Traveling with tiny explorers requires an entirely new level of planning on behalf of the parents. Planning for what we will need is easy, but packing for your little ones? That can be a challenge.
Recently, my husband and I have been traveling A LOT with our two-year-old twins. At first, the thought of having to travel with kids was overwhelming and daunting.
However, over the last few months, I have learned what things are absolutely necessary and what things that we can go without.
The following list of essential items comes from our real-life experience of traveling with twin toddlers.
In this list, you will find the items that I never leave behind when taking a trip with my kiddos (in addition to the obvious necessities such as clothes and diapering items, which I did not include in this list).
Whether you’re prepping for a short flight, a quick family vacation, or a longer road trip, I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m here to help!
Here are the must-have toddler travel essentials that we pack for every trip:
1. Fully Stocked Diaper Bag
Having a good, spacious diaper bag is a must when it comes to traveling.
However, you want to make sure you only fill it with things you absolutely need. Otherwise, it gets too large and too heavy.
Here’s what you will find in our diaper bag on a trip:
I like to keep my diapers and wipes in a separate bag inside of my diaper bag for a quick grab-and-go when I need to change a diaper quickly.
While my husband laughs that I have bags inside of bags, I have found that keeping a few diapers, a small pack of wipes, and an extra change of clothes in a wet/dry bag is super helpful.
It keeps everything in one place, and it is easy to carry into a bathroom for diaper changes instead of digging through the entire diaper bag.
Also, if you need to toss soiled diapers or clothes in the bag, this idea will keep it from stinking up the rest of your diaper bag.
Having a stash of your toddler’s favorite snacks is a MUST for a long travel day.
I love these stackable snack containers that easily fit in my diaper bag, and I can fill them with lots of toddler snacks for the day.
Portable spill-proof snack catchers are also amazing for traveling, and we always have one with us!
Spill-Proof/Leak-Proof Kid’s Water Bottle
Each of my twins has their own mini water bottle that travels with us. They are so highly functional and really just an essential for toddlers, whether you’re traveling or not.
Skip the sippy cups and go for these instead!
Just-in-Case First Aid Kit
I always travel with a few essential medicines and products for treating colds or other illnesses that tend to pop up when traveling.
A few items I try to always keep in my diaper bag are infant/children’s Tylenol, saline nasal spray, NoseFrida, and a thermometer.
2. Toddler Backpacks
Each of my twins has their own little backpack that they bring on the plane when we are flying. Before we leave, I stock their backpacks (as well as extra space in my diaper bag) with some of their favorite travel toys and any comfort items (stuffed animals, blankets, pacifiers) that they might need for the flight and make traveling easier.
This has been a lifesaver for long layovers, downtime in the airport, or other times when our kids want to walk or run. It allows them to get in some movement without being able to get too far.
3. Travel Toys
I try to keep toys to a minimum for the sake of space; however, toddlers get bored easily, and you definitely need to be prepared and have a few good travel toys and toddler activities on hand.
Some of our favorites include:
- Lacing toys
- Matching card games/flashcards
- Reusable sticker books
- Water Wow books
- Busy books
I try to get a few new toys before flights or long road trips just so that my kids have something different to play with that they haven’t seen in a while or ever before.
This keeps them occupied for longer rather than getting bored with toys they see frequently.
Amazon Fire Tablet
When it comes to screen time, I try to keep it very limited for my toddlers.
However, we have found that having an Amazon Fire or other sort of tablet on hand (with toddler headphones, of course!) is helpful as a last resort during flights or road trips.
Our toddlers are still too young to really play games or watch shows, but they do love looking at downloaded books, “playing” learning games, and listening to downloaded kids’ songs.
4. Sleeping Gear
If I overpack or bring any “extra” items, these are things that will ensure my kids (and me, if we’re being honest!) get the best night’s sleep possible while we’re away from home.
I try to get their setup as comfortable and as close to home as possible so that we can get good sleep and enjoy our trip!
Pack ‘n Plays
My twins are still not quite ready to sleep in portable toddler beds, so we always travel with Pack ‘n Plays (yes – two!) and thin mattresses to put inside of them.
(The mattresses are an “extra” item, but it makes the Pack ‘n Plays more comfortable.)
Most airlines will require you to check a Pack ‘n Play and pay for it like you would regular baggage.
What we have learned is that many hotels have Pack ‘n Plays (or even mini cribs) available to use during your stay.
If you are traveling to a hotel, call in advance to see if this is an option for you.
Many parents of older toddlers will travel with blow-up toddler beds that are much smaller and can fit in a suitcase.
I am looking forward to the day that we can begin to do this! They are a great alternative to Pack ‘n Plays/ travel cribs and much more travel-friendly.
This might be considered “extra” or unnecessary for some people, but for us, it is absolutely essential!
Our Hatch sound machine and night light travels everywhere with us! We love it.
It helps us maintain consistency, and the white noise is a great way to drown out hotel sounds or loud city noises.
Usually sleeping in a hotel means your toddler will be in the same room as you.
Big cities can also be pretty loud at night with all the street noises, and getting a toddler to sleep is hard enough in normal circumstances.
Having a sound machine has been pure gold for us and helps us sleep well in hotel rooms or Air B&Bs.
My kids love their Halo Sleep Sacks, and they travel with us everywhere we go.
Having them is another way to keep sleeping environments comfortable and familiar for my kiddos.
When packing this item, don’t forget to bring any special stuffed animals that go hand-in-hand with your little one’s bedtime routine.
5. Stroller or Toddler Carrier
A lightweight travel stroller or carrier is a MUST, especially if you are going through the airport or traveling with a toddler to an area that will require a lot of walking.
Airlines are very accommodating when it comes to strollers, and they will let you check them with your luggage at your gate.
If you have a nicer stroller, I would recommend buying a bag to put it in for protection and to keep it from getting too banged up. Something like this would be perfect.
While we still travel with our stroller, it can honestly be a bit of a pain. We still bring it with us because we travel for my husband’s work and are traveling to live somewhere for a few months at a time.
However, for shorter trips or vacations, many parents have found that their toddlers prefer being carried in a back carrier. I am tempted to try them as my toddlers are starting to get tired of the stroller!
If a carrier works for your toddler, I would definitely add it to your travel packing list as I consider it much easier to travel with than a stroller.
6. Car Seats
This is another obvious but important item to remember to pack. They are a pain to lug around the airport, but fortunately, all airlines will allow you to check them for free with your bags.
I would highly recommend purchasing storage bags for your car seat (find them here) as well to protect them while they are under the plane and going through baggage claim.
7. Eating Gear
Toddlers can be MESSY eaters, and most places only have glass dishware, which is very risky in the hands of two-year-olds.
I tend to travel with silicone plates for my kiddos (these are great) so I don’t have to worry too much about them breaking any dishes. I also throw a few of their toddler utensils in my suitcase as well.
Enjoy Your Essential Packing List for Toddler Travel
There you have it! My list of must-haves for traveling with toddlers.
The travel packing checklist might seem very minimalistic, which it is, but I have learned that you really don’t need too much when traveling with toddlers.
As long as you have your basics, you’ll be fine!
I hope this essentials list was helpful and made packing for your trip a little less overwhelming! Happy travels!
Charlynn is an educator and mom to fraternal boy/girl twins. She loves learning through the experiences she has with her littles and using her knowledge to help other moms as they embark on the journey of motherhood.