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Essential packing guide for stress-free toddler travel

Jun 19, 2024

By Natasha Viljoen

Travelling with toddlers is not your everyday outing. Anticipating their needs and ensuring their comfort through packing is key to a successful family trip. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential items to pack for your toddler, helping you create a stress-free holiday experience for both you and your little one.

  1. Clothing and accessories
    • Weather-appropriate clothing: Pack outfits suitable for the destination’s climate. Include layers for varying temperatures. Always remember to pack an additional pair of clothes for a day out since little ones tend to spill and be messy.
    • Swimwear: If your holiday involves a beach or pool, remember the swimsuits, swim diapers and a sun hat. Most hotels will provide towels, but find out upfront if you need to bring your own towels.
    • Comfortable shoes: Pack sturdy, comfortable shoes for walking and exploring.
    • Hat and sunglasses: Protect your toddler from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. And don’t forget sunscreen.
  1. Sleeping essentials
    • Portable crib or travel bed: Ensure your toddler has a familiar, safe place to sleep. Many travel-friendly cribs are available for your convenience. Alternatively, you can always find out from your accommodation up front if a crib would be available for your use.
    • Blankets and comfort items: Pack a favourite small blanket or stuffed animal to provide comfort and familiarity. When our daughter was very young, we put mommy’s or daddy’s shirts in her crib at night to make her feel safe and secure.
    • Blackout curtains: These are useful for creating a sleep-friendly environment, especially for those European summer holidays when the sun only sets at 23:00. Hotels are usually well equipped with these, but we have found that they can sometimes be lacking when using an Airbnb. Pack travel-friendly blackout curtains to ensure a dark room for sleeping.
  2. Feeding and hydration

Travel-friendly snacks: Pack a variety of healthy snacks to keep your toddler fuelled during the journey. Snack boxes will also ensure entertainment. Always pack snacks that you know your child will eat, but also include a few wild cards to add to the adventure of exploring.

Refer to our “Snack time in the skies” for more on this.

  • Sippy cups and water bottles: Hydration is crucial for both kids and adults when travelling, so carry spill-proof cups or bottles to avoid messes. Most airports allow water or milk for kids to be carried through security checks.
  • Baby utensils and bowls: If your toddler is eating solids and you are travelling to a place that does not specify whether children’s utensils are included, it will be helpful to pack their utensils. Don’t pack bulky items; keep it limited to travel-friendly utensils.
  1. Health and safety
    • First aid kit: Include Band-Aid, antiseptic wipes, children’s pain reliever and all prescription medications. Keep an eye out for our future blog on what we pack for our little one when travelling.
    • Documentation: Carry a copy of your toddler’s health insurance card and all necessary medical information. Also, ensure that close family has copies of this on hand or digital to provide at short notice.
  1. Entertainment and distractions
    • Toys and book bag: Look into what will work best for you. We love using a toiletry bag that can fold open and hook on the front seat during a flight but is small enough to fit into our baggage for easy access. We fill it with small, new items our daughter has not played with before and mix it with some of her favourites to provide a sense of familiarity. We also always include a familiar book for our sleep time routine.
    • Tablet or portable DVD player: Load it with toddler-friendly apps, games or shows for on-the-go entertainment. Our favourites are YouTube Kids and Netflix, as you can lock the screen.
    • Colouring supplies: Pack crayons, colouring books or sticker books to keep your toddler engaged during downtime. Make sure stickers can be removed without leaving marks on surfaces.

Refer to our “High-flying fun” blog for more on this.

6. Toiletries and diapering supplies

  • Diapers and wipes: Carry enough diapers and wipes for the duration of your travel trip, considering potential delays. Once you reach your destination, you can buy more diapers and wipes from a supermarket.
  • Changing mat: A portable changing mat is handy for on-the-go diaper changes. We also love using disposable changing mats for comfort at certain places or additional coverage in places that might be worse than expected.
  • Baby shampoo and soap: Use travel-sized toiletries or transfer small amounts into travel containers. If your child has a sensitive skin, do not buy new things at the destination; rather keep with what you know works for your child.

7. Travel gear

  • Stroller and baby carrier: A lightweight, collapsible stroller and/or a comfortable baby carrier are essential for navigating airports, attractions and city streets. Remember your carrier if your baby is still very young. Sometimes, if you check in your stroller, you do not receive it back during your layover but only at your final destination. In these cases, having a baby carrier with you or nearby is helpful.
  • Car seat: If you rent a car, check if it is more convenient to bring your own car seat or rent one at your destination. Most airlines allow you to book a baby car seat at no additional cost. We always prefer to book a car seat with a rental company, especially for short trips. It keeps your luggage to a minimum.

Preparation is key, so make a checklist well in advance and double-check everything before heading out. Refer to our “Mom’s bag” for tips on what to pack. This will keep your toddler happy and contribute to a smoother travel experience for the entire family.

About the author

“Our family consists of my husband, Robert, and I, and our three-year-old daughter, Amber. We are passionate about travel and we raising our daughter to be a world citizen. We also like to share our travels and advice on our blog at www.viljoen-adventures.com or on Instagram at viljoenadventuresblog. We started the blog specifically to share our stories.

We are originally from Johannesburg. We developed a passion for travel very early in our marriage. When the opportunity came to work in Europe, we decided that the Netherlands was the ideal place to live out this passion because it is so central to travel.”

 – Natasha Viljoen

Also read: Travel tip: Top 10 planning tips when traveling with children

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