22 Summer Vacation Essentials for Moms

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Need more packing list? Look at out our basic packing lists and cruise packing list.

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Moms pack for the kids, for the plane or car, and ready the house. Somewhere amid all that, they hope to have time to throw a few things into the suitcase for themselves. Then they cross their fingers that they haven’t forgotten anything important. So it helps to do what I do and have a list of your go-to travel essentials for mom to pack always at the ready.

I asked some moms and dads who are travel bloggers about their go-to travel essentials and did a roundup of theirs and mine. Let us know what travel essentials of yours we forgot and I’ll add it in.

Essential Travel Shoes To Pack

Butterfly Twists pack well for travel

1. Versatile Flats: Two moms love their easy-to-pack ballet flats. 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, with prices ranging from about $50 to $85. Meanwhile 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. “

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

Saltwater Sandals look good and wear well in summer

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.

3. Something Sportier: I know any moms and dads wouldn’t travel without sneakers but I find them hot in summer and a bit too casual for city travel. When I need sportier sandals I recently discovered Chaco and Abeo and will probably give both of them a test run this summer. They both have fun colors and styles, molded arches and slightly raised heels. They seem like a good option for moms like me, whose feet can’t take the usual flat walking sandals.

Essential Travel Clothes To Pack

travel rain jackets should fold up small
a compact rain jacket is handy for summer travel

‪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 I don’t mind always popping it in my suitcase, just in case. If you don’t mind a poncho style, you can find one that’s even more compact.

5. A do-it-all shawl: Several moms said they pack a light *Pashmina-style scarf, even in summer. They say they are 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.

the perfect travel hoody is warm and neat

6. A cozy hoody: I always bring a zip-up sweater or hoody. I like this one because it’s not too casual, though if I had it to do over again I wouldn’t get white for traveling!

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 don’t necessarily stick with the neutral color since my dress doesn’t have to coordinate with other clothes, but I also try to bring a dress that can go from day to night with a change of shoes.

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.”

performance underwear is handy for travel
performance underwear is handy for travel for men and women

9: Perfomance underwear: At a product show this week I came across high-tech underwear (for men) from *Lacoste and *Columbia, which was new to me. The fabric is supposed to breathe, wick sweat, resist odors and dry fast; perfect for travel. My husband has been wearing the Columbia boxers for a few weeks now and finds them more comfortable regular boxers when he’s doing things like hiking and rock climbing because of their stretchiness.  Chez Chesak, at the Family Travel Association relies on performance underwear from Exofficio, which also makes it *for women!

10. Comfy Pants: Call them yoga pants, lounge pants, palazzo pants, beach pants. They 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 Extras To Pack

my wallaroo sun hat
my wallaroo sun hat packs wl

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 while they are ideal for the beach; I don’t mind wearing mine on a city street either.

12. A Sarong: Alex Muir of My Lifelong Holiday and Corinne McDermott of Have Baby Will Travel, both carry *sarongs for their versatility. They can be a beach blanket, evening wrap and kids blanket, Muir says. McDermott adds, “It can be used as a baby sling, a swimsuit cover-up and in a pinch, a superhero cape.”

13:  Travel Towels: Kelley Gudahl‪ of Sailing Chance is one of several moms who never travel without Turkish towels. These towels are thin, absorbent and dry fast, like camp towels. And, moms say, they are larger, softer, wash better than camp towels, and come in patterns and colors that look nicer.

pocket utensils pack easily
pocket utensils are great for travel

14. 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.” Just remember if you are flying to pack it in your checked bag, not your carry on. In addition to a pocket knife we always carry one or two *pocket utensil sets. They’re essential if you like to picnic sometimes, or when you bring take-out back to your hotel room and forget utensils (oops!). Buy the ones that also have a bottle opener and cork screw, in case you want beer or wine on your picnic.

15: Things for lips and eyes: Finally, Lisa Nass Grabelle ‪ reminds us to bring sunglasses and *lip balm with sunscreen. “People always forget to protect their lips!”

first aid for your purse

16: First-Aid Basics: I have more extensive first-aid kits that I pack for outdoor vacations or trips to less developed places. But even for a city getaway I keep a *small first-aid kit with different band-aids, anti-itch cream and bacitracin. I keep *hand sanitizer in there, too. We use it far more when we travel than we do at home, and in a pinch it can clean minor scratches, too.

17: Hair Things: Every mom has that thing she carries for when her hair just starts to annoy her. I like big hair clips. 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.” ‪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.”

a Vapur water bottle, empty
a Vapur Water Bottle, full

18. A compact water bottle: Crystal Anderson Phippsof Gnomad Family I love flexible plastic water bottles that flatten out when they’re empty to save space. Chesak and I both favor *Vapur bottles because they can stand when filled, roll up when they’re empty and even have a carabiner for strapping to a backpack.

Essential Travel Bags To Pack It All In

19. 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.”

packing cubes for organized travel

20. The extra bag: ‪Gudahl‪ also tosses a *foldable tote into her bag. “You never know what you’ll stumble upon to buy and a lot of places my family travels don’t provide shopping bags.”

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 wear it by itself when we go out to dinner.

22. Organizers: Several moms also 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, to bring just a few things into a hotel room for a one-night stay and to make small items like socks and underwear easy to find in their own suitcase.

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Mom always packs after getting everyone else ready for vacation, which means she packs in a hurry. Here are 22 must-pack essentials for top mom travel bloggers (and 1 dad) to help you make sure you have everything you need on your next trip.

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