4 pocket-size items that every parent should squeeze into their luggage

4 pocket-size items that every parent should squeeze into their luggage

There’s a lot to think about when planning a trip with a young child: How will we maintain any semblance of routine? What can I purchase upon arrival? How will I juggle all this luggage and a tiny human? 

I’ve written before on my top strategies for handling the big stuff and packing lightly. But today, my focus is on the little things. No matter what you have in your bags already, these pocket-size items are worthy additions. Squeeze them into that spare pouch or compartment, and see how even something small can make a big difference. 

A simpler emergency back-up: single-dose children's medicine vials 

Especially when traveling carry-on only, managing liquids in your luggage is hugely important. Yes, many children’s medications come in sufficiently small bottles, but you’re often then packing more than you need for an emergency supply, and lugging heavy, fragile glass in addition to any syringes or serving cups. 

These single-dose plastic vials are a great alternative: pack just a few for emergency back-up, and leave them in your luggage for future trips as well. They’re a lighter, simpler, smaller alternative. 

The ideal solution for extra carrying capacity: a collapsible spare backpack

Let’s face it, even if you neatly pack all you need for your journey, kids’ stuff has this magical ability to expand. When the flight lands, you’re left stuffing loose snacks under the stroller or squeezing their favorite stuffed animal into your coat pockets. Just when it comes time to leave the beach, you realize you need to juggle all the trash from lunch, on top of all the hats, sunscreen, and sand toys.  

My recommendation: always carry a collapsible spare backpack for those transition moments. This option from Sea to Summit is only 2.5oz and collapses down to the size of an egg. We keep one looped onto our main pack with a small carabiner for easy access. 

collapsible pack

Practicality + fun: a combination white noise machine and bluetooth speaker

Even before I had kids, I was a big fan of white noise machines: they’re a great way to encourage consistent, deeper sleep, which is all the more critical when traveling. There are lots of portable white noise machines on the market, including ones that easily clip to strollers and car seats, and are directly marketed to parents. 

But even a travel-sized white-noise machine felt like a one-trick pony to me. That’s why I love this combo white noise machine + bluetooth speaker from Lectrofan. It allows us to encourage sleep and restful downtime, but also pick up our energy with music or podcasts throughout the day.

An investment in sanity, sleep, and schedule: a portable, no-plug alarm clock

Call me old-school, but I hate sleeping next to a phone. Especially when we’re staying in close quarters, the risk of a buzz or bright screen could disrupt sleep for not just the adults, but the little ones as well. Do-not-disturb mode is, of course, an option; that said, between time changes and funky schedules, it always feels less reliable on the road. Plus, getting a few extra minutes away from a screen always makes a vacation that much sweeter. 

So if I don’t like having a phone by my side, how else do I maintain a schedule? I adore this travel clock from Lexon. It’s battery powered so you don’t need to sweat an additional plug adapter, and it has a simple design to make setting alarms and checking the time seamless. Better yet, it sits less than an inch tall and weighs about 4oz. 

portable alarm clock

You have plenty of big things on your plate as you gear up for your next adventure. Hopefully these small additions can bring plenty of comfort with minimal load. Is there anything else you’d add to this list?

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