5 Must Have Travel Essentials For Toddler Travel

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Updated 11/12/23

With so many toddler travel products out there, it can be hard to know what items you can do without and what will actually make your life easier. After a few years of traveling with a toddler (and purchasing way more kids travel items than we need) we narrowed down a list of products for traveling with a toddler. Whether you’re flying, cruising or road tripping, these are our must have travel essentials for toddler travel.

Given that toddlers range in age from 1 year old to 5 years old, this includes a few alternatives for traveling with younger toddlers or older toddlers. With that in mind, be sure to check weight minimums and maximums on products before choosing the best option for your child.

Cancun with a toddler Toddling Traveler

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1. Toddler Travel Bed

Depending on your toddlers age and size, you may be using either a toddler travel crib or a travel bed. We personally used a travel crib with our toddler until he was a little over 2.5 years old. After that, he became too tall and had difficulty staying asleep in the crib, so we upgraded him to an inflatable toddler travel bed.

Travel Cribs for Toddlers

There are several different options for travel cribs, and we have used several of them over the years. Below are 4 different options for baby and toddler travel cribs.

  1. A standard pack ‘n play is great for staying at hotels or with family. It’s inexpensive and you can typically request a pack n play when staying at a hotel. The downside is that they’re often heavy and clunky when traveling if you have to bring one with you.
  2. If you plan to do a lot of flying with a baby or toddler, this super lightweight travel crib is great. While it can take a few minutes to set up, it fits in a full size suitcase and is great if you plan to fly to destinations where you can’t easily get a travel crib. (This light travel crib is also a less expensive alternative to the Phil and Teds Travel Crib.)
  3. With our second child, we received this awesome travel crib. It’s lighter than a standard pack ‘n play and folds into a backpack style carrier that makes it easy to bring with you whether you’re flying or driving. The mattress is also memory foam to make it more comfortable than most travel cribs. It’s definitely the best travel crib that we’ve used to date.
  4. This travel crib is another great option that we have used as well. While the priciest of the options noted here, we love that it has the bassinet and changing table feature for infants.

Pro Tip: Many hotels and even vacation rentals offer travel cribs, so be sure to ask before your stay if you want to save the space while traveling.


Toddler Travel Beds

As your toddler gets bigger but isn’t yet ready for his own bed, you may want to get a travel toddler bed/ mattress. This blow up travel bed for kids is a breeze to inflate, and it’s perfect for staying in a hotel or home when your toddler wouldn’t otherwise have his own bed. There are always alternatives to having a toddler travel bed, so it may not be a necessity if you’re not going to get a lot of use out of it.

Another alternative is using inflatable bed rails for toddlers. They take up very little packing space and are a great option if your toddler will have his or her own bed at your destination. These inflatable bed bumpers are great since they can also be used as bed rails at home to avoid purchasing multiple products.

Many people opt to go from a travel crib to a full size bed when traveling with toddlers. If you don’t want to travel with the extra items, some alternatives to using a toddler travel bed (for younger toddlers) include:

  1. Share a bed with siblings or parents (with a pillow barrier if needed.)
  2. Make a “bed” for your toddler on the floor.
  3. Have them sleep on a couch (pushed against the wall to prevent rolling, if needed.)

Pro Tip: If your child is still sleeping in a crib at home but too big for a pack n play, consider renting a full size crib. You can find crib rentals at a destination near you by searching here.

2. Travel Car Seat For Toddler

We highly recommend bringing your own car seat when traveling, particularly with younger toddlers. The car seat is always the safest mode of airplane travel, and renting a car seat with a car rental company can be unreliable. The tricky part is that most every day toddler car seats are bulky and heavy, making them difficult to transport when either flying with a toddler or renting a car. While every car seat is technically a “travel car seat,” this is where having a lightweight car seat comes in handy.

This car seat is our absolute favorite travel car seat for babies and toddlers. Not only is it very light and inexpensive, but you can use it both rear facing and forward facing. It meets all the safety standards without having additional “bells and whistles” that you find in most car seats, and it’s also an FAA approved car seat for airplane travel. (We also use this as our second car seat in my husband’s car.)

As your toddler gets older, you may want to consider a lightweight car seat that can adapt to a booster seat. When our second child turned 3, our Cosco car seat expired, so we decided to switch to something that would last her several more years. We ended up purchasing this lightweight car seat and booster seat.

Travel Essentials for Toddler Flying gogobabyz travelmate Toddling Traveler
Cosco Car Seat with GoGo Babyz Travelmate

There are also a few options for transporting a car seat when flying. This car seat stroller makes getting through the airport with a toddler a breeze, and it’s one of our absolute favorite products for traveling with a toddler. If you’re checking a car seat to use at your destination, these car seat bags for airplanes are great to have as well.

If you don’t plan to do a ton of air travel with your toddler, you can always get away with using your everyday car seat as long as it’s FAA compliant. Keep in mind that children under 2 need a car seat to have their own seat, but over 2 they can sit on the seat without an FAA approved child restraint device.

Car Seat Alternatives for Toddlers

  • If you do not need a car seat at your destination but still want enhanced safety on the airplane, consider an airplane harness. This airplane travel harness is a more lightweight option for flying.
  • A lightweight booster seat is also an option if your child meets the age and weight minimums. This foldable, compact travel booster seat is a great option.

3. Travel Stroller for Toddlers

While many people opt to use their daily stroller for travel, a lightweight travel stroller is a must have for us. We’ve tried quite a few strollers for travel over the years between two kids. Based on our experience, we found that these things were the most important when choosing the best travel stroller: 1. Lightweight, 2. One handed push and fold, 3. Ability to fit in an overhead bin, 4. Full recline for naps and 5. Large canopy for shade in the sun.

It can be tough to find a travel stroller that does well with cobblestone streets and also folds up small, but we recently discovered the Zoe Traveler, which meets all of this criteria and then some. If you use this referral link to purchase, you can also get a $15 discount off a Zoe Stroller. We also had the Zoe Twin prior to the single stroller, and it was our favorite double stroller for Disney with a toddler. We also love the Zoe stroller for huge canopy, and it was perfect for rainy weather in Disneyland Paris and Disney World.

While it’s not quite as compact as the GB Pockit+ that we used previously for travel, it does everything else SO much better. The minimum age to use a Zoe stroller is 3 months and it’s approved for use up to 45 lbs. That said, we let our 6 year old use it in Europe a few times to take a break, and he’s 55 lbs.

More of the best travel strollers recommended by traveling families include the Babyzen YoYo stroller, Mountainbuggy Nano stroller and Zoe strollers. You can find each of them below.

  1. YoYo Babyzen
  2. Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller
  3. GB Pockit+

A lower cost travel stroller option that we use is this Summer Infant stroller. It’s a little heavier and less compact than the options mentioned above, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for an affordable and sturdy travel stroller that offers more than a basic umbrella stroller. If you need a travel stroller bag, this inexpensive stroller bag is great as well.

4. Toddler Travel Potty

As you think about potty training on the go, a travel potty will likely be needed to start off. After purchasing several different toddler potty variations for home and away, we discovered this travel potty for toddlers. Not only is it inexpensive, but it doubles as both a travel potty seat for toddlers and a stand alone toddler travel potty. You can also use these travel potty bags, or a standard grocery bag will suffice as well.

If your child is able to use a standard size toilet, this travel toilet seat is also great. It folds up small and fits in a bag that can go wherever you go.

Another option is to bring a regular potty training potty. While this would not work if you’re flying to your destination, it’s always an option if you’re driving or doing a road trip with a toddler.

5. Travel Highchair

A travel high chair may not be a must have for older toddlers, but it’s a toddler travel essential when traveling with younger toddlers. After trying out quite a few, the best portable high chair we’ve used is this clip-on high chair. It’s a super lightweight high chair that makes it easy to travel with whether you’re flying or driving.

If you’re camping or going somewhere that you don’t easily have a table to clip the high chair onto, this travel high chair is another great option. It’s a stand alone high chair that folds up like a camping chair, and it’s great if you’re driving to your destination.

Pro-tip for traveling with toddlers: Many vacation rentals and even hotels offer things like travel cribs and high chairs. Be sure to check before traveling to see if you have those options available.

Carrick-a-Rede Bridge with a Toddler North Coast Ireland Toddling Traveler

More Great Toddler Travel Products

In addition to the toddler travel products mentioned above, below are a few additional “nice to have” items for toddler travel.

  • A sound machine is great for both baby and toddler travel. We have this portable sound machine for baby, but we typically prefer to use this sound machine for travel and at home. It’s super lightweight, has a USB plug and helps keep a consistent routine when traveling.
  • This baby carrier is also great for toddlers up to 45 lbs. We often wore it as a backpack carrier when our son’s little legs got tired from hiking. It especially came in handy on our Northern Ireland road trip.
  • This ride on suitcase for kids is fun as your toddler gets older.
  • Packing cubes to help organize your things when traveling with a toddler; especially if you’re sharing suitcases.

Pro Tip: If you want to minimize the stuff you take while traveling with a toddler, consider renting items at your destination! Search here for baby gear rentals available in the area you’re traveling to.

Be sure to also check out our list of toddler travel toys for small, noise free toys for the plane, car or at home.

Looking for more toddler travel tips? Check out the relate posts below.

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Travel Essentials for Toddler Toddling Traveler
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