Traveling with a toddler can be amazing, and it can also be difficult. It can create some of the best memories of your life, and it can also be a nightmare. I personally think if we do our best in planning, it’ll go smoother and overall be a better experience. We went to Mexico again with Giulian and it was a totally different experience from our first trip. Some of that is due to him being a better age to travel (20 months vs 4 months old), but part of it also had to do with us being more prepared and experienced in traveling with him. I think with traveling with kids, practice does make perfect and each trip we as a family get better and better. I’m not saying I’m an expert on the topic, but I do think I have some tips that could help you in packing for your trip with your toddler. I’ve learned through experience, asking my sis (mama of 3 and amazing at traveling with them), and doing my own research online. I hope this helps you on your next trip with your littles. Comment below with a packing tip that I’ve missed, I’m always excited to learn and get better when it comes to traveling with Giulian! Also stay tuned for more family travel posts. I plan to do one on in flight tips and tips for a smoother vacation with your toddler.
Carry On Bag
1. Snacks galore. I asked the mamas who follow my Instagram what their #1 travel tip was and almost every mama said snacks, snacks, snacks. And not just their everyday snacks, but new and exciting snacks you know they’ll love. Or snacks you know they have loved in the past but maybe they don’t get to have all the time. Maybe some homemade muffins, applesauce pouches (although that could be messy), granola bars, dried fruit or freeze dried fruit (Giulian loves both), sliced fruits and veggies (you can take them through security but might need to toss it if entering a different country like Mexico for example), crackers and hummus in a tupperware. I’m just trying to spark some good snack ideas. Bring what you know will make your kiddos happy and content. We tried to pick snacks that weren’t too packed with sugar because we didn’t want Giulian to have a burst of sugary energy (that’s not fun on an airplane).
2. New toys and activities. The brand Melissa and Doug has a sticker book that my friend told me about and it is amazing. The stickers are puffy so toddlers can easily peal them off themselves. You can find them at Target or on Amazon. I purchased the 3 pack and I’m so glad I did, we used one for the travel day there, one for days at the resort and one for the travel day home. We also snagged a ton of great stuff from the Target Dollar Spot, Dr. Seuss flash cards, sticker books and coloring books. He loved having options and because we brought so many new items we had enough to keep surprising him with new items.
3. Download favorite movies to iPad or Kindle. Giulian is obsessed with the movie Cars right now and we made the mistake of not downloading it to the Kindle. We have Moana but now to Giulian Moana is old news. He kept saying cars on the airplane and we didn’t have it. It was fine, we have other videos on the Kindle that he watched, but I’d suggest getting their favorites ready to go.
4. Game on phone that works without WiFi. I’m not a huge fan of Giulian playing a ton of games, but if it’s to keep him happy during a flight I’m all about it. There are super educational games that you can download to your phone, we’ve been loving the PBS app.
5. Extra outfit in case of accidents.
6. Bottle, sippy cup or suckers/lollipops. This is especially important for take off and landing. Getting them to drink or suck on something is going to help pop their ears and relieve pressure. The lollipop is such a great idea (thanks sis) for toddlers. They’re coming out of the nursing and bottle stage and it can be more difficult to get them to suck on something during take off and landing to help with their ears, but I’m sure almost any toddler wouldn’t pass up a sucker. As of now our son only gets those during haircuts, so he’d be thrilled.
Copy or photo of their birth certificate and passport if out of country. If it’s a photo on your phone I suggest putting them in it’s own folder on your phone (so you’re not scrolling through your photos trying to find it) and also emailing them to your spouse just in case you lost your phone at all during the trip. I’d suggest calling the airline prior to your trip because each trip could be different depending on your destination (in country vs out of country) and airline (some airlines have different rules). Another great idea is to make sure your kids have contact info with them at all times just in case you were to get separated during your trip (not likely, but better safe than sorry).
We bring Giulian’s car seat on every trip. Our last vacation to Mexico he was only in the car for 15 minutes from the airport to the resort and then back, and I know some parents wouldn’t choose to bring a car seat for that, but I personally think it’s still important and I don’t find it to be that difficult. In fact I love bringing the car seat because I check it and I can put toys in with it. Airlines won’t charge you to check a stroller or car seat. We purchased a bag to protect the car seat and keep it clean while it’s being checked. There is a gap of free space in the bag so I put some extra stuff in there. For example last trip I put his LEGO blocks in the bag and it was so nice to have them at the resort.
You can also check into renting a car seat with your rental car.
I came across a blog post on how to travel with car seats and this lady covers EVERYTHING you’d need to know. It blew my mind so much that I decided to link it here for you.
We have a stroller specifically for travel and on the go. It’s smaller than our home/running stroller but larger than an umbrella stroller. I personally think you want something more sturdy than an umbrella stroller, something that can hold your luggage without collapsing if needed. You can purchase a gate check bag on amazon for your stroller to keep it clean and safe throughout the flight.
My rule of thumb is plan for 6 diapers/day plus a sleep diaper for each night your there + one extra for any accidents throughout the night. This has been our rule for each trip and we’ve never had any issues running out of diapers. Sometimes we ditch the diapers completely and only pack enough for travel and then purchase them when we get there. If you do this, I suggest packing enough for unexpected delays. We only do this if we know a super market will be right by where we are staying. This is preference, some people don’t like packing them all and some people don’t like having to go buy them. Do what fits you best.
I personally think Target has the best travel size toiletry selection. However sometimes you just can’t find everything and even if you can it may cost way more to purchase the small size in comparison to buying a large size and filling your own bottles. I like filling my own 3.4 oz bottles because of the money savings and also I have a hard time finding the exact products I use on Giulian. He has sensitive skin so I don’t like switching up his products, I like to use the exact ones I know he likes.
If the hotel or resort has a crib then we just use that and ditch the pack n play. However we might start rethinking this due to our most recent experience. The crib at our resort in Mexico was not mesh lining like our pack n play, it was metal bars. Well, Giulian woke up screaming one evening and his leg was stuck in the crib. The scary part was I couldn’t get it out! I literally had to call Nick and have him sprint across the resort and come Hulk the metal bars apart. Giulian was hysterical and so was I. I might start bringing our pack n play from home on trips. It’s free to check anyways.
I also pack his crib sheets from home. I want Giulian to sleep well on trips and he will sleep best if he feels like he’s at home. So we bring everything from home that he normally has in his crib, security blankets and all.
Health and Safety
Bring their insurance cards with you just in case you have an unfortunate incident occur where you’d need that information.
I always bring items that I plan on not using but I’d like to have them just in case. Especially if I’m traveling out of the country with him. I pack ibuprofen and Benadryl. I especially think the Benadryl is important just in case they have an allergic reaction. On vacation our toddlers are typically trying new foods and are around new plants and you just never know what they might be allergic to. I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Thermometer. I forgot this on our last trip and Giulian had a low grade fever (a friend had a thermometer). Lesson learned.
I bring his normal vitamins and probiotics because I want him to stay regular and healthy while we travel. I also give him Elderberry gummies to help boost his immune system.
I plan for two outfits a day. Toddlers are messy and I know Giulian refuses to wear a bib so we usually burn through two outfits a day. I also pack a little less than one pajamas per night. For example I’ll pack four pajamas for a six night trip. If he doesn’t pee through we can reuse the pajamas for the next night. Make sure and check the weather before traveling, that way you know what types of layers to bring.
In the winter we have to bring heavy coats regardless of the temps in our destination. The worst is leaving Denver on a sunny day, arriving to your sunny vacation and coming home to a blizzard with zero winter gear to get you home from the airport.
I hope you find these tips helpful when packing for your next adventure with your little ones! I truly believe it’s important to travel with your kids and as a family. When I look back on my childhood some of my greatest memories are on vacations (even though we didn’t go on a ton). I’m so grateful for our ability to travel together as a family.
Stay tuned for more posts on this topic, I will also be doing in flight tips for traveling with a toddler and tips for a smooth vacation with a toddler. Also, if I’ve missed any amazing tips please comment below!! I still have so much to learn!