All Ages

6 Things You Should Never Buy Before You Travel

See recent posts by Beth Luberecki

Traveling—especially with a family in tow—requires lots of advance planning and preparation. There are flights and hotels to book, excursions to be arranged, and movies to download from Netflix or iTunes. And while you could bust your budget with a pre-trip shopping spree on Amazon or supply run at Target, there are actually some things you should avoid buying before you travel.

1. New Clothes for the Kids

Your kids will still look cute in all your vacation photos even if they aren’t wearing brand-new T-shirts or jeans. So don’t spring for a new wardrobe before heading off to your destination—especially since there’s a chance those new duds could get left behind at the hotel or spilled on repeatedly from eating on the go.

“I feel like I’ve fallen into that trap many times,” says Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are a Trip. “So now I bring clothes that are still decent enough, but if they do get ruined, I don’t mind it so much.”

Sally Black, director of the Family Travel Association, recommends taking that idea one step further, especially if you’re traveling to a country where there might be residents in need.

“Pack last year’s clothes the kids are just about ready to grow out of, and then donate them so local kids can use them,” she says. “It saves you room on the way back, and you can do something good by paying it forward.”

Related: 7 Ways to Give Back on Vacation

2. Diapers

You need enough diapers and baby wipes to get you to your destination, and some extra for emergencies. “But this isn’t something that’s worth an extra suitcase” says Kyle McCarthy, editor of the Family Travel Forum. “Diapers are sold everywhere in the world.”

Sizing may be different, and you may have to do some math to translate kilograms to pounds. But it’s easier to buy more diapers when you arrive than to lug them around throughout your trip.

“Every country has babies, and every country has diapers,” says Keryn Means of Walking on Travels. “I was in China with my babies, and I was in Europe with my babies, and everywhere I bought diapers.”

3. Discounted Attraction Ticket Packages

Discount bundles like CityPASS can be totally worth spending your money on. But McCarthy recommends waiting until you arrive to make the purchase.

“Families with children do better being more open as travelers than being committed,” she says. “You might get to your destination and surprise! There’s some national holiday you weren’t aware of, and you don’t spend your time going into museums or doing some of things you anticipated, because a serendipitous attraction has appeared.” And if a discounted ticket package still winds up being a good option, you can usually buy it at the first attraction you visit for the same price.

4. Breakfast at Your Hotel

It may sound tempting to check one item off your list by pre-paying for breakfast at your hotel. But it’s not always the smartest move.

“You never know what it’s going to be like,” says Means. “And you want options. If there’s an amazing breakfast place around the corner, you don’t want to have already spent all your money on breakfast. And it’s not always necessarily a deal to pre-pay ahead of time.”

5. An Individual Travel Insurance Policy

Now don’t think we’re knocking travel insurance. But if you travel frequently as a family, you may be better off buying an annual travel insurance policy than one for each individual trip. “If you travel more than twice a year, you need to have a multi-trip annual policy,” says Means.

But do your research. Some annual plans just cover things like emergency medical and evacuation expenses. If you want coverage for trip cancellation or travel delays as well, make sure that’s included.

Related: Does My Family Need Travel Insurance? 

6. Cell Phone Coverage You Don’t Need

Understand what kind of coverage your cell phone carrier offers in the region to which you’re traveling. Then decide just how connected you need or want to be during your vacation. Maybe it’s a good time to get off the grid for a bit.

And if there’s plenty of access to reliable Wi-Fi wherever you’re going, you may be able to survive without constant cell service. “If you’re going to a Wi-Fi-friendly destination, I would say an advance-purchase data plan may not necessarily be a good value,” says McCarthy. “But it’s worth discussing with your carrier, and to find out who your carrier’s partners are in the region you’re going to if you’re traveling abroad.”

Another option—using apps like Skype and FaceTime to make international phone calls over the onternet. “If you’re traveling overseas, your cell phone carrier will try to sell you the moon and the stars,” says Black. “Oftentimes, you can get away with different apps so you don’t need international cell phone service.”

What to Pack Before for Your Next Family Vacation

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