Top 10 Travel Essentials for the Busy Mom

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travel essentials

Now that I’ve finished business (and fun) travel for the year, I’ve amassed a list of my top travel essentials. Whether I am traveling for work or fun, I can’t live without these essential items. This list excludes wardrobe essentials like suits and or a neutral pair of shorts, as my travel wardrobe is dictated by the destination I’m traveling to. The best part is that they fit in a hand-carry for short trips or a suitcase for longer hauls.

1 | Portable Power Bank

My husband, a tech junkie, introduced this to me a few years ago, and I just purchased one this year. It has saved me from scouring coffee shops or airports for open outlets. They easily fit into any bag and work with multiple devices. As a family, we pack one for each person when we travel.

2 | Reusable Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is essential for travel. I always travel with my Contigo water bottle. I save money, waste less plastic, and stay hydrated! They come in a variety of colors, are easy to clean and fit in most airplane pockets. They also come in small sizes for kids.

3 | Reusable Snack Bags

The rush of travel always leaves me (us) hungrier than usual, so I pack my own snacks for the airplane, as I can’t wait for drink service to nibble. Reusable snack bags are handy to have at all times, and, like the water bottles, helps us reduce our plastic consumption.  We buy a ton of them in multiple sizes and designs for my daughter, Ilse’s, snacks and our own.

4 | A Cotton Scarf

Unless it’s in the middle of the dog days of summer, I pack a scarf. Better yet, I wear it when I fly. Scarves are useful as travel blankets or an extra layer of warmth when I don’t pack anything heavier than a cardigan for a trip. If you’re a nursing mommy, they make great cover-ups too. If you are shopping for a new scarf, I gave my recommendations in a previous post.

5 | Double-duty make-up

In the last two years, my business travel and personal travel has nearly doubled. Rather than travel with my whole make-up bin (like I need 5 lipsticks for a four-day trip), I’ve tried to shrink my travel makeup to those that provide the most uses and take up little space. Double-duty makeup is makeup that can be used in more than one application, like eyeshadow that can be used as eyeliner or foundation that also has sunblock.  Here are just a few of my favorite makeup essentials: 

Garnier Skin Active BB Cream

Bobbi Brown Skin Long- wear Weightless Foundation

Garnier SkinActive Facial Mist Spray with Rose Water

Maybelline Nude Eyeshadow Palette (12 shadows in slim case) 

Benetint Lip & Cheek Stain (a water-based stain for lips and cheeks).

6 | Cross-body bag

This is the third time I’ve written about my love for cross-body bags, and I can’t say enough. They will save your life, because they will free your hands for other things, like that coffee you are trying to drink or your wandering child. When I travel for work, I pack mine in my carry-on case and use it for visiting clients. I always look for large ones with long, sturdy straps. For leisure, it is my personal item.

7 | Expandable carry-on suitcase

The perfect carry-on suitcase should fit in the overhead bin on the plane, be lightweight, and offer the flexibility of expandability. I am devoted to my Samsonite one, but other brands make comparable cases. Tip: When you can, test the bag in person. It will give you a better feel for the bag’s dimensions and maneuverability. I also use a bright name tag to differentiate my mine from the sea of black cases at the luggage carousel.  

8 | A notebook and pen

Traveling inspires my writing. I keep a small notebook and pen on me to jot down sights, phrases, musings, even a recipe. For family trips, we pack one for Ilse with multicolored pens so she can doodle and muse too.

9 | CeraVe cream

CeraVe cream is my gold standard for body creams. It’s lightweight, non-greasy, and keeps my skin moisturized all day. I tote mine in 3 oz travel bottles and try to bring at least two. Best of all, it’s gentle for the whole family, so all three of us pack one in each of our cases.

10| The Maps App on my mobile phone

Did you know that you can save destinations on a list on your mobile phone’s map app? I didn’t until a few years ago (another wonderful thing my husband introduced to me). Rather than memorize addresses and place them on an excel doc or mobile note app, I create a list within my phone’s map app. I save restaurants, attractions, drugstores to lists for the cities I travel to, so I don’t have to stress about it when I land. I shared my Seattle list with a fellow mommy who recently took her family there for the Veteran’s Weekend. It’s a fabulous tool.

Traveling can be stressful, whether you travel for work or for fun. Make it easier by curating your own travel essential list and keep it in your travel case for easy reference. Every family’s needs are different. What are your travel essentials?


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Jeanne is a married, full-time working mom with an MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University and BA in Communications from San Francisco State University. She is an Associate Director of Sales for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and loves that her career enables her to promote the city she loves. Jeanne and her husband Daniel live in San Francisco with their two daughters, Ilse and Alice. When Jeanne is not working, writing, or volunteering at Ilse's school, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and cooking from her collection of cookbooks (70 and growing) while sipping Hudson Bay Bourbon. Follow her adventures on Instagram.


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