After 11+ years of traveling together (!), Jamie and I have nailed down pretty well what makes us irritated when we travel. Because travel for leisure is just that – for leisure – our motto is that we want to cut out as many frustrations as we can predict before we go on vacation. Nobody likes to bicker on vacation because a member of the party is annoyed, tired, frustrated, not prepared, etc. 🙂
In the same breath, we are also very conscious that we aren’t spending monopoly money on vacation, so we try hard to be financially savvy while also spending where necessary in order to truly relax and have a good time.
Whether you’re planning a big international trip with your family or just going away for the weekend with your spouse, here is our gigantic list of suggestions that we apply that helps ensure a wonderful time away with loved ones.
Use packing cubes to cut down on luggage.
Whether you want your luggage to stay more organized while you travel or you simply just need to fit more in your suitcase, these packing cubes are vital for your next trip. They are all the rage right now, and for good reason! Everyone is figuring out that packing is simply just better with them. We packed our entire family of four for seven nights in two full-sized suitcases, still bringing every. single. thing. that we wanted to bring. I rolled all of our clothing and assigned everyone (well, at least we girls) one or two cubes. I am a believer, and you will be too! I strongly recommend this pack of cubes.
Snacks + Water
We always bring a handful of packaged snacks and pack them individually in everyone’s carry-on bags. Not only does this save money from overspending in gas stations or airports, but they keep you from getting “hangry” at inopportune times (a major trip stressor for many when things are unpredictable getting to and from your destination). We also pack one empty water bottle in each person’s carry-on bag. Jamie loves his Nalgene, Hadley and Sadie love their Camelbak and Contigo, and I just grab whatever is clean from the cabinet.
Splurge and rent a car seat.
If you’re flying, we suggest renting a car seat along with your rental car. We have rented car seats to go in our rental car several times and never regret it. Jamie identified that unhooking the heavy convertible car seat(s), bagging them up, potentially hauling them on a shuttle to the airport, getting them checked in, hoping it arrives at our destination, and then doing it all again on the back end of the trip made the very beginning and end of his vacation slightly irritating. Plus, if he’s carrying luggage plus car seats, I’m the one stuck with all of the kiddos and their belongings without extra hands.
Yes, renting them at your destination adds an additional cost (we paid $70 for the week in Grand Cayman for Sadie), but my goodness, that’s a drop in the bucket for what the whole trip cost, and it simplified numerous parts of our travel experience in a positive way.
Consider a Bubble Bum.
This inflatable booster seat is highly rated on the internet, so we purchased one for Hadley to use in Grand Cayman and on future vacations where we’ll be needing to rent a car. I will admit that I said a few extra prayers while riding around that we stayed safe because this Bubble Bum is obviously nowhere near as safe as a five-point harness, but at over 40 pounds, she meets the weight limit for safely using this seat. She thought it was so (so so so) awesome, and it was gentle on our wallet and our suitcases, plus it kept her safe.
Book your rental car ASAP.
Unlike flights which seem to go up and down depending on how long you wait to book, rental cars typically continue to go up up up in price the longer you wait to book. As soon as you know you’re traveling, book your car. You can typically cancel up to a few days prior to the trip at no cost, so go ahead and book as soon as you can. We got a killer deal on our car in Grand Cayman because we booked five months in advance. We also got Southwest reward miles by booking our car through their website. Every little bit counts!
PS: We actually traded in Southwest reward miles for Budget Rental Car gift certificates, so we paid next to nothing for our rental car + car seat for the whole week! Again, every teeeeeny bit helps when you’re traveling!
What does your lodging provide?
When making your packing list, hop back on the hotel or Airbnb’s website and scrutinize what the listing says is included. Don’t assume they have a hairdryer or iron; Double check! Also, you will save a ton of packing space by leaving your beach towels at home after checking to make sure that your lodging provides pool or beach towels.
Don’t go international without Maps.Me!
This incredible app works in airplane mode when you are off of WiFi, just like if you were driving around at home using your maps app. Incredible! It’s completely free, very accurate, and a total game changer when driving around in a foreign country.
Don’t have time to shop for new clothes for your trip but would love a few new items to bring along? Schedule your entire family a Stitch Fix box! We all got one a week or two before the trip. Sadie and Jamie ended up keeping about half of their boxes, Hadley kept the whole thing (!), and I actually kept nothing. Ha! None of us NEEDED new clothes per se (except Hadley since she seems to need new clothes every season since she’s growing like a weed!), but Stitch Fix is always so much fun. And who doesn’t like to wear a new garment or pair of shoes on vacation?
PS: Stitch Fix officially offers boxes for men, women, children, plus sizes, maternity, and athletics for men. Best quality clothes ever, ever, ever. Honestly the biggest reason I continue to shop with them. I know the pieces will last me (and my family) dozens of wears and washes.
Additionally, here are a few beach-specific recommendations that we can’t recommend enough for your family.
These sand toys were so fun for the kids! They come in a tiny mesh bag and are so easy to travel with. Even Jamie enjoyed sitting in the sand building castles with these toys. Highly, highly recommend this Melissa and Doug set, which is on sale for $13 right now, down from $20!
This snorkel mask (linked here) has a middle-of-the-road price but is excellent. Tightening and loosening was very easy, allowing Jamie, Hadley, and me to all use it whenever we wanted. Fantastic quality for your money.
This water vest was a Godsend. Nearly every second that we were on the beach, the girls were wearing these Speedo jackets. Very comfortable, UPF 50+, and super lightweight. They do not have the full buoyancy of a regular life jacket (meaning they are not fully life saving), but they were excellent as swim aids if our girls waded into the ocean while our heads were turned. Even though Hadley can swim independently, we wanted her to be extra safe from potential waves, etc. Currently on sale on Amazon with an additional 15% coupon available!
Natives are a gift to parents. Yes yes yes. They are slip resistant, easy to put on, machine washable (but air dry of course!), and just the very best shoes. Look at my Grand Cayman pictures and they’re pretty much all you’ll see on my babes. 🙂 Dozens of colors and sizes available on Amazon.
We grabbed hats and sunglasses for the girls at Target, and they girls really, really loved them. Easy to pack in suitcases and provided extra necessary sun protection. I wore a hat that I’d purchased from Amazon a couple years ago and have more than gotten my money’s worth!
Coconut oil was our best friend. I packed a few heaping scoops in a ziplock bag, double-bagged it, and took it with us. Whether it’s in melted form or re-solidifies, it is a miracle oil. We used it on Sadie’s sand-irritated skin, my sunburn, to wash our faces, and as a general lotion when necessary. A little bit goes a long way and it absorbs super quickly. I get this kind from Subscribe and Save on Amazon.
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother in today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 5 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo