When traveling, there is an excellent chance that something will go wrong. This is just how it goes sometimes. It is not always spa treatments and postcard-perfect destinations. Sometimes, your child gets sick and you weren’t planning on doing laundry. Sometimes, there’s no coffee pot and, if you are me, this can be catastrophic. Planes get delayed, the apartment you rented is nasty, there’s a heat wave and they do not use washcloths in Europe. The ways an otherwise perfectly enjoyable trip could go wrong, are many. But there are ways to prepare, by packing for the unexpected.

Packing for the Unexpected

I always pack six things to help offset some of the unexpected things that happen during travel.

  1. I am an avid coffee drinker, but I am also on a budget. Therefore, I cannot buy coffee every day. I typically pack a small, glass french press. I always have access to a pot for boiling water and this way mom gets at least one cup of good coffee. Also, I pack a small amount of ground coffee either in a Ziploc bag or a quarter-pound bag from a company.
  2. I cannot count how many times I have been in a hotel or hostel without access to a washing machine. Of course, a child has peed his pants, smeared strawberries from collar to socks, or pooped in that reusable swim diaper that I thought was a good idea. With a fold away clothesline I can hand wash the clothing and stretch the clothesline out across the room to dry the items on. This is not a perfect solution — and I tend to rewash as soon as possible — but it prevents our luggage from smelling. Also, the clothesline works really well for hanging wet bathing suits!Packing for the Unexpected
  3. Following the clothesline is, of course, laundry detergent. I typically take one checked bag with me. Therefore, I pack a few liquid detergent pods in a Ziploc bag. I can poke a hole in the pod and use as little or as much as I need. If you are only taking a carry on bag — great job — you can still take a small amount of powder detergent with you.
  4. When traveling internationally, you will find that most supermarkets charge for plastic bags. To save money, and the environment, I bring reusable bags along. I have used these bags for everything from a beach bag to a makeshift purse.
  5. This one may shock you, but I always bring a blow-up beach ball! It packs flat, taking up very little space, and while you are unpacking, or trying to get dinner made, a beach ball is a lifesaver. It acts as amazing entertainment to children that have been cooped up in a plane all day. Of course, it helps that the act of blowing it up can also serve as entertainment for children.
  6. A pair of zip-off convertible pants for each person is a game-changer when unexpected weather hits. They are quick to dry, can be used as shorts or pants, and are very durable. Packing for the Unexpected

The Unexpected Happened

When traveling with children, there is a great chance that some form of backup will be needed to save your sanity. If you can foresee a few of these problems before they happen, then you are two steps ahead. Obviously, a clothesline is not going to fix every problem that arises. It can make you feel like you have a little bit of control over some problems when they do arise.

There is so much fun to have and exploring to do, I would hate for you to spend your time worrying about washing dirty underwear. Motherhood does this to us though! As mothers, we have been rewired to fret about the daily tasks. When we cannot see the end of the to-do list, we tend to internally — and sometimes externally — panic. I hope that this list brings you some comfort and ideas on packing for the unexpected.

Staying a while? Get some ideas in Packing for Extended Stays.

Packing for the unexpected


Photo Credits: Lydia Bradbury

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