I’ve been fortunate enough to do some travel with my little one over the years. But after our latest cross-country flight to California, I realized how different traveling with a toddler versus traveling with an infant is. Toddlers are much more mobile, and need to be constantly entertained. But honestly, I found traveling with a toddler to be much less stressful. And these toddler travel essentials made my life, and our travel, easier!
I mentioned snacks first because I have a very food-motivated little one. But every mom knows that a hungry toddler is a cranky toddler. All the toys in the world won’t help if they’re not well-fed! For our trip I packed applesauce pouches, goldfish crackers, a banana, individually packaged trail mix packets, and whole wheat fig bars. We also brought her an empty water bottle to fill with water once inside security. (If you need more toddler snack ideas, be sure to check out my healthy toddler snack ideas post!)
We all know, perhaps a little too well, that toddlers are super-independent. Before our trip, I purchased a small toddler backpack for our travel. This allowed Layla to carry her own toys. Of course, she loved being a “big kid” with her own bag. But make sure not to overfill it! Layla’s bag was not full at all and she still said it was “soooo heavy” at first.
Toys / Games
The #1 suggestion I have for toys and games is that they are all new to your little one. Don’t feel the need to spend a ton! Browse the dollar spot at Target and your dollar store for some items and put them aside for your trip. We brought crayons, a coloring book, stickers, playdoh, a few thin, light books like this one, and this mess-free coloring pad. (These are a great mess-free options too under $5!) Other great suggestions are an aquadoodle or magnadoodle. Busy bags are another great DIY option. (This post has a roundup of over 100 DIY busy bag ideas!)
When all else fails, break out the iPad (or phone!)! Prior to our trip, I downloaded several episodes of Paw Patrol and several apps. If you prefer free apps, PUZZINGO Puzzle and Paint And Draw are great options. These educational options from Tiny Hands are paid for the full versions, but so worth it in my opinion: Sorting, Raccoons, and What’s My Pair.
Stroller / Baby Carriers
If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, a stroller or baby carrier might be a good idea. Strollers can be gate-checked, allowing you to cruise easily throughout airports without an additional checked bag fee. They also double as luggage carriers in between gates! We skipped them for this trip since we didn’t have tight layovers, and it was a nice opportunity for Layla to stretch her legs and burn a little energy.
For sleep, there are so many options out there, but after doing some research I knew I wanted a 4moms breeze. We had previously used another travel crib, but it was such a pain to set up. Layla also quickly grew out of it, and only ended up using it for about a year. We should have just purchased the breeze from the start. Putting it together is literally two steps! You expand it, and press the button to lock it in place. That’s it! It has plenty roomy for sleep or play. This is one of those items that will last years, so it’s so worth it!
When available, allow your little one to spread his wings and move about. Of course we didn’t let Layla go wild, but she ran around a bit by our gate and played peekaboo in between the chairs! Have your little one drink water during takeoff and descent to help with her ears! Pack an extra set of clothes in a carry-on just in case! Most likely water, snacks, or really anything spill-able will be spilled.
What are your toddler travel essentials?