5 Travel Essentials for Big Kids with Wanderlust

The big family trip is just around the corner.  You’re busy with a few last minute splurges – and a growing list of absolutely must-have items, all underlined twice and written in CAPS.  

You will somehow manage to get in every single thing you and your family needs to enjoy a wonderful vacation. . . but it’s all from your perspective.  Sure, the kids have some coloring books to keep them busy before the dinner order comes out.  They have some audio books or films to keep them quiet in the car or in the air.  Maybe even games or toys that they can play with before turning in.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  Most of what you’re packing for the kids is actually designed to keep them engaged in an activity they could do at home, rather than to be an active participant in a wholly new adventure. 

With a few simple travel essentials, your child will be recognized as a valid participant on the trip.  Whether you’re doing an adult activity like a visit to MOMA, or something more typically child-friendly, they’ll be interacting directly with their surroundings—and they’ll be immortalizing memories, making this trip extra special for years to come.

Maps and Guides

Let’s face it, kids love maps.  They love to know where they are in the world, and where they’re heading.  Get your kiddos a series of maps to get them involved–even before you’re in the air or on the road.  And the more maps, the better.  World maps if you’re going international; state maps, city maps with streets, resort or campsite maps. . . they’ll love them all!

Is your child a nature enthusiast?  Get some maps of hiking trails, nature reserves, or zoos.  A stargazer?  Some maps of the observatory you’re planning on visiting are in order.

Guidebooks and leaflets are great too.  You can get general guides on the local area or something more tailored to your child’s passions like local flora or fauna.  Or visit your favorite travel site online and help them print out a few points of interest for themselves!

Treasure Box

The trinkets you get at the souvenir shop are great.  But there will be so many aspects to your trip worth remembering that they just don’t make a keychain for.  Make some space in your suitcase for your child’s own treasure box.  A simple kids’ shoebox will do. . . and they can decorate it before their trip.  Or, if you’re tight on space, simply dedicate a pocket in their backpack to stash all their loot.

There will be ticket stubs for entry to their favorite locations. . . Wrappers from a treat they never tasted before. . .  They might find an unusual feather; a shell, or a flower begging to be pressed. . . maybe even a coin or a postage stamp from a foreign land.  Kids are always finding something that’s a treasure in their world.  A treasure box will keep them on the lookout for more.


Head out to your local stationary store for a vacation journal.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something special that will have your kids filling page after page.

A journal is a great way to keep your kids’ writing skills up to par  while they spend time out of the classroom.  Knowing that there is a nightly entry to write will get your kids thinking about the day’s events in a whole new way.  They’ll love reading their journal post-vacation too–and you’ll enjoy hearing about the activities most memorable to them.  You’re in for some real eye-openers!


Binoculars really get kids connected to their environment and engaged in the act of observing.  They’re easy to carry around and don’t weigh down your hands.  Kids will love using their own set, regardless of where they are. 

They can try to get a closer look of Teddy Roosevelt’s eyeball on Mount Rushmore.  They can try to see all the way over to the other side of the Grand Canyon.  Or sitting on the beach, they can watch the pelicans in the sky.

Kiddie Camera

You’ll be busy snapping away pictures on your holiday, so why not them?  Invest in a nice little kiddie digital camera and let them capture memories of their own.  Fisher-Price makes some excellent Kid-Tough models that can survive almost any accident, store 2,000 photos, shoot video, and run on batteries (so you don’t have to keep recharging!)

Regardless which camera you choose, your children will feel all grown-up with a camera of their own.  And you might discover that while your trip to New York City was all about the shopping for you, it was the pigeons and the clouds that really grabbed your child’s attention.

What are some of your family’s favorite travel essentials?  Share with us!

Tags : travel with kids   vacation   holiday   travel essentials   packing   family trip   travel must haves   maps   guides   treasure   keepsake   mementos   souvenirs   journal   binoculars   camera   gear   

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