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I remember the Goof’s first trip to California. It was his first road trip since when he was 2 months old (yes, we took a 2 month old on a 10 day, 7 state road trip). The Goof was about a year old, and it was March. We took our niece and were going down to surprise them with a trip to the happiest place on earth.
We were driving over night, taking back highways from Idaho to Vegas before hopping on the freeway. First we hit a snow storm. We were driving so slow and could barely see anything. I told my husband “when we make it to Jackpot, we will find a hotel there and stay the night.” Except the snow stopped the second we crossed the Nevada border, so we carried on.
We stopped on the side of the highway in a tiny little town to get gas. I still have not figured out why, but Mike pulled into the pump closest to the highway to get gas. It was only 28° outside, and semis were driving by at random. It was 2 am. As Mike went in to use the restroom, The Goof woke up crying.
I went back to check on him and give him a bottle. As I took him out of the car seat I found he had a complete blow out! Something he had not had since he was a newborn. Thankfully, I had put a onesie on under his pajamas for easy changing when we got to Vegas, and the onesie had protected his pajamas so we didn’t have to dig out a new set of PJs. Now every time we go down to California, when we drive by or stop at that gas station, I think about changing my poor little guy as semis sped by. Thankfully, we made it down to California just fine and the Goof was able to enjoy his time…though we did end up with an ER trip as well, but that is a story for another day.
I am so glad on that trip that I had thought ahead to put a onesie under his pajamas, even if the reason I had done it was not the reason it ended up being a good idea. I have learned a lot during my years of travel with kids, and now with two toddlers (do I have to start calling them toddlers- can’t they stay my babies) I find it even more important to make sure I have everything in order, and that I am prepared for surprises along the way. Today I want to share with you some info on what to pack for babies and toddlers, and I have a free printable checklist to help you with your packing.
Packing for Babies & Toddlers – For The Ride
I personally find it easiest to pack two bags. One suitcase with the stuff you will need during the main part of your vacation. This goes in the trunk or bottom of the plane. But then I like to pack a second bag for the trip. This is one I like to keep where I can easily get to it. So what do I keep in this smaller bag?
- An extra outfit. Keep a full extra outfit in here in case of an accident or a blowout. I try and keep this one as something that will work in any climate that we might encounter. I also suggest putting a onesie under clothing if your child can still fit in them. (I have small children, the Goof could fit in some onesies well past the age of two.)
- Diapers & Wipes. Take a few more than what you would normally need for this time frame. I have found that when we travel, my kids seem to go through more diapers than they would at home. If your child is newly potty trained, and you want them in underwear, but don’t want to chance the mess, I put the Goof in underwear and a diaper over it when we traveled to California shortly after he potty trained. If your child is fully potty trained, take 2 extra pair of underwear and pants (just in case) and still take wipes. Wipes are handy for more than just diapers. Every parent should travel with wipes.
- A drink. It is important that little ones stay well hydrated when traveling. I know we often are tempted to discourage drinking because of potty breaks or peeing through diapers, but it is so important that they get enough to drink. Take a sippy or bottle for your child. Even though my babies are over a year, they still get a couple bottles a day and we also are giving them sippy cups. Sadly, that means more to pack, but it is definitely worth it.
- Snacks. Be sure to bring snacks for the ride. Even if you won’t be giving them in the car or plane, you will most likely need some for part of the journey. If you are going to be eating them in the car I strongly suggest items that are easy to clean up (no suckers, chocolate, etc) by a vacuum.
- Books & Toys. Don’t forget to bring items to help entertain your little one during the voyage. I find books and car friendly toys (ones that don’t make annoying noises or involve a lot of pieces) are great. I bring board books for my little ones so I don’t have to worry about them ripping pages. I also like to bring some new toys to help keep it a little more interesting for the kids. You can also use toys as a reward for being good on the way for older toddlers.
- Rest stop activities. If you are driving or if you have a lay over, make sure to bring items that are just for that time. Rest stop activities are great to help kids get their energy out. Bring a ball, bubbles, or anything that helps them get active and stretch their legs.
- Comfort Items. Does your toddler have a pacifier? Maybe a lovey or a favorite pillow or blanket? The car ride (and also the change in environment) can be a bit much for them and having comfort items from home can help them sleep better, calm down when they get upset, and also just generally help them during a crazy mix up of their normal routine.
If you are wondering how to pack these items, be sure to check out our Essential Road Trip Kit post where we also help you end the “are we there yet” question.
Packing for Babies & Toddlers- In The Suitcase
In the suitcase I like to put things that are going to be needed during our stay and also our “just in case items” that hopefully we won’t need, but are nice to have so you aren’t left paying 3 times as much for something in a hotel gift shop or trying to find a store nearby cutting into your vacation time. I also have a few packing tips I want to share with you.
- Onesies. Like I mentioned above, I like to put my kids in onesies on vacation long after I have slowed down on wearing them at home. They help protect from blowouts, yes, but they are also great if you need to change outfits somewhere. If your toddler spills all over their clothing, you can change their outfit without stripping them totally down to the diaper. Plan on packing a onesie for each day plus one extra.
- Shirts. Take enough shirts for each day, plus one or two extras. Depending on where I am going I mix up long sleeve and short sleeve shirts. I try to avoid white shirts on vacation because if something gets on them, I can’t run them right in to a washer (though I do laundry on vacation most of the time).
- Pants/Shorts. You will need one pair for each day. I should probably pack extras of these, but I rarely do because I let my kids rewear pants if they don’t have stuff on them or stink from poopy diapers. Even if you are heading somewhere pretty warm I strongly suggest having at least 1-2 pairs of pants. Even when we go to California in the summer, the nights can get quite cool for little ones so it is a good idea to have pants just in case.
- Jacket. Always bring a jacket or sweatshirt in case it gets cool or rainy. You never know. Always better to be prepared then sorry.
- Socks. Bring socks for each day. An extra pair or two don’t hurt.
- Shoes. If your toddler walks, bring shoes. I always bring two pair in case one gets lost or usually one pair of close toed sandals and one pair of tennis shoes.
PACKING TIP: Group outfits together and then put them in quart size storage baggies. That way you can easily grab outfits to get baby/toddler ready, easily throw a full backup outfit in your go bag, and you have a bag for soiled clothes.
- Pajamas. I usually bring 2 sets for shorter trips. 3 or 4 for longer trips. Be sure PJs will be warm enough or cool enough based on where you are heading.
- Swim Gear. If you will be staying somewhere with a pool, or heading to the beach, be sure to pack your baby’s swim gear. For us that usually means swim trunks, rash guard, swim diapers, a float device and water ring sling.
- Formula (if needed) and kid friendly snacks. With older kids and adults it is easy to just say you will eat where ever and you don’t need anything extra, but if you have a toddler you know how often they eat, and how they need foods that are kid friendly. I try and bring a handful of toddler friendly snacks with us on vacation such as cereals, graham crackers, dried fruits, and more. My babies are no longer on formula, but the Goof actually stayed on formula until he was 15 months (for a variety of reasons) so if your little one needs formula, make sure to pack some.
- Diapers & Wipes. This is where I pack the majority of diapers and wipes. I usually pack a lot of diapers. My kids have all gone through a lot of diapers when traveling. I try and pack 5-6 diapers per day plus one overnight diaper. I usually take a pack of wipes for each kid (for a week long trip). If you are going somewhere you know you will have easy access to diapers/wipes, you can always bring less and pick some up, but I hate the idea of spending some of my vacation running to get diapers.
- Sunscreen. If you will be outdoors, be sure to bring some kid friendlly sunscreen. I like to make sure it is SPF 50 or higher. I also like to bring the stick kind for the toddlers faces because trying to rub lotion in to their faces just sucks.
- Bath/Lotion products & Diaper Cream. Don’t forget items you might need for the bath. I also bring lotion (one of the toddlers has extreme eczema so I bring his cream) and also diaper cream just in case I see a hint of diaper rash.
- Tooth brush & paste. Dental hygiene is so important, even at a young age. Be sure to bring your toddler’s tooth brush and tooth paste.
- Probiotics. Remember my story about the blow out? Just like how traveling does a number on our sleep and our bodies, it also does the same to our little ones.Probiotics help support digestive health, and the added bonus of electrolytes helps support hydration (a two in one combo!).
- Gas Drops & Gripe Water. These are also great to have on hand when traveling and are made by Little Remedies as well. They can also be found in the Digestive aisle.
- Infant/Children’s Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer. Teething, slight illness, and fevers are not fun to deal with at home, but when they hit while on vacation they really are a pain. Hopefully you never need it, but it is good to have on hand just in case. Also be sure you know the dosage to give your child. I find it easiest to check with your child’s pediatrician for dosage as they will give it to you based on your child’s weight and will verify which medicines are safe for your baby.
- Blanket/Stuffed Animals. If you didn’t have them in your carry-on, car bag, be sure you have them here. Be sure you have comfort items for your kids. It will help a ton when they are sleeping in an unfamiliar place.
Other Items To Consider
Here are some other items to consider taking for your toddler.
- Car seat. This one is for if you are flying and will be using a car, consider taking a car seat. I personally suggest taking your seat on the plane for your child to use (there are lots of reasons not to check your seat). If you are driving you would hopefully not have to think about this one.
- Stroller. If you use a stroller regularly at home, this is something you will probably want. Or if you will be doing a lot of walking. If you are tight on space, there are companies that will rent out strollers in some popular tourist destinations.
- Child carrier. A child carrier, like a SSC (soft structered carrier) or ring sling are great if you will be somewhere that a stroller is not preferred or if you will be hiking.
- Pack n Play. A place for your child to sleep is important if they are still used to a crib. You can bring a pack n play, see if your hotel has portable cribs, or if you are renting a stroller, many companies also have pack n plays you can rent as well.
Get A Free Printable Packing Checklist!
If you are like me you have a million things to do when getting ready for vacation, and so you end up with a bunch of lists. If you are like me you also often miss something still. So I have created a free printable checklist for packing for your little one. You can print out one for each kid if needed. Before we get to the printable, a few rules about our printables.
- All printables on this site are for PERSONAL use only. Do not replicate them or sell them for profit. Not cool!
- Do NOT remove the copyright (if there is one) or attribution to this site. Just don’t. Again, not cool.
- If you do share this printable with others, please link back to this post for others to grab it.
- When printing printables from the site, first click on the link, when the PDF pops up, click the download button, but then choose “Open with Adobe….”. Once you open it with Adobe on your computer, than you can print it. If you try and print it without this step it may not print correctly.
You can get your free printable by CLICKING HERE.