10 Great Things to Bring on a Trip with Kids
Sure there's the obvious hand-held video games, e-book readers, portable dvd players, laptops, iPads etc. What are some other things that might be great to bring on a trip with kids that encourage safety, education, and adventure ...
Walking Wings. I wish we had had these when our kids were learning to walk and we were on the road. Small, lightweight, and easy to use, these giant overalls allow emergent and new walkers to walk through museums, down crowded streets, in stores ... all without parent backache, crawling on dirty surfaces, or toddling away. Like most things, you can buy them at Amazon. You can also purchase directly from the manufacturer at walkingwings.com/.
ID bracelets. We go on-line and buy an engraved ID bracelet before every trip. We put a grandparent's phone number, perhaps a hotel phone number, a cell phone number, and any local emergency contact information. Perhaps a friend at our destination or an e-mail address we can access easily? The bracelets we like best are at makemethis.com. Most allow four lines of text and you can choose from lots of images for the front.
Mini magic markers and one mini spiral notebook per kid. We visit a drugstore or a craft store and let the kids each pick out a very small spiral notebook before the trip (or you can pick up a little notebook at the first museum giftshop on your agenda). We also have a collection of tiny art products - little colored pencils, little tiny marker sets. Pick them up when you see them and tuck them in your travel box. At restaurants, we give the kids their notebook and the markers or pencils. They can't have them at any other time so it's a bit of a treat. At the end of the trip, they have a record of pictures, dot games, lists etc from all the waiting for meals.
Little books. Start at Goodwill or a used book store and search for little tiny books. There are more than you think. These are great for bedtime stories, plane presents, bus rides. You can get a huge selection of cheap and fun story books from Annikin Press. Search the Internet or Amazon. Most books are less than $3 and all the stories we have (dozens!) are great reads for little kids and even pre-teens. As kids get older, use the little books to inspire them to write and illustrate a little book in their spiral notebook (see above).
Milkscreen. A tiny, portable test kit that screens breastmilk for alcohol. When traveling through Italy or France, it sure would be nice to enjoy a glass of wine and still safely nurse your baby. You can buy these at Target, BabiesRUs, Amazon, or directly from the manufacturer at milkscreen.com. This wasn't around when our kids were tiny.
Packing Cubes. I laughed at these the first time I saw them. Seriously? But then we caved and bought one for each family member plus a family-bedtime cube (toothbrushes, pajamas, etc). We managed a three-week tour through Japan in just one backpack with these cubes! At night, the only thing that comes out is the bedtime cube. In the morning, each person gets their cube, changes clothes and returns their dense little cube to the family-pack. It doesn't take away the weight but it makes it so much smaller and easier to organize. We bought ours at REI but, of course, you can buy them at lots of travel stores. We like the ones we bought from Eagle Creek.
Kid Digital Camera. Sounds like digital entertainment but I think photography can certainly be classified as art and education. You can buy a decent digital camera for well under $75 these days. I just found used ones on-line for less than $25! If you have a nice digital camera for nice family pictures and travel shots, that's great. But you probably want to use it yourself and you probably also want to keep it safe. Your kids will want to take pictures and they can be entertained for hours with a camera ... making scavenger hunts for each other, taking 10 animal pictures, finding close-up shots of details in architecture, etc. Bring an extra that you don't mind losing, dropping, breaking and let your kids loose in museums, forests, bus stops, markets, or out the airplane window (http://www.familyontheloose.com/?p=807)
A piece of plastic tubing. Weird? It costs less than $2 and weighs next to nothing so even if it's really weird, it could be worth it. Hold it up to the air vent on the airplane and give the other end to your toddler or young child ... air will stream out and this is fun! It can provide hours of safe, quiet in-flight entertainment. Then, in the hotel, it doubles as a bath toy. Pick up plastic tubing in multiple sizes at any home fix-it store.
Voice recorders. There are lots of models. The cheap ones, for example on a keychain, are less than $10 and record about 1 minute of sound and only one sound at a time. More expensive versions can record hours of different sounds that can be transferred to your computer. Don't give this to your kids on the plane - it can be noisy and annoying. Give it to your kids in a market or on a long walk. Ask them to record a sound and you can guess what it is. Let them carry it around all day and record the best or most interesting sound they hear. At dinner, each kid can share and explain their sound. If you bring a more expensive version, they can record a sound diary.
A pull-up diaper. Yes, even after your kids are reasonably well potty trained! For a few months or years, long or unexpectedly waits between bathroom opportunities can be very tricky. A pull-up diaper is a fantastic back-up plan. If you're stuck on a bus with a three year old who absolutely has to pee, you can switch out their underpants for the pull-up. What about on a bumpy flight when no one is allowed to unbuckle their seat belt for 2 hours? A long walk in the park with no bathroom in sight? The clean pull-up in a plastic baggie makes a fantastic camera bag too.
Ashley Steel is the Traveling with Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. You can read more of their family travel adventures at http://www.familyontheloose.com/