Sunday 26 February 2017

Top 10 travel must haves #MarkWarnerMum

This was my entry to become a #MarkWarnerMum, my last year being a mum to a child, as the youngest of 5 turns 18 this year. My year of teaching in FS last year has paid off. I can cut and stick like the best of them. Although I might have done better if I'd employed a small child to do it for me.

When it came to choosing my Top 10 travel must-haves, I thought it would be an easy task, but as you can see from the pictures it actually got really complicated, quite quickly.

Apart from the tea, neck pillow and the white board, I will take all this with me on my UK trip in March. I have a 30kg baggage allowance so the rucksack will be packed in my case and I'll use the small wheeled bag with everything else inside that, as I'll be making a couple of short haul trips to Ireland and Germany for long weekends where I'll only be limited by bag size and not weight.

It has been a long time since I've travelled with children, in fact our last family holiday with all 7 of us was in 2003 to France. It was our one and only holiday as a family of 7 since our eldest child is profoundly disabled, flying is impossible, long car journeys and ferry trips were not good.

Our holidays to France for the summer became 6, then we ventured further afield to Turkey and finally America in 2007 before the first of the boys left home, then Tunisia as a family of 5. A move to South Africa in 2011 as a family of 4, saw us driving around exploring the coast line, camping in Kruger, trips to the sea side in Durban and internal flights and on one occasion the train from Johannesburg to Cape Town. In 2015 we moved to Dubai as a family of 2 and travel became a solo venture, as we took it in turns to visit the kids and family in the UK or they came out to holiday with us.

As mum, it has always been my job to pack for the family, the car, the cases, check the passports, ensure everyone has something to entertain themselves with whether its a car journey, ferry crossing, short, long haul or a flight with a lay over. After moving abroad the children made the trips on their own, apart from a trip to Egypt in January where I flew back with my husband, none of us have actually travelled together for a long time.

My view of travel has changed greatly, so when I actually thought about my top 10 travel must haves, I hit a brick wall. I realised I pack differently for different journeys and often start and finish my trips in different locations. It's always sunny in Dubai, so I can pack well in advance for the UK or SA, regardless of the time of year.

Long haul flights with a lay over require me to pack differently and depending on whether I'm flying in or out of Johannesburg, I have to consider valuables and can't pack paperwork in my hand luggage as it takes me over my allowance. When you fly long haul flights your baggage allowance is 30kg, but your hand allowance is limited to between 7-10kg and they do weigh it.

Short haul flights again depend on who I fly with and my destination as well as length of stay.

2017 is a busy year of travel for me, but not a holiday in sight, just trips to stay with family and friends, this informs what I need to pack, which airlines I have booked with and the type of luggage I need to take.

I plan this year to travel with my 6 year old niece, I'd love to take her on a flight to the sun, to a beach for a week and to be honest I've no idea what I'd need to pack extra for her, she is epileptic so it means my sister would be coming also, so she'll take full responsibility for their packing.

Of course everyone had their own hand luggage and when the kids were little I made sure they all had something to entertain themselves with on long journeys, spare batteries for game boys, a colouring or sticker book, maybe a teddy or action man and a change of clothes.

So apart from what I usually carry in my handbag, wallet, phone, sunglasses, notepad and pen. I'll assume I can add my passport, here's the rest of my Top 10 travel must haves, based on the fact, I do the booking of flights, hotels, car hire, trips etc. I need to be as stress free as possible, happy and relaxed, because despite all the travel I do, I'm still quite a nervous flyer.

1. Flip Flops
Always packed in my hand luggage to use on the plane, there’s nothing worse than walking down the aisles and using the bathroom in bare feet or sticky socks and who actually keeps their boots/shoes on when flying. Handy also for the beach and poolside at your destination or in my case as slippers.

2. Rucksack or small fold up bag.
On long haul flights, hand luggage size and weight is monitored closely, I find by using my leather rucksack is easier to manage and fits under the seat in front of me on the plane and makes life easier the other end when collecting your suitcase. If I’m only travelling for a few days or on low cost airlines, with only a one bag allowance for everything, I take a foldable canvas bag with me, that once airside I can use to hold the essentials I want to use on the plane.

3. Sturdy wheels and handles.

It would appear from experience that most suitcases are meant only for 1 annual holiday a year and should live in the attic the rest of the time and on that annual holiday the suit case travels on it’s wheels on nothing other than tiled floor for short distances. I however can make up to 8 long haul flights a year, that’s 8 years of normal travel for most people and their luggage. My suitcase spends more time on pavements, up and down steps, on and off trains and buses and having suffered wheel and zip failure in the past, it’s important your suitcase wheel can cope with rugged surfaces. This case has yet to make a journey with me, but the salesman demonstrated it’s versatility by throwing one around the store, dragging it up steps by it’s handle, and bouncing it on it’s wheels. It wasn’t cheap, but comes with a lifetime warranty, so watch this space.

4. Wet wipes. 

To remove make up and freshen up on long haul flights, to clean my hands 
with before an in flight meal and to wipe the tray with as soon as I'm seated 
and I always travel in a window seat so I wipe the plastic down that I'm going to be resting my head.

5. Travel plug/laptop/phone/camera.

Don’t under estimate your need for an adapter and if you have room 
an extension cable would be handy as I often find plug sockets are located behind the bed or heavy bedside tables and chaos can ensue if the TV is on, the kettle boiling and you want to charge your phone. If I’m making a long haul trip and I’m visiting home or friends, I take
my laptop with me, but on a recent trip to Egypt I decided to leave it 
at home as I was travelling with hand luggage only and decided my camera was going to be more valuable to me.

6. Cool bag.

Even when staying in full board or all inclusive there are times when you just want a snack or drink and not have to traipse off to a 
restaurant or cafĂ© to do so, especially when it can often mean having 
to pack up all your belongings at pool side or on the beach and when travelling with kids, that is quite a task. I pack a cool bag that if 
nothing else contains at least one bar of emergency chocolate and to take milk back to your hotel room, because in my opinion they never provide you with enough.

7.  Pashmina.

I carry a pashmina with me everywhere I go, not just when I’m travelling.
The pashmina can be used for sitting on, especially useful if wearing light coloured trousers, as a head covering in the middle east, to slip over my shoulders if it gets chilly and to protect from sun burn. It can also be used to wrap up all your wet beach wear so save the inside of the bag getting sandy or wet.

8. Headphones.

These come in two different sizes and usually both are packed. I tend to only make short haul flights after I've reached the UK or South Africa. I find these ears buds uncomfortable to use on long flights, preferring the over the ear ones. The small ones come in handy at the destination for listening to music on my iPhone, usually though a child breaks or loses there's and spares are always handy.

9. Luggage labels, straps and added security.

Leaving South Africa I have my case cling wrapped, but I also never put anything of value in it, which includes paperwork, if needed, so these days all my documents are scanned and a copy is left a theme in case my laptop were to go missing or break. I use cable ties on the zips and only put my destination tag on the case, which I swop for my home address on the rerun journey.

10. Tea.

Depending on the length of my trip and my destination I always pack tea, this also includes weekends away and even days out if I'm not in the UK. I can pretty much do without anything else on the above list, but if I can't get a decent cup of tea, things can go horribly wrong.

Well that took longer to write and made more mess than the actual packing for a holiday of 7, but I had fun and that's the main thing.



  1. Oh yes, tea for sure. And always a pashmina- sort of the more classy version of Douglas Adams' towel

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