Packing for a family trip has been somewhat trial and error for me. It’s easy to pack for yourself when you’re single – it doesn’t matter too much what you take and you can pick items up on the road. Packing for a child is a little different. You have to anticipate and plan for their current and future needs. Remember, at all costs, the special items that your little one can’t live without. You need my toddler packing list!
I’ve put together a packing list for toddler clothes and accessories that will work for almost any trip. Travelling with a toddler doesn’t have to be scary!
I’ve made mistakes in the past, learnt from them and come up with some ideas that should help you pack when travelling with your toddler. You can of course expand this packing list for kids that are older or turn it into a baby travel packing list with a few small tweaks.
What You'll Find in This Post
Ultimate Toddler Packing List for Travel
Clothes for Travel with Toddler
Don’t pack to much! My number one trip for ANYONE who asks for packing advice is…
Take half the stuff you think you’ll need!
I once heard an excellent quote from a seasoned traveller – “take half the stuff and double the money”. If you do nothing else, follow this advice. Layout everything you think you’ll need for your trip. Then, put half of it back in your closet. Your toddler will need about double the clothes that you would. Factor in messy meals, playtime in sand and peeing themselves at the worst possible time.
Here’s my list of clothing essentials to add to your travelling with a toddler checklist:
- 8 t-shirts
- 4 pairs of shorts or pants (1 pair of pants is all you’ll need for a hot climate)
- 1-3 sweaters/hoodies (1 for a hot climate, 3 for any other climate )
- 1 jacket (for a cool climate)
- 2 hats (either sunhats or warm hats or one of each, depending on climate) – These sunhats are great for travelling toddlers!
- 3 pairs of pajamas
- 1-2 bathing suits – UV protective bathing suits are an essential!
- 2 pair of shoes – Our kids live in these Crocs when we’re travelling.
- 1-5 pairs of socks (only 1 for a hot climate)
- 8-10 pairs of underwear (if you’re at that stage)
For extended travel, you really only need the same amount of clothes as you would for a weekend away. You can easily wash little t-shirts and underwear in a hotel sink between laundry days. Bring a universal plug and a travel sized laundry liquid. Don’t bring along anything too sentimental. Be prepared to ditch anything in your bag. Don’t drag the jumper than Great-Auntie Kathleen knitted along on a round-the-world trip if you’ll feel bad about ditching it when your child outgrows it or the seasons change. Consider your wardrobe semi-disposable. If vomiting and diarrhoea strike on a long bus or plane ride, you’re going to need to throw some clothes away.
Toiletries, Nappies and Extras
- Pick toiletries that the whole family can share to save space. Include baby nail clippers, nappy rash cream (important in humid climates) and a little rubber ducky.
- Bottle, bottle brush and a few sachets of formula (for flights and emergencies)
- One small packet of diapers/nappies and baby wipes – buy as you go in almost any country
- A few pair of training pants in case of getting caught out without diapers/nappies
- A toddler-sized neck pillow
- A bowl and spoon for an easy breakfast in hotel rooms (either a single plastic reusable one or a packet of disposables)
- A flotation vest or armbands for swimming
- A facecloth (dark colored is best!)
Other Toddler Essentials
For a young toddler, you’ll probably need a port-a-crib (port-a-cot). You can’t always rely on your hotel, guesthouse or apartment having one. Choose the lightest one possible. On most airlines, it won’t be included in your baggage allowance meaning you can take it onboard for free – the only exception being budget carriers like Air Asia. Bring a fitted sheet and blankets and stuff them into the port-a-crib bag to save space in our suitcase. Ask your hotel for extra blankets to pad the uncomfortable base of the crib and fit your sheet over top.
Whether or not to take a car seat depends on the type of travel you’re doing and the countries your visiting. Most Western countries require your car to be in an approved restraint when driving – taxis are an exception. If you’re staying with family you’ll need to bring your own or arrange in advance to borrow or rent one. If you’re renting a car for more than a few days, bring your own car seat. They’re expensive to rent and can the level of safety can be dubious. If you’re travelling in Asia, you’re not going to need a car seat.
Toys for Travel with Toddlers
Don’t go overboard on the toys. Encourage play with found objects on the road rather than relying on “stuff” from home. Choose a small backpackor toddler carry on luggage that your child could potentially carry themselves. Bring books for bedtime reading and entertainment when you’re in transit (hard copy and Kindle). Pick a few small toys like Hot Wheels cars, My Little Ponies and a bouncy ball. Colouring books and crayonsare very useful – instant entertainment on a plane or in a restaurant waiting for a meal. A few DVDs or movies loaded to watch on the laptop so Mum and Dad can have some time to catch-up in peace.
If your child has something they cannot live without, a favourite toy, blanket or binky – label it! Use your email address or a local mobile (cell) number instead of your home address or phone number. You’ll have the best chance of getting it back if it’s easy for local people to get in touch with you. Keep a carbon copy of that special blanket or toy at home with Grandma in case of emergency.
Should I take a stroller?
Carriers and slings are ideal for travel with babies but once your children reach the walking stage at can be hard to keep them in a carrier.
Consider the countries you’re visiting. America, New Zealand and Australia are great ideal places to take a stroller. Some places aren’t overly stroller friendly – the sidewalks in Thailand and Vietnam are virtually impassable with a stroller. Personally, I wouldn’t be without a stroller, if only to use it in airports and shopping malls. You’ll find it a lot easier to whizz through the airport if you’re not struggling to carry cabin bags and chase a renegade toddler.
Take a small folding umbrella stroller instead of your big, bulky SUV buggy. It’s a lot easier to collapse it on a city bus, carry it up subway stairs or throw it into the back of a taxi. You’ll be able to take it as cabin baggage on a plane rather than checking it in.
Here is another post with some more insight into whether you should pack a stroller for your travels.
Family Travel Luggage Tips
This depends on the size of your family and the ages of children. If you’ve got one or two small children, try and get everyone’s luggage into one larger suitcase. We use this one and LOVE it! When you’re transiting airports or train stations, it’s easier if one parent wrangles the kids and the other deals with the luggage. If you’ve got a larger family with older children, get them to carry their own backpacks or suitcases and put the toddler’s gear in your bag.
MY BIGGEST TIP! Use packing cubesto separate each family member’s clothes. It’s much easier to find what you’re looking for and stay organised. Pick a different color for each family member. Put all your PJs in one and all your swimsuits in another so you can grab everyone’s in a moment’s notice. Read my complete guide to packing cubes here including a video on how to use them!
Try and minimize your carry-on baggage – both weight and amount of bags. Again, one person should be able to board a plane with the cabin baggage while the other carries the toddler. Here’s a good idea of what you should take in your carry on bags.
Don’t bring your bulky, fashion statement nappy (diaper) bag. It’s just another thing to carry and you don’t really need it. Use a canvas shopping bag or throw supplies into your daypack. A simple backpack like this, that folds up when not in use, is a great idea. Put what you need to change a nappy into a Ziploc bag so it’s at your fingertips when you need it.
What do you recommend packing for travel with toddlers? What can’t you travel without? Anything you purposefully leave behind? Drop me a comment below and let’s start a discussion about what’s on your toddler vacation packing list.