If you have not noticed by now, I like to be prepared. As much as possible. I often overplan. I’ve shared some tips for how to pack a suitcase and how to pack a car, but recently I read an article from Real Simple (Cash- Saving Hacks for Everyone Vacation, June 2017) , one of my favorite magazines, that reminded me of some things I like to purchase ahead of time. Buying these items before I leave home helps me avoid running to a grocery store or pharmacy in the middle of an adventure, or late at night:
1. Costumes: The Real Simple article reminded me of a tip a friend had given me before we went to Disney. I purchased a Cinderella costume for my daughter online and brought it with me for our breakfast in Cinderella’s castle, saving us time and money by avoiding a trip to the park souvenir shop. I would imagine the same is true for other theme parks or character places (like Sesame Place, Universal Studios etc). PS- make sure you bring a change of clothes for your children- many of those costumes are itchy, esp. in the heat.
2. Glow sticks: Super easy to purchase ahead of time (or on clearance at the end of the summer season and store for next year). Just be sure little hands don’t “crack” them before dark.
3. Benadryl: in liquid and lotion form.
4. Hats: I have multiple hats for each of my children stores in a variety of places: in the car, in the backpack, usually in the undercarriage of the stroller. I learned the hard way when hats flew off their heads while on a day sail, and the only place we could find a replacement was a pricey tourist trap. Note to self: if your toddler will tolerate it, go with the hats that have the velcro strap under the chin.
5. Sunglasses. I buy multiple pairs at the end of the season (and sometimes pick up pairs as souvenirs at promotional events) and keep them in the car, backpacks, and stroller.
I really do try and emphasis the “we need to take responsibility for our possessions” philosophy in my children, but sometimes, that lecture is better left for times other than an traveling in an unfamiliar place, and while desperately seeking a replacement for an item that.we.need.right.now.
6. Spray fans: I picked them up at Target years ago, and the kids use them all the time. Easy to tuck in under stroller storage and they’re light weight for backpacks. Do yourself a favor and buy each child their own.
7. Small bottles of bubbles: it’s amazing how entertaining bubbles can be- for all ages- while waiting in seemingly endless long lines.
8. Small wash clothes: I kept the baby wash clothes I used when the kids were little and toss a few in the backpack (so light and take up no space!). When my children are especially hot, or they fall and get a scrape, I wet them and voila: easy ice pack/band aid/ boo-boo bunny.
9. Autograph books or souvenirs. Buying online ahead of time can save you money and time (and avoid inevitable meltdowns at the gift shops). For beach trips, we always bring our own boogie boards and beach chairs to avoid buying marked up versions at beach shops. You’ll also prevent the possibility that the store will be out of an item that you’ll need while at a spot, like an autograph book while visiting characters at a theme park. They make a nice segue into surprising you child with the trip; wrap up the book with a note about why they'll need the item and present it right before your trip.
10. Paper copies of your travel docs: People rely on smartphones so much that sometimes we don’t even know the name or address of where we’re going. Leave a hard copy in your suitcase or safe at the hotel, and tuck another one in your back pocket or backpack. If you’re traveling abroad, be sure to photocopy your passport as well. I also copy my driver’s license and my husband’s driver’s license and insurance cards for each member of our family and keep copies in our suitcase in case something happens to our wallet.