My 3 Year Old’s Travel Backpack

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When we decided to travel for 2 months, we spent a fair bit of time figuring out different luggage configurations and all the packing we’d need to do. Would we want to do all carry ons? Checked luggage? Backpacks? And would M manage okay with a 3 year old’s travel backpack? Plus, we would be dropping some stuff off in London for our big move (see a couple of the suitcases and violins featured here!), so we had to work around that, as well.

We ended up deciding she was definitely capable of carrying a few of her own activities and snacks. The 4 older kids all are carrying their packing cubes in their backpacks, as well, but after trying that for a day or two, we realized that made the backpack too heavy for her. With just the activities, she carries it on her own 95% of the time, which is great by me!

Here are the items we packed in our 3 year old’s travel backpack – I’d choose the same for one week or 2 months of travel!

Which Travel Backpack for a 3 Year Old?

A couple of our kiddos have used this 12L hiking backpack for a few years and its the best. Roomy, comfortable, water-resistant, and lasts forever. We love it! Our kids have used it from about age 3.5+ when hiking, so I thought it would be perfect for a 3 year old’s travel backpack. And it has been!

What to Pack in a 3 Year Old’s Travel Backpack?

Here are all the activities we put in M’s backpack!

LED Drawing Board

We love these little drawing boards! We packed one each for my 3 year old and 5 year old. It’s not a lighted screen at all and is very much like just drawing on paper, but can be easily erased and stored. Love it.

Wikki Stix

These little bendable wax sticks are the best – so fun to play with for so many ages. My kids have made eyeglasses, animals, geometric shapes, and more.

Available from Amazon, Target, Walmart

Yoto Player + Headphones

Of course we had to bring our Yoto mini along, as well as some cards. It’s great for listening to audiobooks on the plane, in cars, or even at a hotel room. It’s perfect for a preschooler’s travel backpack!

We also love these soft headphones for younger kiddos because they’re small, lightweight, and comfortable.

Yoto available from Yoto, Target, Amazon

Small Zip Top Bag of LEGOs

Never underestimate the power of a small Ziplock of LEGOs! We get so much play out of these.

Stuffed Animal

Each kid brought along a favorite stuffed animal this trip. This is M’s favorite little stuffed friend. She loves playing with her on planes and showing her all the new things.

Small Zip Top Bag of Crayons & Stickers

Perfect for coloring or sticking on air sickness bags and other assorted paper items.

Rain Jacket

We knew it would be monsoon season in a few places we were headed so everyone brought along a durable and lightweight rain jacket. It was going to be hot basically everywhere we were going, but if it were going to be chilly, we would’ve chosen a warmer jacket instead. We love this toddler rain jacket because it takes up little space, works well, and can be layered. (It also comes in kid sizes, which all our other kids have.)

Water Bottle

We like having a refillable, non-spill water bottle on hand for nights, airplanes, etc. I like this one for the 2-5 crowd, especially because the straw stays completely covered when closed.


Carabiners are maybe my favorite travel item. It’s so great for hooking something on the outside of her backpack or hooking her backpack onto one of ours in case she gets tired.


While we aren’t masking in all situations, we still like to have some masks on hand for airports, crowded indoor settings, and other places where we’d like to mitigate risk to ourselves or others. These aren’t a perfect fit, but they fit better on M than others I’ve found.

Mini Hand Sanitizer

We attach one of these to every backpack and refill with bigger containers as needed.

Journal with Pen

This is actually one item I forgot to pack for M! All my older kids have these journals and a pen, but I didn’t think to include one for her. Turns out, it would’ve been great for M to have a place to draw a few picture memories and for us to record a few of her thoughts on the places we’re traveling. I’m planning to grab a journal for her when I see one!

That’s it! Are any of these your travel bag go tos? I’d love to hear what your favorites are!



4 Responses

  • Instead of Lego, but similar, our go-to are Plus-plus blocks. I love them especially because losing a piece is not too big of a deal since they are all exactly the same shape.

  • Thank you for sharing your expertise and insights to help make traveling with young children a much smoother and enjoyable experience. Your article is a treasure trove of practical tips that will undoubtedly benefit countless parents and caregivers looking to embark on journeys with their little ones.

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