I've traveled with the same tote bag for years. It's dingy with dirt from all over the world. Oh, I've washed it countless times to try to restore the canvas to it's original color, but it's stained. In my defense, the bag was a gift: I'm far too practical to buy myself a white bag for that very reason. But, I love it. Because it's the perfect size and shape to fit all the travel essentials. Plus, because it's so neutral (dirt goes with everything), it coordinates with every outfit I wear on vacation. And I tote that tote bag every day, everywhere when I'm on vacation like the pack mule that I am. Because no matter where I am in the world, I'm still a mom.
Yes, I travel with teenagers. And yes, I still carry things for them in my bag. Let me explain before you determine that I coddle them. The most important thing I carry in my bag is the passports. All the passports for my entire family (including my husband's). My kids barely get to touch their own passports. There is no passport control more strict than me. I hand them out to my family right before we go through immigration and then I collect them immediately after they get stamped for safe keeping. I don't care that two of my kids are legally adults. HAND ME YOUR DAMN PASSPORTS OR GO LIVE ON THE STREET! If I'm paying for your vacation, I'm confiscating your passport because I don't want my vacation ruined because some kid lost theirs.
The next item in the order of importance in my bag is the wet wipes. If you've ever been to a country where toilet paper isn't standard (like, but not limited to a lot of African countries) this is pretty self explanatory. Not only can you wipe your unmentionables with it, it's also a hand sanitizer, an impromptu shower, a laundry facility and I've even washed dishes with them. Don't judge me until you've camped in a van in the snow in Patagonia with four teenagers, ok? When packing for travel, the more multi-purpose something is, the better. Which makes the books I bring when I travel with seem like a frivolous extravagance. Yes, actual heavy books I haul around with me on my back. But, I'd argue that they also act as my traveling workout regimen.
Amidst the Ziploc bag containing my toothbrush and toothpaste, whatever book I'm currently reading with reading glasses to read said book and gum, which my kids are constantly asking me for, is the next most important item in my bag. Tampons. So many tampons. Because not only do I still need them, I also have two teenage daughters. I know you're thinking, but you can buy tampons anywhere why do you travel with so many? Because that's not true. Not only are there countries that don't believe in toilet paper, they also don't have tampons. In Cuba it took us 2 days to find out where to buy eggs. And I didn't see tampons in any of the stores I went to. I think they have them, but the last thing I want to do on my vacation is waste time shopping for tampons. Well...it's actually not the last thing...
The last thing I want to do on my vacation is contract 3 different strains of E. coli and constantly be searching for a public toilet or let me be honest, when things get desperate I'd also consider deserted alleyways. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But it's not all disgusting, no matter where I go, I have wet wipes in my bag. Even so, I started panicking about the plane ride home. What if the seat belt signal is on and my body signals it's time to go? What then? Which is why I packed an extra pair of underwear in my bag on the plane ride home. Just in case. And I started to contemplate a whole new use for all those tampons I had in my bag. Turns out, tampons can be multi-purspose too.