After crafting my list of 10 travel accessories too tiny not to pack it naturally became harder to come up with additional things worth listing. But once I looked through the lens of traveling with a family, specifically my own, I realized there were four obvious things that families should never leave home without before hitting the road.
Cash gift cards
Not a day goes by when one of my kids isn't pressuring me to buy them something,
and of course it builds their character and saves me a bundle if I say no a lot. The problem is that kids never think it hurts to ask, especially on vacation, when they know their mother and I are in more charitable moods. That’s when cash gift cards prove quite useful. Give each child a card, budgeting $10 a day for every day you’ll be away. As soon as they use up their cards, tell your kids they need to supplement with their own money if they want to buy additional stuff. This rule will keep your vacation spending in check and will teach your kids to take a pass on some of those crappier souvenirs they couldn't previously live without when you were paying for them.
Prepaid phone card for emergencies
If you or your kids can’t get cell service or one of your phones dies, how prepared are any of you to pick up a pay phone, especially if you need to make an out of state call? That’s where the AT&T Virtual Prepaid Phone Card comes in handy. You don’t even need an actual card – you’ll be emailed an access number and pin for a prepaid block of minutes. The minutes can be used from any phone, including payphones. And at seven bucks for a block of 100 minutes (which don’t expire) there’s no reason why each traveler in your brood shouldn't have a slip of paper tucked away with their own access number and pin for these emergency phone calls.
If you’re traveling with kids, it’s almost guaranteed that one of them will develop a runny nose thanks to a cold, sinus infection, or seasonal allergy that will intensify the second you arrive in your destination. That's why having antihistamine in your bag is essential, not just for drippy noses, but for bugs – if one of your kids gets bitten up by mosquitoes, an antihistamine will help dull the itch if your bitten-up child is particularly miserable. For convenience, bring along single-dosage liquid antihistamine packets that can be easily thrown into a bag. And of course, consult with a physician before dispensing any medication and be sure to replace all your meds before they expire.
A rookie mistake we made early on as parents was not bringing homework along during school vacations. Initially we figured we’d give the kids a break and just let them do the work when they got home, but of course that made the days before school started miserable for everyone. That’s when we realized that if we had downtime at our hotel and we knew there was a pricey activity our kids were begging us to do – but which we hadn't necessarily budgeted – it was well worth suggesting to them that if they did their homework (rather than watch TV in the room) they might get that special activity as an incentive for getting that homework done.
What’s that one handy – and essential – accessory you pack when your family travels? Share your tips in the comments!