It’s August and peak holiday season!
For some of us that means heading off to chase the sun. If that’s you, then I might be trying to squeeze into your suitcase – it’s tipping it down outside as I write this!
For others it will be exploring the wonderful countryside of the UK. One thing I know for sure since having children is that there are so many little-known interesting and beautiful places right under our noses.
Wherever you are going, or staying, if you’re taking young children out exploring on an active, outdoorsy holiday this summer then there are some travel essentials that you will not want to be without. Here are a few of the things that are almost always in my packing, whether for a weekend away camping, a micro-adventure from home or a big trip abroad.
1) First Aid Kit
It doesn’t matter where you are going or what you are doing, a first aid kit is an essential.
Take a larger kit for your car boot, your main luggage or your tent. Store the items in a zipped sandwich bag and secure with a lightweight combination travel padlock for a cheap, safe way to store medicines away from curious little fingers.
I then decant a few key items into a smaller waterproof cosmetics bag to go in my pack on hikes, cycles and day-trips away from the car or for an on-board emergency kit for plane trips.
Exactly what you will want to take will depend on your destination, how far you will be from a pharmacy and on the activities you plan to do there.
Items I always include in my master first aid kit include:
- infant paracetamol and spoon/medicine syringe (you can also buy individual sachets for a more compact/flight-friendly first aid kit)
- antihistamine syrup (usually only for those aged 12 months+);
- plasters, including some smaller ones for young children;
- antiseptic wipes;
- small pair of scissors (make sure these go in checked-in luggage if flying);
- roll of plaster;
- bandage roll;
- wound dressing;
- eye wash;
- decongestant relief suitable for children/infants – I use Snufflebabe and Olbas Oil plus a nasal aspirator for babies.
- thermometer (plus spare cover for in-ear digital models)
- after-sun lotion
- Anbesol infant mouth gel for soothing pain caused by teething, ulcers or other mouth pain.
2) Sun Protection
A tube of sun cream, a selection of sun-hats and sunglasses go everywhere with me in summer.
I prefer to use mineral sun-cream for the children – we use Green People’s Organic Children’s Suncream SPF30. It’s natural and suitable for children with sensitive or prickly heat prone skin, which in my experience is most babies!
For the kids, a sunhat with a wide brim or neck protection is great but to be honest, after three children and a baby who hates wearing things on his head, my advice would be that any hat is better than no hat, so just go with whatever you think your kids will keep on the longest. To date, those with the possibility to adjust the elastic on the headband to stay firmly on have been the most successful in our family.
3) Jungle Formula Insect repellent
There’s nothing worse than itchy, miserable kids who are unable to stop scratching an insect bite and it always does seem to be the kids the insects go for first. Insect bites always seem to cause most irritation at night or when skin is hot and sweaty – a rubbish combo for warm summer bedtimes.
Things that bite in the night are an annoyingly common part of al-fresco evenings with the family, whether at home or abroad. Spending time outdoors during the daytime or even on the beach doesn’t guarantee a free pass from nuisance insects either. Midgies, mosquitoes, sand and horse flies and ticks are best kept well at bay, yet because you never know quite when they might strike, it’s easy to forget the insect repellent.
Jungle Formula offer child-friendly insect repellent in both cream (in a handy, travel-friendly sized bottle) and slap-band formats, suitable for kids of over one and three years, respectively. Neither product contains DEET and both are suitable for sensitive young skin, whilst keeping all the essential nasties away.
Our girls particularly love the Jungle Formula slap-bands – an inspired idea for keeping the mosquitos away without having to persuade the children to have their repellent put on or remember to reapply. They can last up to two weeks!
4) Compact Rucksack
I take a small, light-weight rucksack with me on every trip, no matter how small. My trusty North Face backpack came back from a trip to the US with me and has barely been left behind since. It folds down small, making it easy to stow away in luggage or a car-boot but can hold everything I need for a day-trip or hiking/cycling adventure with the children.
It also stands in as a back-up hand-luggage container for flying (just because you get on the plane with one piece, doesn’t mean you can’t decant to make life easier when on-board), makes a practical beach or grocery shopping bag and can even be stuffed with a few clothes and used as a make-shift pillow for camping (resting on the padded back side only of course)!
5) Spotty Otter Breeze Cagoules
It doesn’t matter what the forecast says, I always pack some kind of water and windproof clothing when I’m heading off exploring somewhere new. Even a beach holiday can be ruined by a slightly stronger breeze than expected. A good summer waterproof can help, by acting as a windstop and giving and extra layer for warmth on a cooler summer day.
The girls’ Spotty Otter Breeze cagoules go everywhere with us in summer. As well as being wind and rain-proof, the cagoules are also incredibly light-weight and pack up into tiny pouches that are easy to stow in a day-pack or bulging suitcase. We also pack some waterproof trousers when out all-day or in more remote areas. For their baby brother I include a light-weight all-in-one suit.
6) Extra Clothes
There are very few occasions when I don’t pack at least two long-sleeved t-shirts, a sleeveless vest and a fleece top-layer, even when heading somewhere warm. For potty-training aged children, dribble-tastic babies or those prone to experimenting with muddy puddles or rock pools, it’s always worth carrying a spare set of clothes and some wipes with you on outdoorsy day-trips. In my experience you never know when you will need them… A couple of muslin squares are also a fantastic thing to stow away – you can use them as bibs, tea-towels, changing mats,emergency nappies, wipes, flannels, a cover-up for cold little legs on a plane…those things are miraculous in their uses!
7) Water Bottles
Always take a light-weight, spill-proof water bottles with you for easy and cheap on-the-go hydration. Leave them empty if travelling by plane and then you can get them filled from any cafe once airside for a cheap solution to buying bottled drinks at airport prices.
After a LOT of trying and testing over the years, my favourite leak and drop proof water bottles have to be Sigg’s fun but practical range of kids bottles for toddlers upwards and the Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup for babies. Beth and Bear, being the second and third children, are both totally sorted with these. Poor Roo as the guinea pig first child is still on her slightly less practical plastic bottle…hmm, maybe one to put right for her birthday!
I should say here also that snacks are also pretty essential for travelling with kids. We love dried fruit, rice and corn cakes and breakfast bars for snacks and Ella’s Kitchen style baby food pouches as emergency back-up meals in case of unexpected travel delays or unsuitable fare for babies.
8) Potette Folding Travel Potty
If your mini-explorers are just beginning to transition away from nappies or are recently potty trained then a travel potty is a great bit of kit to take with you.
We have a Potette Plus folding potty with disposable bags which stows away about as small as possible for a potty for taking in the boot of the car, a changing bag, in a pushchair base or for the tent.
When we are off on an outdoor adventure for the day away from easy loo access I usually take a few of the bags that go with the potty, plus a small pack of wet-wipes with me, just in case anything beyond a ‘wild wee’ is required.
9) On-the-go Entertainment
Whether it’s nature spotter guides, pooters or binoculars out on hiking trips or compact family games for long flights or in-tent-ainment (sorry – I couldn’t resist), there’s usually some kind of back-up entertainment for the kids stored away in my travel bag.
For planes, tents and family holidays we love the card game Dobble – one of the few that is just as fun for adults to play as the kids.
A torch is always good for camping – it’s practical, can double up as a security light for kids nervous of the dark and best of all, provides great entertainment making shadow puppets plays or sending secret messages through the canvas between siblings!
For hiking the girls always carry a miniature sketch book and a lightly filled pencil case so that they can take a break and do some doodling of anything that catches their interest along the way. A plastic sandwich bag is also handy for collecting nature treasures, shells or for foraging.
10) A Travel Pillow
I bought the Trunki Yondi Koala travel pillow in the picture on a whim ahead of a long-haul flight for LA when I knew I’d be travelling with both my girls alone and was willing to try anything. I actually bought two different brands but this one has become the firm favourite and is fantastic for tiny tots as it has a magnetic clasp meaning it stays in place to support sleepy little heads without their chins dropping.
As well as for plane travel, our kiddy headrests go on long car journeys (brilliant if you pick up a hire car seat with less head support than your kids are used to), off-roading in a pushchair or bike trailer or ion hikes f your baby is one of those that insists on sleeping with their head lolling at a weird angle when in a solid-frame kiddy-carrier backpack.
Of course, there are many other bits that make get added into the bag for specific outdoor family trips but the items listed above are those core kiddy-related things that tend to come with us, no matter what kind of trip it is we are doing.
What things can you not do without on your family travels?
If you’ve got any favourite bits of kit then do leave a comment and share them – I’d be curious to know what works for you.
This post has been sponsored by Jungle Formula , a brand I have used personally for many years. As always, all writing, opinions and over-stuffed rucksacks remain entirely my own (although I do occasionally persuade my long-suffering hubby to carry the latter…).