Traveling with my kids is one of my life’s greatest treasures. I love seeing the joy on Caden’s and Willow’s faces as they experience something new on one of our family trips, whether that be their first international flight or their first time trying a new food. However, when you travel with young kids, there are a lot of extra details to consider . . . and a lot of extra stuff to pack.
I recently posted about traveling with a newborn, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to travel with toddlers! Specifically, I wanted to share a list of toddler travel essentials. These are things we never fly or road trip without, and having everything we need makes our trips so much more peaceful and enjoyable for the whole family.
Here’s what you need to have a stress-free(ish) trip with a toddler:
20+ Toddler Travel Essentials
A Compact Stroller That Fits in the Overhead Bin or in a Packed Car
If you’re traveling with a toddler, you’ll need a stroller. You’ll need one when your child doesn’t want to walk anymore and you’ll need one when they want to run wild. (Though, I do let my toddler run wild at airports, and here’s why.) Though you can check strollers at the gate of most airliners, I prefer not to, since luggage handlers aren’t known for being particularly gentle or trustworthy. Instead, I opt for a compact travel stroller.
I love the UPPABaby Minu V2 because it folds up and fits comfortably into the overhead bin. That means it’ll also fit easily inside of our Thule on roadtrips, rideshares or on public transit, too. And, it won’t take up much space at your vacation rental! All around, it’s a great fit. Make sure you bring along any attachments you may want, like car seat adapters, a snack tray, organizer, or rain cover. This is probably our number one piece of family travel gear!
Lightweight Car Seat and Suitcase Straps or Car Seat Bag
A car seat is another thing you’ll need when traveling with kids! Whether you choose to fly with your car seat is up to you, but either way, you’ll need to bring one to have it at your destination (and to get to the airport). I don’t recommend uninstalling your current seat and dragging it along. Instead, get an inexpensive seat like the Safety 1st Grand 2-in-1 or the Safety 1st Getaway Convertible Car Seat for air travel. Then, grab suitcase straps for the airport if you’re bringing it on the plane or a car seat bag for the flight (if you choose to check the car seat, my preferred method).
To my surprise, most airlines don’t have milk as a drink option in-flight. So, to avoid frantically spending $8+ on milk for your kid at the airport, buy shelf-stable, non-refrigerated milk boxes. I like Horizons Milk and we usually grab it in bulk from Costco. And, yes, TSA allows you to bring the extra liquid through if you have a toddler with you.
Spill-Proof Toddler Trainer Cup and Toddler Utensils
Don’t forget that restaurants and rentals probably won’t have toddler-friendly dinnerware. Of course, you need a couple leakproof cups, but I also recommend bringing a set of toddler utensils and lightweight toddler plates to make dining easier! For cups, I like Simple Modern’s LeakProof BPA-Free Plastic Cup, but any spill-proof straw cup will do.
Snacks in Creative Containers
Snacks are a great way to entertain a toddler on a long drive or flight. Bring lots of mess-free snacks no matter where you’re going to keep them busy and avoid hunger tantrums. And, if you want to get a little extra entertainment out of snack time, try using a creative container over a boring snack cup. There are so many out there, and they’re a lifesaver when flying with a toddler. We like the GoBe Snack Spinner, the Yumbox, and the Match UP Snack Container.
Speaking of keeping your toddler entertained, bring toys! Their favorite toys will keep them busy, and a busy toddler is a happy toddler. Here you can find my top toys for traveling with a toddler, but some of our favorites are Color Wonder coloring pages, magnetic toys, watercolor books and suction cups.
Airplanes are germ factories. It’s just a fact! To keep your family safe and prevent vacation sickness, bring plenty of Clorox wipes to clean your immediate space.
iPad and Headphones
Before you leave for your trip, download your child’s favorite shows and a few learning games on an iPad. Add a kid-friendly case and headphones and you have the perfect remedy for restless moments. Don’t feel guilty about the screen time either, because when you get to your destination, it’s going to be a non-stop adventure.
If your toddler is potty trained or in the process of potty training, a travel potty is definitely a must-have item. You can be prepared for potty time with this compact, travel-friendly potty that fits over a regular toilet seat, but if you are going on a road trip, I highly recommend this portable potty with waste bags that stands on its own for side of the road potty breaks or lies flat over a toilet. It couldn’t get easier than that, and no more holding your child over the seat so they don’t fall in.
Enough Diapers for the Whole Trip
Of course, if you have a toddler who is not potty trained yet, or one that still wears diapers during nap and bedtime, you’ll need to bring enough diapers for the whole trip. A great travel hack is to pack your car seat bag full of diapers! There’s a lot of extra space in there, and they don’t charge by weight, so it’s really free real estate. However, also bring 2 days’ worth of diapers in your carry-on to ensure you’re covered for unexpected delays. I love Coterie diapers because they’ve been pretty much totally leakproof and blowout-proof for us! You can get 20% off using my code NEWMODERNMOM23 at checkout.
Changing Pad, Wipes, and Wipe Dispenser
For those inevitable diaper changes, make sure you have the essentials. I love this wipeable Ubbi changing mat because it’s easy to clean. Then, bring plenty of the best baby wipes for both changes and messy hands and store them in this compact, waterproof OXO wipes container.
Waterproof wet and dry bags are a great item to keep in your diaper bag. They can hold soiled clothes separately from the rest of the items in your diaper bag. They’ll keep stink and wetness sealed in until you get to your destination or back to your rental.
Backup Change of Clothes
While on the topic of soiled clothes, always bring a change of clothes. Accidents happen, especially with little ones, so extra clothes are a lifesaver for those unexpected spills and messes. I love this gender neutral jogger set as the perfect backup outfit. It provides enough coverage for cooler days, but it’s not too hot for warmer weather.
A first-aid kit may be nice to have when it’s just you traveling, but you’ll want to be prepared for anything when toddlers are involved! This KeepGoing Travel First Aid Kit has a lot of your essentials and can fit in your personal bag or diaper bag easily. However, you should also consider bringing Children’s Tylenol, nail clippers, saline drops and snot sucker, and a thermometer in your checked bag.
A spacious, comfortable travel backpack is a must-have for all your essentials. Keeping things organized and accessible makes the whole travel experience with little ones so much easier. My personal go-to and top recommendation is The Getaway Bag by No Reception Club. However, you can find more recommendations on mom bags for travel here. If you go with The Getaway Bag, use code NMM20 for $20 off.
Portable Table High Chair
High chairs are another amenity that isn’t always available at every destination and venue. I love this Inglesina table chair because it’s sturdy, folds completely flat, and comes with a handy travel bag. It’ll fit perfectly in your luggage or car seat bag without taking up too much space!
Inflatable Bed and SlumberPod
Your toddler will need a place to sleep, and there’s a good chance they’ll be sharing a room with you or a sibling, so this combo is essential to making sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep. First, take the Hiccapop inflatable toddler bed and then put the SlumberPod sleeping nook over top. The SlumberPod fits perfectly over the inflatable bed, and it makes the shared hotel room situation much easier.
(If you have a younger toddler that still fits in a travel-sized crib, the Lotus Travel Crib also pairs perfectly with the SlumberPod.)
Portable Sound Machine
The final piece to the perfect vacation sleep puzzle is a quality white noise machine. We use the Hatch Rest at home, so we use the Hatch Rest Go, a portable version, for all of our trips. It doesn’t need wifi, has a 15-hour battery, and includes 10 soothing sounds your child will already be familiar with if you use the original Hatch Rest!
Compression Packing Cubes and Zipper Pouches
To make the most of your luggage space, I recommend compression packing cubes and plastic mesh zipper pouches. Everything will be labeled, organized and take up as little space as possible in your checked and carry-on bags.
AirTags and Keychain Cases
From someone who has had their gate-checked stroller and checked baggage lost for days on the way to her destination, trust me when I say knowing exactly where your luggage is is essential to ensuring you’ll get it back! Use an AirTag on a silicone keychain to keep track of your bags in case they’re lost or stolen. You could also put an AirTag in a child’s bracelet and put it on your toddler for extra peace of mind while traveling.
Bonus: Travel Insurance
While we’ve never purchased travel insurance, its a smart thing to consider with family travel based on your needs. With every new family member, there is a new factor that could get your trip canceled . . . especially with toddlers. You never know when someone will get the flu or break a bone, so consider if the risk is worth a little extra on travel insurance and refundable tickets.
Toddler Travel Packing List
These essentials will help make traveling with a toddler stress-free.
Traveling as a family is one of the most important and impactful things you can do for your children. Don’t let the hassle or fear that comes with traveling with a toddler scare you out of making these lifelong memories. Just get your essentials, prepare for the trip with me with my travel resources on the blog, and let the adventure begin!