Our last post was about how we value experiences over tangible objects when it comes to gift giving, and we realize how hypocritical it is to follow that up (albiet way later than expected) with a small gift guide for traveling families. The key to this list is that you will notice that everything on it is relatively low cost. While experiences are the key to forging lasting memories and connecting with your kids, it can’t be denied that sometimes things can make traveling easier and more enjoyable. So with that being said here are a few of our favorite things (anyone else automatically hear Julie Andrews…no? Just me?!) that are guaranteed to make life easier for the traveling family in your life, and the best ways we’ve found to ignite that ember deep in your kids that will hopefully grow into a lifelong desire to explore the world around them.
One of the keys to enjoyable travel as a family is packing light! We try to do most trips with two backpacks and two rolling suitcases (Briggs and Riley bags for most locations, or Osprey rolling duffles for more off-the beaten-path destinations). This might change as our kids get older and are better able to carry their own stuff, but for now that means that multiple people need to be packed into one suitcase…behold the genius of packing cubes. These let us keep organized and easily locate items in suitcases that may have clothes for a 5 or a 35 year old in the same space. A million companies make them, but Amazon Basics make some solid bags for a very reasonable price.
Buy them here.
One of main goals for family travel is to raise our kids as global citizens. Kids all over the world grow up playing different games, in different houses, and with different traditions/beliefs, but at the core we are all the same. This book is amazing in helping sew the seed of understanding for those who are different than you. People with different beliefs are not to be feared, you can learn from them!
Get yours here.
This is s subscription service geared toward surprising the kids in your life with educational gifts geared toward fostering a love of exploring and learning. You can select age and interest (Travel or Science) to have a tailored box delivered monthly designed to help spark your kids curiosity and understanding of the world around them. Prices start at $13 -19/month but you can vary how often boxes come. Right now use the code: MERRY to get a solid discount on all subscriptions!
Check it out here
Don’t bother with anything more expensive, this is a $12 pack of two tiny metals pens designed to fit in your wallet or tuck away in your purse. I can’t tell you how many times these have come in handy for filling out customs forms, visa applications, or for trying to get directions from someone who doesn’t speak the same language. We use our phones for as much as possible, but sometimes there is no alternative to writing something down. As a bonus, having a pen always available has proven to be a great conversation starter with fellow travelers. Some of our best tips and tricks have come from such random conversations.
Buy them here.
I’m not gonna lie to you. When traveling with our kids, there are times when we deploy the iPad or iPhone to help entertain our wild creatures during long flights, boat rides, or layovers. Consequently, we are certainly not about to judge you for doing the same. That being said, we do try our absolute best to limit the amount of time our kids are staring at a screen. Both of our kids love books, and these indestructible books are fantastic! The pages feel like paper, but can’t be ripped or stained. Perfect to help calm down your two year old at 30,000 feet.
Get yours here.
Our official review on this little thing has been in the works for weeks (update…it’s DONE!), but there has been nothing that helps motivate our little guy to walk a little farther than this fitness tracker for kids. Not only does it track his steps, it is also tied to a smartphone app which includes a game that lets him play more levels for increased activity. It also lets you set up rewards for doing chores, etc. Truly its been a game changer!
Buy yours here:
We received this as a gift last year, and have been absolutely amazed in how effective it has been in helping us to re-live some of our best travel memories as a family. This Wi-Fi enabled frame lets you save thousands of photos to the cloud, which automatically update when you add them to a folder. We have ours set up in the Kitchen by our breakfast table, serving as a constant reminder to us (and our kids) of some of our favorite times we’ve spent together. Both of our kids are young, but we hope that seeing photos of some of our trips will allow them to remember more of our time in Asia than they would otherwise.
Get it here.
Osprey Mira/Mura or Kids HydroJet bags
Yes, they are hiking backpacks. No, they are not the most stylish bags in the world. But we’ve found no other bag as well-rounded to serve as a travel bag, diaper bag, and hiking backpack for pretty much anything you could dream at throwing at them. They are a perfect blend of size, pockets, and features to pull double or triple duty for families trying to travel light and fast. Miles recently got the Hydropack 15, and knowing he’s got a hydration bladder like Mom and Dad has easily doubled the amount of activity he’s happy to do before realizing he may be getting a little tired.
We bought ours in a store that ONLY sells maps in Hong Kong, but this scratch off map has been great in helping show our kids where we live, where we are going, and where our extended family calls home. It’s become a great ritual for us to sit down after unpacking our bags to scratch off the country we just visited and to point out where we are headed next.
Get it here.
While this is NOT a one stop shop in letting you plug in whatever you want wherever you want (we learned the hard way with a hair dryer), this travel adapter is compact and will ensure that you are able to charge your devices no matter which corner of the planet you find yourself in. In addition to the 12V plug it has two USB inputs to allow you to charge three things at once. Along with an external battery pack, there are few other items that are more useful for the modern traveling family.
Buy yours here.
We wrote a whole review on this travel crib here, but it remains one of our all time favorite travel purchases. It packs easily into a suitcase (or even some backpacks) and is the perfect way to ensure your little one gets a good nights sleep while on-the-go. It’s great for hotel rooms, trains, or even airports. This year, give the gift of sleep!
Check it out here.