Long-haul travel is taxing on the body, so how do you turn back the clock on jet lag? These 12 essential travel items, which fit snugly in a small corner of a carry-on suitcase, can’t catapult your family back to the right time zone, or make the airplane seat roomier (oh, how we wish there were a gadget for that!) – but they will definitely make your family feel brighter and more alert at your far-away destination.
1. Earplugs and Eye Masks
Ear plugs and eye masks are essential items for resting during a long flight. If eye masks aren’t comfortable, use a large scarf as an all-in-one headscarf, eye-mask, light blanket, or roll-up pillow. Simple earplugs are great for keeping out sound, obviously, but there are other types, such as Ear Planes, that alleviate in-flight ear pain by regulating the pressure within the ear. Although Ear Planes do have a smaller product for kids, it’s best to check with your doctor before you fly.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has told several media sources that she sprays airplane seats and tray tables with colloidal silver, a natural antimicrobial spray. Umm, OK. In case you don’t have a spray bottle of “active silver” ready, why not join the rest of the world in buying an inexpensive package of ant-bacterial wipes and a small squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer to help keep those nasty airplane germs at bay.
Airplanes are so dry! Your family needs to drink water before you fly, during the flight, and after you land. Make sure young ones are getting plenty of fluids during your journey, especially if you are travelling to or from a hot, sunny destination.
Travelling over-night with bed-wetters? Don’t restrict liquid intake, since children are more easily prone to dehydration than adults. Instead, do what you would do at home: stick a pull-up on the kids before they fall asleep. If the worst happens, remember that airplane seats are easily interchangeable. Don’t feel embarrassed to tell your crew member that you’ve had a little mishap.
5. Tennis Ball
Carrying bags, sitting in an airplane – even just the emotional tension of getting ready for a long journey can play havoc with the muscles in your back, neck and shoulders. After a long flight, ease the tension in sore muscles by placing a tennis ball on the wall, and rolling against it, kind of like the way a bear might scratch his back on a tree. You can also step and roll on the ball to soothe sore calves and feet. And if the kids get bored during a flight delay – well, how about a quick game of airport catch?
As we all know, the #1 reason for staying in a hotel, according to kids, is the hotel pool! If you are tight on suitcase space, don’t even think about leaving out the swim gear. Tip: pack goggles. Hotel pools are notoriously high in chlorine.
7. Chip Clip
There’s nothing like a bright ray of “not-from-you-time-zone” sunshine piercing through the curtains just as you’ve got the kids down for a nap at your hotel or Air BnB. Keep a couple of large dollar store chip clips in your suitcase, use them to secure the curtains together, and nap to your heart’s content.
8. Eye Drops
Redness-reducing eye drops aren’t recommended for daily use, and we definitely don’t suggest them for kids, but if you’re bleary-eyed at your destination, a quick squirt will not only make you feel brighter, your shiny eyes will make you look like you just came out of an Aruveydic spa, rather than a dehydrated airplane cabin. It’s astonishing how much more alive you feel when your eyes are clear of redness.
9. Coffee Sachet
You look good, now – how about smelling good? The best way to keep your suitcase fresh is to keep something odour-absorbing inside it while you travel. The answer? One of those little coffee sachets that you get with the hotel coffee maker, or even a sock filled with fresh coffee beans. It won’t make your clothes smell like coffee, we promise – but it will prevent your nice blouses from smelling like your kids’ wet shoes.
10. Ziploc bags
Ziploc bags -medium sized – are just the best thing ever for family travel. Use them to faux-vacuum pack a change of clothes for each child, to keep in your hand-luggage. Have some empty ones handy to keep snacks fresh. They’re great for small amounts of dirty laundry, to keep your damp swimming gear separate from the rest of the suitcase, to get your liquids and gels through airport security, or to protect your electronics from possible water damage. The uses for baggies is infinite!
Here’s one thing you should put in a ziploc bag: a small amount of your kids’ LEGO! This isn’t necessarily for the flight itself (who wants to go crawling around the floor of a 767, searching for stray LEGO?), but for those moments when the kids just don’t know what to do. Pack it in your day bag and take it out while waiting at restaurants, or keep it at handy at your holiday accommodation, so your jet-lagged munchkins have something to do during downtime.
12. Your Identification Details (Inside EACH Case)
You’ve spent so much time preparing and packing. Now, protect yourself and your belongings by labelling your luggage correctly. Label each of your travel bags (including small ones, hand baggage and kids’ backpacks) with your name, home address, phone number, flight number and most importantly, the address of your destination. Make sure you put something identifiable on the case, such as a bright bandana or sticker, so that someone else doesn’t accidentally mistake it for theirs.
Finally, print out several pieces of paper with the same information, and place them INSIDE your cases. Why? Suitcase handles are often damaged during transit… and guess where your luggage tag was? Labelling inside the case is an extra layer of protection for you.
Do you have any top travel tips? Share them in the comments….and Bon Voyage!