- Avoid juice. It stains and gets sticky when spilled. Plain water will quench thirst.
- Bring an empty sippy cup or water bottle that you can attach to something else. I use a carabiner to clip them (yes, plural - one for each of us) to our carry-on so they don’t take up space. Then I find a water fountain and fill them up after going through security. A leakproof bottle is helpful, or at least a sippy cup that has a cover for the spout/straw.
- Bring a travel mug for you, if you are a coffee person. I have one that is leakproof - I can get it filled up in a cafe, or in our hotel room, instead of relying on flimsy to-go cups. I can also slip it in my carry-on so my hands are free and not worry about a mess. It also makes keeping coffee hot/unspilled more likely when boarding a plane or driving.
- High protein snacks will keep cranky toddlers and parents full longer - almonds, a protein bar. Dried fruit and cereal are also good options that don’t need a cooler.
Bring toys (not too many, not too old, not too big)
- Two to three books that aren't annoying when read over and over. I like the indestructible series - they are small, indestructible (hence the name), and have no words. So the story can change every time or your kiddo can just look at the pictures and not feel like mama or dada is copping out on reading.
- one to two new items as “last resort”. Small cars, little people, or a funny new stuffed/fuzzy item are all good options. Think CHEAP - dollar store items or matchbox cars that (hopefully) no one will miss if lost.
- Flashlight. We have a small one that is three colors - the hours of fun had with changing the colors are unbelievable.
- Aquadoodle travel version. Water pen = no mess drawing. Also non-toxic for those kids that like to chew EVERYTHING. It’s also flat!
Bring a car seat.
- If traveling by car, this is a no-brainer. But if you are traveling by plane, it makes sense to use it on the plane. Why?
- Toddler kept rear-facing can’t kick the passenger in front of him/her. Happy neighbors = happy parents.
- toddler kept in familiar seat can nap more easily. Napping toddler = cute = “awwwww” from the neighbors = (see above)
- You’ll probably need it after the flight (either in a rental or your ride’s car).
- Not checking it means you could, potentially, check another bag instead.
Bring a blankie/pacifier/lovie that you wish the kid had outgrown months ago (desparate times call for desperate measures).
- Do whatever you have to do to keep the kid calm in the face of utter and complete upheaval of routines and loss of control over everything. Now is not the time to begin enforcing a lovey-less naptime.
- The best advice I was ever given about traveling with a kid was to only use one bag for myself and the kid. None of this “diaper bag plus my carry-on plus my purse stuff”. Choose a bag that you can sling over your back or shoulder (or even a lumbar pack!), and your hands will be free to wrangle the kid, stroller, and/or other luggage.
- Reconsider the stroller. Our son prefers to push the stroller, rather than ride, so we load it up with our stuff and let him push! When he gets tired, he prefers to be carried anyway - I still occasionally wear him in a sling (which folds up nice and small) or he will ride in a backpack.
- Do you really need X? It’s difficult not to pack for every contingency, but resist the urge. You’ll thank me later - when you inadvertently end up at a hotel with no luggage carts, no elevator, and a 2nd (or 3rd) floor room.
- Think twice about toiletries. Can you just pack one for everybody? Sunscreen is a good example - get whatever you feel comfortable using on the kid in a larger size and use for everyone. Most sunscreens (the chemical ones, at least) expire (2 years after opening/manufacturing), so it makes more sense to share.