Travel with Toddlers: What You REALLY Need


By the time you have done all your Pinterest research for car and beach trips, you can have so many ideas it is overwhelming! We just got back from a 14-hour car trip, hotel stay, and week long beach vacation with our two and a half year old son. If you are like me, then you have the tendency to over-pack and over-plan for trips with your kids. This list is not meant to capture some of the obvious beach essentials (sunscreen, swim suits, shade, etc) but more of a not-so-obvious list of things to make your trip a little easier.

Road Trip

Dum Dums — Yes, I know, candy is not the best thing in the world. Kids won’t fill up between meals, and it takes a toddler quite a while to eat one. Who doesn’t love a sucker?!

Diaper Preparedness — We used night time diapers in the car to help with absorption. I also found these Aquaphor applicators to use between each diaper change. That way you don’t have to clean off your own hand while balancing a toddler in the backseat.

iPad and Headphones — This was a trip-saver for us! Our little guy is just not into coloring, stickers, etc., so all those Pinterest ideas were worthless to me. No matter how good-natured your toddler is, no one likes to sit in the car for hours at a time. Whenever he was antsy or we needed to stretch him for another hour, the iPad was a must. Curious George, Peppa Pig, and Elmo were choices in his line up. Wearing his own headphones was an added bonus that allowed us to listen to adult music and podcasts while he was watching his show!

Doodle drawing.

Toys/Books — I had new toys for each day we were on the road. There are some ideas that suggest you wrap the new toys. That just seemed like extra trash to me. Instead, I put the new toys in a zippered bag. Each day he would have to unzip the bag in order to see his new surprise. The biggest hits were dollar store dinosaurs and a stress ball made from a balloon and Playdoh. See here for instructions. It’s always the littlest things that make the biggest hit. A few bigger ticket items that worked well were the Fisher Price DoodlePro and Here We Go by Eric Carle.

Toddler Favorites CD — This specific CD struck a chord with our little man. He wanted to listen to it constantly and by the end of the trip could sing every word. I don’t know if it was the catchy tunes or that actual children are singing, but I highly recommend it for car trips.

Hotel Stay Essentials

Intex Kidz Travel Bed — Where in the world is my toddler supposed to sleep while on vacation?  In preparation, we transitioned our son to his “big boy bed.” Then, I found this travel bed to use in the hotel and beach house. It was a comfortable bed for our taller than average son, and was easy to inflate/deflate, which made packing it up each morning a breeze. It also uses a standard crib sheet to cover the mattress.

Balloons — Put a few balloons in your suitcase to blow-up in the hotel room. You wouldn’t believe how much fun a toddler can have chasing around a few balloons. This activity gets out some energy and helps distract from all the things you don’t want them getting into (phones, lamps, bathroom, etc).

Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Bags — What do you do with a smelly diaper in a hotel room? Obviously you didn’t pack your Diaper Genie! These bags work great for containing all those lovely smells.

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Let’s go fly a kite!

Beach Essentials

Minimal beach toys — We WAY over-packed on beach toys. Our son was quite happy with a shovel, a few buckets and a beach ball. A kite was a huge hit too.

Baby Powder — This stuff is AMAZING at getting off sand without using water. Every so often our son would come unglued when he realized there was sand all over his body. A few shakes of baby powder and the disaster was averted. He was back to making sand castles again. The brain of a toddler is so strange sometimes!

Toys for the beach house — You have arrived at your beach house for a week of fun only to realize that the actual house is NOT toddler proofed. Seems obvious, but something I totally did not think about. A week or so before your trip, stash away some toys to pull out at the beach house. This will hopefully spare you having to say no to everything your toddler touches.

Anything else you have discovered that is helpful for toddler travel?


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