Thursday, November 19, 2015

Traveling Light (Part 4) Entertainment, Snacks, and other Misc Travel Neccesities

With all of the options available today, with digital media, we have no need to drag books, or other heavy entertainment items along on vacation.  Take a pair of headphones and a tablet, e-reader or smart phone, and you can read, play games, listen to music, or watch movies.  Most flights have personal in-flight entertainment systems, which allow you to listen to music or watch movies.  A lot of airlines now have WiFi on board as well, which is available for a small fee and totally worth it for long, overseas flights.  I know some of you will always prefer paper books, which is perfectly fine if you are willing to add the weight and bulk. Try to find paperback books instead of hardcover, as this can cut your book weight in half.  Card games are another option for in flight entertainment. However, these can easily get lost and slip in between seats, so make sure you check your area before leaving your seat.  If you're a parent with small children, you will likely be occupied with caring for your kids during the flight, and have no trouble with boredom!
Kids entertainment:
"Less is more" has never been truer, than when traveling with children!  
Before you add anything to your carry-on bag, ask yourself how many things you are willing to keep track of during your trip.  I try to picture myself in my car or plane seat, gathering all the parts and pieces.  That puts things into perspective very quickly!  
Here are my recommendations:
-Don't take things with small parts, such as Lego's, Poly Pockets, packages of foam stickers, Scrabble, etc.. You WILL lose pieces. And bending down to the floor while sitting in your seat is very uncomfortable and awkward.  Not to mention all the time it takes to gather things.
-Avoid taking items that roll.  I made the mistake of taking crayons and small cars on one of my first flights with kids.  I had an 18 month old and 3 year old and somehow crayons ended up several rows back and a car was found in the very back of the plane.  When that car starts rolling, there will be no catching it! 
-This goes without saying, but please, out of respect for your fellow passengers, do not take toys with noise or lights.  It will drive you and everyone else around you crazy!
Here are some items I recommend: (Pre-K and Elementary age)

-Origami was the favored item of the trip.  Buy a small Origami book and small to medium sized Origami paper and store in a Ziploc bag.  My kids loved it!  We had quite a few papers in my bag but they are all flat, light and easy to store.  And they were constantly making new things so they didn't mind pitching creations they were tired of. My kids even made special Origami art for my birthday, which happened a week into the trip. :)
-Water Wow pad, by Melissa and Doug. I'm honestly not sure what to think of this one. The kids loved it but the pen attached to the pad made it awkward to store. I ended up removing it which helped a lot. Fill the plastic pen with water, after passing security and let the kids "paint" their reusable pages.
-Small containers of play dough. A big hit! In my research on TSA liquid restrictions, most people said Play Dough didn't need to fit the 3-1-1 rule so I decided to risk it. We passed through security with no problems.
-Magnetic tin. My four year old really like this!
-Top Trump Cards. My daughter's favorite! We played this often while in the plane, bus, rental van, and also in the places we stayed. We took the Countries version but you can choose Animals and manyother versions. This game is great for kids who can read, and adults have fun too!
-Anti-virus. A fun game with many levels for different ages. This was mostly played while in Europe and not so much during travel.
That's all toys and games we took. Our kids had songs, movies, audio books, and games on the tablet and phone, but while in flight, they mainly watched parent approved movies on their personal entertainment system provided by the airline.
Misc travel items (I keep this with me in my seat, on the plane or in the car) You can take as much or as little as you want, in the way of luxury items.
Here are a few things I like to use when I travel,most of them make my "non-negotiable list".
-Headphones and smart phone 
The following items I like to keep in a small zip pouch:

-Travel pillow (I haven't found the perfect one yet....they are not all created equal!)
-Ear Plugs -Sleep Mask
-Lip balm (especially on a plane, as the air is very dry)
-Small tube of lotion...I use a solid stick of coco butter, which you can find on Amazon.
-Small compact mirror
-Extra hair tie and a few bobby pins
-Face cleansing wipes, I like the Simple brand
-Small trial sized deodorant (If anyone knows of a natural, trial sized deodorant, please let me know!)
-A few panty liners (girls you know what these are for so no explanation!)

-Small first aid kit: I used two small plastic boxes (Johnson and Johnson First Aid boxes found in the trial section of most stores) to store the following:

-Various sizes of bandaids including butterfly bandages 
-Small tube of Neosporin
-Antiseptic wipes
-Painkiller (adult and kids) Note than in most European countries, children's painkiller is not available without a prescription.
-A few gauze patches
-Mole skin for blisters
-A dozen, medium sized safety pins
-Sleep aid for adults and kids (melatonin works great)
A few more items I carried in my carry-on hand bag:
-Antibacterial wipes (wipes are more compact to store and easier to get through security. Plus, no worries of the container bursting mid flight.
-Small package of tissues
-Packages of Pedialyte powder (found in the baby section at the store)
-Small, reusable, grocery bag (Chico is a good brand) See green bag with snowman above. ;)
-2-4 plastic grocery bags for messes or dirty clothing
-2 pens
-Permanent marker (for marking luggage tags, keeping kids toys separate, etc..)
-Carabiners These came in handy many times! Clip water bottles, grocery bags, or other items to your bag or back pack for easy access, or to free your hands.
-Instant coffee packages (Starbucks of course), and tea bags. These are very small and light and all you need to add is hot water and sugar if you prefer, and you're good to go!
-Small note book to jot down directions, lists, etc.. This one is a toss up. I use my phone for most note taking, but sometimes I want real paper to write on, or tear a piece out to leave a note for someone.
-Small zip pouch with an ID, one credit card, debit card, and some cash. This was the way we chose to carry money and ID, but there are many other ways. I recommend getting a neck wallet with electronic pick pocketing protection when travelling abroad. Here is the one we have.
-Passports plus digital, and paper copies in case you lose them. (Also carry in neck wallet)
One item I took that was unnecessary, was an umbrella. I hadn't planned to take any, but it was a last minute item because some in our group were pretty sure we'd need them. Another reminder to go with your gut and your own research. The blue bag you see below, is a small cross body bag I threw in to use for short trips to the grocery store, or times when I didn't want to carry my larger handbag. It was very handy but I wouldn't recommend this particular was a thrift store find so no loss when I donated it back to the store. The pink container is my retainer which I was wearing full time at the time we were traveling. All of these items easily fit in my large hand bag, along with snacks.

I took a lot of snacks, because we have 3 kids and because we were crossing quite a few time zones. I knew there would be times we were hungry and no meal was being served, or we wouldn't have time to grab food on a layover. I was glad for everything I took! It lasted through our very long flight and the three hours ride, to the first destination. Plus, we had extra for the first week we were there. Here are some items I took:
-Sunbelt Granola bars. One of the healthiest grocery store versions, and they are very light.
-Dried apples and prunes. These were not a hit with the kids but extra fiber when traveling is helpful. ;)

-Cheese sticks
-Olives. Buy them in these small, plastic, single serve containers (with no liquid added) or buy them in a can, drain them, and separate into small single serve Ziplocs
-Pita chips (to eat with the olives)
-Turkey sticks. These provide great protein and are pretty much non-perishable, thanks to preservatives. 

-Fruit leather. Light and healthier than fruit snacks. 
-Trail mix. This isn't exactly light, but my kids love it.
-Reese's pieces for those desperate "I really need you to be quiet and hold still RIGHT NOW!" moments! :)

-Single serve pouches or containers of peanut butter and Almond Butter. We are addicts...all of us. So we filled one of our five allotted TSA approved, liquids bag, with these. Great with crackers, fruit, bread, or eating plain! 
All of my snacks fit in a large, zip up pouch. Thank you again Thirty One Gifts! We have a theme going here...what can I say? My sister works for Thirty One so we have everything Thirty One!
-Dark chocolate, not pictured because it was hidden in a secret compartment of my bag...Mom only chocolate! Dark chocolate doesn't melt easily, but if you're not worried about that, take whatever chocolate suits your fancy.
Also not pictured; a water bottle for each person. Fill them up after passing security if you're flying, and keep hydrated to help with jet lag and to combat the dry air in the plane. 
Electronics: We took a set of headphones for each person, one phone, a tablet, two headset splitters, and two battery packs for the times we didn't have a great place to charge electronics, as well as a multi-socket adapter for European outlets. Keep them in a zip up pouch to avoid tangled messes.
We like to choose souvenirs (if we buy them at all) that are consumable, or items we will use regularly, rather than dust collecting memorabilia. On our most recent trip, we chose wine, beer, chocolate, Nutella, Alp cheese, Kinder Eggs, a scarf, earrings, a down comforter (found for $8 at a thrift store!) and a piece of pottery, which I use at least weekly in my kitchen. Since we travelled light and took no checked baggage, we bought an inexpensive piece of used luggage in Switzerland, to carry our souvenirs home. We had no baggage fees for checked baggage, and I knew if it was delayed, our airport would deliver it to our house eventually. Nothing broke or melted and everything arrived safely! I hope that you have found this series helpful. Please add any tips you have, in the comment section...I'm always looking for more ideas!


  1. Great series Rachal! Thanks again for all your hard work and thorough planning.

    1. You're welcome! I love vacationing with you! :)

  2. Awesome post, so helpful! Thanks for the resource/link to the neck wallet you used. I've been debating that versus a money belt... I know you can get both with the RFID blocking feature. I am paranoid about RFID and credit card/identify theft! I am positive that is how my debit card number was stolen a few summers ago! I flew to Atlanta for National Conference at work, and 2 days later my account was compromised! I think the theft happened at the airport. :( So I am definitely always traveling with some RFID protection! You can even get sleeves, to use in your regular wallet.

    Anyway, great post as always!! You're a true minimalist-travel inspiration! :)

    1. Thanks for reading! :) I didn't know you could get RFID sleeves for your wallet! That was so horrible when your money was stolen through CC theft! :( I hope that never happens to you again!
      I'm so excited for your travels and I can't to hear about your adventures and learn lots of travel tips from you! :)