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This Is the Toddler Travel Checklist You Need to Reduce Your Travel Stress
Traveling with a toddler can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve create a toddler travel checklist you can use for any travel you’re planning, whether it’s in a car, on a plane, international, or domestic. You’ll also discover the best tips for keeping your toddler entertained on any type of trip.
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The Ultimate Toddler Travel Checklist
Figuring out how to manage traveling with a toddler can be a lot for even the most experienced parents. You want to make sure you have everything you might need, but you also don’t want to over-pack and find yourself lugging around more suitcases than you can comfortably carry.
Also, traveling with a toddler is very different from traveling with a helpless newborn or an older child who can assist you. A travel checklist is one way to stay on top of things.
There are many “what to pack for family vacation checklists” and “family vacation packing list printable” checklists available online, but a toddler travel checklist will be more specific to your needs and help you prepare for almost every situation—both expected and unexpected.
This list of the top recommended items for those traveling with a toddler will help you simplify your travel preparation, whether you’re traveling domestically in a car or plane or internationally.
Toddler Packing List
Toddlers have unique needs and requirements that can’t be ignored. Before planning a vacation with a toddler, you’ll need to know:
- Where are you going? Is your destination kid-friendly?
- How will you get there and how will you navigate your destination once you arrive?
- How long will you be traveling?
- What is the weather forecast?
- What activities do you have planned?
- How easily can you purchase necessary supplies?
Note that the age of your toddler can influence what is considered necessary in your packing list. For instance, deciding what to pack for a 4-year-old on holiday could differ from what to pack for a 3-year-old on vacation, or what to pack when traveling with 1-year-old babies.
Generally speaking, your toddler packing list should include enough clothing and other accessories for the trip, snacks and other foods, special items your toddler needs for the bath and bedtime, items for entertainment, diapers, travel gear, medications, and miscellaneous items.
Your printable packing list for toddler travel may include:
- Standard outfits for different activities as well as lounging
- Dress clothing for special events
- Shoes (for the pool, for playing, for dressing up, and extra shoes for lounging or every day)
- Jacket and maybe a sweater
- Bathing suits
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hair accessories
- Baby wipes
- Diapers or pull-up diapers
- First aid kit
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes
- Car seat
- Sippy cups
- Pack and play
- Toddler’s favorite blanket or pillow
- Coloring books and crayons
- iPad or tablet
- Ziploc bags
- Toddler headphones
There are additional considerations for specific types of trips. If your family is going away to a cabin in the winter, your toddler will need specific clothing such as mittens, hats, earmuffs, ski suits, and more. It’s also important to make sure your toddler has all their required immunizations, and that you have copies of their medical records, passport (if necessary), and birth certificate.
While this may seem like a lot to pack, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. Daily, toddlers go through different outfits, need multiple snacks of different varieties, and need to be entertained. It may take their own set of luggage to have everything you need, but that’s much better than wondering why you didn’t pack everything you needed.
Packing Overnight Bag for Toddler
When deciding what to pack in an overnight bag for your toddler, think through your daily morning and nightly routines. This should give you a general idea of what essentials to pack and what you can get by without for only one night. Another good idea would be to look at your toddler vacation packing list and choose the items that you’ll likely need for a single night.
An overnight bag shouldn’t be all about clothing, but should also include the items that will make your toddler comfortable from the time you reach your destination to the time you’re on your way back home. Snacks, entertainment, toys, items to soothe your toddler to sleep, and multiple items to wear are a must. If your toddler has a special stuffed animal that makes them feel better, it should be in the overnight bag.
Even if you’re just going overnight, consider it a real trip. You may not have access to a washing machine to launder any soiled items, so being prepared for anything is the best recommendation. The slightest thing can make a toddler sick, so going through lots of outfits if they are having a bad day is not uncommon.
Packing List for Beach Vacation with Toddler
Everyone loves the sun and waves of the beach – toddlers do too! But creating a packing list for a beach vacation with baby and toddler in tow has its challenges.
While a toddler packing list for beach fun isn’t that different from a standard packing list, it’s important to consider the additional items you might need to add to your packing list for a beach vacation with a toddler in order to accommodate the unique environment:
- Multiple swimsuits and a cover-up
- Beach hat
- Beach shoes
- Beach toys
- Beach umbrella
- Toddler cooler with juice, water, and snacks
- Extra pull-up diapers
- First aid kit
- Beach towel or blanket
- Beach bag, wagon, or stroller to carry it all
Depending on how much beach time your family wants, you may also want to bring along a pack and play for nap time that will keep your toddler out of the sun. It goes without saying that there should be a variety of snacks and wipes to wipe your toddler down after playing in the sand.
Traveling With a 1-Year-Old by Car
If you’re traveling with a 1-year-old by car, being prepared is key. Consider a GPS app like Waze to figure out the best route to take and how long the trip by car will be so you can start planning activities and entertainment.
Car activities for 1-year-olds should be diverse and versatile enough to keep them occupied between naps. You can read them a book, take a magnetic board for drawing, and bring a tablet for them to watch shows. Also, have their music on hand for singing, and, of course, bring their toys.
Once you’ve determined how to keep them occupied, refer to the packing list for a toddler road trip to determine what else you will need, like clothing, diapers, wipes, snacks, toiletries, a car seat, a stroller, a pack and play, and more.
Is your 1-year-old teething? Keep a few ice packs on hand in a cooler for them to bite down on. Keep some drinks on hand, too (for them and you). Everything you need when traveling with a 1-year-old by car can quickly fill a suitcase or two, but keeping them from being irritated or getting an upset stomach from so much driving can make all the difference.
What to Pack When Traveling with a Toddler on a Plane
Knowing what to pack when traveling with a toddler on a plane can be tricky, whether it’s domestic travel or international travel. Use this airplane packing list for toddler travel to help you:
- Extra change of clothes or two
- Diapers or pull-up diapers
- Baby wipes
- Child restraint system (more on this below)
- Medicine for tummy aches and earaches
- First aid kit
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes
- Snacks and water
- Sippy cups
- Books, coloring books, and crayons
- iPad or tablet and headphones
- Neck pillow and small blanket
- Sleep masks and ear plugs
- Passport or copy of birth certificate (may be required to prove your child is under 2 years old if they are flying for free on your lap)
If you are traveling internationally, you will need other important documents as well, which could include:
- Passport and/or visa
- Any required COVID-19-related documents, such as vaccine cards, COVID-19 test results, proof of travel health insurance, completed health forms, etc.
- If traveling alone with your toddler, a notarized letter from your child’s other parent giving you permission to take them out of the country
Can a Child Have a Carry-On?
Yes! Airlines understand packing for a toddler can be a chore. They need their own things, their own space, and have their own minds.
Make sure you bring snacks, sips, toys, games, a tablet for movies, extra wipes, diapers, and their car seat. You may also need to bring a face mask for your child depending on how old they are.
Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to the flight attendants for assistance. They can heat up a bottle or provide napkins for spills and help make things a little easier for you.
Tips for Traveling with a Small Child on a Plane
Traveling with a 1-year-old by plane is difficult enough, but traveling with an older toddler has its own set of challenges. Here are some tips to note when traveling with your toddler by plane:
- Book an aisle seat. Your toddler will want to get out and roam when they can. An aisle seat can be a lifesaver for you.
- Don’t board the plane first. You don’t want to try and calm a cranky toddler after they’ve waited for everyone else to board.
- Use a child restraint system (CRS) to keep your child safe. If you bring your car seat as a carry-on item, it may be able to double as your CRS. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, this is the safest place for a child on an airplane. “Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence,” the administration notes.
Make sure your CRS is both government and airplane approved, as not all car seats are approved for airplane use. Look for text printed on your car seat that reads “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” You can learn how to install a CRS on an airplane here.
- If you’re traveling to a new time zone, be prepared to fight jet lag. Slowly begin shifting your children’s sleeping and eating schedules to coincide with those in your destination. Begin at least four days before departure. Book an overnight flight, if possible. Or pack sleep masks, ear plugs, or noise-canceling headphones for a daytime flight. Also fight the dehydration that can exacerbate jet lag symptoms by encouraging your children to drink lots of water aboard the flight. You can learn more about combating jet lag here.
- Be prepared to fight ear pain. Ear pain on airplanes is brought on by rapidly changing air pressure. Unfortunately, kids frequently experience this discomfort upon takeoff and descent. KidsHealth recommends providing a child-safe pain reliever to your children 30-60 minutes before takeoff to help ease the pain. Encourage them to swallow, yawn, or chew gum or chewy candy to help their ears adjust. Nursing or sucking on a bottle can help infants.
- Disinfect everything. Infectious bacteria can linger in environments like airplanes, where groups of people are crowded together in a tight space. Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down seat-back pockets, tray tables, armrests, and seatbelt buckles and clean tray tables before allowing kids to eat off of them.
- Bring 2 extra outfits on the plane with you in case of vomiting or accidents. You’ll be thankful you did.
- Make sure all your devices are on full charge. Some airlines don’t have charging outlets on the plane. You can also bring a portable charger to recharge your devices anywhere.
- Become friends with the flight attendants. They can assist you in ways you’ve never imagined.
For more tips on flying with a toddler, read “Tips for Flying With Kids.”
Traveling Internationally with a Toddler
Traveling with a 1-year-old internationally has its own set of challenges. In addition to packing everything you need for travel (see the “what to pack when traveling with a toddler on a plane” checklist above), you’ll need to organize all the paperwork required to enter and exit the visiting country and return to your home country.
Documents Required for International Travel
Start early – apply for your child’s passport or visa, leaving enough time for the paperwork to be processed and returned. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can see current passport processing times here.
If you’re traveling alone, you may also be required to have a notarized letter from your child’s other parent giving you permission to take them out of the country.
Additional Documentation Related to COVID-19
Traveling with a toddler on a plane during COVID can mean additional documentation and restrictions. Your destination country—and return to your home country—may require vaccines, COVID-19 testing prior to travel, travel health insurance, health forms that must be completed, and more.
Travel restrictions are frequently changing, so be sure to view your destination’s requirements prior to booking and prior to your departure. This interactive travel restrictions map from WorldTrips and Sherpa can assist you.
Consider Whether You Should Purchase Travel Insurance for Your International Trip
You’ll also want to consider whether you need travel medical insurance or trip cancellation insurance for your trip abroad. Your regular health insurance may provide limited or no coverage once you leave your home country. Travel insurance can provide you with coverage for unexpected medical expenses (like injury or illness) as well as reimbursement for travel-related expenses (like a travel delay or lost checked luggage). Depending on the plan you choose, this insurance may include coverage for COVID-19-related expenses.
Travel medical insurance can offer medical benefits with higher coverage limits than trip cancellation insurance. Travel medical insurance is known for being budget friendly—especially for travel outside the U.S. You can read about our Atlas Travel plan here.
Trip cancellation insurance includes a Trip Cancellation benefit that can reimburse you for prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs if you cancel your trip for a reason that’s covered by the insurance. Our Atlas Journey plans even allow you to add a Trip Cancellation for Any Reason (CFAR) benefit if you purchase your plan within 21 days of your first trip payment. This benefit upgrade allows you to cancel your trip for a reason not already covered by your policy, like concern over an increasing number of COVID-19 infections in your destination. You can learn more about our Atlas Journey plans here.
Be Sure to Explore These Related Resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Safe and Healthy Family Travel
- How to Safely Travel Abroad with Young Children (According to the Top 21 Family Travel Bloggers)
- How to Fly with Kids
- 20 Safe Travel Destinations Your Kids Will Love
- How to Budget for a Family Trip
- How to Choose a Family Travel Health Insurance Plan
- Family Travel Medical Insurance
- Delayed or Canceled Flight? Here Is What to Do
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