Our tried and tested list of toddler travel essentials that you will actually use on your travels! Essential travel items for toddlers to make family travel easier.
The toddler years are the hardest in terms of travel gear.
This is the time when you find yourself lugging around airports the highest number of bags and that with the bulkiest items.
If you were able to get away with bare-bone essentials when traveling with a baby, now you find yourself literally weighted down by strollers, portable beds, toys, plus of course a chid on the move!
But what do you actually need for traveling with a toddler?
This is my selection of essential travel items for toddlers, made on the base of our own experience with our 2 children.
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Toddler travel essentials vs travel niceties
I always think about the things you need to travel with a toddler as belonging to two categories: travel necessities you will only use while on the go and things you need for your toddler to stay content and entertained.
Travel necessities for toddlers are things such as a travel car seat or luggage (something you would not use every day) while the toddler niceties can be things you already own but that are handy on travel.
After numerous trips with our two toddlers, I decided both categories fall in under ‘travel essentials’ and so, in this post, I included them all!
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A lightweight travel stroller
A good travel stroller or at least a lightweight stroller you can easily carry on your travels is invaluable when traveling with a toddler.
Once your child walks, it is very tempting to leave the stroller at home but the time I did, I regretted my choice.
Not having a stroller meant we always had to carry our children when they were tired and it also has a massive drawback: we always had them on top of us!
When they were tired, we always needed to have them either with us or in bed while with a stroller, we were able to settle them and go out for a meal with them peacefully asleep beside us. Family travel win!
If you are very active, you may also consider an all-terrain stroller: slightly bigger, usually, then travel ones, they tend to be great for offroad pursuits such as days in the country or the beach.
If you are not on the market for a travel stroller, you can always gate check your own so while having a lightweight stroller helps, the one you have at home can also do!
A toddler bed
Depending on your destination and accommodation choice you may not need a toddler bed but we found that it often came in handy.
Depending on the age of your children you may want an actual toddler bed (we found them good when camping) or a travel crib: the travel crib comes with the added advantage of doubling up as a playpen, a very handy option!
Ride on luggage
One of the best purchases we have ever made was a Trunki, the super cute travel luggage on wheels toddlers can ride on.
I had many doubts about the Trunki before I got it but it was such a success for us, we actually got two, one per child!
You can carry Trunki on the plane as hand luggage, you can use it for extra toys or even as main toddler bag and it is super fun for the children to use.
Just be aware that it not a replacement for a stroller! You can read more about why we love Trunki for international travel here.
Toddler own backpack
Toddlers love having their own little bag of treasures and this is even truer on travel when having something familiar can ease anxiety.
The best toddler backpacks are those designed specifically for younger kids and by brands that take pride in proper ergonomic features such as padded shoulders and chest straps.
For us, the best toddler backpack of all is the Kikki by Deuter which is super cute, sturdy and very well made.
A travel diaper bag
If your toddler is not potty trained, then a good traveling diaper bag is a must.
My favorite ones for travel are those my husband can carry too and especially those in the form of a backpack.
Diaper bags for dads tend to be more stylish than those for mums but I managed to find some style that suits us both.
You can find my selection of diaper bags for mums AND dads here.
Portable car seat
You may not need a car seat on all your travels but we have often found that having our own was an advantage.
If renting a car, your own car seat is a guarantee for safety (you never know the state of those that come with the car) and if you are flying with a young toddler, you may want to strap them into a car seat for the plane journey, something experts report being the safest option.
We have put a lot of research into the best car seats for travel and car seats for flying and while they can be a pain to lug around, we do believe they belong in our list of essential items for traveling toddlers.
A nice extra! If you are sending or gate checking your car seat, I highly recommend you use a bag to protect it.
You can find my recommended travel bags for car seats here.
A toddler travel pillow
Travel pillows are great for young children: they support their neck on planes and in the car and they make snoozing on the move much easier.
We are very fond of ours and choose them after careful consideration. this is our shortlist of the best travel pillows for kids.
A favorite teddy
We never go anywhere without a plush friend: over the course of the years, we have brought on our travels ‘bunny’, ‘chick’ and a long series of stuffed toys, each of them carefully selected before departure.
Bringing a teddy goes a long way to soothe a tired toddler rattled by a long trip but of course poses a risk: that of leaving it behind!
To overcome this, we always tried to bring a teddy that wasn’t irreplaceable (and we became obsessive about checking we had it with us at all times!)
Toys the plane / the car / the hotel
As much as I like to travel light, I would never travel without a good selection of travel toys.
We usually bring toys for the plane (stickers, stackable cups, aqua doodles) but also toys to use at our destination.
Easy to carry and good toys for the hotel for us were kitchen sets: with pots, pans, wooden food and cutlery, we had little chefs role-playing around the world!
A toddler bento box and sippy cup
Bento box is a bit of a pompous name for what is effectively just a piece of Tupperware however, I do find Tupperware with several compartments invaluable when traveling with a toddler.
I usually fill it with rice cakes, raisins and anything I know my children like and make sure to also bring a suitable drink (usually water) in a non-spill sippy cup.
I would have never thought headphones would appear in my list of toddlers’ must-haves but after listening to hours of Peppa Pig, I am a fan!
When picking toddler headphones, make sure you choose them with volume-limiting technology and specifically designed for the age of your child so that they are safe, cute, and stay in place.
Depending on the age and habit of your toddler, you may want to bring with you childproofing equipment for your hotel room or rental.
Small items such as socket covers and soft corners for tables can make all the difference and turn a stressful environment into a safer one with very little effort.
This is our roundup of toddler travel essentials and the things you need when traveling with a toddler. I hope it was useful: safe travels!