Treasure Trove of Travel Tips {The Grove: Travel}

Can you imagine the number of collective miles (or kilometers) we share between all of us?

I’m no mathematician, but we’re talking millions of miles/kilometers, right?

Now imagine the collective amount of travel wisdom and know-how that we share. Yeah, all the lessons learned the hard way, all the game changing tricks we’ve picked up.

That’s why we’re going to create our very own “Treasure Trove of Travel Tips” (say that five times fast.) Because we all know that little tips can make a big difference when it comes to surviving and enjoying all the travel involved in our lives.

I’ll start us out, but for this to be a full-blown treasure trove, you all have to chime in with everything you know about all things travel.

Let’s include advice and tips for air travel, train rides, and road trips, because Lord knows many of us do lots of all forms of travel.

Ok, here we go:

Travel Tips:

#1 – Never fly United.

#2 – Never travel with children.

Kidding, I’m kidding. Sort of. #1 is my little revenge for the worst traveling experience of my life, but we won’t get into that.  And for #2, the best way to make kids good travelers is to…wait for it… travel with them! And consider it your own personal refining fire until they are at least 4.

Ok, on with the real list. (And I promise to include tips for traveling with littles.)


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.40.12 AMWireless G3 – A hard drive that creates a wireless connection between itself and your mobile device so that you can watch movies and shows without taking up the limited space on your mobile device. Now you can watch what you want to watch and not be limited to the airline’s lame selection. And you can back up all your pictures easily with this thing too. Oh, and it can charge the battery on your devices too. Never be stuck at the airport with a dead phone again.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.48.57 AMLuggage Scale – Raise your hand if you’ve ever created a scene trying to shift weight around in your luggage in the middle of the airport while the airline worker and the whole line behind you watches. Yeah, super stressful. This is why it’s so important to have an accurate luggage scale. This is the same brand as the one we’ve used for nine years. Super portable and deadly accurate. We astound the airline workers every time when every one of our bags is at exact weight.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.47.02 AMHeadphones – According to my acoustical engineer brother-in-law, the “noise cancellation” feature claimed on headphones ads is all a gimmick. For limiting outside sound, you actually have to have something that goes all the way over your ears. He says the best combination for price and sound quality are these. My husband has used these for years and absolutely loves them. I prefer something that doesn’t take up as much room in my bag. I’m actually on the hunt for some. Recommendations?

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.50.42 AMFlight adapter – Older airplanes still have the two prong headphone jacks, which leaves you stuck using the crummy headphones from the airline (that you sometimes have to pay for).




HomemadeScreen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.14.34 AM pompom toy – General consensus is that the toddler years are the hardest for traveling. This simple, cheap toy has an amazing ability to hold a toddler’s attention for longer than just about any toy out there. Use whatever size container you want. Nice and lightweight for the diaper bag.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.33.56 AMSpecial Play Time –traveling seasons can be really stressful for kids. Establishing “special play time” before a big trip/move helped my kiddos tremendously. We did short 10 minutes times daily (or almost daily), and it’s amazing the connection and calm this brought. If you establish the idea and routine beforehand, your child will be thrilled when you offer “special play time” on the plane.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.40.15 AMStash of lollipops – kids love to have their epic meltdowns while going through airport security. So before it’s our turn, it’s lollipops for everyone! It keeps them happily distracted so mom and dad can do the mad dance with carry-ons/backpacks/shoes/strollers/electronics. I don’t promote bribing with candy, but that rule goes out the window when we’re in the security line, because survival.


Road Tripping

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.42.18 AM5 Ways to Keep Kids Busy in the Car – Warning: Super mom alert. Do not compare yourself to her. The world has very few women who plan and prepare five fun kid activities for a two-hour car drive. Grab and use whichever of these great ideas you like, but do not compare and feel like you should be her. End of rant.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.43.22 AMElectric Cooler – How did I not know these exist?? The worst thing about road trips is the blah feeling you get from all the sitting and all the fast food. I did not know you could put a mini-fridge in your car! Plug it in and keep your food cool for every leg of your trip with no ice! Smaller version also available.


Podcast & Audio Books

If you’re one of the picturesque families that reads a family book out loud on road trips, I’m so happy for you. Truly I am. But if you’re a family like us, where the kid in the back row can’t hear unless you’re yelling the story, and you feel carsick two pages in, then maybe audio books, podcasts and movies are the way to go.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.45.15 AMChronicles of Narnia on Audio/Radio Theater – need I say more?


cover170x170Mom Struggling Well – Get ready to laugh and cry with Emily Thomas and the amazingly real moms she interviews.


top-10-podcasts-726x484Top Ten Podcasts – the list Emily Thomas shared with us right here at Velvet Ashes.



Try the audio versions for two of Velvet Ashes’ book club books!  This month we’re reading Around the World in Eighty Days, and in September we’ll read Wonder.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.58.05 AM10 of the Best Travel Apps I would add the Airbnb app for finding great places to stay.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.01.12 AM21 Free Educational Apps for Kids – plus Starfall is a favorite of ours.


SquScreen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.02.54 AMare Cash – here’s a little cultural informant tip for anyone coming back to the U.S. Square Cash is the new cash. Use the app to send money to a person for free. It’s how you pay friends back or pay the babysitter. Now you don’t have to look clueless when someone asks you if they can “square cash” you. You’re welcome.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.04.39 AMStory Kit – This super basic app makes an excellent way for you or your kids to make a visual storybook with your own photos and words. We made a book called “Goodbye China” of all our special places and people. The kids read this every night for weeks during our travels and transition. It was then neat for the kids to show loved ones their “book” when we arrived. I’ve also made “We’re going to _____” books before we travel to help my  visual processor understand what’s going to happen on a trip.


Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.08.30 AMPoo-Pourri – Let’s be real. Travel often involves living in close quarters and sharing bathrooms (and therefore bodily smells) with other people. Did you know you can save yourself embarrassment with one little squirt in the toilet before you go? It really works! No stink, just a pleasant scent! Forget travel, marriages need this.


Family Flying Tip – Keep a laminated card with family’s DOB, Passport #s. Of course you know when your children were born. But when the flight attendant wakes you from the dead sleep that took you hours to fall into, stuffing a form in your hands, your poor foggy brain does NOT want to have to work to recall that info or scramble through passports. Save yourself the brain power.


Ok, that’s the start of our Treasure Trove.  Your turn!  I know you’ve got so much to add!  To keep some organization to the comments, and to make it easy for people to scan the comments, put the category ( you can make your own categories!) in BOLD CAPS followed by your tips/advice/recommendations.  And spiritual travel advice/wisdom is definitely welcome too!


This is The Grove.  It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art.  So join us in the comments.   Link up your own blog posts or Instagram posts on this week’s prompt: TRAVEL.  Click here for details and instructions

*Amazon affiliate links included above. Purchases made through these links go towards supporting Velvet Ashes and it’s ministry.


  1. Christine June 9, 2016

    I agree with you about tip #1 but that’s a different topic. Tips and tricks for travel? Too many to list right now. The prompt did get me thinking about what we pack, how much it weighs, and how the same goes for our spiritual walks. It also made me realize that the biggest tip I have to travel well is to carry less and that that, too, can be send for our spiritual journeys. And thus a new blog post was born 🙂 Thanks for your list Danielle!

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Christine, thank you so much for sharing your story, your brokenness.  Such a moving call to live lightly.  So glad you shared it with us.

  2. Erika June 10, 2016

    I used to LOVE to travel! I LOVED the whoosh of the plane as it pushed me back in my seat, and the sensation of glimpsing a world where angels frolic. Fast forward many, many whooshings, views surrendered to smaller members of “me”, air sick hubbies, aisle seats, and public meltdowns. Airports are changed. Fear filled, running filled, heavy places of imported air and passports. It wasn’t until I recently was able to travel on my own, like, as in, by MYSELF, did I realize there is still so much magic in the air! There are still clouds, and landscapes that can bring tears to my eyes. Prayers prayed like a blanket over lands I will not likely ever stand on. Security lines.  Easy! No small people escaping through ropes they aren’t allowed under. Magic! Toilet breaks at will, food eaten alone! Splendid!

    As far as travel tips, I have never found anything that ever does the trick always, but I have found that bringing less is more. I pack a few little coloring sheets, and mazes for the kids with some colored pens. Dressing comfortably, but on the “nicer” side seems to impact how people respond to me. Wearing closed toed, slip-on shoes that are comfy for the 5 K dash between flights has been awesome (warm feet in flight, and no need to carry extra shoes or socks)! Probably most importantly, viewing the misery as inevitable, and seeing it as all part of the adventure helps! Also, I think mum/moms feel so much pressure to keep kids quiet, but I have found it helps me to do what I feel is right for them/us and try to not worry about who can hear and what they think. I feel like if I can be calmer, somehow the kids are calmer, and even the people around us seem to feel calmer.

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Haha! Traveling alone after traveling with kiddos IS magical!  And yes, yes, and yes to all your tips.  If I can stay relaxed the kids do a much better job of being relaxed too!

  3. Lindsay June 10, 2016

    Thanks for your different tips.

    My favorite travel app is called trail wallet. You can create a trip, add multiple currencies, assign categories, etc. we have a category called business expenses. When we get home, we easily send the info to an excel file with a tap on the phone. Awesome and easy expenses!

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Nice!  I hadn’t heard of Trail Wallet. What a great tip.  Thanks!

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Yes, asking for prayer is huge!  And these stickers look great!  Melissa & Doug make such good toys.

  4. Amy June 10, 2016

    1. Never, ever, ever, ever, check a bag. I mean it people. Invest in one amazingly lightweight carry on sized piece of luggage, and wear that repeat outfit with pride. I’ve been traveling internationally this way for years, and trust me, you will thank me later.

    2. Packable warmth. I don’t know about you, but I literally freeze to death on every plane ride. My mom purchased one of the newly popular lightweight puffy down coats (think a cross between a quilt and a sleeping bag) for her recent international trip, and shared the value of having a coat that can be packed into into your purse, especially since we often go from winter to summer or vice versa in one plane ride. I also always pack very warm wool socks. If you don’t know this already…wool socks will change your life.

    3. Moisture. I feel like a dried prune when I get off planes. Evian makes the most incredible water-mist in travel size, that a spray to the face (even up those dry nasal passages) makes all the difference. I also never leave home without a USB or battery powered travel sized cool mist humidifier. You can find the type that a standard water bottle attaches to, and I kid you not, I even use them on those long 12 hr plane rides sitting on my tray table. (Mostly at night, when everyone else is sleeping, so that people don’t stare at the weird girl with her dryness issues, but seriously, you can barely see the mist, as it is not as powerful as a home humidifier.)

    4.  The “Nap scarf”. Basically a combo between a scarf and a pillow with neck support, I’ve wanted this for awhile, but haven’t been able to yet get my hands on one. “Trtl” is the manufacturer.

    5. Ear plugs. I know that some people are not big fans, but if you can find a brand that is comfortable that works, I do not get on a plane without ’em. You can still hear any important announcements, but when you are trying to get some rest, it just cuts down on the noise of the engines, people coughing, seat belt sign dinging etc.

    Go well!

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Great tips, Amy.  And yeah, I often forget in the summer time how COLD it is on planes, especially when your body is not used to much  AC!

  5. Ashley Felder June 10, 2016

    This list is GOLDEN! Thank you! Several new ideas and things to consider buying that I’ve never seen before! And, THANK YOU for that head’s up on the Square Cash app. Lately, I have been wondering if people in the States were using something like this upon realization that paying with an app on your phone, sending money and hongbaos here has EXPLODED. Now I won’t feel like an idiot…in that moment. 😉

    1. M'Lynn June 10, 2016

      I’m also excited to hear about square cash. We’ve already wondered how to just send someone money in USA since we can do it so easily with weChat in China!

      1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

        Yeah, not everyone is using it yet (seems like that kind of change is slower to happen in the States than in China).  There are still the people that like their checks (remember those?!) and cash. But it’s an option now!

  6. Cecily June 10, 2016

    I am embarrassed to put this tip on here, because I learned it the expensive way, and I stepped right into the risk.  NEVER try to save money by purchasing separate bookings for different legs of the same journey.  Unless, of course, you have days in between.  I had to travel from Sofia to Chiang Mai.  I thought I would save money by buying a ticket to Bangkok and then a separate ticket to Chiang Mai.  Well… My flight from Sofia to Vienna was all well and good.  But my flight from Vienna to Bangkok was postponed 12 hours due to mechanical problems.  So, the next day I traveled from Austria to Finland to Bangkok.  Needless to say, I missed my flight to Chiang Mai and had to purchase another one since it was not booked with the previous flights.  Not a huge deal, but I lived in fear for the next week that I might miss my flight from Bangkok to Sofia due to a late flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.  AND, sure enough, the flight was late, and I arrived at the gate in Bangkok only minutes before boarding.  BIG MISTAKE!

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Ugh!  I’m so sorry!  It’s a good reminder, because it’s an easy enough mistake to make!  So sorry for your extra expense..

  7. M'Lynn June 10, 2016

    1. If the airline offers kids’ meals, call at least 48 hours ahead and order fun food for the kids… and even if you have a toddler who doesn’t eat much, order anyway so you can score a few more interesting food options for yourself since they don’t let adults order kid’s meals (yes, I’ve tried!!) I’ve also scored a kid’s meal for a lapchild and a babyfood meal for an infant.

    2. If you don’t get to choose your own seats when you book the ticket, call the airline and ask to choose your seats. The sooner the better.

    3. If you are worried about someone leaning their seat back onto the lap of your super tall husband, sit directly in front of him so you’re in control of that person sitting in front of him for once. Otherwise, don’t complain when you sit next to him and the person in front if him takes a snooze in his lap. Ha.

    4. If traveling with a lapchild who is too big for the bassinet and too active for the bulkhead row, ask if there are any open seats when you check in. If there are, be willing to move so you can have the open seat and your kid doesn’t have to sit in your lap the entire flight. But you might have to sit apart from your group…

    5. I like seating a toddler in the window seat and I’m in the middle seat so she has more space to play and she’s contained.

    6. When traveling with kids, never ever go into the flight expecting them to sleep on the flight. Always assume they won’t sleep so if they do, it’s a happy surprise.

    7. If you have active kids who won’t sleep on planes no matter how tired they may be, book the big hop over the ocean flight for the daytime. Start the day on the plane so they’re not already overtired when the big flight starts and then they scream the last six hours. It might cost a little more than a night flight, but it’s worth your sanity.

    That’s all for now. So many more!!


    1. Jodie June 11, 2016

      Sleep is such a big thing on those long plane trips! We used to tell our kids if they slept at least 5 hours across the ocean we would buy them a McDonald’s ice cream cone. That worked really well! We would also put one kid on the floor (in the feet space) with a blanket so two seats would be available for another one to lay down. That worked well except when there was turbulence and the flight attendants might tell us the child on the floor needed to be in a seat belt.

    2. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      I’ve actually wondered before if I could order myself a kids meal, because yeah, they are often much better!! Thanks for answering that question.

      And  AMEN to #6 and #7!  It was a sanity saving game changer when I made that attitude adjustment and when we decided to only do daytime flights.

    3. Brittany May 11, 2017

      Oh my goodness! Child’s meals?!?!? How did I not know this is a thing?! We fly out in a month and I just called the airline to request kid’s meals for my 3 littles. Yay! Thanks for the tip!

  8. M'Lynn June 10, 2016

    I got this on Pinterest… and it blows my mind. My daily moisturizer and sunscreen are not travel size so how do i carry those on if i need them for an overnight layover? Get a regular old contact lense case…one side is for moisturizer, the other for sunscreen!! Amazing! Why didn’t I think of that sooner??

    1. Danielle Wheeler June 11, 2016

      Brilliant!  We’ve had more than one bottle of sunscreen taken away because it’s something we just always keep in the backpack and I’ve forgotten to take it out!

  9. Ankit chauhan January 29, 2021


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