Traveling with a toddler is…a lot. Toddlers are not known for listening well, staying put, staying still, staying quiet, or any other skills that make traveling go smoothly. Expect a little bit (or a lot) of chaos. Maybe everything will go smoothly and you’ll be pleasantly surprised, but it’s always best to travel prepared with a toddler. This means bringing along not only essentials like diapers and wipes and a few extra changes of clothes for all the just-in-cases, but also some entertainment and practical items as well.
To that end, we’ve put our heads together to come up with this list of fun and practical items alike that help make traveling with your toddler go the best that it can!
Our Favorite Toddler Travel Gear
You probably have your diaper gear of choice already, but if you don’t have a diaper clutch or foldable changing pad and a small wipes carrier, you’re going to want to get those before you hit the road or head to the airport. Sometimes, you just don’t want to mess with large packs of wipes. Diaper clutches (like this one) offer the best of both worlds as they carry both a foldable changing pad and a small pack of wipes.
A First Aid Kit
First and foremost, you should travel with some kind of first aid kit if you have a toddler. Whether you’re prepared to tackle that cold that your little one picked up on the plane (because you just had to sit in front of that coughing person, of course) or whether you’ve got enough Band-Aids on hand to deal with skinned knees, either way, you’ll be happy you remembered a few supplies. You can purchase pre-made first aid kits, but it’s even better to put your own together so you can customize what you’ll need and make sure it’s age appropriate. Suzi created this first aid kit list based on the kit she travels with.
A Backpack-Style Diaper Bag
Of course, you probably have your preferred diaper bag, but a backpack-style diaper bag is ideal for road trips and flights alike. We love the Haptim Multi-function Diaper Backpack for its handles on top as well as backpack straps, but choose one that fits you comfortably and is easy to snatch up with one hand while you’re also carrying your own luggage, possibly your toddler, and very likely gesturing at your significant other to grab your kids before they run away.
FlyTot Travel Cushion
The FlyTot is a unique, inflatable cushion that goes between the front of one airplane seat and the seat in front of you. Why, you might ask? Once you get the cushion inflated and placed, it extends the length of the seat so your tot can lay down and get a good night’s sleep on the plane. It works best for toddlers and smaller children who can fully lay down in the space it creates and it does involve some extra carry on luggage, but if you have a tot who is likely to actually stretch out and fall asleep, it will be worth it!
Puro Sound Lab Earphones
For older toddlers, these Puro Sound Lab earphones are a lifesaver. And by lifesaver, we mean that these babies let your tot listen to apps and videos so you can relax for a little bit. The earphones are volume limited so they’re safe for little ears, but they’re also shielded well enough from outside sound that they actually work! Which is not always the case with volume-limited earphones.
A Good Sun and/or Rain Hat
The value of a good hat can’t be underestimated. This is the best way to keep the sun and/or rain off of their faces and out of their eyes. Granted, this works only if you can actually get your toddler to wear a hat, but we’ve found the best ones come with chin straps so they can’t easily toss them away. Hats we’ve tried with success include the Sunday Afternoons Play Hat and the JAN + JUL Floppy Sunhat, both of which have UPF 50 protection and work just as well in light rain.
Okay, so you might get a few opinions about this depending on who you’re talking to, but the fact is if you have a toddler and a baby or two or more toddlers, a backpack-style leash will probably save you from loosing someone in airports and other busy places. You just can’t hold on to everyone.
A Lightweight Stroller
Stroller models are always changing so it’s tough to recommend just one or two that are the best travel strollers around, but the point is that whatever you bring along should be lightweight. Whether it’s one of those fancy schmancy strollers that folds down so that you can put it under a plane seat, or whether it’s a mid-range umbrella stroller (the super cheap ones don’t do great on airport floors or uneven ground), you’ve got options. Just make sure the stroller isn’t expensive enough that you’ll cry if it gets dinged up when it gets checked.
A Baby Carrier
If your toddler will still go in a carrier, then a carrier can save you on days when you don’t want to bring along the stroller. We love the Lillebaby carriers that switch front to back with ease and carry toddlers with no problem. Soft carriers like Lillebaby also stuff into a day bag or diaper bag so they’re a great alternative if you don’t want to lug a stroller around or plan to go on a hike.
Whether you’re traveling near or far with a toddler, the fact is they need a pretty near constant stream of snacks. Always make sure to bring along a fun water bottle that won’t leak in your bag, as well as some snack catchers like these made by Munchkin that don’t guarantee you won’t end up with Cheerios all over your rental car, but at least help slow the process down. Sippy cups (including insulated sippy cups for milk) are great to bring on the plane as you can ask flight attendants to put your toddler’s complimentary water or juice into the cup. If you’ve got a thrower, you might also invest in some sippy cup straps.
You might think that being in a hotel room means you can leave the baby monitor at home. And, of course, you totally can. We often do. But if you’re going somewhere where there’s a nice place to sit and relax just outside your room, a baby monitor can mean you sit in the sun while the baby naps in the dark hotel room. A baby monitor is perfect for sitting on a deck or patio where outdoor sound might make it tough to hear when your tot wakes up.
Only you know where your toddler will sleep on vacation. If it’s in the bed with you, then just skip this section because you won’t need it. If your toddler sleeps better in her own bed, you have a few options. One, you can lug along a Pack N Play. Many hotels have Pack N Plays that you can use, though, so if you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead and ask before bringing yours. If you’re driving, bringing your Pack N Play is just one more thing to stuff into the car. If you’re flying, you can indeed check a Pack N Play, but be aware that they usually count as additional luggage so there may be an extra fee to check it. Also, some people check these with just the case they come in while others stick them in a bag of some sort to protect them – choose your own adventure there. Another option if you have an older toddler who won’t abuse the privilege of sleeping without borders around them is to bring along an inflatable travel toddler bed. There are a few companies who make these, but just to give you the idea, they all go something like this one by Intex.
A Car Seat Cover
If you’re bringing a car seat along, but don’t plan to use it on the plane, a cover can help protect this precious cargo as the last thing you need when you arrive is damage to your car seat. You can go higher end and get one like this one by Brica that has wheels on it so you can roll it through the airport, or you can go super basic and just get a straight up bag designed to cover a car seat.