What's in your bag?
If you're a mom on a trip with her kids, you probably feel like you've got everything you might need, whatever happens -- minor injuries, delays, hunger, thirst, meltdowns -- not to mention your electronic devices, passports, if you're leaving the country, toys, itineraries and maybe even a guidebook. That's not even accounting for all the extra supplies you need when traveling with a baby or toddler.
That's why that bag is so important. (Are you listening dads and kids?) You don't want to end up like I did on my way out of the country with a bag that broke at the airport.
With Mother's Day a week away, there's no better time to splurge on a new tote for mom. I've become a fan of the large MZ Wallace Metro Tote($225) because it is lightweight, made of quilted stain- and water-resistant nylon, foldable, rollable, packable, zips up and includes three detachable travel pouches.
Another good bet is the new stylish Kinzie Street tote also made of a high-performance fabric that debuts May 1 fromBriggs and Riley. It's designed with a special padded, fleece-lined tablet pocket and RFID blocking pockets to protect against identity theft and credit card theft. I like all of the other organizer pockets and a "SpeedThru" pocket for storing travel belongings. It's$229.
The camera-toting mom will love those designed by Louisiana -based photographer, designer and mother of three, Kelly Moore. They are durable (made of Cambrio, a new material produced exclusively for the company, that is water resistant, abrasion resistant and vegan friendly), affordable ($139 to $249) and include a signature removable basket that can hold a camera body and lenses, adjustable dividers and plenty of pockets. The Monroe model has a detachable clutch; The Collins model can hold up to a 10-inch-long lens and has an outside zipper pocket for credit cards and more.
Since 1944, traveling moms have sworn by L.L. Bean’s Boat and Tote Bagsthat continue to be handmade in Maine. Originally, their big selling point was that they were strong enough to carry heavy ice blocks. Today, the company boasts that these totes are the strongest available, tested to hold 500 pounds. I've seen people toting puppies in them! As the large bag retails for less than $50, splurge on a monogram for mom!
Now that you've got that all-important bag, you need to fill it up. An extra lightweight, moisture-wicking layer is always nice to stash in that tote. What's mom's favorite color?
I don't leave home without my Camelbak Forge, the first travel mug with a self-sealing cap and lock-open button. My coffee stays hot for hours and there are no spills or leaks -- a bargain at under $30. If the mom in your life always has a water bottle in her tote, check out the new colorful National Parks collection from Camelbak -- get one to remind mom of a favorite trip -- blue from Acadia; orange from theGrand Canyon, green for Great Smoky Mountains with iconic images. They're just $15.
A new tablet is always nice, as they possess ever more versatility, longer battery power and are as small as seven inches. Tech Radar offers a list of the top 10 so far in 2016, including the iPad mini 4 that they say is the best small-screen tablet on the market, and it can be had for under $75.
Certainly mom doesn't want to run out of juice -- not when the kids want to play games on her phone. I never have, since I started using my Mophie battery case. For the iPhone 6s/6 the case is smaller and lighter weight, under $60 (I got one for less on eBay), and will give you 60 percent more battery life. There's a more expensive waterproof one. They come with an integrated standby switch, allowing you to either charge your phone or save juice. Nice! You can also find back-up portable chargers that are inexpensive. Some can even charge two devices at once.
Mom may not want to carry a guidebook with her, but she'll enjoy reading about the places she's planning to go this year. If she's a hiker, there's "The Backpacker National Parks Coast to Coast 100 Best Hikes", by Ted Alvarez. The book offers everything from easy day hikes to multiday trips. The photos are great too! ($26, or $24.99 for the ebook version.)
A novel set in a place you have vacationed or plan to go would likely please a mom who loves to read. Better yet, ask your librarian for some suggestions that you can give to mom with a gift certificate for her eBook reader.
Every mom I know would appreciate a small organizer bag (I love the inexpensive ($10.95) Pack-It Sacsfrom Eagle Creek that you can fill with small containers of sunscreen, lip balm and hand lotion, so she'll always have it at the ready. (If your mom flies, you'll want to get a clear bag and remember you are limited to 3.4 ounce containers!) Ditto for her favorite energy bars or the candy she reserves for a special treat. (Maybe a bar of decadent dark chocolate?)
Should mom get that rare chance to take a nap on a plane or in the car, a travel pillow would be nice to have. You can find them everywhere -- look for one that's compressible like the self-inflating neck pillow from Brookstone. Just don't steal it from her!
Time to start shopping? I hope my family is
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.