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We’re getting ready for our first family airplane trip in 8 months so naturally, we are excited and going through our packing lists. My wife always has a packing list ready to go, which she tailors for each trip, but this is the first time we’ve created a joint family packing list. Prior to the pandemic, packing was old hat to us as most of our suitcases were already filled with essentials because we were traveling so frequently.

Here’s an example of one of my wife’s road trip packing lists for traveling with little kids, which many friends have found helpful. If you’ve got little ones or grandkids, take a read or pass it along to family members who might find it useful. Anyhow, creating our joint packing list got me thinking about a basic, often-overlooked item that many people (ahem, my wife) just don’t think of packing. This can really make or break your trip depending on where you are and the weather. Any guesses?

That’s right! A travel umbrella. I remember when Natalie and I started dating, I went shopping one rainy day in New York City at either a TJ Maxx or a Marshalls and I bought a couple of travel umbrellas. They were extremely compact so they’d fit in any bag or purse or even my back pocket.

About a month after I purchased the umbrella, we landed in London and took the Heathrow Express and then the tube to our station. It was pouring outside and back then, you couldn’t call an Uber and hailing a taxi isn’t easy when it’s raining, regardless of what city you’re in. So I busted out my umbrella and said, “Let’s walk, it’s just a few blocks.”

I immediately noticed that Natalie didn’t have her umbrella. “Where’s your umbrella?” I asked. “I didn’t pack it,” she said. Turns out, she didn’t like the one I got her because it was too bold and busy and colorful and just not her taste so she purposely and, might I add, stupidly, left it behind.

I was torn between giving her mine or making this a teaching moment. We walked a short distance in the rain and when I couldn’t take it anymore, of course I gave her my umbrella. She refused at first, feeling bad that I’d be the one to get soaked, even though I’d been the one smart enough to pack an umbrella for London. But eventually she took it and we made our merry way to a fancy hotel where the front desk clerk must have been thinking, “What in God’s name has the cat dragged in?” when we showed up soaking wet and disheveled.

But I digress, The point is don’t make the mistake of not packing a travel umbrella because they really can make or break your trip. And keep in mind, unless you’re staying at a really luxurious hotel these days, it’s difficult to find a hotel that will even loan you one or they run out and sometimes, you’re not even at your hotel when the skies open up. And trust me, you don’t want to buy a cheap one from a street vendor. I made that mistake one rainy afternoon in New York City about two decades ago and that $5 umbrella ended up costing me over $200 because the umbrella’s black dye ran down and ruined my beautiful tan jacket. Here’s a travel umbrella that’s highly recommended as well as a whole list of other travel umbrella options but I recommend splurging and getting one that’s sturdy and highly rated.

P.S. The photo above was taken in 2018 on my son’s first trip to London (we stayed in a beautiful London Perfect vacation rental in Kensington). The umbrella he’s carrying is the “too ugly” umbrella that Natalie begrudgingly packed for that trip.

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