As a mom of 5 traveling with kids of ALL ages, I’ve learned a few things about making travel easier whenever possible. Often, the ‘getting there’ part is the most stressful for any trip or vacation! That’s why I decided to put together my absolute MUST HAVES must haves for traveling as a family- including my travel essentials for kids!

These items come from our OWN family travel experiences through the baby, toddler, tween, and teen stages- plus many wise suggestions of other moms traveling long before me. Hopefully, adding these to your family packing list will make YOUR next family trip easier!

Lathrop family travels to Seville Spain
The Lathrop family travels to Seville, Spain!

I’m going to be adding more posts that list some of our must have travel items by age, so you can see what applies directly to your own travel with kids. But since these lists take lots of time (and research) to put together, I wanted to get this general list posted first. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So let me give you a few of my absolute must haves for traveling to add to ANY family packing list! Some of these are travel life-savers whether you’re traveling with family or even by yourself!

And that brings us to our absolute must haves for traveling as a family:

Travel BACKPACK suitcases (instead of traditional suitcases)

Okay hear me out with this one. I know rolling suitcases are fun and trendy. They’ve got durable hard tops and LOTS of color choices. (And some even have cute little seats for the little ones to ride on!)

But when we decided to change to suitcases that can be carried backpack style, our travel life was forever altered. We will NEVER go back to any other type of suitcases!

Lathrop family wearing our travel backpacks | LathropsGoneAWOL Family Travel tips
Lathrop family wearing our travel backpacks at the airport

The ability to pack everything you need into a bag (strategic packing hack coming in a sec), throw your bag on your back, and still have your hands free IS EVERYTHING travel should be!

I can’t tell you how often we’ve held little hands while getting places in a hurry and needed our hands free.

And no more shuffling suitcases while triple-checking the phone for gate numbers or matching passports to little faces for boarding check!

Osprey Fairview 55L Women’s Travel Backpack, Night Jungle…
  • Adjustable torso fit
  • Large panel zip access to main compartment
  • Dual front compression straps
  • Daypack features two front mesh bottle pockets (fits most…

HANDS FREE luggage is a game changer. Full stop.

This is our No. 1 must have for our travel items for kids list for the hand-free perk alone. ๐Ÿ˜œ

I have a separate post about the many perks of these bags here, but let me just give you a quick rundown:

  • Carry on sizes = no more checked bag fees.
  • Also no more lost luggage at baggage claim.
  • Easier maneuvering around airports, train stations, etc.
  • Sizes for men, women & even kids!
We actually have several travel backpacks for our family:

There’s one women’s bag for me, and one men’s fit that our teenage daughters prefer. Then there’s the larger duffel bag version (pictured below) that my husband brings on our long term travel.

Osprey Travel Backpack with duffel bag style

We prefer Osprey brand bags. Not only do they have a lifetime warranty, but their customer service is AMAZING.

A very comparable brand with the same lifetime warranty and great customer service is the Deuter brand. In fact, we have a couple of their products also. Deuter has some great styles specifically geared towards children, which is fantastic.

In general, backpack luggage are must have items for travelling no matter what age you are! We started using these bags when first moving abroad with children, and won’t be going back!

It’s now been over 5 years of traveling Europe with kids! Our bags have made our family travels so much easier and STILL look brand new!

Electrolyte Tablets For Staying Hydrated While Traveling

Here’s an off-the-wall travel items list suggestion! Hydration tablets or powder is a MUST HAVE that we have learned to bring the hard way. In fact, this is at the very top of our list of kids travel accessories!

Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets for Proactive Hydration, Variety Pack, 6 Pack (60 Servings)
  • HIGH ELECTROLYTES – Sports Drink Tablets bursting with a natural, low-calorie fruity flavor. Mix…
  • ENHANCE YOUR WORKOUT – and/or your work day naturally through improved hydration. Keep a tube in…
  • NO ARTIFICIAL FLAVORING OR SWEETENERS – (sweetened with high-quality Stevia only) and are…

Traveling often means sightseeing. Sightseeing means walking. A LOT.

There’s a lot of time spent outdoors, in the sun, and walking around museums and stuff. And we often work playground visits into our itinerary to burn off energy.

While we try to bring water bottles for everyone and stay hydrated throughout the day, it can still be a challenge to drink enough liquids to compensate for our higher activity levels. (Especially when kids are busy running and playing!)

Popping an electrolyte tablet into the water bottle is so easy. Even the little ones want to do it!

There’s also self-serve packets that you can toss into your bag or your purse. They tend to be smaller and can be stuffed into lots of little pockets.

Liquid I.V.ยฎ Hydration Multiplierยฎ – Lemon Lime -…
  • HYDRATION MIX: A great-tasting, non-GMO electrolyte drink mix that delivers hydration faster than…
  • GREAT TASTE: Lemon Lime is zesty and bright, with a punch of citrus flavor.
  • SCIENCE-BACKED FORMULA: Powered by LIV HYDRASCIENCE, Liquid I.V. is designed with an optimized ratio…

Family travel tip: We prefer the tubes with tablets, because it’s less plastic. We then repurpose the tubes for packing small items like q-tips, kids hair ties, etc!

With plenty of flavors to choose from, getting dehydrated on a trip is a thing of the past!

The flavored tablets help keep your kids drinking WATER instead of asking for soda or juice!

We actually buy this multiple flavor pack of electrolyte tablets (in the first pic above). Then, everyone has something they like to drink and it doesn’t get boring drinking the same flavor.

These ended up being invaluable during our European road trip this past summer! We had a variety of flavors to keep things interesting and our kids’ water consumption up during our many days exploring. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In fact, I brag about these tablets in my Family Holidays in South France: Tips For Planning Vacations in Southern France post (and a few other France posts also!) because I just love them so much.

I work really hard to keep our kids properly hydrated. Dehydration can cause tummy problems (like constipation), fatigue and headaches. When kids don’t feel good, they get cranky. And that makes our whole trip miserable. So yeah, these are probably my favorite of all of our travel accessories for kids. (Sorry, I’m obsessed, I know…)

Be sure to add this to your family packing list of travel items and never get dehydrated again!

Organizer for electronic cords, chargers, etc. (Perfect for all those devices!)

When traveling, we often arrive at our hotel or Airbnb with our batteries depleted. Our kids are usually desperate for a charger. Kids digging for charging cords usually results in a messy bag that mom has to clean up later.

It didn’t take me long to discover these nifty cases that easily keep our cords and chargers organized! They quickly became one of our must-have kids travel essentials!

We simply fill it up, zip it closed, and toss it right on top of our suitcase for easy grabbing once we’ve gotten settled and need to recharge our devices. No more digging through bags! (Woohoo!)

BAGSMART Electronics Organizer Travel Case, Small Cable…
  • Compatible Space: The electronics storage bag keeps all…
  • Lightweight Travel Accessories: The size of the electronic…
  • Keep Everything Organized: This travel tech organizer keeps…
  • Durable Travel Essentials: Double zippers opening for easy…

We personally use this one (above) from BagSmart. It has lots of different little storage spaces so there’s room for everyone’s stuff without getting bulky.

There’s also this colorful one below with several bigger compartments instead of having many smaller sections. It’s also a little cheaper. Don’t worry, it comes in many colors. You don’t have to choose the pink version.

FYY Electronic Organizer, Travel Bag, Pouch, Carry Case…
  • Dimensions: The Size of the cable storage travel case: 7.5″…
  • Quality Material: This electronic organizer travel case made…
  • Double Layers Design: The electronics storage bag has 2…
  • Practical and Convenient: Comes with a comfortable hand…
  • Portable and Lightweight: The small size and lightweight…

And BOTH of them have amazing reviews on Amazon! (Which is important for choosing must haves for traveling that actually last!)

I’m also a believer that this case helps us cut down on broken and twisted cords. That’s a nice perk as well! Replacing cords all the time gets expensive, and since we try to keep our family travel on a budget, this case really pays for itself in cord savings. ๐Ÿ˜‰

When it comes to must haves for traveling, this is always on our travel essential list! They really do make travel easier when you’ve got kids!

Quick family travel tip– if you have a lot of electronics, buying these bags in different colors can help you be even more organized. When traveling with kids, for example, one bag can be the ‘kids’ bag, and the other for the adults.

Packing Cubes For More Organized Luggage

We are a BIG family, which means LOTS of clothes. When we’re halfway through our trip, with some clothes clean and others dirty, it can get chaotic trying to find what we need.

Cue packing cubes to the rescue! We bought a few sets of these and NEVER travel without them! There are tons of styles to choose from!

Shacke 8 Set Packing Cubes for Travel Lightweight Luggage…
  • Original Reinforced Stitching – Often imitated but never…
  • The Quintessential Packing Starter Kit โ€“ Each bag size in this…
  • Perfect for Any Type of Trip – Whether you travel by car, train,…
  • Easy Clean Material โ€“ Watch liquids glide smoothly off your…
  • The Shacke Pak Difference โ€“ For over 8 years we have been…

The mesh fronts allow you to see what’s inside quickly without opening them. You can just grab the cube you need and zip it back closed when you’re done. Easy peasy, no more messy luggage!

Plus, you get less wrinkles in your clothes, because you can strategically fold or roll them. They don’t shuffle around in the suitcase this way. They are also remarkably affordable, and will last you for YEARS!

Packing cubes inside our travel backpack makes packing easy and mess free! | LathropsGoneAWOL family travel tips

Have the kids toss all dirty clothes in a pile until the end of the trip. Then, pack the dirties in one or two specific cubes so you don’t get stuck washing everything when you get back home! ๐Ÿ˜œ

In fact, we bought a set of these cubes from Bagail way back in 2017 when planning our move abroad with family- and they are still in great shape!

We now use them on every trip to pack more while keeping our stuff organized!

I especially like like the Bagail set because they have a few long, skinny cubes, which are perfect for pjs, socks and undergarments!

These cubes are definitely part of our kids travel essentials. They fit into any bag and save us so much stress! When I say they’re one of our all-time must haves for traveling, I mean it!

BAGAIL 6 Set Packing Cubes,Travel Luggage Packing…
  • Easy Travelling๏ผšAre you still worried about the chaos of…
  • Durable Fabrics: All packing cubes are made of 290D fabric. This…
  • VALUED &CONVENIENT:Mesh top panel for easy identification of…
  • AVOID OVERWEIGHT CHARGES – Your 6 piece set fits like a glove…
  • Washing Instructions: To make the packing cubes last longer, it…

If you’ve been looking for things to make travel easier, these packing cubes are an affordable (and durable) great start!

Multiple Port Charging Station For World Travel

Okay circling back to the electronics conversation- let me tell you about another MUST HAVE travel item- a convertible adapter that charges multiple devices and plugs into any outlet in the world. ๐Ÿคฏ๐Ÿคฏ๐Ÿคฏ

Ceptics Universal Travel Adapter Kit – 2 USB, USB-C Cord+2 US Outlets QC 3.0,…
  • International Power Adapter: Equipped with 2 USA outlets, 2…
  • Travel Adapter Worldwide: Designed by a Traveler and…
  • Built-in surge protection – protect your high electronics…
  • Ceptics World-Way Includes 6 adapters – Europe (Type C), UK…

Sticking one (or two) of these into your bag is a must if you like travel to various countries, because the plugs are different in the various regions of the world! These are a must have for travel to Europe and beyond!

No one wants to be stuck unable to charge a phone because you’ve got the wrong plug!

We invested in these because they not only work everywhere you go, but you can plug multiple things into each one, cutting down the number of plugs we need for our large family. (Hotel rooms often have limited plug space, so that used to be quite an issue.)

We like the white adapter above because it has two smart usb chargers and space for two US plugs.

The blue cube is also a handy choice because it has 4 usb chargers and a universal plug outlet, making it perfect for the kids’ tablets and the teenagers’ phones. We have this cube on our list of must haves for traveling simply because of the ability to charge all their devices at once.

SAUNORCH Travel Adapter Worldwide, Universal International…
  • ใ€International Travel Adapterใ€‘Covers over 200 countries:…
  • ใ€5 in 1 International Power Adapterใ€‘Provides a universal…
  • ใ€High speed USB-Cใ€‘USB-C port 3A/5V output, enable double…
  • ใ€Built-in Smart ICใ€‘ SAUNORCH Universal Travel Adapter…
  • ใ€Important Notesใ€‘This universal power adapter (AC-AC)…

NOTE: It’s worth it to spend an extra 10 bucks or so on a good converter that lasts, but they do come in a variety of price ranges and with different features to suit your traveling needs.

We went through a couple of cheap ones before spending a few bucks more on a better quality converter.

That’s my whole list of must haves for traveling that truly make travel easier for our family- hopefully you like these suggestions!

Also be sure to check out our post for 5 Must Have Travel Essentials For Toddlers (That Really DO Make Traveling Easier) for more can’t-miss travel accessories for kids of a younger age!

(I’ll also be working on making age-specific kids travel essentials in separate posts to cover teens, tweens, babies, and more, so comment below if there’s an age group you would like to see first!)

Bonus family travel gear suggestion:

As a quick bonus item: I also wanted to include a link to a great product that I’ve recently come to love- a flying camera drone!

The DJI Mini 2 SE drone kit is a great one for beginners, and is in the mid price range for drones and doesn’t need any special licenses to fly it.

It’s super handy on vacations because it can be used to take pictures of our WHOLE family and get those memorable shots that are just so lovely!

A drone isn’t one of the typical must haves for traveling, but it has definitely become more popular for avid travelers to have them in recent years.

DJI Mini 2 SE, Lightweight Mini Drone with QHD Video, 10km…
  • ๐—Ÿ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฃ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ฒ – The drone is lightweight…
  • ๐—ก๐—ผ ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ก๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ – Under 249 g, FAA Registration and…
  • ๐—˜๐˜…๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—™๐—น๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜ ๐—ง๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ – Enjoy longer flights with DJI Mini 2 SE,…
  • ๐—๐˜‚๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ฎ ๐—™๐—ฒ๐˜„ ๐—ง๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—˜๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ฐ ๐—œ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด – The DJI…
  • ๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ง๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜€๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฅ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฒ – Get a…

It is a bit of a SPLURGE purchase, which is why I’m just dropping it in as a bonus (and NOT as a must-have travel item), because it helps us capture our wonderful vacation memories better than our mobile phone cameras and selfie sticks. ๐Ÿฅฐ

Plus, I love the idea of having pictures of our whole family and sometimes hiring a photographer for big bucket-list trips just isn’t practical when keeping our family travel on a budget. And lots of those pics end up on this family travel blog!

So this drone ended up being a bit of a compromise- I can use it to take more professional pictures of our whole family while traveling, and it’s a one-time purchase instead of constantly hiring photographers.

The only downside to this plan, however, is that you cannot fly a drone in a lot of super touristy places, so we couldn’t use it at the Eiffel Tower, but it was GREAT to have when we went to the lavender fields in Provence, France! (See our best travel with kids tips for the Provence Lavender fields here in this post!) There is a map you can check whenever you’re planning a family trip to see if drones are allowed.

In general, a drone is great to have, and although it’s not really qualified as things that make traveling easier, it has made our own family’s world travel more enjoyable (at least for me, anyways!) and I love having more photos that feature our WHOLE family!

And that’s really the end of my family-specific must have items for travelling. I’ve tried to include items that can really be used by the whole family or that the whole family benefits from having.

I hope you like these family-based suggestions for things that make traveling easier, and I hope some of these will be useful for you, whether you travel with kids or not!

Sign up for our newsletter to be notified when the age-specific family must haves for traveling come out -OR- check out our other blog posts for great family travel hacks and other tips on things to make travel easier! ๐Ÿ˜‰

LathropsGoneAWOL family travels to Rome Italy

Welcome to LathropsGoneAWOL!

We’re a family of 7, and we started traveling the world when our youngest was just a little over a year old. We’ve learned so much about family travel! Now, we’re on a mission to make traveling with kids easier for YOU with our family travel tips & great resources!

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  1. Love these traveling hacks and accessories to make travel easier with or without kids. DefiniteLu going to look into a couple of these products..

  2. I don’t have kids and find NYC exhausting as it is! You managed to do so many fun activities while not over planning. I’d love to do a foodie tour as well, so I’ll be checking it out ๐Ÿ˜‹

    1. They are seriously THE best! ๐Ÿ˜ We bought our first ones in 2017 and they are still like new, too. I’m glad to hear the same will be true in years to come also! ๐Ÿฅฐ

  3. I love that this list included hydration tablets and packets! A ton of people forget to drink enough water when traveling and that’s a huge no no, especially when abroad. As well as packing cubes, the first few times we went abroad our luggage looked like a tornado hit it, it was always a pain to find clothes because it wasn’t organized. Overall, Great List!

  4. Love all your must haves! Liquid IV is something I won’t travel without and the packing cubes you featured are the exact ones I purchased for my last trip. They made packing a breeze!

  5. These are some really unique packing suggestions! I love my packing cubes and cable organiser, but I do typically default to a suitcase, maybe I’ll have to give a bag a proper go! I’ve never considered packing tablets for hydration before – what a great tip! Thanks for sharing these great packing essentials!

  6. That Osprey duffel bag backpack is exactly what I’m looking for. I have one of their usual backpacks but the duffel bag is perfect for my upcoming Africa trip – I had no idea they did this!!

  7. I have the same black electronics organizer, haha! I bet traveling with lots of kids requires preparation and planning but makes for great memories!

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