We know that many parents of toddlers have strong reservations about traveling long distances with their wee ones. While travel gear alone won’t vanquish the Bogeyman, knowledge and preparedness make traveling with toddlers a lot less stressful (and a lot more fun!) — and this checklist of toddler travel essentials is a great place to start.
Being an American NGO expat family based in Southeast Asia, travel with babies and small children comes with the territory. It’s a bit of an understatement to say our two sons have logged a few miles in their young lives.
Our oldest son, Noe (now 3.5), boarded 40 flights before the age of three, and logged countless miles on the ground as well.
Riley, our youngest (18 months), hasn’t seen quite the action his brother had at the same age, but he’s still managed to log thousands of miles by land, air, and sea across a half dozen countries.
Like anybody, we’ve made more than our fair share of mistakes along the way. Which also means we’ve learned a ton as well! A lot of those lessons relate to travel gear for toddlers and babies.
We consider ourselves to be fairly minimalistic in the gear department, so you’re not going to find a lot of unnecessary fluff on this list.
What you will find are travel accessories that have made a world of difference for us, whether we’re on a long haul flight, doing a road trip with the kiddos, traveling by train or ferry, heading out of town for the weekend, backpacking across a new country, or just doing our weekly grocery shopping.
16 Game Changing Toddler Travel Essentials
All-in-One Ergonomic Baby Carrier
Ergobaby Omni 360
Despite all the marketing for babies and toddlers, there are very few true travel essentials. A comfortable carrier is one of those.
When our #2 came along, we considered a carrier like the Tula for our oldest, but wanted the versatility of carrying infant or toddler with the same thing. For that and more, the Ergo delivers.
And the new Omni 360 makes wearing either boy possible in a multitude of positions (though, honestly, our 3.5 year-old prefers to walk 90% of the time these days).
The newer Omni has been redesigned and is even more comfortable and ergonomic than our old 360. Plus, it’s nice that we’ve only needed one carrier from 5 months onward.
Volume Limiting Headband Earphones
Chokmax Kids Headphones
For plane rides and road trips, this comfy earphone headband can be a life saver.
The soft headband means older babies and young kids are less likely to mess with it like earbuds or traditional headphones.
And the volume limiting function ensures that the sound will never be too loud for baby or toddler’s ears.
These headphones make it possible for our son to still listen to Raffi on repeat on an airplane without us receiving death threats from other passengers.
Packable Soft Cloth Highchair
Comfecto Soft Baby High Chair
Another true essential for traveling with an older baby or younger toddler, particularly if you travel overseas or find yourself doing snack time out and about where this is no high chair.
This cloth chair turns almost any standard chair into an instant high chair and packs down to less than the size of a baseball.
Safety Harness Backpack
Munchkin Brica By-My-Side Backpack
Our son absolutely loves his toddler-sized backpack, and we love that he can carry his own water, sun hat, and toys with him when we’re out and about.
This particular backpack even comes with a removable “safety leash”. Traffic being what it is here in Southeast Asia, we haven’t used the leash, but opt for a death grip on our son’s little hand instead.
But for cities with wide and uncluttered sidewalks, the leash could potentially give young toddlers a degree of walking freedom while keeping them from stepping into traffic.
Whether you choose to use the leash or not, this well-made pint-sized pack is worth the investment.
While Lori was using packing cubes long before the two of us started dating, our travel organizers have become even more essential since the arrival of our first son.
If you plan on backpacking, compression stuff sacks are the way to go. But for suitcase travel and everything else, soft packing cubes are the best use of space.
We use them for just about everything from clothes to first-aid supplies, toys to snacks. When we need any of that, all we have to do is reach into the suitcase and we’re good to go.
Travel Foot Pillow for Kids
wapwap Inflatable Travel Bed/ Airplane Pillow
Turn your toddler’s airplane seat into a flat bed!
This is the only one of our toddler travel essentials that we haven’t used ourselves. But we have close friends who swear by these, it’s on our list, and we’re really hoping to get our hands on one before we take our next long haul flight later this year.
A lot of companies make inflatable airplane pillows like, but the wapwap is unique because the height is adjustable and you can even use the cabin overhead air vent to inflate it!
Static Stick Car Window Shades
Kinder Fluff Shunshade (4-pack)
The NGO vehicles Lori drove in Laos didn’t have window tint, making for some very hot road trips with the wee ones. These static-clinging sunshades were a life saver in that respect.
Great for hot climates or summer drives, particularly if you’re hoping to work in a nap (for the kid, not the driver…).
No need for suction cups or adhesive, these sunshades use static (think plastic wrap) to stay on the window and fold up to the size of a small plate.
Portable Travel Crib
Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib
There’s not a lot more that we can say about the Lotus crib that we haven’t already said on this blog. We absolutely love it!
This travel crib is compact, lightweight, and indestructible, with lots of useful features like the side zipper door and carrying case backpack.
In addition to following us wherever we go, the Lotus crib is also our 18-month-old’s regular bed at home (our oldest used it nightly from 2 months to 2.5 years).
Not cheap, but for us it’s turned out to be an excellent investment.
Insulated No-Spill Travel Cup
Munchkin Miracle Stainless Steel 360 Sippy Cup
These Munchkin cups are hardly a secret, but very much an essential for our boys when we’re out and about.
We especially like the insulated cups for the hot weather here, and we know we can always rely on this cup not to leak in the backpack or spill when our youngest inevitably tosses it out of the car seat/ stroller/ highchair to make some sort of baby statement.
Full-Body UPF 50+ Toddler Bathing Suit
Dive & Sail Kids One Piece Long/Short Sleeve Swimsuit
This bathing suit was one of the best purchases we’ve made, and has proven to be a game changer for us.
Instead of having to lather an excited toddler from head to toe in sunscreen every time we go for a swim, we just slap this bad boy on, cover hands, feet, and face with sunscreen, and we’re all set!
It was surprisingly hard to find a toddler-size full-body bathing suit, but this one was perfect. It’s been worn and washed dozens of times and still looks new.
Kids Swim Goggles
Splaqua No Leak Kids Swim Goggles
Speaking of swimming, if your toddler loves splashing around, goggles will open up a whole new underwater world (and help them to gain confidence in the water).
We searched high and low for goggles that sealed properly around tiny toddler faces, and these Splaqua goggles do just that.
White Noise Machine
Yogasleep Hushh Portable White Noise Machine
What would we do with our portable, rechargeable, compact white noise machine. We love this thing for so many reasons, but the 10+ hour battery life, clip, and full, natural sound are at the top (no tinny smartphone app noise here).
Not only does a portable white noise machine help mask/ equalize all of the various sounds conspiring to wake your wee ones, it also lends an element of comfort and consistency to our travels away from home with the kids.
Video Baby Monitor
Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor
It’s true, not everyone’s situation requires a baby monitor, and many parents these days prefer monitors that connect to your smartphone over wifi.
For travel, however, it’s really hard to beat this monitor. Wifi can be unreliable where we travel, but more importantly, and we often don’t want to tie up one of our phones during nap time.
The DXR-8 also uses interchangeable lenses (wide, tele, and normal) so you can adjust the field of view depending on the room.
Popup Beach Tent
WolfWise UPF 50+ Easy Pop Up Beach Tent
If you spend a lot of time outdoors with your toddler, sun cover is key in the hot months (or hot climates).
Having a pop up beach tent for the beach in particular has become an essential piece of gear for us.
This WolfWise tend has UPF protection and a ton of cross-ventilation, which is a big plus on a hot day. AND, it’s anchored by four sand bag feet to keep it from blowing away.
If we lived closer to the beach, I’d probably invest in the Neso beach canopy (I’m big on getting sand between my toes and as much of that ocean breeze as possible). But for our current circumstances, this popup beach tent ticks all the boxes.
Washable Bibs with Food Pouch
Bumkins SuperBib (3-pack)
Last, but certainly not least on our list of toddler travel essentials, we’ve got these awesome washable SuperBibs!
We rarely leave home without one of these for either kid. The main disadvantage of the packable cloth high chair that we use (see above) is that there’s no tray to eat off of. The built-in pocket of these bibs helps a lot with that.
Easy to wash, adjustable, and virtually indestructible!
Want More Toddler Travel Tips?
Check out some of our other helpful guides for traveling with an infant or toddler!
And That's Our Toddler Travel Essentials Checklist!
Did we miss any of your own personal favorites? Let us know in the comments below!