I’m so excited to finally share this list with you with our favorite useful family travel must haves for your next trip.
I know there are tons of lists like this out there, but let’s be real: a lot of them have the same ol’ stuff on them like travel coffee mugs or sleep masks. These are truly some of our can’t-travel-without things that are not only useful, but we would be truly lost without them on our trips.
These make excellent gifts, too, so don’t forget to send it along for those Christmas and birthday lists.
Our Favorite (USEFUL) Family Travel Must Haves
Just for a point of reference, we’re a family of five, with three young kids between 4 and 8 years old, and we currently live overseas in Germany.
We typically pack up as light as possible and hit the road for fun road trips, but we’ve been known to also pack up and live out of our suitcases or backpacks for months at a time.
As a military family, we’re constantly either traveling or moving somewhere, so I can promise you that these are things we use, love, and truly can’t do without when we travel.
Here are a few of our favorite family travel must haves:
Family Passport Holder
If you’re a family with plans to travel overseas, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you’ll have to skip those cute/fun passport covers you can find over on Etsy.
Instead, pick up this family passport holder that can technically hold at least 6 passports (but we cram all 10 in there*).
We love this family passport holder because it holds all of our passports, and it zips up with multiple pockets inside and on the outside. There’s a slot for an SIM card (handy if you’re changing cards/phones based on location), a pen holder, plus pockets on the outside. It’s also handy for holding boarding passes and luggage claim stickers.
This is basically perfect for any group traveling overseas, and totally tops our family travel must-have list.
*If you’re military and heading overseas for an assignment, each person will have not one, but two passports assigned to them: a tourist passport and a no-fee, government passport. With our family of five, that means we have TEN passports to keep track of while we travel.
A Great Backpack to Hold ALL The Things
Are you team backpack or team suitcase when you’re going on a family trip (specifically in Europe)?
We’re big ol’ fans of the backpack for several reasons:
- our hands are free to keep up with our kids
- we don’t have to lug suitcases up flights of stairs since most European places don’t have elevators
- it makes us pack lighter
- they fit better in our little car
- you can cram all sorts of things into the pockets
- probably about five other reasons I can’t think of at the moment
We have two backpacks that we use…unfortunately I don’t have a link for the first one. I bought it in England back in 2005 after an eventful experience in Paris, and now my husband uses it. This 60-liter one is similar.
I also just bought this 40-liter backpack from REI over the summer for myself, and I love it. It’s big enough for me to put my stuff and kids stuff in it for a day or two away, but not too big that I need help putting it on/taking it off. Here’s another popular 40-liter backpack from Amazon that was a second-runner up for me.
Pro tip: I highly recommend trying out backpacks if you can before buying one. They don’t all “fit” equally, and personally the REI one was the only one I found comfortable after trying out many.
Y’all…these are a traveling-family game changer, and if you don’t have any yet you need to stop what you’re doing and order some ASAP.
Back in the day, before I discovered packing cubes, I’d use Ziploc bags to organize the kids’ clothes on a trip. This was fine when they were babies and toddlers, but as the kids grew bigger, those bags were harder to fill. They’d end up tearing before the trip was over.
We’ve been using the packing cubes I’m linking to for more than three years; I love them so much that each family member has their own color, which comes in super handy for longer trips and/or when you’re moving and living out of a suitcase for a long period of time.
Packing is a breeze with these since everything is contained and organized. They get put in a suitcase or a big backpack, so there’s no more digging around searching for things.
Pro tip for a short trip: Pack everyone’s clothes for the day and put each days’ stuff in ONE bag. For example: I’d label “Saturday” on a bag, and all of our clothes for Saturday are in that bag.
Listen up if you have young kids: you need this portable travel potty in your life.
You know what the second most annoying part is when you’re on a road trip? No, it’s not how many times they ask if you’re there yet…it’s when they say they have to pee or poop and you JUST passed a place with an actual toilet.
If you live overseas you know the struggle is extra hard to even find a (free) toilet when you need it.
Enter this amazing travel potty.
This potty seat folds up easily and can be kept in the trunk or under a seat, but it also has “legs” so when you use it your kid can actually “sit” on it like a real toilet.
Pro tip: Make sure you buy the liners compatible with the seat—they have an absorbent pad inside—and have some baby wipes handy instead of toilet paper. My oldest is too tall to use this if it’s on the ground, but if we set it on the edge of our van’s door she can use it perfectly. We just make sure there’s nobody around, or we shield her if she’s using it in a more public place.
One of my least favorite parts of packing for a trip is making sure we grabbed all the cords we need, especially when we do weekend trip often.
Phone cords, laptop cords, watch chargers, our Fire Stick (great to have if your place has decent internet; you can use it with a VPN overseas), OH MY. It’s just a pain to run around and get them all and then find a place to put them that’s convenient to grab the when we get to our location.
That’s where this cord organizer comes in handy. It has plenty of pockets, including two zippered pockets on the outsides (which is where keep our slim USB-C charger to plug everything in…since we all know sometimes you can’t even find an outlet available in rooms).
But here’s my favorite part: we bought a duplicate cord for almost everything we use and we have it in the organizer and in our “packing drawer” so we can just pull it out and be good to go when we’re heading out on a trip.
I can’t tell you how much stress this saves me when I’m packing now.
Giant Mirror For Your Vehicle
If you have kids and drive a van or a bigger car (like an SUV), you’re going to love this. It’s a rearview mirror that fits over your current mirror, and it lets you actually see to the very back.
Now you can get that Batman Mom voice on when you see them fighting.
If you live in Europe then you know the struggle of being able to find (nonexistent) ice to keep your cooler cool during a road trip. That’s where this family travel must have comes into play: an electric cooler!!
The cool part of this cooler is that it has a car adaptor to plug it into the cigarette lighter and a regular wall plug.
We’ve used this several times, and it works like a charm. We usually plug it in at home and pack it the night before we go so it’ll start cooling things down for our trip, then we plug it in as we drive.
Anti-theft Tavel Bags
I’m so excited about this one. I love a great bag/purse just as much as the next person, but as a mom who frequently travels solo with her kids, this bag is life.
- a slash-resistant shoulder strap
- slash-resistant pockets and body of the bag
- the zippers lock
- RFID blocking pockets
- side expandable pockets (fits small water bottles, umbrella, sunglasses, etc.)
- Tethered interior key clip with LED light
- lots of pockets/space for all my things + kids things + family things
It’s just great. The specific one I have is the cross-body bucket bag in midnight, but they have so many other options (see them all here), including this backpack that’s on my wish list. My friend has it and it looks just perfect for day trips/hikes when I need a little more space.
Looking for more ideas?
Looking for even more family travel must haves? Check out these posts for more:
What are your favorite family travel must haves?
Share one things you can’t live without when it comes to family travel below! Hope this list was handy.