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Packing for Your Trip: Part 2 – All the Small Stuff

    Don't forget to pack those small things that come in handy on your travels. They won't weigh down your luggage, but definitely will come in handy – when you need to read in the dark, re-charge cell phones or tablets, dual voltage hair dryer, binoculars for wildlife spotting and interiors of Gothic cathedrals, travel umbrella so you don't get caught in a summer downpour, and more.
      Tip: If you haven't read our Travel Tips article "Packing for Your Trip – Bring the Right Stuff," read it first for an overview.
Travel USB power strip Waiting at the airport or checking into your hotel room, what to do when only one outlet is available? So much competition to recharge family cell phones, tablets, camera batteries, etc. Here's what we use – a lightweight travel power strip with 2 power outlets and 3 USB ports. After we bought this, no more going to sleep wondering if we forgot to swap out one electronic to charge another.
  Adaptor plugs When you travel to other countries, the electrical plugs and voltages are different. In the North America, the voltage is 110/120v. For Europe, Asia or South America, the voltage is typically 220/230v. Many devices, such as electric razors, hair dyers, laptops, cell phones, either you can just them in plug in, or they have dual voltage settings, but check for sure before you go.
    Even with dual voltage appliances, you will need adaptor plugs. Sockets and plugs are different around the world. Click here to see diagrams of all the socket shapes, and complete info on voltages for each country. To cover all bases, buy a collection of adaptor plugs.
    Small plastic bottles Don't bring full-size shampoo or hand lotion bottles. Transfer your shampoo, hair conditioner, hand lotion, liquid face or hand soap into small bottles. Use clear small bottles so you can see how much is in each one (don't start on a trip with a nearly empty shampoo bottle). Label the bottles so you're not confused what's what – conditioner and shampoo can look remarkably alike. Give a small shampoo bottle to each child to put in his luggage. If one bottle gets left behind, you'll have another.
  Toothpaste containers – We were having a hard time finding our favorite toothpastes in travel sizes. No problem, once we found these "GoToobs." The wide mouth in the bottle makes it easy to fill with your favorite toothpaste, and it's also easy to squeeze out. The bottles are 3 oz so you can bring them in your carry on luggage (which is handy - even if your luggage gets delayed, you'll have your toothpaste and toothbrushes).
    Ziploc bags – Ziploc freezer bags are indispensable. Buy them pint, quart and gallon sizes to organize things in your luggage. Ziploc bags are clear – you can always quickly see what's inside. The quart size is ideal for toothbrush and toothpaste or shampoo, hand lotion, things that could ooze all over when the top isn't screwed on tight. Pack swim suits or flip flops in the gallon size – you might have to pack them wet. Put Lego in small bags – helps keep from losing pieces. Zip up journals or sketch books in bags – if your luggage gets damp in transit, things inside will stay dry. Bring extra Ziploc bags for souvenirs – write your kid's names on each bag. Tip: Quart size Ziploc bags are perfect for the current carry-on regulation for toiletries, which must be displayed in a transparent bag.
    Wash cloths and soap – Always pack your own small wash clothes and travel size soap. These items come in handy for all sorts of things, and are essential when you check into hotels that only have only one small bar or soap or don't stock wash cloths. For example, in London hotels, wash cloths are not a standard item in hotel rooms.
Micro Turbo Hair Dryer
  Travel hair dryer Some hotels provide hair dryers, but for the most flexibility, bring your own (unless you're one of those lucky ones whose hair looks perfect without blow drying). Your best bet is a lightweight dual voltage dryer, which lets you select either 110v or 220v. And don't forget to set the voltage correctly. Even if you have a dual voltage hair dryer, if it's still set for 110v, and you use it in a 220v socket, your hair dyer will go up in smoke. Don't forget to bring your adaptor plugs too – there's nothing more frustrating than wet hair in the morning because you can't plug in your hair dryer.
  Binoculars have a variety of uses. They're are not just for sighting lions or leopards in a game park, looking at waterfalls in Yosemite, watching birds on the wing, or spotting gray whales in the Pacific. Take them for looking at petroglyphs on the rocks high up or standing in line at the Sistine Chapel in Rome (you can look at the ceiling while waiting in line). Binoculars are also especially good for Gothic cathedrals and churches in general – focus in on the carvings, stained glass windows, mosaics way high up. Bring along inexpensive, light and portable binoculars, so kids can have their own pair, and it's not a big deal if something happens to them.
    Water resistent watch A waterproof or water resistent watch is very useful while traveling, especially wet places like Belize or the Galapagos. Wear a watch that can take wear and tear, and has an easy to read dial (for those occasions when you need to wake up early to catch a train or plane).
Flashlights and headlamps Take along at least one flashlight, but a flashlight for each family member isn't a bad idea. Flashlights come in handy when you're exploring ancient ruins or to keep next to your bed in your hotel room. Flashlight apps are also available on mobile phones, but hard to rely upon if you're in a dark cave.
    For camping, headlamps are a must. These powerful little LED lights light the way, your hands are free, no more struggling in the dark with a flashlight in your teeth. And best of all, you can read in the dark for a long, long time!
Laundry bags It's amazing how quickly the dirty laundry mounts up. When you paw through your clothes, you'll want to tell at a glance what's clean and what's grubby. Smelly underwear and socks should be tucked away in a laundry bag, (unless you want your clean clothes to smell like dirty socks). Laundry bags can be sturdy plastic shopping bags or buy a nice lightweight cloth bag. Have a laundry bag for each person in the family, then it's easy to grab up everyone's dirty clothes to wash. Tip: Also tuck in some plastic supermarket shopping bags – they come in handy when you have muddy shoes or clothes.
  Lightweight fold-up backpack It's handy to have a backpack that folds up into your purse or carry-on. Perfect for purchases at a farmers market, picnic supplies, grocery shopping if you've rented a city apartment. So much easier than trying to juggle stuff on each shoulder. We like this backpack so much, it really does fold up into a small space, and we use at home too.
Fleece blankets For road trips, we always take along fold-up fleece blankets for picnic cloths or something to put over a sleeping child. If you have an infant and need a place to change a diaper, use the fleece blanket. It's also useful to mop up after a child who has motion sickness on a windy road (fleece washes and dries in a jiffy).
Travel umbrella Unless you're going to the Sahara Desert, bring travel umbrellas (lightweight, fold up small) for everyone in the family. You don't want to get soaked when you least expect it, nor do you want to rush around in the rain looking for umbrellas. I should have taken my own advice when we were caught in a summer downpour our first day in St. Petersburg one summer. I spent some time locating a department store to buy a second umbrella so we could comfortably stroll the Nevsky Prospect.
Cable locks A cable lock is also handy. When you cable together five or six pieces of luggage, no one is likely to run off with your stuff. On one occasion, we couldn't check into our hotel, the kids were hungry, so we cabled all our bags together and left them in the lobby, while we went off to get a bite to eat.
  Packable duffle bag Don't carry more bags than you can manage easily, and don't cram your bags full at the outset. But what to do about all those cool souvenirs you pick up along the way? We always take along a "packable duffle" bag, a mid-size nylon bag that folds up. Somewhere along the trip we expand into this bag to hold all our treasures. One summer in northern Europe, our expandable duffle was crammed full of goodies for the whole family, fur hats, colorful Russian shawls, chess sets, wooden dolls, painted eggs.
travel for kids | travel tips | packing for your trip part 2
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