Any links in this post to a merchant may contain an affiliate link, which means that if you click on that link and then buy something, I may earn a commission from it. However, all opinions in this link are 100% mine and 100% honest. If I didn't believe in a particular product, I wouldn't recommend it to you.
There are tons of gadgets out there claiming to make travel easier. But, sometimes, the best items for easy family travel are things created for a non-travel purpose. This is a list of my 11 must-have unconventional travel items. I can’t imagine traveling without any of them. Every one of these things makes traveling with kids so much easier!
1. Over the Door Toiletry Holder
My favorite must-have unconventional travel item is an over-the-door toiletry holder. I found it at Target in the college dorm section during back-to-school time. It is perfect for families because it has lots of pockets which allows you to keep your toiletries organized in hotel rooms without taking up all the counter space. The clear pockets make it easy to find what you need. Because it folds up flat, it is easy to pack and doesn’t take up a lot of space in our suitcase. I don’t know how we traveled so many years without this!
2. Ziploc Bags
Ziploc bags are one of the most versatile items ever invented! They are also essential to packing for trips. Pack your liquid or gel-based toiletries in Ziploc bags, so if something leaks, the mess will be contained to just that bag. You can also keep kids’ snacks such as Cheerios or animal crackers in them. Use them to store wet or messy clothes. Pack small items, like band aids, safety pins, and cotton swabs in them. They are also useful to store your camera, cell phone, and other electronics in when it is raining or you are around water.
3. Laundry Bag
Another one of my must-have unconventional travel items is a drawstring laundry bag. Use it to keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes. When it’s time to head home, just throw the whole thing into your suitcase. Then, once you arrive home, take it straight to the laundry room. It makes unpacking and laundry easier to do after your trip. Both Target and Amazon carry these laundry bags.
4. Spray Bottle
A spray bottle is another handy little item that I always take on trips. Pack it empty, and then when you arrive at your destination, fill with water. It will take wrinkles out of cotton clothes. It is also helpful for things like cleaning up spills, waking up the family, and controlling cow licks in hair.
5. Plastic Desk Organizer
Eating in the car on road trips can be difficult for small kids. A plastic desk organizer with different compartments is the perfect solution. Your kids can put the organizer in their laps and then put all of their food into the compartments. Not only does it help them hold everything, but if they spill something, it contains the mess and is easy to clean. This is an essential item for a road trip with kids. I bought mine at the Container Store.
A lapdesk is another neccesary item to have if you are traveling with kids, especially on long road trips. A small cookie sheet with a pillow attached to the bottom is the perfect size for younger kids to use while in a car seat. Because it is metal, magnets will stick to it. The lip on the tray keeps cars, crayons, and other toys from rolling off. Kids can also use it to hold a DVD player or other electronic device.
7. Trash Bags
Trash bags are another thing that I pack when traveling because you never know when you will need them. Like Ziploc bags, they are very versatile. Use them for trash while in the car. Store wet or messy clothes in them. Use them as ponchos. Keep you bottoms dry by sitting on them instead of wet benches or seats. Forget your laundry bag? Use a trash bag to hold dirty clothes. They are also nice to have in the car in the event that someone gets sick.
A flashlight is good to pack because it takes up very little space, but can be a lifesaver if you need it! If you lose something in the dark, you can find it quicker with a flashlight! It’s can be a nightlight if you have a child who is scared of the dark. And it can be a lifesaver if you are in an unfamiliar hotel room when the electricity goes out!
9. Wet Wipes
Wet wipes are one of those things that parents always have on hand. They are a must-have unconventional travel item because they are so useful. They can quickly clean up a spill, cool off a hot face, and slow a nose bleed. Use them to wipe off a dirty stadium seat, apply a temporary tattoo, and wipe your hands on when you don’t have any napkins. They make cleaning up after someone gets sick easy too.
10. Receiving Blanket
A receiving blanket is the #1 most versatile item that I know of. It is therefore, one of my must-have unconventional travel items. I believe every parent should have one when traveling, regardless of how old your kids are. It can be a blanket, a pillow, a sun shade, or even a napkin. You can use it as a sling or a bandage in a medical emergency. Plus, because it is small, it can roll up tight and takes up very little space. For more ideas, read my other uses for receiving blankets. Find these at Target or any other store that carries baby items.
11. Sirius XM Radio
This one isn’t a “thing”, but it is just as valuable! Sirius XM radio is a must-have unconventional travel item for road trips. No more searching for local radio stations every hour or so. Pick up all your favorite sporting events while on road trips. If you don’t have Sirius XM, I highly recommend it if you ever travel by car! It is worth every penny!
These must-have unconventional travel items are all very useful, both for planned and unplanned events. Most are compact and easy to pack. While I don’t always use every one on every trip, I rarely travel without them. Part of having a successful trip is being prepared for the unexpected. These items help me be prepared when things go awry! I hope these must-have unconventional travel items help you be better prepared for your next trip. Happy travels!
P.S. Ready to take your dream vacation? Our FREE worksheet can help you make it a reality. Grab your copy in the box below and get started planning today! Plus, as a bonus, you’ll receive our weekly email newsletters full of travel tips and inspiration.