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The world is opening up again, and people are hitting the road and filling airplanes faster than it takes to go through a Chick-fil-A drive-thru line.

three children with suitcases in an airport

If you’re ready to travel again but feeling a little rusty, you’re not alone. Getting back into the traveling groove is harder than it sounds, but that “use it or loose it” leave isn’t going to travel by itself. So it’s time for you to get packing and get out of town.

We’re a family of five (our kids are currently 4, 6, and 8 years old). We PCS’d to Germany during the peak of the pandemic (June 2020), so we’ve done lots of local road trips. We just got back from our first plane ride in more than a year. Before that, we spent ample time bonding together in the car doing road trips all across America.

Three Family Travel Essentials

If I had to pick three essential must-haves for a military family traveling either by road or by air this summer, these are my top picks:

Family Passport Holder

person holding a passport holder in an airport

When we got word that we were headed overseas for our next assignment, I immediately headed to Etsy to find some fun passport covers for our new adventure. But then I started adding up how many passports our family of five owns: TEN. We each have a tourist passport and our no-fee, government passport.

TEN passports; can you imagine? Actually, I bet many of you are in the same boat.

Once I started thinking about ten passports, my mind started spiraling. How in the world would we carry them all when we traveled? I quickly shifted my search from something kitschy to something more practical, like this family passport holder that’s basically our holy grail when we travel.  

Not only does it hold all of our passports, but it zips up with multiple pockets inside and on the outside. It has a slot for an SIM card (handy if you’re changing cards/phones based on location), a pen holder, and pockets on the outside. It’s also handy for holding boarding passes and luggage claim stickers.

Basically, it’s perfect and every military family, especially if you’re living OCONUS, absolutely needs this.

Packing Cubes

packing cubes on a bed

I don’t know where these packing cubes were the first time we lived overseas, but they’re a game changer now, especially with a family.

We used to use Ziploc bags to organize the kids’ clothes. As the kids grew bigger, those bags were harder to fill, and they’d end up tearing before the trip was over.

The packing cubes we’ve been using (listed here) have lasted us at least more than three years at this point. I love them so much I got one color for each family member, so now there’s absolutely no confusion for whose stuff is in what bag. 

Packing cubes make packing a breeze since everything is contained and organized. They get put in a suitcase or a big backpack, so there’s no more digging around searching for things. If we’re doing a smaller weekend trip, I’ll typically only use one set of cubes for all of us and put duct tape on top of a bag to label what’s inside (doesn’t leave any sticky residue).

Pro tip for a short trip: Pack everyone’s clothes for the day and put each days’ stuff in ONE bag. For example: I’d label “Saturday” on a bag, and all of our clothes for Saturday are in that bag.

Portable Potty

young girl in a purple dress holding a travel or portable potty seat

If you have young kids, listen up: you need this portable travel potty in your life.

Going on a road trip when you’re a military family means your time is valuable. I get it: you’re probably on a road trip to visit family or take a cherished vacation. That leave didn’t come easily, and you want to soak up as much time at your destination as possible.

So, when your newly potty-trained three-year-old says she has to go potty, the last thing you want to do is wait an extra 15 minutes for the next rest stop or chance it by having her pee on the side of the road (hope you brought extra clothes for that inevitable mess).

This potty seat folds up easily and can be kept in the trunk or under a seat. Make sure you buy the liners compatible with the seat—they have an absorbent pad inside—and have some baby wipes handy instead of toilet paper.

My oldest is too tall to use this if it’s on the ground, but if we set it on the edge of our van’s door she can use it perfectly. We just make sure there’s nobody around, or we shield her if she’s using it in a more public place.

Have you used any of these? Need them in your life? Let me know in the comment section. I’d also love to hear where you’re taking leave and traveling to this year.

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