Daniel and I used to be wildly poor packers. And things got even more complicated when we have to think about travel with kids. All kinds of what-ifs would go through my mind, and I’d stress about not being able to find travel essentials for kids while on the move.
The thing about traveling with kids is that you just CAN’T take as much stuff per person unless you want to drive yourself mad. With more people, especially small people who aren’t always capable of schlepping all their own kids travel gear, we learned to pare things down to just the travel necessities. Fast.
We’ve now traveled with kids for over a decade to over 60 countries and all over the US. We’ve found some really excellent travel essentials for kids that are worth the weight and effort to take along. These baby travel essentials have saved us time and again.
How To Choose the Best Travel Gear for Kids
All of our personal kids travel essentials must check 3 boxes – they must be lightweight, durable, and preferably multi-functional. Every item must be relatively easy to carry and hold up for the duration of the trip (hopefully many trips!).
Here’s a complete kids packing list with everything from gear to clothing to medical supplies – true baby travel essentials. We use it every time we travel! And if your kids are packing for themselves, try this visual packing list for kids.
This list of the best travel essentials for kids doesn’t include basics like medicine or clothing, or needs like diapers and wipes. Instead, I’ve focused on more unique kid travel accessories that are worth their weight in gold. They’re things we’ve returned to time and again. Hopefully these travel tips will give you a few ideas of the best travel accessories for kids!
6 Kids, 50 Countries, 20 Best Travel Essentials for Kids
Not travel specific, but it’s especially helpful for travel and is definitely one of our favorite kids travel accessories. All our kids sleep with some sort of white noise, and it’s really useful in helping kiddos (and adults!) adjust to new time zones, sleeping locations, etc.
We often use a white noise app when traveling, and also like to carry a mini portable sound machine for a 2nd room.
2. Kidco Peapod
I think this is the very best baby travel bed for babies and toddlers. It’s a little pop up baby tent that zips so baby can’t get out. The baby cot part only weighs about a pound or so – way better than carrying around a 20+ pound pack n play.
The best part about this baby travel essential is that it’s lightweight and small enough to fit inside our checked luggage. That means one fewer piece to remember to grab and carry around – a lifesaver when you have limited hands! It’s also great for things like the beach when you need a bit of shade and privacy for baby.
This luggage strap is kind of the silliest and simplest of all these travel accessories for kids. You could undoubtedly make it for cheaper than the $15 you have to pay, but that’s probably more annoyance than it’s worth. This silly little strap totally works to strap a big, bulky convertible carseat onto a suitcase (either a carry on size or full size). Plus, your kid can even sit and ride in it. Genius.
4. Carseats and Boosters for Travel
If we’ll be driving at all while traveling, we always pack travel child restraints. We use a few different options depending on the age of our child. Here’s what we personally use by age:
- Babies: Infant car seat
- Toddlers: Cosco Scenera NEXT convertible car seat
- Ages 3-5: Ride Safer booster vest
- Ages 6+: Inflatable booster
More about which car seats we take and when we travel with them in this post!
5. Lightweight Outerwear
Outerwear is some of the trickiest clothing to figure out as far as baby travel essentials go, in my opinion. We often want something warm but not too warm, and that can be layered if needed. Some amount of rain protection is a plus, and packing down small is a necessity. Bright colors for keeping track of kids are a bonus.
We used these lightweight puffy coats for several years and they were great for layering and packing. They pack small and work as a pillow, and you can wash them easily and they’re water-resistant (though not waterproof). Sometimes we need to take warmer parkas if we’re really heading somewhere wet and frigid, but these work great most of the time.
This is my very favorite packable warm jacket for women. It’s pricey but absolutely fantastic – so warm, so lightweight, zippers, weather resistant, so many things. I love it. (Also available HERE and currently on big sale!)
We’re pretty darn good at packing light with kids in terms of space constraints, but weight is still sometimes an issue. So we like to use lightweight but durable luggage so we’re not giving up too much weight to the luggage itself. This is our very favorite lightweight checked luggage – we’ve dragged this suitcase all around the globe and it’s held up incredibly well. It’s spacious to fit most of what we need for our family (we usually take an extra carry on suitcase or backpacks) and has room for our baby travel bed.
When we don’t want to check a suitcase, we typically take three lightweight carry on suitcases for our family of 8. We can’t fit the baby bed inside in this case so that adds a couple of pieces in terms of sheer numbers, but it’s sometimes worthwhile to not have one big suitcases and to have everything with us instead of in the hold of the airplane.
Here’s all our favorite luggage for families.
This is one kids travel essential where you should for sure check with your doctor in advance, but it’s been very helpful for us. We much prefer using melatonin to an actual drug like Benadryl as our bodies do produce it naturally. We typically use it on a long plane ride and the first night or two in a very different time zone as a way to help our kids get over jet lag.
There are lots of different kinds, but we think this is the best kids melatonin. It’s not a child-specific one, but is the exact same dosage as the kids’ melatonin, and we prefer it to the kids’ melatonin gummies. The gummies usually have a bit of added sugar, while this kind does not. It’s also fast-acting and the tablets are smaller than carrying the gummy kind.
We once had a kiddo manage to get out of our hotel room very early one morning. He thought he was opening the door to the bathroom, but it turns out it was the door to the hall, which, of course, closed and locked behind him.
We are SO GRATEFUL he was okay and all was well, but one of these portable locks immediately became a kid travel essential for us. It’s great if there’s no deadbolt or if you have a little escape artist. This portable door lock is lightweight, strong, and easy to install.
I can’t overstate how much I love this kids travel accessory. They’re magic for keeping everyone organized and each kid has his or her own color. Especially when traveling with multiple people (and not wanting to have 6 different pieces of luggage), this travel essential for kids is perfect for containing and keeping track of all the stuff. I also really like this expandable set.
10. Kid Travel Backpacks
Our kids love these amazing travel backpacks that we absolutely adore. They’re durable, spacious, and have lots of pockets. We definitely use them for way more than hiking – they’ve been all around the world with us. They’re WAY more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time or through an airport than a standard school backpack!
Our 3 year old tends to use the smaller 12L version when we travel, and our older kids (and I!) often use the 40L backpacking version if we’re doing a longer trip and aren’t checking luggage. All the sizes are durable, functional, and comfortable.
11. Folding Travel Backpack
We always pack along at least one of these lightweight folding backpacks every time we travel. They’re lightweight, sturdy, and really helpful if we have items we’ve purchased, leftover food/snacks, etc. It’s also great to carry rain gear if we don’t want to wear it all day, or to reshuffle luggage weight. We often attach them to the outside of another backpack with a carabiner so that we have it handy and so it’s not an extra piece to track.
Speaking of carabiners, it sounds so random, but they are totally a kids travel essential for our family. You can get a set of about a million of these for dirt cheap. Get the kind that screw for extra security, and get them in a bunch of colors. We always pack several – they’re great for strapping on water bottles, keys, or even stuffed animals. This is such a useful and unexpected travel accessory for children.
I can’t imagine traveling with a child under the age of 2 without a baby carrier. They are just so darn convenient, especially if you’re traveling to a place that’s not very stroller-friendly. We have both the regular Boba and the Boba Air (which folds up into a small pouch and fits easily in a bag). Both are amazing baby carriers for travel.
The regular Boba is significantly more supportive if you’ll be wearing a child for a longer period of time, so it’s usually our go-to for longer trips. But if we’re going somewhere hot and/or wet, or if we won’t be using the carrier a ton, the Boba Air is for sure the one we use. It dries really fast and packs so small!
I personally prefer the Boba to the Ergo as it fits better on my narrower shoulders. Whichever you choose, a good, ergonomic carrier is one of my most vital baby travel essentials, especially when on an airplane.
14. Portable high chair and bib
We ALWAYS have one of these bibs on hand when we travel. Honestly, they’re the only ones we use at home, as well. I love that they have sleeves so they actually keep clothes clean (especially useful when rewearing clothing while traveling with kids). They roll up super small and lightweight, and are easy to wipe down or wash and dry quickly. Not just a kids travel essential, these are an everyday baby essential for us.
These days, we don’t often travel with a stroller unless we’ll be doing a lot of walking around cities. When we do take one, we only ever take a single lightweight umbrella stroller for travel (a double just hasn’t been helpful for us).
The lightweight single umbrella stroller we used and loved for over a decade isn’t being made anymore, but this one is similar and very inexpensive with great reviews, both online and from the LPF community. The things I love about ours are that it weighs hardly anything and has a very slim profile, but still handles bumps and curbs well. It has a good-sized basket underneath, has a rain cover and sun shade, and reclines. This one seems like it checks those boxes, too, and also makes a great everyday stroller.
When we moved to London, we purchased an inexpensive dupe of this stroller and we’ve loved it!!
It’s maybe a little humorous that this item is so far down in this list because for my age 5+ kiddos, this is an absolute travel non-negotiable, including for any local car rides. We love downloading books for the kids to read on their own or for us to read together, and it’s great being able to carry tons with us without taking lots of weight or space. Plus, it’s super durable and has a great battery life. We love them!!
Perhaps your children are perfect angels and always neatly line up their toothbrushes so you’re never frantically searching for them while packing up. And maybe they always put the comb back in the right spot. If this is the case, you probably don’t need this.
But if your children, like ours, are…children, then this travel toiletry case will be a lifesaver. It keeps everything organized and in its home. It has room for our medical bag and personal hygiene items and even my makeup. And my toothbrush isn’t at risk of being knocked in the toilet in a tiny European bathroom.
We leave a few travel essentials for kids always ready to go in a drawer in one of our closets, and this is one of them. It’s so convenient to know it has what we need (we just make sure nothing needs refilling) and to not need to rethink it every time!
We’ve tried about 8 gazillion different kid water bottles. This is my current favorite for toddlers and younger kiddos because the straw stays completely covered when closed so it keeps it clean. Plus, it keeps drinks cold and doesn’t leak, and the loop allows you to attach it to a backpack with a carabiner so it doesn’t fall out of the pocket. The older kids and adults in our family all love this water bottle. 27k+ 5-star reviews are not for naught.
We fill these water bottles in the airport before boarding so we don’t have to worry about asking for (and spilling!) a million cups of water when traveling with kids on an airplane. They’re great as a travel essential for kids for long car rides, or for hotel rooms to have a drink by the bedside.
We take very little in terms of kids’ entertainment while traveling. It’s usually just more to schlep, and they’re typically most entertained by random items along the way. But we always have a small baggie of some sort of lightweight building toy. Sometimes it’s a ziplock of LEGOs, while other times we take these along. They’re great for a huge variety of ages. We’ve used this kids travel toy on both airplanes and road trips with great success. We also love these.
We love these soft and squishy headphones – they are by far the best headphones for toddlers and young children. I also love that they pack down really small for travel and stay on easily in an airplane seat.
21. External Charger
I can’t count the number of times I’ve thanked the stars above for our external charger. It’s a lifesaver when you desperately need an audiobook to calm shrieking kids in the car, or when you need white noise from your dying phone to calm the baby. We absolutely never travel without one.
I also ADORE this tiny one that plugs right into my phone – I love that it’s cordless and so convenient. I use it most days even at home. A true travel essential for kids AND adults.
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST ABOUT KIDS AND BABY TRAVEL MUST HAVES, YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE POSTS, TOO:
- Kids Packing List: Family Travel Essentials
- How to Check a Carseat: Tips & Tricks
- 10 Tips for Getting Over Jet Lag with Kids