Essentials for traveling with a toddler
Even for the most experienced traveller, the idea of traveling with a toddler can be a daunting prospect. After 4 months of travelling full time with our 2 year old, we have learnt a few things that are essentials for traveling with a toddler. We hope this guide can help you feel confident and prepared to take on the world (or at least a flight) with your little one.
Timing is Everything
If you’ve caught a flight before you will probably be familiar with the boarding crew calling for priority travellers (including elderly passengers and families with children) to board the plane first. While this might seem like a good idea, don’t do it!
We always make sure we are the last to board, to give our toddler as much time as possible to run around, climb on the chairs, and generally get as many wiggles out as possible before we board the flight.
If you take the priority boarding option, you will be stuck trying to contain and entertain your active toddler in their small seat, while you wait for everyone to board.
Our Number 1 Toddler Travel Must Have
The number one thing that we will always recommend when traveling with a toddler, is a collapsible pram that fits in the overhead locker (we have a Mountain Buggy Nano, but the Babyzen Yoyo is also great).
There is a huge range of travel prams on the market, and (almost) any of them can be checked at the gate, but making sure you get one that can go onto the plane with you (and in the overhead locker), is such a must for us! You will probably find ‘travel pram’ on most lists of essentials for traveling with a toddler.
Gate checking a pram basically means that you use it right up until you step onto the plane, and then the airport staff take it and stow it for you. When the plane lands, you wait at the door for them to bring it back. This is fine in theory, but in reality you can end up waiting around for them to retrieve it, or even worse – it can get sent to baggage claim by mistake.
Having your pram with you means you can get straight off and on your way. For us this is another essential item for traveling with a toddler.
Essentials for Traveling with a toddler – toys!
I wont lie – we are big fans of screen time on flights. We download some of our toddlers favourite shows onto an iPad, and we use wireless toddler headphones with it. This way she is free to move around and not get tangled (or pull the cord out), and we know it will keep her entertained, at least for part of the trip.
Some of our favourite travel toys are:
- Reusable sticker books – these also work on the plane windows, and are probably our most used toddler travel toy.
- Reusable water colouring books – we love the Melissa and Doug ones, because they can be used over and over again (unlike the single use mess free colouring books).
The best thing about these two travel toys, is that they are flat (as they are books), so they don’t take up a huge amount of space in your carry on!
We also always make sure to take something *new* – i.e something that she hasn’t seen before, so it feels extra exciting and interesting.
It might sound obvious, but bringing snacks that you know your child likes is so important. Depending on the length of your flight, they will get food on board, but the food isn’t always toddler friendly, and no one copes well on an empty stomach.
Even if your toddler isn’t food-focused, having familiar foods from home will be one less change for them to process. We always opt for snacks we are fairly confident our 2-year-old will eat, and we always go for things that will last if she doesn’t want them.
We prefer items in resealable packaging and a mix of things for her to choose from. I think snacks are essentials for traveling with a toddler or an adult though!
Clothing Essentials for Traveling with a Toddler
Packing a change of clothes (or two) for your toddler is so important when you fly. Kids are messy, and accidents happen, so being prepared is crucial. It is also worth considering if you would be able to cope with only your carry-on items if your luggage got lost or delayed.
We like to make sure we pack a few changes of clothes, just in case, and we try and opt for quick drying and breathable fabrics like merino. Merino also doesn’t need to be cleaned as often as other fabrics, and if you do need to wash it, it will dry quickly!
If you are planning on sleeping on the flight, you may also want to pack pyjamas. Some people consider these essentials for traveling with a toddler, however, this isn’t something we have ever done (we all just sleep in our clothes!). Having that familiar routine can be really helpful for some families.
Wetbags are also a must have for putting wet or dirty clothes in, to protect everything else in your carry on. We have one large wetbag and one small wetbag that we keep in our carry on for the flight, and our day bag once we land.
essentials for traveling with a toddler – when you land
There is so much to weigh up when it comes to booking flights, and one thing we are always mindful of is the time of day it lands. Getting outside for some fresh air and sunshine does wonders for avoiding jetlag, and has really helped us with getting naps and sleep on to the local time.
We prefer to land in the morning (or midday), so we have plenty of time to get outside, and we always cap naps to make sure we all sleep well that night.
While traveling with a toddler can be scary, it helps to remember that the travel day (or flight) is usually such a small part of your overall trip. On every travel day I tell myself – even if this is hard, it is so worth it for the memories and experiences you get to have together. Plus, kids are adaptable and we are constantly in awe of how well our toddler takes everything in her stride.
I hope this post helps you to feel confident for your next (or first!) flight with your toddler, and if you have any essentials for traveling with a toddler that we have missed, please share them below so we can all learn together!
If you would like to see our YouTube vlog on this topic – you can watch it here.