Essential packing list for travel with toddlers

We recently took an eight-day vacation with our toddler to Washington state from New Mexico. This was definitely our toddler’s longest vacation away from home, so I wanted to make sure that she had everything she needed for the trip. This article is a packing list for travel with toddlers.

Packing for a toddler was more straightforward than I thought it would be. It was definitely easier than packing my suitcase because I always fret over what clothes to wear, how many shoes to bring, and many other things.

Surprisingly, I was able to fit everything she needed for eight days in a carry-on roll-along bag. This included outfits for every single day, diapers, Pull-Ups, and layers for inclement weather. 

I had the feeling that I was underpacking for her, but that was not true at all. In fact, the only thing I forgot was a set of baby nail clippers, which my husband bought at a local Walmart in Washington.

So, this is my packing list for travel with toddlers.

Packing list for travel with toddlers

packing list for travel with toddlers

In packing for this 8-day trip, I realized that toddlers don’t need a ton of stuff to survive on a trip. They are little explorers at heart and will play with almost anything they can get their hands on. It also helped that our vacation included outdoor activities like hiking and visiting beaches.

1. Clothing & Shoes

Most toddlers, including mine, will eventually stain their shirt and pants throughout the day. It always happens. So, I packed one full outfit for every single day of the trip. This included a shirt, shorts or pants, and socks. 

I packed two pairs of sneakers and one pair of water shoes for her. She wore her favorite pair of sneakers almost the entire trip. We did not use the second pair of sneakers, but it was nice to have for a backup. Just in case.

packing list for travel with toddlers

Since it rains a lot in Washington, I brought a lined rain jacket, a fleece sweatshirt, and a zip-up hoodie. She wore at least one layer every single day for our trip. Depending on the temperature, you may also consider a beanie, gloves, and a heavier jacket.

2. Potty Training, Pull-Up, or Diaper supplies

If you’re potty training, you may want to pack a travel potty seat and some spare pull-ups or underwear. Amazon has some pretty nifty travel, foldable potty seats that fit neatly in a small bag.

Otherwise, pack enough diapers or Pull-Ups for the trip. My husband thought the Pull-Ups took up too much space in her bag and asked why we couldn’t just buy them when we got there. Okay, they didn’t take up that much space. I figured we could use that extra space on the way home for souvenirs.

3. Toddler toiletries

My toddler has her own travel toiletries now! I packed travel-sized shampoo, body wash, and lotion for her. We also took her toothbrush, detangling spray, comb, and hair ties. These are items that she uses every day. The only thing we forgot to bring was nail clippers.

I found it easy to pack all of these items in my toiletry bag and I separated them when we got to our destination.

4. Sleeping necessities

When my daughter was an infant, we used to take the Pack ‘n Play for weekend trips. Thankfully we don’t have to do that anymore. 

For my toddler, I packed a toddler pillow and her favorite blanket. She used both on the airplane and every night for sleep. 

When we travel, my toddler will sleep on a pull-out couch on her own. If that’s not available, we usually get two queen beds and I’ll sleep with her while my husband takes the other bed. We have tried sleeping together in one bed and it is crazy.

5. Car seat and stroller

I recommend purchasing a lightweight stroller for travel. There’s nothing worse than toting around a huge stroller while you’re trying to go places and have fun. Also, if it gets damaged, it’s not the worst thing to happen.

We usually pack our own car seat in a travel bag instead of renting it from a car company. You can purchase travel bags from Amazon or Target for approximately $20.

Although gate-checking a car seat can be a pain because you have to carry it through the airport, I actually recommend this. Our car seat was permanently damaged on our most recent trip by checking it in with our luggage.

To read more about the risks of checking a car seat on a plane, read this article from Travel Car Seat Mom.

6. Toys

We pack toys for our toddler wherever we go, whether it’s a day, weekend, or camping trip. She usually asks to bring her favorite toys anyway.

packing list for vacation with toddlers

For airplane travel, I recommend bringing toys on the smaller and quieter side. We chose items like books, a coloring book with crayons, a small set of Magnatiles, her Sesame Street figurine set, a hand puppet, stacking cups, and her doctor play set.

7. Pain Relief Medication

You’ll want to bring children’s pain relief medication for your trip. It’s good to have on hand even if you don’t end up using it.

On two of our flights, my daughter complained about her ears as we were descending. Medication can relieve some of that discomfort.

8. Drinking vessels

If your toddler isn’t fully drinking out of an open cup, make sure to pack a couple of her sippy cups. We use stackable cups with straws, so it was really easy and compact to pack three of them.

During the trip, we ended up using one for water and one for milk. I tend to keep a sippy cup of water in her car seat cup holder so she stays hydrated.

9. Snacks

I’m the mom who always has snacks stashed in her purse, so this one is a given. When we were at the airport, I saw a mom who had the most organized snack bag I’ve ever seen.

She had various snacks individually bagged in snack-sized baggies. Then, she stuffed all these individual baggies into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. So, at security check, she simply pulled out the big Ziploc bag. Pretty simple and pretty genius.

10. Birth certificate

Our airline requested that we bring our toddler’s birth certificate for identity verification at the airport. After diligently packing this very important document, no one ever asked to check her birth certificate for the entire trip!

If you get an e-mail confirmation from your airline that recommends bringing the birth certificate, I would bring it just in case. So, that rounds up my packing list for travel with toddlers!

Final thoughts on packing list for travel with toddlers

If you get an opportunity to travel with your toddler, do it! Don’t be afraid that they might act up, have a tantrum, or misbehave when you’re on vacation. They probably will at some point, but they will also surprise you.

It was amazing to see my daughter adapting and learning on the go. I think she’s going to love traveling as much as we do. Thank you for reading this packing list for travel with toddlers.

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