Vacation Necessities for Your Family Getaway
Summer travel season is upon us, and you already know to “expect the unexpected,” but with the right preparation you can avoid some common travel mishaps. Whether you’re taking the family on a new outdoor adventure, packing up for a beach vacation or sightseeing along a road trip, with proper planning you can keep everyone in good spirits to get the most out of your getaway.
What to Pack
Sunscreen or Sunblock
It doesn’t matter where your travels take you, the number one thing to remember is sunscreen for the whole family. For the best protection, find one that is broad-spectrum, water-resistant and at least SPF 30. Check the label to see how long it is effective in water (generally 40-80 minutes) and re-apply accordingly. If you want to avoid chemicals, skip the sunscreen and instead use a sunblock with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. It’ll be a little thicker and have an opaque finish, but sunblock blocks the rays from reaching the skin rather than absorbing the UV, like sunscreen does. For a list of the best sunscreens, visit BostonParentsPaper.com/sunscreens.
Reusable Water Bottles
Everyone knows it’s important to drink lots of water, but this is especially true when traveling. When changing time zones or just sleep patterns, water can help keep your body balanced, fight jet lag and help digestion. The Camelback Eddy is a great pick for kids as it is easy to use and doesn’t leak. Or, try a collapsible bottle to save on space when not in use. Whether you’re in the car or spending the day trekking a city, make sure to have water available. The recommended daily amount is at least half an ounce for every pound you weigh.
Emergency Roadside Kit
When getting ready for a long car ride, don’t forget to prepare for the worst when it comes to your car. Sign up for a AAA membership or add roadside assistance to your car insurance plan, then grab a roadside emergency kit. Make sure to have a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, a tire gauge, a first aid kit, reflective warning triangles, spare drinking water and protein bars. Keep your kit contained to prevent items from flying out and injuring passengers.
Lightweight Travel Stroller
If you’re traveling with small children, you’re already on the move with a lot more bags than you ever imagined pre-kids. Cut down on the number of hassles by buying an inexpensive, lightweight stroller. While it may not have as many bells and whistles as your everyday stroller, it will be easier to carry through crowded areas and load and unload from cars and planes without having to check it. Plus, if it gets damaged or lost in transit, you won’t be out as much as with your usual pick.
Headphones for All
The best part of family vacation is getting that elusive quality family time. After hours in a car together, it’s almost inevitable that the kids might get a bit fussy. If you want to give some screen time in the form of a game system or movie, bring kid-friendly headphones for each child. Even if they’re watching the same movie, headphones will give the driver and passenger some quiet time.
Must-Have Travel Apps
Make Packing a Breeze
The best piece of advice we can offer is to start thinking about packing well before your trip. Two apps to check out today are Packing Pro and PackPoint. Packing Pro is the most helpful for multi-person lists, while PackPoint’s easy interface will guarantee you remember everything you need based on your interests and purpose.
Find the Best Restaurants
Avoid grumpy meals by planning where you’ll be dining based on reviews and recommendations with the OpenTable app. Make a quick reservation and escape the “what do YOU want for dinner” conversation, plus avoid the hangry (hungry + angry) wait time when you arrive at a busy restaurant. Best of all, earn points that add up to restaurant gift cards. Also download Urbanspoon and Yelp to discover the best eats nearby.
Get Lost in a Story
Many of us want to limit screen time, which can seem difficult when on-the-go. Podcasts are a great way to pass the time, keep kids from arguing and engage the imagination. Storynory provides hundreds of stories for free including classic fairy tales, Greek mythology, poems, adaptations of literature and original series. For older kids who love to learn, try Stuff You Missed in History Class or Brains On!
Save Money on Your Hotel
Traveling with family can be unpredictable. As much as you think you can plan what each day’s point A and point B will be, unexpected stops, heavy traffic and spontaneous sightseeing can put a wrench in your itinerary. Download the hotelcoupons.com mobile app to find a nearby hotel at a great rate near your current location so you can stop for the night whenever you’re ready, plus save more on the same-day rate than if you made a reservation ahead of time.
Go-To Travel Gear
Waterproof Your World
A waterproof cell phone or device case is well worth the investment. Along with saving your goods on the beach or near the pool, waterproofing your electronics will help protect you from unpredictable rainy weather, leaks and falls. So go ahead – ditch the zip-top bags and use your phone wherever your journey takes you.
Pack the Snacks
For long car rides, a car cooler will help make everyone happy and cut down on convenience store and fast food stops. Try out a version that plugs into your car’s DC outlet to keep drinks cool or foods warm while you’re on the go. There’s already a lot of unknowns while traveling on the road – don’t let what your kids are eating be one of them.
Whether you’re spending the day playing in a theme park or camping in a National Park, at some point you’ll find your devices drained with no outlets to speak of. Before your trip, charge up a backup portable charger to keep everyone connected. Find one that has at least two USB ports so you can charge multiple devices. Be sure to read the packaging to find out the charge – some can charge your phone but don’t have the power to help with tablets or other electronics.
Show Your ID
Everyone’s worst nightmare while traveling is losing track of one in your group. Make sure all the younger members of your party are wearing something with their identification and your phone number etched or engraved. You can get silicone wristbands printed with sensitive information on the inside, or purchase a medical ID dogtag necklace or bracelet to include conditions, such as asthma, autism or allergies to keep your kids safe and help first responders in an emergency.
Share Photo Duty
Find a great kid-friendly camera to let everyone have a turn in recording vacation memories from their own point of view. You can now find a great digital point-and-shoot camera for under $100 that is easy-to-use for the whole family, such as the Nikon Coolpix S31, which is waterproof, dustproof and shockproof. For younger travelers, VTech, Discovery Kids and Playskool all offer digital cameras for ages 3 and up for under $50.
Amber Wojcek loves traveling to new U.S. cities and sharing her experiences on hotelcoupons.com and Drive the Nation.