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Essential Gear for Traveling with Kids: Items We Never Go on the Road Without

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Family in Sedona, Arizona
Family photo at Cathedral Rock outside of Sedona, AZ - Jan 2023

If we had a nickel for every time someone said to us, "Wow, you're a busy bunch!" or "How do you travel with five kids?!" we'd be...Well, likely on a beach in the Caribbean because we'd be filthy rich. This isn't hyperbole, either. Every time we have traveled with the kids, many people ask us how we do it.

Well, it's easy: First, lower your expectations because something is bound to go wrong. Second is having the right items to keep the kids organized and entertained while on the road.

We're heading to Nova Scotia in a few days for a tour around Cape Breton Island and wanted to share some of the items we are bringing to make the trip, more specifically, the plane ride, as smooth as possible.

Here are our must-haves for traveling with the kids!



We searched far and wide for a travel backpack for the kids to use for travel. Sure, we have their school bags, but they are large, chunky, and not the best when stuffed to capacity. These TOMULE bags are not only large; they are made from durable but very flexible nylon, which makes it easy to cram under the seat or in the overhead bins.

Floral print travel backpack
40L TOMULE Travel Backpack

An added bonus is the bags built-in wet bag. If socks or clothes get wet while on the go, the bag has a separate waterproof compartment to keep wet away from dry.

What makes them even better is that they fold down into a small little bag for easy storage when not in use.



Despite our best efforts and the incredible storage capacity of the TOMULE backpacks, some items just will not fit. Items like neck pillows, water bottles, and headphones don't make sense to pack away either. They will be needed as soon as you hit the runway, so we like to keep them accessible.

Locking Carabiners
Locking Carabiners

We found this handy ten-pack for the kids, which worked out great. Two for each kid, keeping a few essentials within reach at all times.



A distracted kid is a happy kid. And a happy kid on an airplane means a happy parent. The kids like to disappear into their tablets or phones when we fly. We had always struggled with wired headphones for the older kids before, but with the twins and five total sets, we wanted to avoid the inevitable tangle of wires.

Over ear heardphones
PowerLocus Bluetooth Headphones for Kids

These PowerLocus ones we found on Amazon work great and come with a handy storage case with a convenient loop to attach to their bag with a carabiner.



We have been using Contigo water bottles since before we had kids and have single-handedly kept Contigo afloat. We have more water bottles from this company than we can count at this point.

Contigo Water Bottle
Contigo Autospout Water Bottle

Are they perfect? Nope, they break, just like other brands. However, we keep going back because they last a lot longer than anything else we have tried, and Contigo has been great with sending replacements when a bottle or two cracks or breaks.



We always struggled to keep crayons, pencils, and the like contained when we traveled. Even when it was just one or two kids, pencils would go missing or be rolling all over the place when the pencil case would be dumped upsidedown.

Canvas Pencil Case
Canvas Pencil Roll Up Case

We saw another family using these roll-up cases a while back and gave them a try. They are great! Not only do they help the kids keep their pencils organized, but they roll up and stow nicely in their bags. We also got different designs for each kid, which they all loved!



With five kids in tow, someone is always hungry. Actually, two or three of them are ALWAYS HUNGRY! When traveling, we need an arsenal of different snacks, and we aren't fans of pre-packaged foods, candy, and things of that nature, so we tend to pack our own.

Silicone Food Storage Bag
Silicone Snack Bag

We used to use regular ziplock-style bags, but they don't last very long and often rip when trying to wash them. We started using silicone food bags for leftover storage at home but quickly found out that they make excellent snack bags. We'll be sure to have four or five of these bags packed to the gills when we head off on this trip.



If you have kids, you probably have no less than ten different Melissa & Doug creations in your house. They are high quality and often deliver years of entertainment before they need to be passed on or retired. These on-the-go water wow colouring books are new to our rotation of travel essentials.

Kids water pen coloring book
Melissa & Doug WaterWow

While on our way back from an early year trip to Arizona, we saw a mom and toddler in a nearby seat on the plane using these, and I knew I was going to need them for our next trip with the twins. They are far from high-tech, but they are sure to be crowd-pleasers when we run out of snacks on the plane.



Our wildcard pick for essentials! We've not seen these used in the wild yet, but I have a feeling they are going to be a hit with the twins and probably the others as well.

LCD Writing & Drawing Tablet
LCD Writing & Drawing Tablet

Instead of a fully-blown iPad or Galaxy Tab, these drawing tablets are just simple black LCD tablets that allow the kids to doodle whatever they wish. There is no colour selection, but the ink shown on the screen changes based on what part of the screen is being used. When they are done with a drawing, one button clears the screen. They can also lock the screen so they do not accidentally delete a drawing before showing it off.



There you have it! These are some of the essentials that we have picked up over the years to make traveling as a family more manageable. We are always on the lookout for other handy items, comment below if you have suggestions!


Want to follow along during our Cape Breton adventure? Follow our brand new travel-focused Instagram account; The Wandering Weston's

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