Let's be honest, traveling with toddlers is tedious. Their nap and feeding times are off schedule, they are tethered to a seat with the inability to roam, airports and busy gas stations can trigger sensory issues — and who actually likes the journey part of getting to your vacation destination or holiday visit?
As a parent who has traveled alone with young kids in tow many times, I can tell you that while that while these expeditions can be exhausting, there are ways to make them much easier. No matter if you are jet setting with your spouse or flying solo, having these toddler travel essentials can help you have a great getaway!
16 Key Travel Items to Pack for Toddlers
Traveling with a toddler is no picnic, but if you remember to pack these toddler travel must-haves, they can prevent a bumpy flight or drive. They will also help you to hack your way through your hotel stay.
Cheap umbrella stroller
Car window shade
Toddler busy board
Portable high chair
Pack and Play
Portable white noise machine
Diaper changing supplies
Potty training items
First aid kit
Emergency supplies (change of clothes, trash bags, Clorox wipes, etc.)
For those traveling by air, a handy inflatable footrest (we love this Maliton version) can be a lifesaver! First and foremost, the last thing you want is your toddler crawling all over the airplane floor. By having a footrest to block off this unwanted play space, you can save yourself a big headache.
Second, when your flight lines up with your toddler's ever-important nap time, the footrest helps to create a mini bed for them to get some shut-eye! Just pack a small blanket and pillow and they will be all set to slumber.
Finally, an inflatable footrest is extremely easy to slide into your carry-on! Make sure to purchase a simple hand-held air pump for easy set-up and you have the perfect way to upgrade your child's seat.
Cheap Umbrella Stroller
No matter if you are flying or driving on your next family trip, having a cheap umbrella stroller, like this cute flamingo stroller, is a lifesaver. This can allow for quick and easy potty breaks when you are on the open road and it can make short layovers a much more manageable task. I have used one in both scenarios and I will never travel without it.
Why do I recommend a cheap stroller and not the one you use every day? After hours of flying and being forced to sit in a confined space, toddler meltdowns are inevitable. If you are finally at your destination and your toddler has reached their breaking point, it is easier to sacrifice the $30 stroller than the more expensive one you probably use on a regular basis.
Another great option for quick layovers is a toddler carrier, like this versatile Beco option. This keeps your hands free to cart the many other things you need for your trip and ensures that you know where your little one is at all times! This toddler travel must-have is also a fantastic accessory to have for hiking trips and exciting days at the amusement park. When your toddler tires, carting them back to the car suddenly becomes an easy task.
Car Window Shade
For those making long car trips with their tots, nap time is literally the best part of your journey. However, it can be hard to get some shut-eye with the sun shining directly in your face.
Car window shades are an easy solution. When shopping for this toddler travel essential, look for options that are not completely opaque. While complete darkness seems ideal, you still need to be able to see those blind spots to ensure safe travel.
After making a handful of trips with just toys, I realized that there was nothing wrong with saving my sanity for a few hours. Amazon's toddler tablets are downright fantastic. We bought one for my son on sale for $75 and it has saved us when it comes to long car trips and plane rides.
Not only does it come with a seemingly indestructible case — my son has been doing some unsolicited market research on this — but there is also a two-year warranty if your child does manage to do some damage.
If you have a Netflix account, download your toddler's favorite shows before you hit the open road or take off to the skies. This ensures that internet service is never an issue.
As someone who has heard "baby shark" a few too many times, I can tell you that spending that extra twenty bucks is worth its weight in gold. My son is obsessed with his bluetooth headphones. They have a solid battery life, they are free of wires (which prevents any choking hazards), and they are adjustable so they will grow with your toddler!
Most importantly, if you have more than one child, this can allow the baby to nap and your toddler to stay entertained and quiet at the same time.
Toddler Busy Board
Since all electronic devices have to be off during take-offs and landings, you need something to keep your little one busy. Cue the toddler busy board. This was a lifesaver on our last plane trip. With so many different hands-on activities, you can keep your toddler entertained and even build their fine motor skills at the same time!
Portable High Chair
If you are off to visit family and friends who don't have kids, this is one of the best travel items for toddlers! We all know that giving your toddler the freedom to wander with food always ends up a disaster, which makes a portable high chair another fine choice. This product is compact, attaches directly to the table, and even comes with a tray for the table to limit the mess.
Speaking of messes, there is nothing worse than wanting to bathe your baby and realizing that you have to do it in a questionable hotel bathtub. As the resident germaphobe in my family, I always like to think of ways to circumvent these types of issues, and packing an inflatable bathtub (we love the Mommy's Helper tub) is a simple solution!
Just like the footrest for the plane, this takes up limited space but allows you the peace of mind that your toddler has a clean place to scrub-a-dub-dub.
If you have a baby and a toddler in tow, this is definitely a travel must-have. This tub can provide much better support for bathing your baby than the giant bathtub because it has a built-in saddle horn in the center.
Pack and Play
This can be a lot to lug on an airplane, but if you have space in your car, bringing the Pack and Play is a simple alternative to a crib for younger toddlers. Best of all, it can keep your toddler confined in a safe space for when you need to shower or get ready for the day.
If space is limited or your toddler is a bit older, another option is to pack inflatable bumpers to put on the bed where your toddler will sleep. You just blow them up and slide them under the fitted sheet and it can help them from rolling off the pillow top.
Portable White Noise Machine
Every parent knows that naps are essential for your sanity. However, when visiting family who don't have kids of their own, it can be hard to convince them to stay quiet. Portable noise machines can provide the silence they need in these scenarios.
Diaper Changing Supplies
We all know that diapers and wipes are a must, but really think about your travel plans before you think you are good to go. Will the gas station have a changing table? Will you even want to use it? Sometimes the back seat is the best option.
When this is the case, having a puppy pad on hand is an excellent decision. I swear by these when I travel! You can buy a stockpile from Costco and use one over and over until a blowout or stinky mess spreads farther than you intended. Then, just toss it and grab a new one.
Additionally, as someone who essentially drives through the middle of a tumbleweed-filled desert to get to civilization, I will tell you that there is not always a spot to stop. This makes the side of the road the only option. When those stinky messes occur, I promise you that you will want a secure place to store that dirty diaper.
Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Disposal Bags are a toddler travel essential that not only stores away those messes but also limits the smell that accompanies them thanks to the lavender-scented and baking soda-infused plastic. Finally, don't forget to pack the wet wipes and hand sanitizer when the diaper change is done.
Items for Potty-Trained Toddlers
If your little one is potty trained, it's still a good idea to pack extra underwear and bottoms (and maybe even some extra socks and a spare of shoes) in case of accidents. Wipes and hand sanitizer can also come in handy in case of those accidents.
If they are still using a training potty and you are traveling by car, you can bring it in the car and use a garbage bag to line the bottom to make cleanup easier. Also, remember their nighttime diapers or pull-ups. You may want a washable or disposable waterproof pad or puppy pad to lay under where they are sleeping at night for extra protection.
Are you staying in a hotel? Then, make sure to pack a roll of painter's tape! This toddler travel must-have is a simple way to babyproof your room without causing any damage to the surfaces. Tape down the electrical wires, phone cords, and blind strings, and cover up electrical outlets. This can also be an easy way to keep drawers shut to limit the climbing attempts that toddlers love to make.
First Aid Kit
Accidents happen with toddlers, so having first aid supplies at the ready is always a good idea. Keep a stockpile of bandaids, alcohol swabs, hand sanitizer, tweezers, gloves, and gauze, as well as medications like Tylenol, antihistamines, asthma medications, and EpiPens. These can cover small accidents, unexpected fevers, and allergic reactions.
If you buy a pre-assembled first aid kit and you are traveling by air, make sure to take out any scissors, safety pins, and other sharp objects. You are not allowed to carry these on the plane.
Finally, for those headed on a road trip, it is always better to prepare for the worst and not need it, than to be caught off guard. Keeping a small collection of trash bags, a roll of paper towels, a container of Clorox wipes, disposable gloves, and an easily accessible change of clothes for each child is important. These items may seem unnecessary until someone pukes or has a blowout.
Toddler Travel Must-Haves Will Highly Depend on Your Child
Every child is different and their needs seem to change month by month. When planning for your next trip, don't just think about right now, but also about the day you plan to leave. For instance, if you are planning to potty train in between now and your Christmas vacation, you will need to pack a portable potty seat and pull-ups on top of all your other toddler travel essentials. You will also need to plan a few extra stops along the way.
By thinking ahead and planning for possible problems, you can make your journey a success!