top of page

The Best Travel Packing List for Toddlers and Preschool Kids (2-4 years)

Updated: Feb 3

If you ever wondered (or googled) “What to pack for holiday with a toddler?”, “What are the most essential things to buy for a holiday with small kids?” and “What to pack for a 2-year-old, 3-year-old or 4-year-old for travel?” bookmark this page. Be it a weekend in the countryside, a city break abroad or a long-haul vacation, this all-in-one travel packing list will cover all.
This guide mainly refers to young children like toddlers, and preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. And ideally, potty trained. For younger babies check out this post.

The List in a glimpse

Utterly useful list, as I’ve returned to consult it multiple times, before every trip. So did most of my friends I’ve shared it with:



This post contains affiliate links. By clicking and purchasing through the links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to keep the site up to date and do more research on food and travel. Thanks for reading!

 
ROAM

Travel Buggy

Take it if... your child still enjoys day naps and you love long walks

Take on-board: YES

I know most parents are looking forward to getting rid of strollers at the pre-school age that children drop day nap. However, if your style of travel involves lots of museums, outdoor sightseeing, markets, and shopping, you might re-think a super lightweight travel buggy. What’s more, along with your exhausted toddler, the buggy will carry shopping bags with no effort. A real lifesaver!

During my research on travel buggies, I found out the most important specs to consider are:

  • Collapsible: ideally it should be one hand folding as most of the time you will hold something else on the other, if not the child. I like the flat laid folding buggies as they become quite small and flat (imagine like a 17” laptop size).

  • Portable: also good to have a carry bag (if you are going to store it in the overhead compartment) and a shoulder strap to hang it when boarding a plane or taking stairs down to the underground.

  • Lightweight: it has to be made of lightweight materials and does not weigh more than 5.5-6 kg. Remember, you are going to carry it everywhere along with much other stuff.

  • Well equipped with accessories: ideally a rain cover and a sun protection umbrella (parasol) would be nice depending on where you travel. Maybe need to consider a portable, rechargeable fan too!.

So which one?

I’ve tried umbrella-folding style strollers but they felt quite flimsy when in use plus you loose the option to carry onboard. Baby jogger city tour and Babyzen Yoyo, on the other hand, are good buggies yet on the expensive range (£250-450). We found Joie pact lite the most economic, lightweight stroller meeting most of the above specs. Its major pro is the weight (5.5kg) with width and price competing for the second place. It’s so narrow that you can stroll it through aeroplane corridors or the narrowest street markets in Asia and still be comfy for the child. It has a reclining seat of around 10% inclination which makes it suitable for all ages (even from birth). Quality-wise, superb: we’ve taken it everywhere we travelled, including our weekend strolls downtown in London, and still in very good condition after 3.5 years of rough use. We have had this since he was a newborn baby and still uses it in his preschool years.



Buggy Hook

Take it if... you still own a buggy

Take on-board: YES

Essential to hang shopping bags or the baby’s changing bag. Or both. Just be careful when you take baby off, the centre of gravity shift will land your shopping bag with that expensive bottle of wine down on the ground.

Clips vs D-shape Hook (carabiner): standard clips like Baby Uma are more discrete and stay put (as they tightly wrap around the handles), but there is a chance you hang something really heavy and the threading will rip apart. Carabiner D-shape are sturdy and they won't rip apart.



Child ID Wristband

Take it if... your child has declared independence

Take on-board: NO

At this age, kids are mobile and curious. A colourful bracelet like the LittleLife ID that incorporates a waterproof card for contact details and emergency medical information is something you should certainly consider. Your child will want to wear their favourite colour/pattern wristband as a cool accessory while you will get (a little) peace of mind knowing there is a chance someone will bring them back should they get lost.



Suitcase for Toddlers

Take it if... your child is comfortable with riding and pulling things

Take on-board: YES

Two options here: the all-time classic Trunki wheelie for lots of fun, or a more serious Samsonite Kids suitcase with a matching backpack which can be an investment for future endeavours too. I found the Trunki very entertaining, as you can drag your toddler throughout the airport for hours without the slightest complaint. They absolutely love it. Yet the only con with Trunki is space is limited so when they grow up in the age of preschool, their clothes and shoes get a little bigger and you might need to re-arrange stuff around your suitcases too.


Alternatively, you may invest in an upright wheelie suitcase for kids, with a little more space and which they will be using for the years to come. Samsonite has a very nice range for kids, the Happy Sammies with a wide variety of cute animal characters. Combine it with a matching backpack and they are ready for travel, school, sleepovers, and day trips.


Both options are cabin-friendly.



Safety Leash

Take it if... your child is often going rogue

Take onboard: NO

In some cultures (like my big fat Greek one), attaching a strap to your kid might look weird let alone upsetting for some strong human rights supporters. Not that I am a human rights opponent, but being a parent looking after an active toddler in crowds and busy roads, it's a different story. A safety leash with a harness can be a lifesaver, literally speaking for hyperactive, reckless kids. LittleLife also offers an integrated backpack and leash in different fancy animal figures, yet might turn a little small after a certain age as it can only fit a small bottle of water and maybe one more thing.


Pro Tip: Get a dual package, safety wrist rein plus the leash for the backpack. Toddlers reject things and you must have an option.


 
EAT

Feeding Bowls and Lunch pods

Take it if... you are planning long days of sightseeing and out and about

Take on-board: NO

Even nowadays in his pre-school days, our son likes eating from this Tommee Tippee bowl with lid and spoon that locks on the lid so you can carry around; It’s so convenient and we’ve been using it since he started solid foods. We found it particularly useful for saving leftovers at home, or store extra food from the hotel buffet for him to munch later when we’re out and about. We also loved the set of Hip nesting bowls, with 3 different sizes nesting into each other saving you heaps of space.


Another great invention is the Sistema capsule pot, with 2 separate compartments for snacks on the go and a little... 'spork' (spoon-fork) that clips on the side so you don't lose it. Not to mention they are BPA free and made of recycled plastic ;-) I use them almost daily for our walks in the park, storing a light on-the-go lunch and some fruits for dessert.

Check also this post to see usage photos and a delicious and healthy breakfast idea using this bowl.


Travel Cutlery

Take it if... your child enjoys self-feeding

Take on-board: YES (for long haul)

Not all restaurants will offer kid-friendly cutlery to your destination so you better carry a set with you. The TUM TUM travel set is just all you need: small, has a complete spoon-fork-knife set all in a protective case which is about the size of a small sunglasses case. They should be fine from an early age, just when your toddler starts showing interest in grabbing cutlery, and will last until older ages for sure.


What I also found very useful for travel (not only for a toddler but for us grown-ups too) is the Sistema Cutlery to Go. They are plastic (BPA-free and made of recycled plastic) and a little bigger in size but also come in a durable case for convenience and portability. A great toy too, our little one loves sorting and stacking the cutlery in the right order and then into the case. The only downside, they can break with a little clumsy push by these tiny hands. The best long-lasting option is to get the Roxon camping cutlery set, which is metal (which means it weighs a bit more) and will last forever.


Eco-Conscious of plastic? You can always get a pack of wooden biodegradable cutlery. You will fill up your bags with them and there will still be some left for your next party at home ;-)



Water Flask

Take it if... you are planning long days of sightseeing out and about

Take on-board: NO

An absolute must. At this age, kids are pretty confident drinking from a glass, sipping with a straw or lifting a bottom up. Go for something lightweight rather than fancy, fill it and re-fill it multiple times. And no one does flasks for outdoor use better than thermos. If you don’t already have one for your picnics (travel size would be around 400-500ml) get one of the Thermos brands which will last forever (my parents still use the Thermos they bought and used 20 years ago). Fill it up with hot water for warming up milk or food or cold water when you are out and about for the whole family to hydrate. I like Thermos brand with vacuum insulation as it can maintain the temperature for a good 3-4 hours in hot climates (tested in Thailand and Greece) and the lid can be used as a cup when you're out and about.

The Thermos Super Light flask or the Super Light Travel tumbler are both great options, super light (200g) and sleek design, with a handy spout making it easier for our little friends to sip.



Travel Washing System

Take it if... you are carrying bottles and bowls that you reuse daily

Take onboard: NO

This is one of my greatest finds that I'm so proud of ;-) If you are staying in an apartment you probably won’t need this, but if you’re going for hotel rooms you’ll find this quite handy as it is a 2-in-1 wash liquid dispenser (with a pump) and brush to wash baby’s bowls, cutlery and sippy cups. All you have to do is ask the hotel’s restaurant to fill it in with washing liquid once you check-in at your hotel. Note this one didn’t fit into our milk bottle so if the baby is heavily depended on a bottle you need another solution for washing For bottle-fed, I reckon you should better aim for a travel-size brush for bottles, like this Tomy Boon travel set which comes with a handy travel size compact drying rack and brush, useful in hotel rooms where no drying racks are available.



Sink Plug

Take it if... just take it. Trust me, it's a winner

Take onboard: No

I can't stress enough how useful this silicone tub stopper plug has been, not just for our travels but at home too. This little slice of silicon will convert any sink around the world into a washing basin. It's a lifesaver, especially for long trips, as you will now need to carry only a few sets of socks, tees and underwear and wash these essentials over and over in your hotel's sink. You will thank me for the space you've saved in your luggage for other important things.



Snacks

Take it if... just take some

Take on-board: YES

Check out this post for the best snacks to pack for the journey.



Instant Stain Remover

Take it if... your kiddo is a messy eater

Take onboard: NO

This product needs no words to highlight its necessity. The Tide To Go pen was suggested by a good friend and is exactly what we needed at that time. It is simply magic and comes in a small size of a thin marker pen that you can fit in your handbag (It's less than 100ml so suitable for hand luggage too). Get a multi-pack because it costs less and once you start using it you'd wish you had one pen in every bag of yours :-)

Combine it with a pack of Tide to go wipes and you are ready for everything comes up your way.

 
SLEEP

Travel Cot

Take it if... you are travelling on a night train OR staying in an apartment without an extra bed/cot OR your hotel does not offer (or overcharge) large cots

Take onboard: NO

If you are staying in a hotel, you better ask beforehand as most hotels usually provide cots so there’s no need to carry this. But be mindful of the size, as most hotel cots are up to 1m long and toddlers after an age (2.5-3 years) may overgrow that.

To be on the safe side, get a LittleLife Arc 2 Lightweight Travel Cot with you. Comes in a small rucksack and weighs only 2.5kg. It can be put up in moments, with its colour-coded poles, for a solid night’s sleep on a comfortable foam mattress of 120x70 cm, which can easily fit a preschool-age kid. Comes also in handy as a beach tent (UV protection) or toddlers den for playtime in the garden.



Baby Monitor

Take it if... you are planning to enjoy a drink on your balcony or patio while he's sleeping

Take on-board: NO

Can be a bit cumbersome for your luggage but is useful on your vacation for a) relaxing in the balcony or garden with a drink while baby snoozes in the room and b) the build-in thermometer can help you figure out and regulate the room’s temperature. There are quite a few out there, but this relatively inexpensive and quite small HelloBaby Chinese brand has proven quite fit for purpose so far for us not to mention the great customer service when one of our chargers broke. Make sure you also pack the proper mains adapter for the country you’re travelling to.


Another solution that I have recently tested and worked pretty well is the Baby Monitor 3G mobile app (paid app - worth its money). You will need to install it on 2 devices (phones or tablets), one working as a camera (left in the room pointing to your baby) and one as a remote monitor. It will work with Wifi or your mobile 3G/4G/5G connection and vibrate whenever there is a sound or motion in the room. The advantage is that you don't anymore depend on your baby monitor range restriction, but only on the local internet coverage. So I would recommend that as a backup solution. If it works, great; if not, switch back to the classic baby monitor.


Make sure you also pack a universal plug adapter like this.



Mosquito Net

Take it if... you are travelling to warm climates or camping

Take on-board: NO

Going to hot weather or a tropical island without a travel cot? I would totally recommend squeezing one of these Lifesystems super light and compact nets with you. Comes in two sizes, small (single bed) and large (double bed). An absolute must for hot-weather destinations where mosquitos and flies lurk for children’s tender skins. It can be a bit tricky to hang (sometimes I had to improvise with light fittings and curtain poles or others used self-adhesive hooks which come with the spares package) but will definitely be worth the hassle for that mozzie-free sleep!



Mosquito Repellent

Take it if... you are travelling to warm climates or camping

Take on-board: NO

Undoubtedly a must-have when traveling to warmer climates and you don't want to end up buying the dodgy brands from a local supermarket. A friend with great experience in kids (raised 3 so far) recommended Incognito, a pharmaceutical product which is supposed to be made of natural ingredients and is famously ethical so one of the best for children. We tested it in Greece and Thailand and worked quite well with our little one, but also with us!

Vie repellent also is great for babies. Once you add the repellent to your basket, also consider the Vie citronella patches (we used one patch on his cot and one on our bed every night to minimise risk).



Travel Neck Pillow

Take it if... your kid is napping in aeroplanes, trains and cars

Take onboard: YES

A must-have pillow for kids who nap during travels. These cuddly furry pillows will support little heads and chins and give all the comfort and joy they need for sleeping. You can go for the practical packable in a pouch Bcozzy or choose between the animal-shaped Trunki brand (which clips with a magnet) and the Gruffalo.

 
WELL BEING

Portable Potty

Take it if... your child is potty-trained

Take onboard: not necessarily

We love OXO products. And they do potties too! Actually, they do one of the smartest on the go potties I've seen. The OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty is the perfect companion for travel and one of the smartest gadgets out there as it not only is small, slim and light to fit your daypack but also adapts to normal grownups' toilet seats by simply extending its flaps outwards. We've used it everywhere. You name it: aeroplanes, trains, hiking, walk in the park. Comes with a handy bag that can also fit a set of its own liners, and a small pack of baby wipes.



Travel Size Toiletry Bottles

Take it if... you are eco-conscious and plan to reuse over and over or staying in an apartment without amenities

Take onboard: NO

Useful not only for the little ones but for the whole family. Refill them with baby bath, creams and washing powder/liquid for clothes for baby and yourself. Make sure you seal them with tape before travel, so they don’t spill. I found these from Amazon quite handy and with a great variety of shapes and sizes to fit all your baby essentials.



Mini First Aid Kit

Take it if... better always have one with you

Take on-board: NO

You can build your own (read this very informative article), or you can buy one of these I recommend. They are similar in size (13x9x5 cm) and come with pretty much all you need; they are small and lightweight and you can carry them in your daypack. What's more, there is still a little space to squeeze some extras like:

Pro Tip: make sure you download and install the Baby and Child First Aid app by the British Red Cross on your phone (Android or iOS) with important info about emergencies and how to treat child accidents. Good info to keep you calm in any type of accident, give it a go and read through before you travel to get the idea.


Packing Cells

Take it if... you are obsessed with organisation and tidiness

Take onboard: NO

I’ve been using cubes/cells for all my travels and have been proven super useful for luggage management. Shirts in one pack, trousers in another, socks and underwear in a smaller one. After all, having everything you need in hand as soon as you open your suitcase is a fantastic feeling. Even if you’re not a Marie Kondo’s fan, just imagine that feeling when you land tired and open your suitcase to this view:

Having a bad jet lag and in need of fresh bodysuits or underwear for him straight away, you will be thanking me later for these. Go for the Ecohub packing cubes set made from eco-friendly recycled material or check out these compression cubes in case you are looking for even more space in your luggage.


PRO TIP:  A good idea would be to get a small cube with insulation that can be converted to lunch/snack carry-on essentials along with a couple of toys for your day trips at your destination.

 
PLAY

Little Toys

Take it if... just take as many of these as you can fit

Take on-board: YES

Entertainment is very important to keep toddlers busy in a long haul flight but also at a restaurant while you enjoy your meal. At this age, they very much like doing things grown-ups do or things that please grown-ups, like building a jigsaw puzzle. Apart from his favourite toys he will pick and choose from home, save some room for a couple of new toys that you will reveal on the flight or at the destination. They are always excited about new things and will keep them busy for longer. Keep that tablet away or use it as a last resort solution in case nothing else works ;-) Here’s our favourite light and small and easy-to-carry toys and activity books we squeeze in our day pack or when we visit a restaurant. And they all work wonders:


Wooden Vegetables: We cook a lot in our house and chopping is a daily ritual in our kitchen. And kids at this age are very interested in helping and imitating. We bought a few of these small wooden pretend veggies and they are constantly travelling with us to keep him busy nearly everywhere we sit. Bonus: they are wooden, and we absolutely love wooden toys!


Stacking Cups: All time classic and we've been using this since he was 6 months old. Never gets old, never boring. The fisher price stacking cups have been proven a goldmine as you can invent unlimited different gaming combinations, with stacking, nesting and shell game (three shells and a pea) to name a few. Can be also used as serving pots for the wooden vegetables.


Activity Board: Another great invention that kept our restless toddler busy for quite a while on board. An amazing feature-packed toy for toddlers to aid motor skills while settling busy hands and makes a great learning tool too. A must-have for travel.


Jigsaw Puzzle with Flashcards: This is an amazing set of vibrantly coloured wooden shapes that kids will try to craft into shapes and figures. Comes with a big bunch of flashcards so you can pick and choose shapes and figures based on difficulty and age. It will need some parental supervision in the beginning, but very soon your kid will grasp and master it and play independently. They will entertain all kids mostly over 3 and keep them busy on a flight or at the restaurant for hours!.


Memory Game: Although it is generally classified for ages over 3 years, we found out that many kids (including ours) started being interested and getting a grasp even earlier, with fewer cards of course. Ravensburger is my childhood's favourite, and I'm so glad this brand is still around and never got old. If your child is already into books like Gruffalo or cartoons like Peppa Pig you'll be really grateful for the themed memory card boxes which he will certainly enjoy in large amounts. Pick a small pile of 8-10 cards (4-5 pairs) and squeeze it in your purse or day pack.


 
SWIM

Sun cream

Take it if... you are planning to spend lots of time out and about on a sunny destination

Take on-board: NO

When it comes to baby creams, look no further than the Greek Frezyderm brand. This company has thrived in Europe and been awarded for its quality herbal-based products. And when it comes to natural herbal products, not because I am Greek, but Greeks do it better ;-))) OK, maybe Italians too! So, leaving aside the branding and origin, we tested and benchmarked all commercial products we could find in the UK high street (like Bepanthen, Aveeno and Sudocream) to find out that when it comes to creams (nappy rash or sun protection) Frezyderm products:

  1. are more effective even using half the quantity you’d normally use.

  2. are less oily, waterproof and easier to spread

  3. contain chamomile oil which works wonders on irritations and rashes

  4. they smell fantastic

Order from Amazon or straight from Frezyderm official website (free shipping in the UK for all orders over £50).

If you are looking for a good sunscreen/sun lotion for the whole family check out the Ultrasun Family Sensitive. Comes in a 100ml bottle (which means you can even fit it in your hand luggage) and is especially suitable for children and those with sensitive skin. The hypo-allergenic formulation is free from oils, emulsifiers and perfume and is recommended by Dermatologists for those prone to skin allergies and prickly heat.

PRO TIP: get some reusable empty cosmetic round jars and fill them up with creams and products for you and your baby. Use a marker (or label printer) to note the content on each lid ;-) 5ml/5g is the ideal size for travel, can hold enough product for 1 week to 10 days usage.


Hat with Neck Flap

Take it if... you are planning to spend lots of time out and about on a sunny destination

Take on-board: NO


I would look for something with a neck flap and 50+ UPF protection for summer destinations like these fantastic Jan & Jul hats for kids. The adjustable jaw strap is a plus, although a fussy kid (like ours) can always complain about this giggly thing under their jaws.



Sunglasses

Take it if... you are planning to spend lots of time out and about on a sunny destination

Take on-board: YES

As a younger infant, our son always rejected sunglasses. He found it more interesting to squeeze and crush them instead. But after the age of 2, they become more aware and love imitating grownups in general, their parents in particular. So that's the best age to invest in a good stylish pair of Babiators. Great variety, stylish and quite durable.



Sandals

Take it if... you are travelling to a very hot destination and plan to spend time on the beach or hiking

Take on-board: NO

Having grown up by the beach in Greece and spent all last few summers with my son on Greek beaches, I have come down to the conclusion and absolute recommendation of carrying 2 types of sandals for your kids:

  • Closed-Toe and Quick-Dry Water Sandals (or Shoes). Usually made from neoprene fabric, these are perfect for the beach as he can swim, run and climb without scratching his toes on sharp rocks or other submarine creatures.

  • Classic all-day play and walking sandals. Just look for a secure fitting and anti-slip sole (inside-out). We are buying this Crocs model every year for him (different sizes) and hundreds of colours to choose from) but we also have a pair of Tevas for more stylish and adventurous walks ;-)

What to AVOID: I definitely NOT recommend slip-on sandals or flip-flops. Kids at this age walk recklessly (accidents lurk to ruin your vacation) or kick them out and get them lost in a moment of joyful play.


Swimming Vest (Life Jacket)

Take it if... you are convinced you are hitting the watersports and there are no organised beaches and activities to where you're heading to

Take on-board: Of course not

Planning to take that island-hop boat trip or just start swimming lessons for your little one on this vacation? Bear in mind some tours or settings might provide swimming vests (life jackets) some not. Just to be on the safe side, squeeze one of these small lightweight ones in your luggage ;-)



Travel Towel

Take it if... you are planning to hit the beach or camping

Take on-board: NO

Well, you might think there are always towels available in hotels, but lots do not provide while some others are quite strict in allowing their towels to be carried over to a beach. So squeeze one of these quick-dry, lightweight microfibre travel towels just in case.



And something for Mummy and Daddy...

Well done that you made it to the end of this list!

This is a well-deserved treat for all of you to take this brave decision and travel with your little one. This is a little gadget guide with the top 3 things to have and be well organized for your travels. To be honest, being well organized is imperative for your mental health when travelling with kids, as they tend to be chaotic by nature.

  • A folding wash bag with a hanger hook to fit all your toiletries and accessories is the Nr.1 thing to own. I have it permanently filled in with my travel stuff and is instantly ready to depart. I have been using this Deuter washbag for over 10 years now, thanking myself every day for that investment! Sizes vary, below I list 2 different sizes a big one (around 25cm with mirror) and a smaller, without a mirror, more compact one.

  • I also always carry a very smart flat credit card size swiss army knife with a small set of scissors and tweezers that comes always in handy when away, it's lightweight and fits your wallet or handbag. Just remember to not put it in your hand luggage, it will be confiscated by airport security ;-)

  • One other useful thing to have is a power bank that fits your pockets and a cable with multiple ends most devices require their own charger. Being so dependent on batteries and chargers in an era of wearables and handsets, a gadget like the VONMÄHLEN Allroundo is everything in one. Small, lightweight and stylish, this 6-in-1 cable is all you will need with you. I've been using it for many years and never regretted a penny spent.





2,194 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All
bottom of page