Traveling with toddlers is a fun experience for everyone. As your child leaves babyhood and enters toddlerhood, they are able to encounter the world with curiosity, joy, and passion which is such an amazing thing to witness as a parent! This sudden burst of physical and mental development makes traveling during the toddler years something really special.

However, we all know toddlers aren’t without their challenging moments. Whether it be navigating sleep schedules or tantrums over dinner, we need all the advice we can get when it comes to toddler travel! One of the best ways you can keep your vacation stress-free is by packing the right essentials in preparation for anything your toddler might throw at you.

So, here’s our must-have packing list for family trips with toddlers:

75+ Toddler Travel Essentials 

Luggage and Packing

The travel bags and accessories you choose may not seem like that big of a deal, but staying organized on your trip (whether by plane or car) is key. You’ll be more prepared for when your toddler has a need since you’ll be able to locate everything quickly and easily. 

The luggage you choose really depends on the length and nature of your trip, however, we recommend using packing cubes and zipper pouches for space-saving organization no matter where you’re headed! If you’re going on a road trip, here’s how to organize your car before you go!

Transportation

When traveling with kids under the age of 5, a travel stroller or wagon is essential. Even if they’re very mobile, there’s a good chance they won’t want to walk everywhere. Plus, in addition to the convenience for your child, the stroller gives you a place to put bags, drinks, souvenirs, and other items you pick up along the way!

Clothing

This one often depends a lot on travel days, but even if your plan is to stay somewhere more than 3-5 days, you can still use this list! Find a way to do laundry while you’re away to reduce the amount of clothing you have to pack for you and your little one. 

Changing and Potty Training 

One of the hardest parts of traveling with a toddler is navigating potty breaks, especially when you’re on the go. If your child is diapered, of course just bring enough diapers for the whole trip. However, if they’re potty trained (or in the process of potty training), you’ll need a portable potty chair and wet bags. When your toddler’s gotta go, they gotta go, and there may not be a rest stop nearby. Here are more tips for traveling while potty training.

Eating

If you have a long way to go, it’s inevitable your toddler is going to want some snack breaks. And, skipping meals to get to your destination sooner definitely isn’t going to be an option! Instead, ensure you have toddler utensils handy for eating at restaurants and bring plenty of their favorite drink. Before feeding your toddler in their car seat, read this post on safe snacking in the car seat

Bathing

Hotel washes and shampoos are often too harsh for a young child’s skin; consequently, it’s advisable to bring your gentle products from home. Additionally, you want to maintain the nighttime routine as best you can. The same lotion, toothbrush, and schedule will help with that. 

Sleep

Everyone’s first biggest fear when traveling with toddlers is actually getting to the destination, whether that be a long car ride or flight. The second biggest fear is definitely sleep. You never know how your child will sleep in a hotel room or new place, so it’s best to be prepared. Having things like a noise machine and a Slumberpod to create a dreamy oasis can be absolute game changers, enhancing your child’s sleep environment significantly. 

Safety

No one wants a hurt or sick toddler on vacation and no way to help until you find a pharmacy or one opens in the morning. Bring the basics with you! Moreover, ensure you have some motion sickness solutions if it’s your first big trip with your toddler. You never know how they’ll react to being in the car that long or going on their first flight! 

Entertainment/Comfort

This list is deceptively short since we encompassed “toys” all in one category. You’ll definitely want to pack plenty of things to entertain your toddler through the whole trip. This ensures a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience for both you and your little one. However, make sure that all toys are car seat-safe.

Car Seat Safe Toys & Accessories
Car Seat Safe Toys & Accessories

Toddler Travel Essentials for Road Trips

Road trips have their own unique sets of challenges! You can find our full list of road trip essentials here, but when you’re planning a road trip with kids, here are some items you may want to consider: 

Toddler Travel Essentials for Air Travel

Flying with a toddler is a true feat, but it can totally be done! You just need to be informed and have a good plan. We recommend (as does the FAA) that you bring your car seat on board with you. It’s safer in every way, and you’ll be surprised to know that kids are usually more comfortable in their car seats on planes than on those hard, narrow seats. (I guess, is that really surprising?) This will make everything from playing to sleeping on the plane much easier. 

Wheels Up: Airplane Travel Course
Wheels Up: Airplane Travel Course

Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

Plan frequent stops.

To save you some frustration, plan for frequent stops all throughout your trip (rather than being upset when they inevitably happen). Your toddler may need plenty of bathroom breaks, but they also may need some time to stretch and burn off some energy. Even consider trying to plan some stops at public parks or other kid-friendly venues to break up the trip, providing both entertainment and relaxation for your toddler. 

No more screen time limits. 

For the trip there and the trip back, throw screen time limits out the window. In this case, the name of the game is SURVIVAL. Download lots of content on an iPad or Kindle Fire, and, in addition, bring wired headphones. Let them play away and, at the same time, watch all their favorite shows. It’ll not only keep you sane but also start the vacation fun early for your toddler!

Consider buying some “surprises,” for along the way.

Car seat safe toys are ones that won’t be a projectile risk in a crash. It’s a good idea to pack a bag of whatever toys in your toddler’s toy box that are already eligible, but we recommend buying some new toys, crafts, and activities too! The excitement of the new item will keep them entertained much longer than something they play with every day. Here are some of our favorite car seat safe toys

Lower your expectations.

There are a lot of things that can contribute to your child’s mood, so don’t expect sunshine and roses the whole trip. Be open to changing plans, taking longer to get to your destinations, and settling some nights for chicken nuggets instead of delicious local cuisine. Just laugh off whatever comes your way!

Plan for time changes.

Time zones may not be a big deal for you, but they can be for your toddler! (We don’t need to tell you that you’ve endured Daylight Savings.) If it’s just an hour or two, consider adjusting your schedule, but keeping your child’s routine the same as it was at home. If it’s a big international time change, try adjusting them before you leave to keep the vacation relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.

Stick to your toddler’s routine.

Speaking of your toddler’s routine, stick to it as much as possible. Try not to skip naps, prolong meals, and change up bedtime. The more consistent it is, the better your toddler’s mood will be throughout the day. Consequently, establishing a routine becomes crucial for a smoother day.

Vary your itinerary.

Not every execution has to be kid-centered, but keep your toddler in mind when traveling. Try to vary your itinerary, so you have a mix of activities that allow your child to run around and sit in the stroller. Too much physical activity may wear them out, whereas too much stroller time could make them antsy. Just mix it up! 

No matter what, always BYOC (bring your own car seat.)

Whether you’re traveling using an airline, a rental car, or your own vehicle, your own car seat should always be in use. Car seat rentals aren’t reliable, and checking your car seat at the airport can be just as damaging as an accident. Your car seat is the only one you know is safe! (For more on flying with a car seat, take our Wheels Up Course!)

Traveling with a toddler is even better when you’re prepared!

Vacations with your kids will always be treasured by your family. To keep as many of the memories as positive as possible, try to come prepared both mentally and physically with everything you need to handle any toddler problem or challenge you may encounter. For more travel tips and car seat information, make sure you check out the Safe in the Seat blog. Because the best way to stay stress-free while traveling is to have confidence your toddler is safe and secure in their car seat.

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