What to Pack When Traveling with a Toddler

Famous Germany Castle

I’d be lying if I said our recent 12 day trip to Germany was easy. It wasn’t. Athena, my rambunctious toddler, cried a lot, slept a little, and missed naps, reminding me of why people say, “The terrible twos”. There is no question in my mind that the trip was worth it though. It changed my way of travel and my ideas about traveling with a toddler. I feel like I can accomplish anything now and I’m ready to take on even more destinations for extended periods of time. There were a few packed items that helped us along the way, making our trip more simple and manageable. I’ve shared them below with hopes that you see the world with your children in tow. Life is worth living and traveling with your family is an amazing, eye-opening experience regardless of age. Share your tips for traveling with a toddler below and we’ll eliminate the notion that it’s impossible. 

1. A Lightweight, Simple Stroller System Joovy-Stroller---Athena-Sleeping-in-Germany I brought our Joovy Groove Ultralight. It was easy to carry on and off trains, especially since it has a convenient side handle and a build-in carrying strap. There is a zippered pocket and cup holder conveniently located on the back of the stroller and two inner storage pockets to store toys, snacks, etc.. The over-sized canopy was ideal in protecting Athena from the sun and rain. Additionally, the multi-position reclining seat allowed her to nap comfortably during the day when we were out. Originally, I was going to bring the Caboose Stand On Tandem Double Stroller so I could store the luggage in one spot while Athena enjoyed the other. The Jooy Groove Ultralight proved to be a better choice because even though Germany is super child-friendly, there were times I needed to carry everything up and down stairs. Carrying the double stroller would have been difficult. The lighter, the better when traveling internationally.

2. A Baby Carrier Britax Baby Carrier Athena is getting too big and too heavy to be in a baby carrier but there were times that I just didn’t have enough hands and I couldn’t have her running freely. Having a carrier to place her in proved more “handy” than anything else. We brought the Britax Baby Carrier that features the CarryLong System, which reduces the risk of back and shoulder strain during extended wear by distributing weight across the shoulders, back, and hips. Honestly, there were days that my back was so sore, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get out of bed the next morning. At times, I was carrying Athena, the stroller, a suitcase, and a backpack up and down the train station stairs and to and from destinations. It was only because I had the carrier that I was able to do it. With the backpack on my back, Athena on the front, the stroller in one hand, and the suitcase in the other, I somehow made it.

3. Coloring Book & Crayons Disney-Coloring-Book Our daily commute, whether it be to a different destination or an activity, was usually a couple hours. We covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. Trains and buses were essential and Athena could only be entertained by playing games with Mommy for so long. Coloring books and crayons were lightweight activities that proved hours of entertainment. Sometimes we just drew on the pages rather than coloring or we would spell out the things that we saw as we moved along. I probably wrote the word “tree” 1,000 times or more on our trip. She wasn’t crying, it made her happy, and it was easy to carry. I can’t complain.

4. A Rain Jacket
Raining at Europa Park, Germany
Who would have thought that it rained so much in Germany? Although I brought a rain jacket, I wasn’t prepared for the endless days of rain and the colder temperatures compared to southern California. We used our rain jackets daily. At one point, I put Athena’s rain jacket on in a restaurant so she didn’t get pasta all over her clothes. It was much easier to wipe off the jacket than wash her clothes.
 
5. Snacks
Fussen Boat Ride
With so many connections and constantly being on the move, we needed to have snacks available. It’s easy for an adult to say, “I’ll just eat when I arrive”, but much more difficult to ask a toddler to wait a few hours when they are hungry. Having snacks limited the crankiness and helped with long commutes.
 
6. Wipes
Feeding Monkeys in Germany
Wipes are not just handy for diaper changes. Being in such public places all the time left us with dirty hands and no place to wash them. Bathrooms can be costly in Europe too. If you have wipes, it limits the numbers of times you need access to a bathroom. We were especially grateful for wipes after feeding the monkeys. It was one of the best experience of our trip but I’m not sure I’d like to put my hands in my mouth after feeding animals.
 
7. Diapers/Water Diapers
athena-playing-in-the-water
Although Athena is potty-training and doing well with it, she couldn’t always hold it during transportation. Plus, the changes in environment and sleeping added a little extra stress. I brought a few extra regular diapers just in case she didn’t transition well. We could have purchased diapers at a number of stores in Germany but water diapers are not as easy to find and important for hotel pools and amusement parks with water rides. The last thing I wanted to explain to the hotel staff or employees at the parks was a dirty pool because of an accident.
8. And the Most Controversial Item… a Child Backpack with a Leash
Castle Visit in Germany
 While I do feel funny about having Athena on a leash, it was the best helper during our entire trip. In airports and highly-populated cities, it’s not exactly safe for Athena to be running around freely. There is traffic and drivers and escalators and people and trains, and things that we don’t know much about. I don’t want to keep her trapped in a stroller all the time but if I have my hands full, I can’t always hold her hand while walking or exploring. The leash gave her freedom to walk on her own, even when my hands were full. People stress about losing their child or them running off or getting hit by a car. Having the leash was like having an extra pair of hands, despite the occasional dirty looks from others.
Do you have anything to add to the list? I’d love for you to share your suggestions with our readers. 
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33 thoughts on “What to Pack When Traveling with a Toddler

  1. Hi Lesley,

    Yea for you for realizing that people should love their kids as much as their dogs and a leash is the ideal tool to keep a toddler two safe and happy. I endured many a scowl from others with my own daughter in her pink harness and on her leash. She’s a happy 50 something and it kept her safe and me much calmer as I could get on with my shopping and I knew exactly where she was, safely within reach.

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    • I enjoy traveling with Athena but it’s not easy when it’s just her and I and we’re in a new country. The backpack leash made it easy for me to protect her and still give her freedom to explore. I don’t feel badly about that. It’s great to read that you had/have similar beliefs. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I had twins and we used 2 lightweight strollers. So much easier than the big double buggy. On the plane, I had a selection of new, small, cheap and cheerful toys that kept them entertained. having never seen them before they were diverting for a while. things like play doh, or those scribble pads etc. you find in the 2 for 3 section. it didn’t matter if they got lost either.

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    • Good point with cheap toys/games/books. I wasn’t worried about a crayon rolling under a chair never to be found again or if we accidentally left a coloring book on a train.

      I love to read that you still travel with twins. 🙂

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  3. We always bring a computer tablet as the flights from Australia to anywhere other than NZ are upwards of 8 hrs. And you must have a camera with you. There is magic in these travels that if you don’t bring one will be lost forever.

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  4. Fantastic post. Having just returned from two months in France and Spain with hubby and our three and four year olds (we live in New Zealand) I can recommend helping little ones to pack their own special little bag or nap sack (with mama’s guidance!) with craft, felt pens, stickers; whatever is light and makes them feel like they have a part of home with them. The process of choosing makes them feel in charge and happy. So many people thought we were mad going away for so long with children our age. I disagree, it was amazing, you’ve just got to be well prepared xx

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    • Preparation is the key! You are certainly correct. Planning before the trip, planning every night, and on-the-go planning were all important.

      Congratulations for traveling with your children for so long. It is rewarding and it’s more worth it than words can express, but it can be taxing and challenging. I bet you feel like you can conquer the world now. And you can! 🙂

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    • It is all about her safety and that was the best way to keep her safe and allow both of us to have the best time possible. We did so what others think about it really isn’t important. We’re accomplishing great things together 🙂

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      • I so agree with you. You did what was best for you and your baby. Devil may care about the rest of the world.

        My daughter took off on my in a busy grocery store at around two, I had my hands full. Dropped the bags and grabbed her by the hair. Right afterwards, bought the harness.

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  5. Good post!! Reminding me of our trips with our baby daughter years ago. We always stuffed in a lot of Gerber bottles when entering “unknown territory”. And when we were in Thailand McD’s mashed potatoes also helped. B-) After loosing our daughter in a mall in Singapore for 5 minutes we also put a card with our contacts into her pocket, at all time. Lastly, we prefered baby backpacks to stroller, it was especially useful when travelling in the forested Malaysian Taman Negara national park. I carried her, while my wife carried my camera backpack.

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  6. So strange that people are upset with the leash. I’ve used them with two out of three of my children (the middle one never wandered and preferred to be carried in a sling). I’ve done it all from leash to carrier to stroller (umbrella, regular and double). Honestly the carrier, leash and smallest stroller you can get are the best for travelling. Also lots of small toys that can be swapped out (our youngest is 19 months and we recently did a 16 day road trip across four provinces). During the travel time I use one set of toys/books (fit into a small bag) and then when we were staying somewhere I had another small set of toys so that there was no boredom with the toys. He’s still a bit young for enjoying colouring yet, but the crayons will still come just in case. Also being prepared to sing silly songs (I must have sung Alice the Camel a hundred times!) and talk about what we are seeing. And whenever reasonable, time some of the travel for nap time. We also had huge success leaving two hours earlier than our kids normally woke up. All three (oldest is 13) fell back to sleep for about two hours at which time we stopped for breakfast.

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  7. I love it! I also admire the fact that your not traveling by yourself but also bringing your baby with you. Being a mum is not simple, and still you manage to enjoy the world with her. I so love it! By the way, she’s so cute! 🙂 Good Job for all the supermoms out there! ^_^

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  8. You didn’t write “a camera” (although I’m sure you always take one with you). Probably worth mentioning since that would be one of the top items in my list :). I’d add “always keep a change of clothes” to the list. You may not always be close to your luggage when incidents happen. And they do happen, be it an ice cream or a slip in the mud, or anything else. Pretty much like the wipes, actually. If you know you’ll need wipes, you’re probably going to need a change of clothes at some point. In complement to the harness, have you ever considered a small bracelet or locket with your contact info inside? And now that she got used to the harness, in a couple of months you can take her climbing 😀

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  9. That’s about what I pack as well, good list! We uses a Uppa Baby G-Lite, but I am sad I didn’t go for the G-Luxe which as a recline. We are traveling to India this year with 2 (an almost 5 year old and a 2 year old) and this is the first time we will NOT have a stroller for the older one. He’s been trained now to stay close to us, but I am very nervous about it, especially since he still naps during the afternoon. Also, when you are done with diapers, Wet Wipes has this big ones size that are anti bacterial and come in travel size containers for your purse. Love them!

    As for the leash, you do what you, have to do. Only you as a mom knows what’s best for your kids. Anyone else who judges can go to H – E – double hockey sticks. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your daughter looks happy and isn’t that the most important point? Well, maybe safety should be first. I think the leash is a great idea and wished they been around when my kids were little. It’s not like the neck collar a dog wears and is probably safer than holding her hand. Try walking around with your arm stuck up in the air with your hand firmly being squished. 🙂

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  11. The best travelling tip I ever had for travelling with kids is to aim to arrive by 3pm. That way the kids get a chance to explore their surroundings and settle in a bit before you have to start thinking about an evening meal & getting them to bed. We’ve found this tip invaluable, especially when on road trips.

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  12. Accomplishing a trip with a toddler in tow is an amazing experience isn’t it.

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  13. Now a gramma (that’s how we spell it) – I had a leash for my daughter (now 40) when she was 2 and her brother (now 38) was a babe. Got many dirty looks but I opted for safety and playing horsie occastionally to make it fun! A suggestion: carry a package of the large black plastic garbage bags and blue tape (the kind you put on the joint between the wooden floor and the wall, or window sills and walls when painting, that doesn’t peel off paint when removed). Why? I’ve found in too many hotels or friends homes — or in the room of our Boston condo that we make up for the grandkids — that the curtains do not block the light and make for very early risers! Simply tape the black garbage bag over the windows and then draw the curtains — kids will sleep well in the darkened room (naps too) and when you’re ready to leave, voila, the bags come down easily without any peeling paint or damage to walls and windowsills. PS: you’ll sleep a little longer and have more energy too if everyone’s not up at 5 AM!

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  14. We are traveling to Germany in few weeks time, with our 3 yr old DS. I am not yet decided about the stroller, but I do think its good to have it.. Next important thing is his food, for which I am planning to take a multi-purpose kettle with which I can prepare rice, soup, noodles (not for him), hot water etc. I am also taking a travel potty as well as diapers, so that he can still stick to potty routines. Lots of snacks, books ofcourse! and toy cars. Thanks to Ranan Sananya for the great tip of putting contact details in kids pocket. Let me see how it turns out!! Feeling excited and fingers crossed

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  15. I personally know someone whose child was abducted. Right from her front yard in mid-day. It was two years before we knew her fate. A former neighbor confessed, and led authorities to the body. Remember this whenever anyone gives you dirty looks for the leash. You’re a good mom.

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