What should you not forget when traveling with a toddler?
The first time I traveled with my toddler was a weeklong trip to visit family over Thanksgiving. I have never hauled around so much stuff in all my life.
I wrote myself a travel with toddler checklist to make sure I didn’t forget anything. And I decided why should I keep this information to myself? You can get my actual travel with toddler checklist for free below, so you don’t even have to worry about writing down all the essentials.
When I traveled, I had the luxury of taking my car and not going terribly far, so some things on my checklist may not be feasible if you are flying with your toddler. However, everything on the checklist is something you should consider. If you can’t take, find a way to rent it or find something that will work in your situation.
Once you have an organized suitcase, all you have to worry about is making memories with your little one. Happy travels!
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Travel with Toddler Checklist Essentials
1. Travel Information
If you are traveling internationally, your child will need passport (and this holder will keep it safe). You should also have their birth certificate (or a copy). Double check with the airline before leaving.
And if it will just be you and your toddler, be sure to add a parent’s consent letter (from the other parent) to your travel with toddler checklist. (It may not be required or ever seen, but it’s better to have it, if you should need it.)
2. Diaper bag
When creating your travel with toddler checklist, your diaper bag should be at the top of the list. Use this diaper bag checklist to be sure you have everything you need in there. And use any additional space to pack whatever else will fit.
3. Child’s suitcase
I used a child-size suitcase for my toddler when we traveled. Between the suitcase and his diaper bag, I was able to fit everything he needed except some of his toys. And to be honest, that was probably my own fault, as we weren’t traveling far and had the luxury of space, so we weren’t worried about packing light.
4. Diapers and wipes
If you have a toddler who is yet to be potty-trained, make sure you add diapers (or pull-ups) and wipes to your travel with toddler checklist. I think I packed 5 diapers for each day of our trip (and maybe an additional 5, to be on the safe side).
Pay attention to how many diapers your child is wearing a day in the weeks prior to your trip to determine the best number for you. And 3 to 4 packs of wipes should get you through. Although that may seem like a lot, they come in handy for cleanups of all kinds (as you’re well aware).
Parenting tip: If you are flying and checking a car seat, store the extra diapers and wipes in the car seat to save room in your luggage.
5. Diaper cream
Even if your child has never had diaper rash a day in his life, you do not want to miss adding this to your travel with toddler checklist. Long car rides, busy schedules, and heat can all play a part in needing to use some diaper cream, so you don’t want to be stuck without it. And get a travel applicator to keep the cream (and other unspeakables) off your hands.
6. Changing pad
A changing pad is an essential item for a long car trip. And I would suggest taking two. We have a simple one that came with our diaper bag. It’s just a flat, wipeable pad that is perfect for changes in the car or hotel. But I would get another that is fully loaded, so you don’t need to haul your stuffed-to-the-brim diaper bag into restrooms.
Ah! This is always the hardest thing to pack for me. But it can be so easy when you’re packing such small clothes. First, let’s figure out what you need to pack and then we’ll discuss the best ways to pack it.
- Outfits. At least one outfit for each day of your trip (don’t forget travel days as well). Two additional “just in case” outfits.
- Socks and undies (if you’re potty-trained). A pair for each day. And two extra pair.
- Shoes. Two pair, as they get lost easily or may get wet. Also, any special shoes – sandals or boots, depending on your location.
- Coat or sweatshirt. In case it rains or gets chilly.
- Hat. For those sunny days.
Now that you’ve got it all laid out, what do you do with it?
- Large Ziploc bags. Put each day’s outfit in a bag, and you can label the bag with the day, so you don’t even have to think about what you kid will wear each day you’re away. Put the extras in their own bag and label them “just in case.” And keep those bags until the end of your trip cause you never know when you may need a bag along the way.
- Packing cubes. These keep your suitcase in order, so things don’t shift and get misplaced. Use one for your clothes, nighttime items, meal items, hygienic items, toys, and safety items so you know right where everything is. They’re also great when you’re packing up to come back home because you can easily see where things go and what’s missing. And they’re perfect if you’re packing your toddler’s items in your own suitcase instead of a separate one.
This also works when you are traveling with more than one kid and want to cut down on the number of suitcases you’re hauling but don’t want the clothes to be a mess. Simply, label the bags with each child’s name and no added stress for you!
This is always a top priority on my travel with toddler checklist when we go anywhere. Because my kiddo only likes to sleep in his room, in his bed, as dark as can be and his sound machine running. The first time we did a week away from home we actually bought a second crib and took his mattress and sheets, so it felt as much like home as possible.
I’m not saying you need to go to that extreme when traveling with your toddler. But definitely keep your child’s preference in mind. And maybe practice sleeping other places ahead of time.
So, what do you need for toddler bedding essentials? And how do you get it to your destination?
- Full size crib, portable crib, or pack and play. You can purchase and travel with either of these items (if you’re driving) or connect with a baby rental company in the area ahead of time to rent those items.
- Mattress. If you’re using a crib, make sure a mattress is provided or you have the correct size mattress (as portable cribs fit smaller mattresses).
- Sheets. For a crib or pack and play, pack sheets as they may not be provided from a rental company (be sure to check the size).
- Bed rail. If you’re little one is sleeping in a bed, this will give you some peace of mind while you’re away and may be available at your hotel or from a rental company.
- Nap mat. If all else fails and you don’t want to run the risk of your little one falling out of bed, these are great for travel.
9. Blanket and pillow
Depending on the weather and your child’s preference, take along an appropriate blanket and pillow, if your child is using one. These can be great soothing items when in the car or new places.
Two sets of pajamas should be enough when traveling with your toddler. On the off chance they have an accident, you have a spare set. And you can launder the other set, if needed.
If you don’t have access to a washer/dryer or laundromat, you can hand wash your items in a sink using these Tide packs (don’t forget to add them to your travel with toddler checklist).
11. Bedtime toys or books
You know what bedtime toys your kiddo can’t sleep without, so be sure to add them to your travel with toddler checklist. And if reading a book is part of your bedtime routine, don’t forget to pack a favorite nighttime book.
12. Sound machine
Like I said, my little guy uses his sound machine for naps and an hour at bedtime, so you don’t want to forget to pack yours. If you don’t already use a sound machine, this might be the time to try a portable one.
Between long car rides, new sleeping areas, and unfamiliar noises, your little one might need that constant hum to drown out the rest of the world. (Don’t forget to replace the batteries before you leave.)
Related: Best Sound Machines for Toddlers
Unless you will be sharing a hotel room and have eyes on your kiddo, you’ll want to pack your monitor. I use this one because it’s easy to set up and it’s a hack free system. (Don’t forget to pack the charge cord.)
14. Highchair or booster seat
This one applies more if you’ve rented a home or are staying with family. I don’t recommend hauling your highchair, if you don’t have the room. You may be able to rent a highchair for the home for the length of your stay or try a portable one.
And at restaurants, you can certainly ask for special seating. And if nothing else, throw down a blanket and have picnics on the floor. Whatever you’re planning, be sure to add it to you travel with toddler checklist, so you don’t forget to pack it.
You certainly want to include toddler plates, bowls, cups and utensils to your travel with toddler checklist especially if you’re staying in a place where you will be cooking your own meals. However, bowls with lids are great for eating on the go. And sippy cups are great in the car or even at restaurants.
Again, if you’re traveling somewhere that you can cook your own meals, don’t forget to pack your kiddo’s favorite foods. Whether it’s toddler meals or pouches for tots, you’ll want to bring something you
know think your child may eat.
Snacks are great for on the road, while waiting at a restaurant or to keep your little one occupied while you are checking in. Use a snack catcher for little hands or a bento box to carry a variety of snacks.
Be sure to pack enough bibs to keep those outfits clean. The less laundry you have to do (and stains you have to treat), the better.
19. Disposable placemats
These placemats are perfect to put down when at a restaurant and you don’t want your little one eating off the table. (Sometimes they are questionable.)
20. Shampoo and body wash
You know which shampoo and body wash works best for your kiddo. So go ahead a pack your favorites, just in case they are not available where you are staying.
And if you’re strapped for space, skip those large bottles and squeeze some in these. (They’re just the right size for air travel.)
21. Towels and washcloths
If you are traveling to a rental home or by RV, you’ll want to include toddler towels and washcloths on your travel with toddler checklist. However, if you are staying in a hotel, you can leave this item at home. (Unless your kiddo has a favorite item.)
Any special items you use to bath your kiddo should be included. A shampoo rinser or splash guard may be an essential item for your child. We still use the squeeze bottle that came with our baby tub (it works perfectly, and I can’t find another one like it).
23. Bath toys
One or two bath toys should be added to your travel with toddler checklist. This is an especially important item if your kiddo isn’t a fan of bath time. Anything that can make your trip feel more like home is likely to ease some fears.
Vacation is the time to be carefree, but you may have a night you want to look your best, so don’t forget to pack your little one’s hairbrush. Otherwise, just let their hair do its thing!
25. Toothbrush and toothpaste
Be sure to pack a toddler toothbrush and toothpaste (no matter how much your little one fights you). It’s important to keep those teeth cleaned.
26. Nail care
Toddler nails can grow pretty quick, so be sure to pack nail clippers (or these scissors) so you don’t have to worry about your little one scratching his face (or yours). Add a nail file to your travel with toddler packing list so you can keep their nails trimmed and neat while you’re away. I also use a nail brush at bath time to clean under my son’s nails.
27. Potty seat
If you have a potty-training toddler, be sure to pack a potty seat that fits over the adult toilet seats. If you’re traveling by car, you could just go ahead and pack their potty chair for easy access anywhere.
Parenting tip: Place a diaper in the bottom of the potty chair for easy cleanup. Just roll up the diaper and go. (Be sure to pack some odor eliminating bags to keep those diapers until you can dispose of them.)
28. Toilet seat covers
These covers are perfect for your potty-trained toddler. They completely cover public toilet seats, so you don’t have to worry about what their legs or hands are touching.
29. Favorite toys or animals
Can’t go anywhere without those favorite toys or plush animals? Make sure you add them to your travel with toddler checklist. And keep an eye on them while you’re away (they love to go on their own adventures once they leave the house).
If you have a toddler who loves to read, pack a few of their favorite books. These make good distractions on long car rides.
Related: Best Summer Books for Toddlers
31. Coloring items
A coloring book and these washable crayons are a great item for travel (whether your flight is delayed or on a rainy day). I also love these Water Wow! books. They’re perfect for in the car: no mess and no lost crayons.
32. Flash cards
Anything that keeps your toddler busy while traveling is a necessity. And these flash cards are a perfect way to keep your toddler engaged and learning while on the go.
You know your kiddo best, so if a tablet with some kid-friendly apps or their favorite shows is what will keep them entertained best, pack it! Travel days are the hardest for kids with short attention spans (and even adults). Do what you need to do to make your vacation enjoyable.
34. Baby Proofing Items
You’re going to know what works best in your house: outlet plugs, cabinet locks, drawer locks, toilet locks. If you know where you’ll be staying and can plan for this ahead of time, it will add peace of mind.
35. Baby gates or play space
Other items you may be able to rent while you are away are baby gates or a play space. However, if you will be staying with family or friends that may not be an option. So, add it to your travel with toddler checklist, even if that means to inquire about it when booking your trip.
Add a thermometer to your travel with toddler checklist in case of illness while you’re away.
And to combat that illness, I recommend taking some baby Tylenol on your trip (at a minimum). It seems that sickness follows travelers, so you’ll want to be prepared. And you never know when a tooth could be trying to make its way through.
You’ll also want to include any medication specific to your child. Check your bottles for expiration dates and that your refills are full.
Wherever you may be taking your vacation, you’ll want to pack some sunscreen for any time you’ll be spending outside.
39. Pacifier or teethers
If your little one is still using a pacifier or if they’re teething, be sure to add these very important items to your travel with toddler checklist.
40. Window covers
This is if you have a toddler who does not take naps unless they are in a completely dark room. You may not be lucky enough to have black out curtains or blinds available in the room where your little one will be sleeping. So, be sure he gets to sleep easy with this window film.
Whether you have a massive stroller or a simple umbrella stroller, you’ll want to pack something for when your little one no longer wants to walk and you’re too tired to carry them (and all their stuff).
42. Car seat
While you’re busy loading your car, don’t forget to leave room for that car seat. And if you plan on flying, it’s a good idea to take your own car seat along with you. You might not always be able to get a rental car or a taxi/rideshare with a car seat.
43. Laundry detergent or Tide packs
If you have access to laundry facilities while you’re away, be sure to pack some of your own laundry detergent, so you’re little one doesn’t develop a rash from a different product.
And if you don’t have access to laundry, use these Tide packs to do laundry in a sink or tub and air dry your clothes. (These are a great item when traveling with a toddler, who may need an extra set of clothes.)
44. Clothes bag for dirty laundry
I always throw a mesh laundry bag in my toddler’s suitcase so I can corral all the dirty clothes. This makes it so much easier if you’re headed to a laundry facility or to just keep the clothes separated until you can wash them at home.
45. Empty bags
I always add empty bags to my travel with toddler checklist (mostly because I will definitely forget them otherwise).
So, what bags should you take?
- Wet/dry bags. For wet items you want to keep separate from other items (I’m thinking swimsuit, rain-soaked clothes, soiled clothes).
- Odor eliminating bags. Mostly for diaper or potty-training toddlers but even great if you just have something stinky that you need rid of.
- Large Ziploc bags. For any miscellaneous items. They’re even good for going on water rides at a theme park to keep your items dry.
- Light drawstring bag. To carry anything while you’re out on your adventures: a jacket, drinks, things your little one wants to bring but doesn’t want to carry himself.
46. Beach towel, swimsuit, diapers, hat, beach toys
This one is kind of beach specific, but if you have a little one that loves the water, you’ll want to be prepared for that hotel pool. While you may be able to rent a beach towel or toys, be prepared by adding a swimsuit and swim diapers to your travel with toddler checklist. (That way you know they fit before you leave home, and you’re not wasting vacation time searching for something.)
47. Anything essential for your child
I think I gave you a pretty exhaustive list of items to add to your travel with toddler checklist. However, each kid is different and if there is something you know your child can’t live without, be sure to add it to your own list.
And as a word of advice, keep a close eye on any favorite stuffed animals, blankets, pacifiers, or toys you take with you. When those things go on vacation, they sometimes have a way of not coming back. And I would hate for your whole trip to be ruined because Mr. Squishy is lost somewhere in Ohio.
There you have it: the ultimate packing list for traveling with a toddler. A travel with toddler checklist is a great tool to keep you sane but only if you use it. I also pack the checklist and double check I have everything before returning home. Don’t forget to grab yours below!
Good luck on your journey! And let us know how it went in the comments.
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- Summer Ideas for Fun with Your Toddler
47 Essential Items for Your Travel with Toddler Checklist
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