Toddler Travels: What to Pack, Backpack Edition


If we’re on the go, with our tot and toddler in tow, chances are, you will see them running and fro around the airport with matching monkey backpacks.  Our oldest has actually had hers since she was two, and now our two-year old has his own smaller version as well. Over the years we’ve experimented with what goes it in but seemed to have settled on a formula that works well for all sorts of trips.


At this point, our packing list is pretty standardized – we adjust for age over time but right now, her backpack has the following:

Water & Snacks

Water always.  Often times we leave her Thermos water bottle empty until we cross security and then fill it up at the nearest water fountain.  Water is important not just for the drinking but sometimes we’ve had situations where we need to do a little washing on the go so it’s always good to have.  It goes in the side pocket.

We also pack snacks – mostly healthy, higher protein ones like nuts, dried fruit, apple slices + peanut butter pouches, granola bars and the like.  We started using these Sistema containers for her lunches in forest school in Denmark because they’re a little easier for little hands to open, and the compartments help keep things protected when the inevitable drop on the floor happens.  But we also pack a few treats like gummy bears or M&M’s for the occasional indulgence.

A couple of years ago, Funkins sent me a few of their double-sided napkin cloths to try out, and we’ve been hooked ever since. I always have one or two in there for the kids as they double as placemats, napkins, you  name it….my daughter likes to set out “picnics” on them but mostly they are lifesavers when you spend your travel day around dubiously clean surfaces.


If  you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that “yes, she has an iPad”.  I know not everyone agrees, but I have to say, for travel, this has been a game changer for us.  Our daughter almost only gets her iPad when we travel, and it has to be a  long trip at that, so its arrival in her backpack is always much anticipated.  She’s also got her own pair of children’s headphones sized just right for her that don’t go too loud and that help protect my sanity.

In celebration of a trip, I always try to add a few new apps and a few new episodes of her favorite shows.  Luckily, she’s likes shows that involve animals like Wild Kratts and Octonauts and the like, so I try to pick a few episodes featuring the kinds of animals that live where we might be visiting.  Recently, she’s also been enjoying the read-along books, like Winnie-the-Pooh.

The Just in Case Pocket

I use the front pocket to keep a series of “just in case” things.  Although our daughter is long potty-trained, I always keep an extra shirt, leggings and underwear for her. Accidents don’t happen that frequently but they do happen with children, plus, you never know when there’s a spill or an overnight flight delay or who knows.  Things happen when you travel.

Similarly, although diapers are a relic of the past with her, I always have a travel pack of diaper wipes in there.  I read once that a mom said that having wipes in your back is the equivalent of carrying a kitchen sink in there.  That might be a stretch but that’s not far off from the truth. Wipes always come in handy.

Finally, I also store in that pocket a toothbrush and toothpaste in a ziplock bag, an extra ziplock bag or two in a large size, and a hat and gloves if we’re going somewhere cold.

With the exception of things that are specific to weather, everything else in that pocket stays as is so that it’s one less thing to think about when I pack the bag.


My daughter loves her time with the iPad but that’s not the only thing she loves.  In fact, she’s pretty good about handing it over when she’s had enough.  When that moment comes, especially on longer trips, then I like to have a few of her favorites ready to go.

Usborne Sticker Books are great – lots of different ones with high quality stickers that you can also remove and move around.  There are a ton of themes to choose from but she usually gravitates towards the ones that are animal or travel based.

My sister-in-law, generally, the knower of all miracle things for children, introduced us to the “ImagineINK” books a few years ago.  They’re coloring books that only have one special marker that basically reveals colors underneath.  They definitely peak at the 5 and under set but my daughter still enjoys one every now and again so I usually put a new one in there for the trip.  They’re simple since there is only one pen, but at the same time, when you’re in tight spots or need entertainment that won’t require picking up a lot of complicated pieces, this is a great go-to.

We always have a small pad of paper and Crayola Twistables.  I’ve loved these for years, especially when my daughter’s hands were less dextrous and crayons were often broken.  These have a firm plastic coating that prevents breaking and you just twist up when you need more; and contrary to many of the little free crayon boxes that they hand out, they have a really nice quality to them when you color.

So those are our go-to’s and basics when we travel with our daughter – if anyone has any basics they want to share, I’m all ears!

1 Comment

  1. […] you’ve read here before, you know that I treat ziplock bags as a solution to nearly all my travel woes.  But in this case, the bags make it easy to collect a […]


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