I was surrounded by stuff — piles upon piles of clothes, tiny bottles of shampoo, sunscreen and three different kinds of toothpaste. There was a stack of books, toys and snacks. Could this really be for just a one-week trip? Yes, apparently it was. I needed to do better, and that meant we would be paring down and get back to the basics of packing, and we were going to start with a few necessary packing tips for toddlers when it came to my son.
At four years old my son is a seasoned pro when it comes to travel. I pack his clothes, and he packs his little backpack. This is what he is in charge of while we are en route. If he can’t fit it in there, he can’t bring it. My job is a little harder as his mom. I get to think about every eventuality, every puddle jumped in, every shirt with spaghetti dribbled down it — and bathroom accidents that may or may not happen. How do you pack for all of these scenarios? Simple. You don’t.
Know that you will forget something
Once you accept this packing will be much easier.
You can buy it there
Chances are, unless you are traveling into the bush or backcountry, you can buy it when you get there. If you run out of sunscreen, forget toothpaste or need an extra shirt, the place you are visiting will have it stocked in the local store.
Rent a car seat
The car seat is the most annoying and bulky piece of equipment you will have to pack for a toddler, especially if your child isn’t in a crib anymore. Consider renting a car seat once you arrive, or use alternate transportation so you don’t have to deal with it at all. Double check that the rental agency has 5-point harnesses on their car seats. This is hard to come by internationally, but domestically in the U.S. you should insist you get one that is up to current safety standards.
Everyone worries about keeping their child entertained, but after four years of travel with my children, I know that it doesn’t take much. Here is what my son packs in his bag. Yes, I give lots of direction on this front.
We are partial to Kidz Gear headphones that come in bright colors, are durable and fit kids’ heads better than adult headphones.
1 to 2 small, thin books for your child to read or browse.
We love child-friendly comic books for our boys (super heroes are big in our family right now) and my friends with little girls like the early reader Tinkerbell books or other princess stories. Even if you child can’t read yet these picture-filled books will have them making up their own tales in no time.
The Moose Bag:
This may sound strange, but we have a small felt back, about 6×6 inches in dimension, that a friend gave us a few years back that has traveled the world. It has a drawstring that can keep all of our treasure inside, but is also small enough that it limits the number of toys it can hold.
Figures, airplanes and cars:
Inside our Moose Bag (it has a little picture of a moose on it) we stash Phineas and Ferb figures, small model airplanes, hot wheel cars and a tiny Spiderman. This gives my son ample characters to play with and stories to make up.
Smart phone and tablet.
If you are anti-screen time for your kid you can skip to the next tip. If you are OK with screen time know that when you travel is a good time to pull it out and bend the rules. My toddler knows he can’t play Angry Birds unless he is on a plane. My Kindle Fire also houses movies, storybooks and educational games to entertain my son and help with our bedtime routine. I don’t want to lug a bunch of books around, so my library of Curious George, Bernstein Bears and Cat in the Hat is priceless, especially for long trips.
Pack extra clothing
I know I told you not to pack the kitchen sink, but you do need to come prepared. How do you choose what to pack when it comes to enough clothing? Here’s my rule of thumb.
• 2 to 3 extra pairs of socks
• 1 to 2 extra pairs of underwear
• 1 extra shirt
• 1 extra pair of pants
This will allow you to do a load of laundry or wash an outfit in the sink if your child gets soaked after jumping in puddles, but will still leave extra clothes for him to wear as you continue your adventures.
Thankfully most kids don’t need much in the way of hair products, but you will need medications, sunscreen, bug spray and anything else that fits your travel situation. When in doubt leave it home though. You can always buy it when you get there. Medications are the only thing you should make sure you have more than enough of.
Diapers and pull ups
If your child is still potty training make sure you bring enough diapers or pull ups to last you three days. If you have room in your suitcase you can bring more, but three days should get you there, settled in and to the store without feeling like you are cutting it too close to your last diaper.
What are your packing essentials for toddlers?
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