- Create a packing checklist
- Invest in gadgets and travel items
- Use old baby bottles for toiletries
- Prepare for your toddler to be lost and found
- Create an Activity Backpack
- Be critical
- Use packing cubes
- Roll your clothes in outfits
- Whatever you can live without on the plane, CHECK-IN
- Mark your bags “Fragile”
- Ship essentials to where you’re going
- Rent what you don’t want to carry
- Snack pack
You’ve booked your tickets, started picking the places to go from Trip with Toddler but there is something else haunting you, something big left to do. PACKING.
It’s hard to even begin listing all the reasons why packing for a trip with a toddler is so exhausting. Forget figuring out the necessities for different kinds of travelling (because glamping and camping are two polar opposites), packing for any type of holiday with a toddler is difficult in general.
Plus, most things an adult needs, even the phone adapter that you forgot by the bedside table, can be bought almost everywhere you’ll go. But no supermarket will sell the soft, sentimental blankie that your two-year-old can’t fall asleep without.
First and foremost, PREPARATION is key to your sanity during the several weeks before take-off.
I know, it’s tempting to delay packing until it’s time to actually do it, but count on my word, packing for a trip with a toddler requires such sophistication and foreshadowing that without preparation your packing, thus, your holidays will suffer.
Below I offer 13 hacks and advice (plus a few extra tips at the end) gathered from my and others’ experience that will greatly help survive the havoc that you’re about to jump into.
Choose 10 spare minutes of your day that you usually use for scrolling and let’s get on it. Step by step and you’ll be standing in front of fully packed luggage ready to roll in no time!
I’ve divided the hacks into two categories: preparation and packing. Now let’s thoroughly look into each of these hacks starting with the preparation category.
1. Create a packing checklist
On the checklist, categorise the things you need to bring (I’ve got Eat, Hygiene, Comfort, and Play) either by use or some other order you fancy. It’ll be easier to list all the things you might need if you’ll put yourself into different situations ie time to eat.
Now, write down everything you can possibly think of that may be of use from a white-noise machine to their favourite toy car. Go through your daily routine and then imagine what your toddler may need while travelling.
Now… CROSS THINGS OUT you can survive without. I will repeat this hack later on but this is an important one. Don’t overpack, think hard about what you really need because that pile in the luggage will compile pretty quickly.
2. Invest in gadgets and travel items
It sounds pretentious to advise spending money before embarking on an already money-consuming venture but, trust me, there are things that can make your everyday less stressful and more convenient for your toddler and you.
Start with the bags. The backpack or a bag must be suitable for the person that will carry it. If the dad or mom can carry a heavy backpack, it must treat their back and shoulders right. If it’s the little funky backpack that will belong to your toddler, they must love it enough to carry it at least some of the time (because we all know it, the rest of the time it’s in one of our hands).
Don’t forget the most awesome travel suitcase for toddlers that can make your journey at the airport much more fun. The ride-ons give a bit more freedom to you and some activity for the little ones. You can even buy a suitcase that has an incorporated bed inside.
Next, think about your destination and the time you’ll be spending there. What sort of activities you’ll be doing? How much your toddler will be willing to explore on foot? Should you invest in a good travel stroller or maybe just an alternative to a stroller such as shoulder carrier perfect for both nature and city exploration?
Another item to think about is the toiletry bag. The hanging travel toiletry bag with multiple sections has been the most useful for me. I can organize everyone’s toiletries that will be clearly visible for each user so they can access what they need themselves. Speaking of toiletries…
3. Use old baby bottles for toiletries
If you’ve still got the old baby bottles you’re in luck. You can fill them up with almost any liquid you’ll need from laundry detergent to dish soap, shampoo, etc. If they are under 100ml, you can even bring them in your carry-on to the flight.
Extra tip: use all-in-one products while travelling. Look for shampoos that also work as a shower gel for the little one or shampoo and a conditioner in one.
4. Prepare for your toddler to be lost and found
I get it, it’s not what you want to think about (or it’s all you’ve been thinking about) but travelling with a little hyper human with curious eyes and fast little legs brings accidents that you should prepare for.
Nowadays there are all kinds of gadgets like GPS watches for kids or even simple reusable ID wristbands that will bring some peace of mind for you while travelling. All you need to do is write down your number and give a new bracelet to your toddler as a present.
Now that you’ve prepped for it, let’s move on to the “fun” part. It’s time to PACK everyone’s things and take all the responsibility for the things that they will forget and you were supposed to remember.
Packing serves me a cocktail of headaches and anxiety but with the hacks I’ve accumulated through time, I dread it less and less. Without further procrastination, let’s see what we can do to make this easier.
5. Create an Activity Backpack
Notice what draws your toddler’s attention the most. Every parent knows their kiddo’s favourite toy but look beyond that. Slowly accumulate drawing notepads, toys, and other items that will make your toddler sit still for more than 2 minutes on the plane.
Extra tip: pack your toddler’s backpack without letting them peek inside. Along with their favourite toys, buy some cheap surprises and wrap them in foil. Unwrapping the gifts will keep the little ones busy on the plane or on a long drive.
6. Be critical
There is no need to overpack. Be strategic about the number of items per category you’re bringing. It’s tempting but one outfit per day and a few extras are plenty for the unexpected spillage. Leave behind items you won’t need or worst case scenarios, you can buy a replacement.
7. Use packing cubes
Just like the hanging toiletry bag, these see-through packing cubes will not only make it easier to organise the items you’re bringing but once you’re at your destination, every member of the family has their cube of clothing to grab.
8. Roll your clothes in outfits
It’s not necessary to do this with all of the clothes but I swear, rolling my toddler’s clothing in outfits saves me so much time. I can even easily allocate the task of dressing our toddler up to my husband by throwing the roll-up for the day and scoring a goal as he now has the full outfit to dress our toddler in.
9. Whatever you can live without on the plane, CHECK-IN
Travelling with a toddler can be very anxious, especially on your first holiday. You will think that everything is needed for the time on the plane. Don’t worry, though the long hours may be dark, they too shall pass.
It’s much better if you prioritise and pack only what you really need in your handbag or carry-on, to have your hands as free as possible to occupy the little one. Keep wipes, nappies, and essentials in your hand luggage. Whatever else you can live without on the plane, CHECK-IN.
10. Mark your bags “Fragile”
As for the stuff you’ve left at the check-in desk – mark your luggage as “Fragile”. This way you will avoid broken strollers and cracked suitcases. Not only that, your things will be loaded on top of everyone else’s which means you will get them first at the baggage reclaim.
11. Ship essentials to where you’re going
This one is circumstantial. If you’re planning to travel from place to place, there is no point to ship your necessities to the first place only to have to find a spot in an already crammed car for the newly appeared box of diapers.
However, if your holiday involves staying in one place, imagine travelling only with the essentials on you while a box of diapers, wipes or even some of your luggage is already on its way to the hotel.
12. Rent what you don’t want to carry
Another easy way to minimise the number of things you’ll have to carry through the airport or stuff in your car is to rent whatever things you can at the destination you’re travelling to.
Baby gear rentals offer everything from strollers to cribs, car seats, high-chairs, and so on. Renting the necessary equipment will not only save your back but also some money because of the ever-rising check-in fees.
13. Snack pack
Last but not least, pack a SNACK PACK. Without a doubt, healthy snack options will save you from a sugar storm caused by a hyper toddler, however, colourful and fun snacks like pretzel necklaces will keep your toddler very happy and occupied for some time. No matter if you’re on a plane, in a car, on a ferry, or on some other sort of transportation or a queue, a snack pack will be helpful to keep the little one still for a while.
Extra Tip: make snacks together with your toddler. Once you’re almost all packed and can breathe again, you can sit together with your toddler and make some snack necklaces while you familiarise them with the new things they’ll experience such as flying a plane or passing security gates.
Some extra extra tips and items to bring:
A suitcase can be used as a bassinet. If you’re stuck in an airport or somewhere where a bed for your baby is out of your reach, take your packing cubes out and use the carry-on as a bassinet for the baby with some soft padding provided by some of your clothing.
Bring a white-noise machine if you’re worried your toddler won’t fall asleep surrounded by unfamiliar noises. Want to save some space, download an app instead. You can even record your own lullaby and leave the phone singing it to the toddler.
Bring tape or use bandaids over electrical outlets. You wish every hotel and Airbnb was baby-proofed as much as you and your partner worked on your home. Sadly, the planet doesn’t rotate around babies so you can make it just a tiny bit safer by bringing tape or even easier options, bandaids and covering the electrical outlets of the place you’re visiting.
Once you’ve zipped the zipper…
We know all too well about the thoughts that keep you up at night after zipping up the luggage, thinking whether you’ve packed everything up.
If you’ve thought long enough about your checklist, ticked everything off, and packed everything while taking these hacks into consideration, I assure you, you will be just fine.
As long as you’re not travelling to the Himalayan, almost everything you forget can be bought around the corner. Just remember…
… a trip with a toddler won’t be how you’ve planned it, ever, and especially not the first trip, but take pictures and take in the moments because when you’re back, the tough parts will fade away and they won’t matter for long anyway.
The great moments that you’ll remember and be able to capture are the reason you’ve dived into the mess that a trip with a toddler is.
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You may also like to read our posts about how to save money for travelling and how to combat toddler motion sickness, fatigue, and jet lag!