Practical Travel Tips

Mostly Minimalist: Essential Gear for Traveling with a Toddler

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what I said in the intro to my Mostly Minimalist Travel series: no just-in-case packing. But what if you’re traveling with a toddler?

Life with a toddler is all about “just in case.”

Your purse is packed with just-in-case items:

  • A spare outfit just in case there’s another ketchup incident.
  • A coloring book, crayons, and stickers just in case your toddler needs to be occupied
  • A stash of snacks just in case your toddler becomes “hangry”
  • A packet of wipes just in case just about any just-in-case incident occurs
  • A first aid kit just in case your toddler takes a tumble at the park
  • A stash of paper towels just in case that public bathroom has “youd” (loud) hand dryers.

Am I forgetting any of the all-too-common reasons our bags are bursting with just-in-case gear?

When you fly with a toddler or even head out for a road trip, you want to be sure you can put your hands on what you need when you need it.

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Here are my just-in-case essentials for traveling with a toddler:

Wipes: Admit it. You use wipes for everything — cleaning your toddler’s hands, wiping your toddler’s bum, giving the kitchen counter a quick swipe, and even polishing an apple when there’s no water to run it under. If you’ve got room, take a full soft pack of wipes. If not, insist that every member of your party carry a refillable travel pack of wipes.

Boogie Wipes: My dear friend E, a mom of four, put a pack of Boogie Wipes in the huge bag of goodies she brought to my baby shower. When Little A came down with her first cold (thankfully not until she was 11 months old), I gave the Boogie Wipes a try. They were great. Little A loves the grape scent, and I love the fact that her tiny nose didn’t become chapped. I’m pretty sure Boogie Wipes are the reason she learned how to blow her nose at a very young age. (Yes, that’s gross, but it’s also a big deal.)

Saline nasal spray: This helps with any congestion that might occur during a flight. I’m very fortunate that Little A likes me to squirt her nose with “yay-yeen.”

Infants/toddler Tylenol or Motrin: Pack whatever you use. If your child has teething pain or develops a fever, you want to deal with it quickly.

Clorox or Lysol Wipes: Did you know that there are no regulations about how thoroughly or how often US carriers clean the cabins of their aircraft? Yeah, let that sink in. No regulations. Of course, each airline comes up with its protocols, but do you know what they are? No, I don’t either. That’s why I take cleaning wipes and give our seats, trays, etc the once over. And then there’s the bathroom. Ugh.

A spare outfit, including undies and socks. Enough said.

A zip-up fleece or hoodie. The plane could be chilly. Or really hot. Who knows?

A light blanket. Unless the blanket at in the seat is SEALED in plastic, you can’t know if it was sent out to be laundered or if it has been reused from flight to flight. Why take your chances? Pack one of those receiving blankets you, um, liberated from the maternity ward or try a lightweight, quick dry travel blanket. Or go to your local craft store and buy some microfleece and then cut it to size.

A stash of snacks. We like fruit leathers, Annie’s Bunnies, “squeezy pouches” like GoGo Squeez applesauce, lollipops as a special treat only for takeoffs and landings — Saf-T-Pops are great because there’s no stick for your little person to poke herself in the eye with.

A reusable water bottle. Choose something that’s easy to clean while you’re traveling and that has a cover for the straw.

Activity books. Before our first trip with Little A, I bought a poop-ton of sticker and coloring books for her and then promptly realized that she was only 17 months old and had no interest in them. So we just took crayons and paper for her to scribble on. On our next trip, we’ll definitely take those books I bought for the first trip. Amazon, of course, is a great resource, but so is the Ollie’s, which has any amazing selection of activity books at clearance prices. Have you seen these awesome triangular crayons? They even come packaged in a plastic case.

Kindle Fire Kids Edition or other device. Little A loves Daniel Tiger, and The Husband and I love a little peace and quiet. Don’t forget kid-safe headphones so that you and your fellow passengers aren’t subjected to the antics of Daniel Tiger, Paw Patrol, Doc McStuffins, or whatever character your little person adores.


What about you? Yeah, gone are the days of packing your carry-on with things to entertain yourself. Throw in a paperback and a protein bar…if there’s room. 

Check out Perfect Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids Who Travel for more ideas!

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