses are another travel essential, and not just so I can swan through the airport like some kind of incognito celebrity, sweetie darling. While my sexy new Versace’s do come in handy for hiding my jet lagged eyeballs and accidental holiday hangovers, I also insist on the kids having high-quality eye protection with adequate UV protection because wearing sunglasses now will help protect them against eye problems later. A scratch resistant design is another must – because children!  The only catch till now has been trying to convince them to keep them on. The rocking Ray-Bans they chose from Vision Direct seem to have solved that problem because now they practically want to sleep in them.

Sunglasses from Vision Direct

8. My portable ER

You don’t have to pack a pharmacy, but an up to date travel first aid kit is essential for any travelling family. You can see our suggested essentials here.

9. A pack of pain killers

Separate to our first aid kit I pack both children’s Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, as well as the grown up variety for flights, because there ain’t no magical fly-through pharmacy at 30,000 feet and the on board first aid offerings aren’t necessarily going to cut it.

10. Gadgets to go

My camera, phone and laptop travel with me at all times (but all associated chargers holiday in our checked baggage, if we have any).

11. Kid-friendly entertainment

The kids always bring their fully charged iPads, packed to the brink with Netflix downloads, , which they carry in their own hand luggage along with their own headphones.

12. Universal adaptor plug

A Universal adapter plug is essential so you can plug in and charge up in transit wherever you are. Ours comes with a bonus USB charge port, making life even easier when you’re toting the amount of technology we tend to these days.

13. A fully loaded battery back-up

I also always pack a full charged mini battery charger because my phone always times its death just as I arrive somewhere and need it.

14. Swags and swags of zip-lock bags

Zip-lock bags are solid holiday gold! I always pack a stash in different sizes for phone cords, cables and sim cards as well for transporting half finished snacks.

15. Stacks of snacks

Speaking of snacks, if I’m travelling with the kids I also pack a few relatively healthy ones like nut bars, apples and dried fruit because the kids rarely time their rumbling tummies with cabin service.

16. A BYO bevvy bottle 

A refillable water bottle. Better for the environment than disposable plastic bottles, there’s usually a bubbler somewhere past customs that you can use to fill it before boarding to keep the fam hydrated.

17. The right attitude

My number one essential is to pack realistic expectations because when you’re travelling with kids, mishaps and the occasional tanty are bound to happen, no matter how carefully you prepare.

Disclosure:  Vision Direct generously provided us with our new sunnies but all opinions, as always, are own. We’re sharing the love because, let’s be honest, they’ve made us look like rock gods! 

11 Comments on Packing it: Our family travel essentials

  1. Hugzilla
    June 20, 2017 at 7:59 am (7 years ago)

    Hahahhaha I love how stolen slippers is right there. Painkillers is one of those things that I take with me everywhere, and my sunnies too. Can’t live without either one.

  2. Natalie @ Be Kind 2 You
    June 20, 2017 at 9:22 am (7 years ago)

    These are gold.. especially the sassy slippers. I always take them too but never thought about packing them when flying. I like to travel light and actually feel so much more organised when i have packed smart than packing everything. #teamIBOT

  3. Nicole @ The Builder's Wife
    June 20, 2017 at 9:59 am (7 years ago)

    Perfect timing as we are only a couple months off taking our first long haul flight as a family. Can I ask why the chargers are packing in your luggage?

      June 20, 2017 at 10:01 am (7 years ago)

      I only carry them if on me if I ‘ll need to recharge in transit. Otherwise I stick them in checked luggage becasue they are heavy and cabin baggage is weight restricted.

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    June 20, 2017 at 10:33 am (7 years ago)

    Great list Aleney! Good idea to carry the change of clothes too! Also sometimes we land in a climate that’s opposite to ours 😀

  5. Amy Haverkort
    June 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm (7 years ago)

    The set of spare clothes in carry on is really smart. I’ve spilt coffee on my top before a flight before and had to deal with the yuck smell and one time I went to Bali and my case got lost and took a day to come.

  6. Rebecca Bowyer
    June 20, 2017 at 9:12 pm (7 years ago)

    Thank you! We’re leaving on our first big international trip with the kids tomorrow! I’m adding a few things to my list from this!

  7. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    June 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm (7 years ago)

    I too am a fan of the ziploc bags and although I don’t take a full change of clothes, I always pack some clean undies in my hand luggage. I love the idea of stolen slippers though. Totally doing that on my next long haul flight!

  8. Jan Wild
    June 24, 2017 at 5:10 pm (7 years ago)

    Lots of great ideas here, it is very a personal choice isn’t it. I use Australian Bush Flower Essences Travel Essence and Travel Spray rather than Rescue Remedy. They also have an Emergency Essence. I love to have my noise cancelling headphones and my Kindle in my carry on and definitely some sort of wrap or pashmina.

  9. Denyse
    June 24, 2017 at 7:56 pm (7 years ago)

    A most helpful post. I am a planner and an over packer though. I need to be ready for all possibilities.!

  10. Michael Bendicio
    March 15, 2024 at 5:13 pm (4 months ago)

    Absolutely loved your family travel essentials post! Packing smart is key, especially when flying with little ones. One thing I swear by for hassle-free trips is Flywell travel vitamins. They’re convenient, providing essential nutrients to support your immune system and energy levels during travels. Trust me, they’re a game-changer! Happy travels! ✈️


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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