Travel with babies and toddlers gets easier with a few extra tools in the toolbox. Here are a few unexpected items I’ve come to appreciate that you might want to add to your packing list. (Thanks for your click-throughs to recommended products, which help support this site at no cost to you!)
1. Large binder clips
Fantastic for clipping blankets to stroller canopies and infant car seats for extended shade coverage.With any luck, you may also be able to use your binder clips to help create a blanket canopy over your child on that next red-eye (no more distracting reading lights).
2. Spare sun hat
It would be interesting to know how many times the average sun hat falls off (or blows off, or gets thrown off from) a baby or toddler on vacation. Be prepared in case your child’s first in line becomes irretrievable, and try to use one with a chin strap.
3. Stationery box
The ½” deep boxes that résumés or special papers are packaged in can be indispensable in traveling with toddlers and preschool-age children.
Fill with scratch paper and a few crayons and you have an art station that’s ready to roam. Just open the lid and let them go—the edges of the box keep artwork from getting onto other surfaces and the crayons from rolling off the edges.
4. Velcro bands
At home, you’ll find them in your fabric store and possibly on the goodies and gadgets aisle of your supermarket.
As you travel, you may find your Velcro bands bundling up window blind cords, attaching toys or shopping bags to your stroller, or wet clothing to the balcony rail of your vacation rental or hotel room.
5. Glow sticks
Even if you travel with a nightlight, there may not be a suitable outlet where you can use the nightlight–or any outlets at all if you’ll be in a tent.
Emergency glow sticks can be used instead, and older children may even be comforted by carrying theirs with them to the bathroom in the night. Most stay illuminated up to 12 hours and await your discovery near the checkout counters at hardware stores.
For more items you might not think to pack for travel with babies and toddlers–but might be very glad if you do, see Fifteen Things You Might Not Think to Pack in Chapter 4 of Travels with Baby: Deciding What to Bring.
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Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
What?! Your kids aren’t babies anymore? Head over to Family Travel 411
Note: A previous version of this article was published 3/25/16.