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We were avid travelers pre-kids and we were determined to keep traveling often once we had kids. We went to Europe when Aidan was just 5 months old. And lucky boy, he checked off 8 countries by the time he was 3. There were so many learnings while traveling with a little one and then two kiddos. But, it definitely gets easier with planning and practice! Here are some of our must have essentials when traveling with toddlers / kids:
(1) Ultralight backpack: We love this versatile Patagonia backpack / tote bag. It’s foldable but also has good structure. It also has a good number of pockets and can hold two water bottles. If you don’t like backpacks, I highly recommend this versatile medium-size Kipling tote bag. I’ve had mine for 20 years (it’s literally been on every trip with me) and it’s still going strong. It’s well-made, light, packable, has zip pockets, a perfect size (can be made smaller or bigger and fits so much stuff) and can also fit on a rolling carry on.
(2) Tablet: We’re not a huge screen time family but we definitely make an exception when we travel on the plane or when we are on a long roadtrip. The Amazon fire tablet is a great option and includes a sturdy kid proof case.
(3) Headphones: And with a tablet, we like to bring headphones that are soft for the ears but have volume control. Wireless headphones are a game changer.
(4) Legos: If you have older kids (4+), we like to bring a legos for building. I really like the $15-$20 lego technics because you get a 2 in 1 set where the box contains two building challenges (e.g. a set can build digger and then can be pulled apart to build a dump truck). For plane rides, I’ll also bring along a small container to hold all of the pieces so nothing gets lost.
(5) Play-Doh & the Starter Kit: Our kids are huge fans of play-doh and it keeps them busy for awhile.
(6) Markers, Crayons & Coloring & Activity Books: I like the larger marker and crayon sets because of all of the fun colors. But when traveling, I’ll ask the kids to pick out 10-15 colors to bring with us which is more than enough to keep them happy and busy. If your kids prefer drawing on their own, you can bring plain white coloring sheets which you can then make into a little book.
(7) Water Wipes & Wet Ones: I like to use the Water Wipes for the face (… and the bum when needed). I like the Wet Wipes to wipe down high-touch surfaces (e.g. tray tables, dining table etc.), but these ones can also be used for cleaning hands.
(8) Snack boxes: Snacks are a huge lifesaver when we are on the road or flying. I like to separate snacks into different compartments and use bento boxes to make snack eating fun and easy. We like to bring sliced fruit, chips & crackers and we can’t forget the sweets for bribing. Our favorite kid-bribes are these organic gummy bears for those moments of desperation.
(9) Water Bottle: We’ve tried a lot of water bottles over the last 5 years and found that for older toddlers and kids, the junior Yeti is our tried and true water bottle. It’s a little bit on the heavier side. But, it doesn’t leak, it’s really sturdy (ours have been dropped too many times to count) and keeps the water cold and refreshing. Plus it’s pretty easy to clean.
(10) Disposable Place Mats: For traveling, I like these disposable place mats to keep surfaces clean, whether for snacking or play doh. Also, it’s really easy to pull up the sides and dispose of it. These silicon place mats are also a good alternative and can be wiped down afterwards.
(11) Sunscreen: A must have whether we are visiting sunny destinations or cold destinations. Some parents like the sunscreen sticks for the face but we actually prefer the good ol’ regular sunscreen lotion. We find it easier and faster to just rub some in your hands and apply to your child’s face and body.
(12) Travel potty toilet: For potty training kiddos, we have really liked using this foldable travel potty that goes directly on the toilet. It also folds compactly into a little travel bag making it easy to take around with us.
(13) Carrier: Both of our kids really like being held. Especially in areas that are less stroller friendly, we were so grateful to have our carrier. For little ones, we used the Ergobaby carrier and as they got bigger, we like the LÍLLÉbaby Toddler Carrier. It’s easy to stick in a bag or hang off of our backpack.
(14) Travel Stroller: The OG travel stroller is the BabyZen Yoyo stroller, but now stroller companies are all making a travel friendly compact / foldable stroller. You can do some research and figure out which stroller is best for your traveling needs. Our oldest, Aidan, loved the stroller as a baby / toddler. So, we invested in a travel stroller from Zoe (“The Traveler”) that can fit in most overhead airplane compartments and was super light. It has become a bit beat up over the last 5 years but worked great on the cobblestone streets of Prague and dirt paths in Ireland. Our youngest, Oli, hates the stroller so now that same stroller is sitting in storage…
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