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Packing For Toddlers [Tips & Tricks for a Great Family Time]

Only 18 months ago we were deep in baby travel and I vividly remember Lotte’s first 24-hour flight and European trip. It involved checklists. Many checklists. Now I’ve discovered that packing for toddlers is a whole different ball game again

Does packing for toddlers differ from packing for babies? ​

Toddler relaxing on his luggage at the airport while waiting for his flight
Toddler relaxing on his luggage at the airport while waiting for his flight

Nappies, nappies, nappies (check); antiseptic wipes for the inevitable armchair- licking; formula, toys, spare clothes (for all). Packing for baby travel was a learning curve (the 60cm fluffy stork probably wasn’t needed in the carry on, but the picnic blanket for mid transit rolling was genius).  And just when you have it covered … the goal posts change (again).  Is packing for toddlers different to packing for babies? Oh yes, it is.

First, the good points. Your toddler can probably eat what you do (yes, I admit to travelling internationally with a steamer/blender for fresh pureeing. Oh, and a steriliser).  They can walk (ciao ciao picnic blanket impromptu rolling sessions). And the travel cot? Can probably stay at home.  The travelling circus is suddenly downsizing. Look at all that extra luggage space!

And then, the tricky parts.  Your toddler can physically eat what you do – but refuses everything except Weetbix. Vietnamese street food may be slightly ambitious. They suddenly care about what they wear. They have opinions. And are no longer endlessly entranced by the simple sight of sunshine dappling though leaves – you’re going to need entertainment.

Essentials to keep in mind when packing for toddlers!

Happy family at the airport entrance with luggage packed and ready to go
Happy family at the airport entrance with luggage packed and ready to go

Some things we discovered you will still need, such as antiseptic wipes – while toddlers may have grown out of licking stroller wheels they’re champion pokers. Love a poke.  18-month-old Leni is not only curious, but generous – a used cigarette butt has been presented with pride more than once (I flinch even in recollection). If you are mid-toilet training, pack more undies than you know what to do with, and wipes to go with them.  And if we forgot Leni’s puppy or Lotte’s ballerina dress, or (insert much loved item here), it could mean temporary insanity. Pack them with your passport.

Where are you going? Into the deep Amazon where nappies don’t exist? If not, just bring enough for the flight and a day or two

Partially packed carry on bag with a stork and blanket included
Partially packed carry-on bag with a stork and blanket included

Flying – that’s an entire story in itself. Beware the ‘lap seat’ which is virtually free for under twos, unless you actually have to be a lap and don’t mind DVT. Having booked a bassinet for Leni, (I was in complete denial), when it was clear she wouldn’t fit and I was about to be a Lap Seat  (in between doing plane hot laps), the Plane Pal came to the rescue, an inflatable box that fits between plane seats and turns an economy seat into a toddler bed. Best toddler item I’ve packed – ever. I now travel with two –one for each –and, for the 2.5 year old, earphones that fit, because airplane headphones never do.

Our first all-inclusive holiday in Greece next year will delete a good dollop of packing. I thought hell would freeze before we’d take an all-inclusive resort holiday, but suddenly it makes sense. Wonderful, practical, sense. It will be stacked to the brim with toys, there’s a playground, and the daily buffet means there’ll be something everyone will eat – choose what you like and leave in 15 minutes.  The resort also hosts is a nightly toddler disco, with talent. And being beachside, the only baggage we really need will be floaties.  Sign me up.

This new style of travel we’re exploring makes me realise there’s a season for everything, and each has its merits. Five years ago my partner was climbing Everest. Next year, he’ll be dancing the 5pm Hokey Pokey, and loving it.

Adventure Mamma’s Top Tips:

  1. Packing cubes! With two children under three, they’re ideal for keeping the mini clothes separated. I also group them by activity.
  2. Some bring a travel bottle of detergent for sink washing, and don’t over pack. But I say … it’s a holiday! Over pack! Throw in those toddler clothes weighing 2 grams each. Note what they used (and amount) in the days before traveling and put aside plus some extras. Dirties go straight in a bag never to be seen again until they meet your home washing machine.
  3. Medical kit – medical items can differ slightly between countries. For example, the US doesn’t sell Chlorsig ointment for conjunctivitis over the counter like here. Take your most-used items.
  4. Australian grade sunscreen – you’d be surprised how hard it can be to find sensitive toddler sunscreen in Europe. Likewise bath wash and mini washers.
  5. A stack of small, wrapped, emergency presents – even as tiny as a set of mini stickers – are handy because they can a) turn a ‘moment’ around with an exciting distraction (there are times you may need that 30 seconds) and b) they take time to unwrap.


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