The toddler age is certainly an interesting stage in a kid’s life. At this age, kids are more curious, more active and can communicate with moms and dads (at least they try to)! If you're traveling with your toddler soon, it can certainly be exciting and fun, but it comes with challenges. We curated a list of the top toddler travel essentials below so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Traveling with a toddler versus traveling with an infant
Traveling with a toddler or an infant has its corresponding challenges. Consider these differences when planning a trip with your toddler:
✓ Care required - Toddlers require less care compared to infants! Babies aren’t potty trained yet so they have to be regularly changed. This can be tedious during a flight or when you’re traveling. Feeding must also be regular especially for breastfeeding moms who can’t delay direct breastfeeding for their babies. On the contrary, your toddler may already be potty trained (depending on the age) or can already eat solids, which can make milk feeding easier and less frequent.
✓ Independence - Infants are still dependent on mommy and daddy! They simply cannot communicate their needs yet (hence the crying or screaming). Toddlers are more independent. They want to be treated like an older kid (even though they’re still our babies). Toddlers can actually do most things on their own, including eating and playing.
✓ Fussiness (Tantrums) - Infants are more fussy or prone to crying spells. This is just because they still can’t tell parents exactly what they want. Toddlers can be fussy when tired or hungry. But since they can already communicate what they want, they’re not as complicated to handle!
✓ Gear required - Stroller, car seat and luggage all in one hand? Super mom to the rescue. With a smaller baby it’s more ideal to bring all the necessary gear for both safety and comfort purposes. With toddlers, packing the whole gear ensemble isn’t such a must. Toddlers love exploring so in some cases, a stroller isn’t necessary (although we always recommend a car seat for safety and security).
Our top 10 toddler travel essentials
Going on your first trip with your toddler? We got you covered! It’s challenging but not impossible. When you have all the toddler travel essentials & products below, your trip will be as smooth as your baby’s bum!
1. Separate Toddler Bag - Toddlers love their independence so give them their own carry-on bag! We recommend the Skip Hop Zoo Little Kid & Toddler Travel Rolling Luggage Backpack. It is ideal for kids aged 3 up and can be used as either a backpack or rolling suitcase. Have a toddler below this age bracket? Opt for the Skip Hop Zoo Insulated Toddler Backpack, although it fits less items than the first option.
What should be inside your toddler’s carry-on bag?
✓ Two to three changes of clothes (depends on how long the flight is)
✓ Diapers or pull-ups (pack four to six if your toddler isn’t fully potty trained yet) - you just never know when the bathroom won't be accessible
✓ Wipes, hand sanitizer, bibs or towels and a pair of socks
✓ Don’t forget snacks and water!
✓ Their favorite toy, doll or game
2. Packing Cubes - Packing cubes are lifesavers when it comes to organizing your toddler’s carry-on and checked bags. Use a small packing cube for organizing your changing essentials for bathroom emergencies! Pack diapers, wipes, a changing pad and tissues, all that you need for changing a dirty diaper in one small cube. Use an extra small packing cube for storing other toddler items like snacks and toys. For the checked luggage, simply use the packing cubes for categorizing similar clothing and other items together. Check out our different size cubes here.
Using packing cubes for your toddler’s bag:
✓ Use an extra small packing cube for your toddler’s snacks and toys.
✓ Use a small packing cube for your toddler’s diapers, wipes, changing pad or other changing necessities.
3. Healthy Snacks - Toddlers have insanely big appetites despite their small size! They snack every now and then so it’s also a must to bring healthy food items for your little one. This Earth’s Best Sunny Days Snack Bars will leave your kid wanting more. But you don’t have to buy ready-made snacks if you can make your own snacks at home. A peanut butter sandwich along with some berries is also a great mid-meal snack. Treats are fine too, but limit them or at least find healthier alternatives like this Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. Use a small packing cube to organize all snacks in one bag for easy access.
Healthy snacks for a fun trip:
✓ Granola bars, organic crackers and oatmeal cookies
✓ Make healthy sandwiches and fruit bites that your toddler can munch on during a flight or car ride.
✓ Treats can make your flight or trip easier especially during tantrums (like sweetened fruit gummies).
4. Stroller / Carrier - There are times when toddlers want to walk and walk and walk. But there are also times when they can be extremely tired (or just having an off day). It’s best to just bring a lightweight, sturdy stroller or carrier. Most airlines have a set limit on the weight of the stroller you can carry, usually around 19 pounds. This Graco Verb Click Connect Stroller fits within the limits while still looking stylish and very durable. Or you can also opt for a carrier which is easier to pack and can be folded inside your luggage or bag.
To bring or to not bring a stroller?
✓ If your toddler is in that stage where he or she isn’t fully walking independently yet, it’s a good idea to bring along a lightweight stroller with you.
✓ If your trip entails a lot of walking around, like going to a theme park or a city tour, you can also benefit well from bringing your own stroller.
✓ If the destination you’re going to doesn’t have local strollers available for rent, consider bringing your own.
*Note: You can rent a car seat in your destination if you want to reduce the gear you’re carrying. Check out our Recommended Products list below for our favorites for toddlers during a flight.
5. Tablet & Headphones - Yes, screen time isn’t the best form of entertainment! But on a long-haul flight or road journey, you’re often left with limited choices. Download your toddler’s favorite games, shows and apps...then everyone can have a bit of down time. Don’t forget headphones for the kids! We like these Kiddie Headphones from LilGadgets which can be connected wirelessly via bluetooth and comes in bright, kid-friendly colors.
The dos and don’ts of tablet usage:
✓ Do charge the tablet prior to your flight or long trip and bring a portable charger.
✓ Do bring headphones so your toddler’s games, shows and apps won’t disturb others.
✓ Don’t let the toddler use the tablet excessively, limit the time they spend on it during the trip.
6. Toy Trick & Other Entertaining Items - Here’s a tip: Hide away a few of your toddler’s favorite toys before your trip (so they’ll miss these items). Take them out one at a time during the flight to keep those little hands busy! That way, you don’t have to spend a lot on new toys for every trip. Classic entertainment like crayons, puzzles, magnetic games and kid-friendly playing cards can also be packed in the bag. Don’t forget to pack these items in a separate small packing cube so they stay organized and easy to find.
Other travel-friendly entertainment you can bring for toddlers:
✓ Smaller toys like matchbox cars and legos for boys or play doughs and play dolls for girls
✓ The Classics - crayons, puzzles, magnetic games and kiddie playing cards
7. Portable (and Collapsible) Water Bottle - The TSA limits the amount of liquids you can take in your carry-on bag. With infants and toddlers though, they are a bit more lenient. Bring your own portable water bottle just in case. You can easily fill it with water once you’re done with airport security. Want to save space in your luggage? Try out the Vapur Shades Collapsible Water Bottle which can be conveniently folded when not in use!
The TSA liquids rule... Does it apply to toddlers?
✓ Most airports are not as strict when it comes to bringing liquids when you have a baby or toddler with you.
✓ Just make sure that you separate your liquids like water or milk during airport security for a separate check. Allow more time for this extra scan!
8. First Aid Kit - With toddlers, it’s just better to be prepared. You never know when the next fever or cold can attack. Pack their own first aid kit with the essentials like paracetamol, antihistamine medications, allergy medications and antibiotic ointment. With the EzPacking extra small packing cube, you can organize all these items in one place and easily stow in the carry-on bag.
9. Bring their favorite hat- Caps and hats are dual-purpose items. You can use them for protection against the sun or the rain. Plus, don’t toddlers look so adorable with a cute hat on? Here’s one we love (in many colors).
10. Portable FlyPal Seat Box / Bed - When you’re traveling in economy class, it’s a struggle to keep a sleeping child sleeping. In most cases, the toddler has to sleep sideways, occupying a parent’s lap just to get comfortable. Enter the portable seat cushion or bed box, like Flypal - Seat Box / Bed for Flights. Simply inflate the cushion and place in the space between your toddler’s seat and the front seat. It makes sleeping easier for your toddler because he or she can fully stretch their legs thanks to this portable seat box.
Our favorite products for traveling with a toddler
Here’s a summary (and some extras) of our recommended travel gear for toddlers:
✓ Clear Packing Cubes: Check out our best-selling Starter Set here
✓ Stroller: Graco Verb Click Connect Stroller
✓ Headphones: LilGadgets
✓ Collapsible Water Bottle: Vapur Shades Collapsible Water Bottle
✓ Cute Hat: JP Doodles Heart on Kids Trucker Hat
✓ Portable Seat Box / Bed: Flypal
✓ Blanket: TillYou Quilted Super Soft Toddler Blanket
✓ Sippy Cup: Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup (Spill Proof)
✓ FAA Approved Restraint for Toddler: Cares Safety Restraint System
✓ Trash Bag: Arm and Hammer Diaper Trash Bag
✓ Tablet Caddy / Case: TopEsct Shockproof iPad Case
✓ Travel Tray: Fun N’ Fly Foldable Travel Tray
Do you have any unique additions to our list? Let us know!
Simple toddler travel checklist (before, during, after)
Okay, so you have the essentials all packed. But what about knowing what to do before, during and after the flight. We have created a handy checklist below! Tick off items as you’ve completed them from the list.
☐ Before the flight
☐ Pack / prepare your luggage at least a week in advance (you’ll avoid doing laundry last minute since you won’t be wearing the packed clothes).
☐ Call ahead to reserve your preferred seats.
☐ Print your boarding passes at home & save them to your phone
☐ The night before the flight, double check your scheduled departure is on time.
☐ Arrange a ride to the airport / schedule a Lyft or Uber
☐ During the flight
☐ Be at the airport at least two hours before your flight (you just never know what could happen with your toddler).
☐ Board as early as possible to get settled in especially if your toddler has his or her own seat.
☐ Keep your toddler’s carry-on or personal bag close to him or her, preferably underneath the seat in front.
☐ During meals, flight attendants usually give toddlers their meals first so take advantage of that.
☐ After the flight
☐ Check if you have gathered all your carry-on luggage including the stroller or crib, if you brought them.
☐ If the hotel is further from the airport, it’s best to eat and go to the bathroom before leaving the airport.
☐ Stop at a grocery store before the hotel to buy: extra diapers, formula milk and maybe some breakfast foods for the room.
☐ Use EzPacking cubes as drawers once you reach the hotel, there’s no need to unpack your clothes or re-pack when leaving.
Preparation and planning are two very important factors when it comes to traveling with a toddler. Consider the list above as a guide and check whether you have completed each item before going on your trip with your little one.
P.S. Need more tips when traveling with kids? Click here for our How to Travel With Kids: Best Tips for Parents blog post.