Sometimes it’s hard to know what to bring when travelling, backpacking or hiking with kids. After all, they have slightly different needs and preferences to adults, so here’s a list of tried and tested kids’ travel items. We wouldn’t leave home without them!
There are some pretty funky designs available, and you can be sure that your child would be proud to sport one on his/her back. Because they are worn essentially as a backpack, they won’t get left behind on park benches or on buses, and will leave little hands free to do as they will. An added bonus is the fact that kids just seem to love drinking through straws, and a Camelbak comes pretty close. This should mean your child will be more inclined to drink a decent amount of water and ward off dehydration. A win-win!
Kids love taking photos, so why let mum and dad have all the fun? Cameras are lightweight, portable and cheap, and can provide loads of holiday fun. What’s more, children won’t necessarily choose to shoot the same scenes as you. Those taken from the eyes of a child provide a different and often fresh perspective.
Notebook and pencils
With a bit of creativity and a touch of imagination, a notebook and pencils can be your one-stop entertainment shop. Old-school games like hangman and noughts and crosses never really get old, and if they do, there’s always drawing to be done. Failing that, how about a good story, set in the location of your travels? Don’t forget about scavenger hunts, notetaking during musueum visits, or nature journalling and sketching on a bushwalk. The sky is the limit here, and the extra weight you will be carrying is minimal.
When you are on the go with kids, it can feel like things never slow down. Buses to catch, trails to walk, camps to set up- the pace can get pretty hectic, with not a lot of room or downtime. But when you do finally get some, its wonderful to be able to let the kids have some quiet reading time, while you your own peace and quiet to balance your thoughts.
However, if you are backpacking or travelling light, chances are you are loath to carry something as heavy as a book. Yet Kindles or other Ereaders can fit thousands of books, which are often sold at a much lower price than their paperback counterparts. The batteries on these devices have an amazingly long life, making them practical for long distance treks or backpacking trips.
When it comes to travel, socks ain’t socks. I you are expecting your child to cover any reasonable distance by foot, then socks should take priority centre-stage, along with a good quality pair of shoes, of course. While wool socks can be up to three times the price of the standard polyester variety, they are renowned for their abilities to vent moisture and heat. This prevents overheating and sweating, two of the main factors responsible for tender feet or blisters. Wool socks are even able to insulate efficiently when wet. Hopefully, all this adds up to less moaning and groaning about having sore feet, and happier soles at the end o the day!
For the older child, I believe a pocket knife is a travel essential. After choosing an age-appropriate model and providing some instruction on using it safely, you’ll find that kids can use them for a million different purposes. So far, ours has been used for cutting out scrapbook pictures (because who wants to carry scissors?), helping to cut up fruit salad, picking out hooves and whittling tent pegs. Knowing that your child has a pocket knife is also a great safety net for when you happen to lose your own!
Something to swim in
It seems silly to pack a pair of bathers when you are pretty sure there won’t be a swimming opportunity in sight. So we never do. But a quick dip has the magical ability to increase a child’s happiness levels by about a thousand fold. As a result, even if you decided to forgo the swimwear, it’s probably a great idea to make sure that your child has something in his/ her pack that can double as a swimming outfit. For us, it’s a lightweight merino top and lightweight board shorts- standard items that we carry with us on any camp or hike.
Many parents immediately reach for the sunscreen when venturing outside with their children. However, it is probably a healthier choice to supplement sunscreen application with long sleeve shirts (there are many cooler, lightweight sorts on the market now) and broad-brimmed hats. We all know that even in overcast weather, one can quickly become surprisingly burned. At least if your child is covered up, you wont need to feel guilty about forgetting that last sunscreen top up!
Packing sacks/ cubes
If your child is old enough to tie their laces, they are probably also old enough to be responsible for packing and carrying some of their own gear. However, methodical, timely and practical packing takes time and practise. Unless you want to be pulling your hair out with frustration at lumpy bags overflowing with gear, provide your child with some stuff sacks. Together, decide on a packing system- ie, orange bag for clean clothes, red bag for dirty, blue bag for knick knacks, then into the pack they all go. Stuff sacks or packing cubes don’t weigh much, and it will make packing and searching for items more manageable for everyone.
It’s not always easy to grab a shower on the road, despite the importance of maintaining a decent level of personal hygiene when travelling with kids. Many families opt for baby wipes as an alternative, but these can be heavy and bulky for lightweight backpacking. This is where a good ol’ flannel comes in. It can be dipped in fountains, streams, etc and used for a quick scrub, to mop up grubby hands before a meal, or even a bona-fide bush shower under the stars. Choose a lightweight flannel that dries quickly, and provided there is a bit of water about, you can always keep the dirt at bay.
First Aid Kit with Extra Bandaids
Most parents carry a first aid kit when travelling or even just walking out the front door. A wise move indeed, although the majority of the time, most first aid items sit neglected at the bottom of the box, playing second fiddle to the ever sought-after band aids. Commercial first aid kits just NEVER seem to include enough of these things. If you are hitting the trails with kids, bring an extra box in anticipation of minor falls and scrapes. Chances are, you’ll need them.
Although these won’t cost you a cent, they are invaluable when travelling with children. One day a lightweight carry bag or separating dirty laundry, the next day a handy container for some impromptu shell collecting. Dont forget to check for holes before you pack them.
Although it is tempting to pack the kids’ toys or electronic devices, thus giving mum and dad some much-needed time out, try living dangerously by leaving them behind. That way, your kids will be encouraged to create their own entertainment and live in the moment, thus making the whole trip a much more enriching and creative experience. For those times when a diversion or time-filler may be needed, pack a set of mini playing cards. The cute factor will provide novelty value, and there are a never-ending variety of games that the kids can their hand at. Even younger children can enjoy old classics like Old Maid, Crazy 8s, Go Fish and Snap.
So obvious, but yet so easy to forget, especially when you think you’ll find something on the way (and don’t!), or think you won’t be out for long (and are!).
Try investing in one little plastic Tupperware container per child, and whether you are on a hike or pounding the city streets, fill it with nutritious treats to get them through the day. Our favourites include dried fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, nuts, boiled eggs, and cheese cubes.