Update June 2020

Moms pack for the kids, for the plane or car, and ready the house.

Somewhere amid all that, we hope to have time to throw a few things into a suitcase for ourselves. Then we cross their fingers that we haven’t forgotten anything important.

So it helps to do what I do: Have a list of your personal go-to travel essentials that’s always at the ready.

I asked some moms and dads who are travel bloggers about their must-pack travel items. Below is a roundup of theirs and mine.

Let us know what travel essentials of yours we forgot and I’ll add it in.

22 Items Every Mom Should Pack For Summer Travel

Essential Travel Shoes

1. Versatile Flats: Two moms love their easy-to-pack ballet flats.

• I recently discoverd Fuchsia flats. I like them because the sole is hard and provides a bit more support than other ballet flats. They come in all kinds of patterns from fun casual, to exotic and elaborate.

They take up less room in a suitcase than heels and I know I have something to put on at night when I want to look smart.

Tip: Wear them a few times before your trip; because they have more structure they need a little breaking in.

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‪• Kristen Bonkoski‪ of Rascals on the Road says, “I always bring a pair of Tieks ballet flats.” They are a higher end shoe but also “fold up to fit in your purse, and are super comfy for walking long distances. “

‪• Meanwhile, Leona Bowman‪ at Wandermust Family says, “I’m all about my Butterfly Twists. They can roll up and fit into your handbag and are handy for attending functions and posher evenings.” They’re inexpensive, too.

2. Neat Walking Sandals: My ideal travel shoe can take me waling all over a city without a blister while still looking neat with a dress and not out of place in a casual-stylish restaurant.

Moms love salt water sandals for themselves and their daughters.

Christine Knight Thomas of Adventure Baby says she “lives” in *Saltwater Sandals when she travels in summer!

“They’re so comfortable that I can wear them all day, even when we’re walking for hours.” They come in kid sizes, too, making it easy to shop for the whole family.

• I have become a devoted fan of Worishofer *slides and *711 sandals. The leather straps work with shorts, pants or dresses while the cork soles are just the right height and light enough to walk around in all day.

The only minor critique I have is that if you walk all summer long as I do, the soft cork lowers will wear out in a season or two.

3. Sport sandals: I know many moms and dads who wouldn’t travel without sneakers, but I find them hot in summer and not as supportive as you would expect for heavy walking.

• When I need sportier sandals I’ve been wearing Chacos. They have fun colors, molded arches last for more than one summer, even with all the walking I do.

•I’m also becoming a fan of Vionic All their shoes, even their flip-flops, have arch support, which helps when you’re doing a lot of walking, and is ideal for moms like me, who hav had bouts of plantar fasciitis.

Essential Travel Clothes

‪4. A compact rain jacket: Nadine Maffre‪ of Le Long Weekend always packs a *lightweight travel rain jacket. “It sounds silly for summer, but it can come in really handy!”

I have one that packs up so compactly in a drawstring pouch, I don’t mind always popping it in my suitcase, just in case.

5. A do-it-all shawl: A wrap or large scarf is handy for wrapping up in chilly air conditioning, covering up from the sun at the beach, and throwing over a sleeveless shirt when sightseeing calls for modesty, say in a church or temple.

• Ralph Lauren has a cozy cashmere travel wrap in navy blue. Echo New York makes a cashmere blend wrap in black or silver that’s a perfect summer weight.

• Several moms said they pack a light *Pashmina-style scarf, even in summer.

Alex Muir of My Lifelong Holiday and Corinne McDermott of Have Baby Will Travel both carry *sarongs for their versatility.

A sarong can be a beach blanket, evening wrap and kids blanket, Muir says. McDermott adds, “I’ve used mine as a baby sling, a swimsuit cover-up and in a pinch, a superhero cape.”

6. A cozy hoody: I always bring a medium-weight sweater or hoody. I like styles that are comfortable but not too casual so I only have to pack one.

The right cardigan takes you everywhere.

7. That just-right dress: Marta Correale at Learning Escapes brings “a dress in neutral color that I can dress up or down with necklaces, etc.”

I also try to bring a dress that can go from day to night with a change of shoes. This is the one item where I don’t worry about the color or pattern since it doesn’t have to coordinate with other clothes.

8. Extra swimsuit: Micki Kosman‪ of Barefoot Nomads always packs two swimsuits. “They don’t take up much space, and it’s wonderful to have a dry swimsuit ready when the first is still wet from the day before.”

9. Perfomance underwear: High-tech underwear was new to me until recently, but now that I’ve tried it I don’t know how I lived without it.

The fabric breathes, wicks sweat, resists odors and dries quickly after you wash it; perfect for travel.

• Several travel writers I know (myself included) are big fans of ExOfficio which makes a full line of travel clothes including boxer briefs for men and bikini briefs for women in 19 colors.

• My husband likes the performance boxers from Columbia when he’s doing things like hiking and rock climbing, or just yard work because of their stretchiness.  

10. Comfy Pants: Your style might be yoga pants, lounge pants, palazzo pants or beach pants.

They are those pants that are loose and comfortable but still neat. Wear ‘em on the plane, to the pool, to the beach, to run a quick errand and even to a casual restaurant without missing a beat.

Essential Travel Accessories

11. A Packable Hat: Like me, ‪Ariana Svenson‪ at A World of Travel with Kids never goes, “without a hat that can be rolled up and pulled out at any time.”

I was excited to find Wallaroo Hats for girls and women. The price is right, the colors are fun and the brim offers real shade without being unweilduy.

The Sydney, Scrunchie and Breton hats and they are ideal for the beach but I don’t mind wearing them on a city street. Tween Traveler kept taking mine, so last summer I bought one for her, too.

12. Hair Things: Every mom has that thing she carries for when her hair just starts to annoy her.

• I like jaw clips. I use them to pin up my hair in the pool or to pull it back when it’s just bothering me. I clip one onto my bag strap so I always have one handy.

• Keri Hedrick at Our Globetrotters packs “An abundant supply of small hair ties! They get long hair off your neck and come in handy for all sorts of little jobs.” ‪

• Like me, Kristen Bonkoski‪ of Rascals on the Road always brings a cloth headband. “On long travel days or during adventurous activities, they keep my hair out of my face and under control.”

I like Prana’s headbands because the colors are smart and they stay put. Some styles are even reversible, giving you two for the price of one.

Essential Beauty Items

Hair Care:

13. Dry shampoos from brands like OGX, Waterless, Dry Bar or Bed Head let you bypass your morning blow-dry and still look good.

You spray it on your hair and work it through to remove excess oil and add volume back.

Tip: Go for the roots mostly. And be careful of using too much on your ends; it can dry them out.

‪Travel Writer and former expat Michele Chan-Thomsoneschews little travel bottles for a solid Shampoo Bar. “It doesn’t count as a liquid, and it’s much lighter than a bottle containing the same number of washes.”

Go a step further with Beauty and the Bees’ conditioning bar or a shampoo and body bar from Whidbey Island.

‪14. Sun Protection: A tinted moisturizer with sunscreen to combine three steps into one, which means fewer tubes to pack and a quicker morning routine.

• For everyday face protection Elle magazine likes M.A.C’s Lightful C Tinted Cream SPF 30, which has more sun protection than make-up often carries.

• If you’re looking for something you can pick up anywhere, Neutrogena has a daily moisturizer with antioxidants, vitamins C and E and spf 50. It’s rare to find moisturizer with spf that high.

• For those days when you need more sun protection, Cotz, founded by a plastic surgeon, sells a water-resistant SPF 40 tinted sunscreen.

I’ve been using it for a couple of summers. While it’s heavier than a moisturizer would be it’s definitely less pasty and easier to put on than some mineral sunscreens.

• Babo Organics has a lighter SPF 30 sunscreen that gives faces a sheer outdoorsy glow.

• Eye & Lips: Finally, Lisa Nass Grabelle ‪ reminds us to bring sunglasses and *lip balm with sunscreen. “People always forget to protect their lips!”

Neutrogena makes a lip tint with SPF 20. I’ve been wearing a lip tint with SPF 15 from Babo Botanicals.

For The Kids:
Hate getting your kids to stand still for sunscreen and then stand still longer for bug spray? ‪Travel writer and parent Jessie Voigts‪ combines these two essentials with am SPF-30, DEET-free spray or pump from BullFrog.

Essential Travel Extras

15. Pocket Tools: ‪Jurga Van Steenbergen‪ at Full Suitcase always travels with a *pocket knife. “It has served many more purposes than I ever thought possible.”

Tip: Remember, if you are flying to pack anything with even a small knife in your checked bag, not your carry on.

• We always carry one or two *pocket utensil sets. They’re essential if you like to picnic and handy if you you bring take-out back to your hotel room and forget utensils (oops!).

Tip: Buy the ones that also have a bottle opener and cork screw, in case you want beer or wine on your picnic.

16. Items To Keep Hands Clean: I always kept hand sanitizer in my daybag. We use it far more when we travel and can’t always wash our hands when we want to. In a pinch it can disinfect minor scrapes and scratches, too. And it’s more important than ever these days.

• I like alcohol-based natural hand-sanitizer sprays like Olivia Care or Dr. Bronner’s. They don’t leave sticky residue and their scents, like lemon, peppermint or lavender are natural and less overwhelming most gels.

• I recently discovered soap sheets, which seem ideal for travel, especially if you’re changing diapers, out in the wilderness or just want to be especially vigilant about germs this summer.

Fomin antibacterial soap paper comes in a set of three packs of 100 in tea tree oil, lavender and sweet orange scents. The compact packaging is biodegradable and the soap is plant-based.

The packs are compact enough to pop into a backpack, purse, diaperbag or glove compartment.

17. First Aid Help: I have comprehensive first-aid kit that I pack for outdoor vacations or trips to less developed places.

• But even for a city or resort getaway I keep a *small first-aid kit in my purse with different band-aids, mole skin for blisters, anti-itch cream and bacitracin.

18. Laundry shortcuts: There’s almost nothing I hate worse on vacation than having to do laundry. So I love products that help me to put it off as long as possible (ideally until we’re back home).

• Some of my favorite cheats include sprays that remove mild odors from clothes. FREY NOMAD has sandalwood and cedar sprays. The Laundress makes one in baby blossom and a separate spray for lingerie and other delicates.

Downy Wrinkle Releaser refreshes clothes that are clean but rumpled. I carry a Tide Stain Remover Pen to remove food stains from clothes . And

Read more:
Travel Laundry Tips for moms who hate doing laundry.

19. Organizing help: Several moms advocate for *packing cubes or *sacks, like those from Eagle Creek to keep them organized.

They use them to separate each person’s belongings in a family suitcase and to make small items like socks and underwear easy to find in their own suitcase.

For road trips, some parents organize the cubes by day. When they stop at a hotel for a one-night stay they can bring a cube for each person, plus toiletries, instead of entire suitcases.

• Readers like the packing cub systems from Travelwise, which are durable, lightweight and less expensive than other brands.

Travel writer and dad Dave Parfitt‪ packs pop-up hampers and over-the-door shoe racks to use at his destination. They both pack flat then unfold to help him keep his hotel or cruise ship room clutter free.

Pop-up hampers pack flat and keep your family hotel room organized.

The shoe rack keeps shoes off the floor and is also place to tuck toiletries and small toys and electronics.

The hampers keep dirty laundry off the floor and separate from clean clothes. They’re also where he and his wife toss books, toys, hats and other items that get scattered around (and forgotten).

Essential Travel Bags To Pack It All In

20. A grown-up backpack: ‪Nancy Roberts at‪ Map and Family has a few different small backpacks for different types of trips. They are all just big enough to hold “A camera, guidebook and sunscreen.

“I make sure it’s *smart if we’re going to a city and made of *light fabric if it’s a hot weather trip.”

Cross body bags double as purses and handbags when you travel.

21. The Tiny bag: Kendra Williams Pierson packs a *cross-body bag “just big enough for keys, ID, cash, allergy medicine and a phone.”

I like this, too. I stash mine in a larger shoulder bag or backpack during the day and use it by itself when we go out to dinner.

22. The Extra Bag:‪ Gudahl‪ also tosses a *foldable tote into her bag. “You never know what you’ll stumble upon to buy.” And increasingly grocery stores don’t provide shopping bags”

They’re also handy for stashing wet bathing suits and towels or dirty laundry.

Download this printable summer essentials packing list

Pin it for later!


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  1. Superb list. I’m Pinning this and ordering a few items so that they are ready for the next trip.

  2. Such a great and handy list! I found myself nodding to having many of these items that have made my life easier including the Pashmina-style scarf, sarong, hat and packing cubes. Thanks for the shoe recommendations!

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