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Traveling with a toddler is not the easiest of feats, but it can be made a lot easier by bringing a few toddler travel essentials. These are items that make traveling with a toddler go much more smoothly for everyone in your travel group.
On our many trips with our toddlers, we’ve come to learn that there are some items that we just can’t do without when traveling with young kids. And others that we can ditch to save the luggage space…
In this article, we’ve included detailed descriptions of the toddler travel essentials that you won’t want to forget on your trip. We’ve also provided a toddler travel packing list to make packing for your child that much easier! Read on for everything you need to bring for a successful trip with a toddler.
If you’re planning on visiting the beach, check out our article on the beach essential for toddlers.
Toddler Travel Essentials
These are a few essential items that make getting around with your toddler a lot easier during travel.
When traveling with a toddler, a carrier is at the top of my list of toddler travel essentials.
Toddler carriers can make life so much easier when traveling. They allow you to easily take your child places that are less stroller friendly and provide a perfect place for nursing (if your child is breastfeeding) and napping on the go. They’re also great for containing toddlers in places that might not be safe for them to roam free (say at the top of a bell tower or the edge of the grand canyon).
We’ve carried our toddlers in carriers all over the world and find it to be one of the easiest ways to travel with a toddler.
To find the best carrier for your child, see this article on the best toddler carriers for travel.
A stroller may or may not be a necessity for your trip, depending on what kind of trip you’re taking. We’ve taken trips with just a toddler carrier and others with both a carrier and a stroller (I always bring a carrier, even if I’m bringing a stroller).
Strollers can be very useful for navigating the airport with a toddler and for trips where you’ll be visiting stroller-accessible locations. They’re nice to have along to give you a break from having to carry your child all the time (or chase them down constantly).
We love our gb Pockit for travel. It’s the most compact strollers out there and folds down small enough to fit into the overhead bit or under your seat on the airplane. Be sure to see our full gb Pockit stroller review.
Travel car seat
A car seat is typically going to be one of your toddler travel essentials, barring a few locations where you can get by just using public transportation. But if you’re planning on getting around by car, you’ll want a car seat to keep your little one safe. Strapped in their car seat is also the safest way for toddlers to fly on a plane.
Younger toddlers might still fit within the safety requirements for an infant car seat, which are great for travel. Infant car seats are lightweight and easy to transport.
If your child has outgrown their infant seat, it’s worth it to invest in a lightweight travel car seat. Trust me, after you’ve spent your whole trip hauling that thing around you’ll be glad to have left your heavy, bulky regular seat at home. Our favorite travel car seat for toddlers is the Cosco Scenera next.
Car seat bag
If you’re bringing a car seat, you’ll want to bring a car seat travel bag. These bags make transporting your car seat much easier and more manageable.
There are a lot of different options out there so check out our review of the best car seat travel bags to find the best one for your trip.
These food relate toddler travel essentials will make mealtimes and snacks with your toddler go a lot more smoothly while on your trip.
A bib is a helpful way to keep your child cleaner while eating. As an added bonus, it keeps their clothes clean as well, which makes it more likely that you can pack light and reuse outfits.
These waterproof bibs are lightweight and pack down to practically nothing. We also love these silicone bibs which take a bit more space but are easier to clean and dry more quickly.
Snacks are a great way to entertain a toddler while traveling. And a snack catcher allows them to feed themselves independently without making a huge mess. This can be a helpful tool for distracting and redirecting a child who is getting bored or on the verge of a meltdown.
Our favorite snack catcher for travel folds down compactly, making it easy to store when not in use. The material it’s made out of does tend to collect lint and crumbs, so I recommend bringing a baggie to store it in when you’re not using it.
Travel high chair
A travel high chair can be a useful item for traveling with a toddler. It ensures that your child always has their own seat at the table and helps keep them contained so that they’re not climbing all over you or running around. This can make for a much more relaxing meal for yourself and your toddler.
Travel high chairs are not always necessary if you’re going someplace where you know high chairs will be available. However if there aren’t high chairs, or if you’re not sure if there will be, bringing your own can be a nice way to ensure that mealtimes go smoothly.
You’ll want to make sure your child is drinking a lot while traveling, so be sure to bring a water bottle and offer it to them frequently throughout the day.
We prefer the straw kind because they are easier for our toddler to use and less likely to spill.
Disposable place mats
Feeding a toddler when you’re eating out can be tricky. The places you eat might not have toddler-safe dishes andd it can be a pain to have to feed your toddler bite by bite (plus in my experience toddlers often insist on feeding themselves!).
That’s where these disposable place mats come in so handy. They have adhesive on all four sides to secure it to the table, providing a clean and stable surface for your toddler to eat on. Once they’re done eating, you can easily pull the place mat off of the table and throw it away. This helps to minimize mess and allows your child to have an independent eating experience without you having to stress about them breaking the dishes.
Some of the most important toddler travel essentials are those related to sleep. Whether or not your toddler sleeps well can make a huge difference to the success of your trip. A tired and grumpy toddler makes for a very long day while traveling.
These sleep items are ones that can be hugely helpful in getting your toddler the sleep that they need. For everyone’s sake!
We always bring white noise for our children while traveling. It helps block any ambient sounds that they might not be used to and also means that we don’t have to be quite so quiet as we’re moving around our hotel room or Airbnb.
Oftentimes we’ll just use a white noise app on our phone, but if you want to be able to use your phone for other things, you can bring a travel white noise machine.
While you’re away from home, you’ll want to make sure your toddler has a cozy and comfortable place to sleep. There are a couple of different ways you can do this.
First, if your child sleeps in a crib you can see if your accommodations have a crib or pack ‘n play available for you to use while you’re there.
If you have a bed for your toddler, consider getting portable bed rails to keep your child from rolling off the bed in the night. These bed rails are placed underneath the bottom sheet to form a barrier at the edge of the bed. They provide a lot of peace of mind for when your toddler is sleeping in a full-sized bed. We’ve compiled a list of the best portable bed rails for travel with a toddlers to help you out.
You can also choose to bring a portable toddler bed for your child so you can set up a cozy spot for them to sleep wherever you are. These can come in several different forms, from toddler cots to inflatable beds to pop-up tents. You can see our reviews of the best options for portable toddler beds if you need help picking a good one.
Whichever option you pick, make sure that your child knows what to expect and do your best to make sure it feels as safe and familiar as possible.
Favorite stuffed animal
If your child has a special stuffed animal or blanket, make sure to bring it along to help them feel comfortable and safe during their sleep time.
You could also bring along a favorite story or two as part of their bedtime routine. The key is to help it feel as much like the environment they’re used to as possible.
A monitor may or may not be necessary, depending on your accommodations. If you’re all sleeping in the same room this may not be helpful as you’ll be able to easily hear if your child needs you.
However, if you have a suite, an apartment, or a balcony, a monitor can give you a lot of peace of mind knowing that you can keep a close eye on your baby while in an unfamiliar place.
You can see our recommendations for the best portable baby monitors to help your decision.
For many young children, keeping a dark sleep environment is necessary for a good night’s sleep. This can be especially true if you’re changing time zones and trying to adjust their sleep schedule.
Many hotels will have blackout curtains in their rooms, however rentals or Airbnb’s often do not. We had a couple of really bad experiences with our children waking up extremely early in a new place due to light and since then I always bring a black out option for our toddlers.
One way to create a dark environment is to bring travel blackout curtains. These curtains have suction cups that you can use to attach them to the window, darkening the whole room for sleep.
Another great sleep aid is a SlumberPod (see our full SlumberPod review) or SlumberPod alternative to create a dark sleep environment for your child. These products go around your child’s bed to block out light to help them sleep better and longer. The nice thing about this option is that it creates a private sleep area for you child, meaning you don’t have to be quite so quiet and careful about light if you’re sharing a room with your child.
Toddler airplane bed
If you’re flying with your toddler, another helpful sleep tool is a toddler airplane bed. These are products that can be used to extend the length of the seat and provide a comfortable place for your toddler to sleep on the plane. These can make a huge difference for international or long-haul flights where you’re traveling through your child’s normal bedtime.
There are few different kinds of airplane beds, and you can learn about the best options in our article on the best airplane beds for toddlers.
When you’re traveling with a toddler, there are a few health items that you want to make sure to always have on hand.
If your child has any medications, be sure to bring enough for your trip plus a bit extra to account for unexpected delays.
Also remember to pack your child’s medication in your carryon luggage so that you aren’t caught without it in case anything happens to your checked luggage.
Traveling with a thermometer ensures that you can monitor a fever if your child happens to get sick. I never travel without one and have actually had to use it a surprising number of times while on trips. It provides a little extra peace of mind knowing that you have a way to assess the severity of a sickness.
You never know when a child might get sick and bringing along some pain medication can make any unexpected sickness a lot less miserable for your child. This is another one I’ve had to use several times when traveling and I’m always so glad that I have it on hand.
Hand sanitizer/sanitizing wipes
Traveling with kids means exposing them to lots of germs, which can often lead to them getting sick. And toddlers are the worst at this, as they tend to touch everything and then stick their hands in their mouths. Bring along hand sanitizer so that you can sanitize their hands frequently, especially before they eat.
Sanitizing wipes are also very helpful for wiping down surfaces such as the tray tables and arm rests on the airplane and tables at restaurants.
No one wants a sick kid, especially when you’re far from home. While you can’t always prevent sickness, sanitizing often definitely increases your chances of keeping everyone healthy.
Toddler travel essential basics
Having awesome travel activities is an absolute necessity when traveling with a toddler. That doesn’t mean that you need a lot of activities, but you do want a few great options that can capture your child’s attention and that they will return to over and over.
Over our years of traveling with toddlers we’ve found some great activities that our toddlers always love. You can get some ideas from our list of our favorite toddler activities for planes and our favorite toddler activities for road trips.
Consider not only activities for the flight or drive, but also for your hotel room and when you’re out and about.
When you’re traveling with a toddler, you’ll want a great diaper bag to carry all of your essential items. I highly recommend a backpack diaper bag for travel. They are typically much more comfortable, secure against theft, and easier to carry over long periods of time.
Diapers and wipes
If your toddler isn’t potty trained, don’t forget to bring along diapers and wipes. You can choose to bring along enough for your whole trip or, if you want to pack lighter, you can pack enough for the first few days and plan on picking some up at your destination (make sure it’s a place where they’re easy to find).
When possible, I try to just bring along all the diapers and wipes I will need for my trip to save myself the hassle of needing to pick some up during the trip. However, I know people who would prefer to pack less up front, so do what makes the most sense to you.
Be sure to bring more diapers than you think you will need in your diaper bag if you’re traveling by plane. The middle of a long flight is not the place where you want to realize that your child is going through more diapers than you anticipated.
For toddlers who are potty trained or in the process of potty training, a portable potty can be a lifesaver when traveling.
There are a few different kinds, but one of the most useful for travel is a foldable seat that can be placed over a larger toilet to make a secure and smaller seat for your toddler. This allows toddlers to feel safer on a toilet and helps to prevent any potty training regressions while traveling. They’re also compact and can easily be folded up and carried in your diaper bag.
See our list of the best travel potties for toddlers for the best options out there.
Clothes are obviously going to be a travel essential. We’ll highlight a few items in this section and you can find a more detailed list of clothes down in the packing list.
If you’re trying to pack light, bring outfits that can be mixed and matched.
Make sure that you’re packing weather appropriate clothes for your toddler (eg. sun hat, swimsuit, sunglasses vs winter coat, gloves, warm hat).
Plan on bringing an extra pair of pajamas or two in case of nighttime accidents. It’s also a good idea to bring an extra pair of shoes in case you lose one or they get wet.
Toddler travel packing list
This is our tried and tested toddler packing list that I use for every trip. I love being able to pack for a trip and know I’m not missing anything important as long as I double check my trusty list!
Packing tip: Spend a few minutes thinking about your toddler to determine if there are any toddler travel essentials that you should include that are specific to your child. For example, our oldest went through a phase where he couldn’t handle the smell of the toilet, so there was a period where we always carried a travel sized Poo-Pourri around with us. Our other two never had the same issue, so that wasn’t included in their packing lists. There might be items that your child needs that other people wouldn’t think to include.
- Toddler carrier
- Car seat
- Car seat travel bag
- Snack catcher
- Travel high chair
- Water bottle
- Disposable place mats
- White noise
- Bed option
- Stuffed animal
- Blackout option
- Toddler airplane bed
- Hand sanitizer/wipes
- Travel activities
- Diaper bag
- Diapers/wipes or undies
- Travel potty
- Shoes (2)
Warm weather gear
- Sun hat
- Swim diapers
- Floatie/life jacket
Cold weather gear
- Warm coat
- Warm hat
With a little preparation, traveling with a toddler can actually be a lot of fun. We’ve had great experiences traveling with our toddlers over the years (along with the occasional meltdown of course).
These toddler travel essentials will help your trip go a lot more smoothly. And you can rest assured knowing that you’ve done everything you can to set yourself up for success!
Other posts you might be interested in:
How to Get a Toddler to Sleep on the Plane (Tips that work!)
The Best Airplane Snacks for Toddlers
How to Have a Successful Road Trip with a Toddler
How to Fight Jet Lag in Babies and Toddlers