Packing essentials (Planning a Holiday with a Toddler series)

Holidays with your toddler are a slightly different prospect than when it’s just you and your partner. This blog series provides information on planning a holiday, with part four considering packing – what to take and what to leave behind.  

Planning a holiday with a toddler

I have put together this Planning a Holiday with a Toddler series, covering the questions I ask myself during the planning process and tips for travelling with a toddler:

Packing essentials… What to take and what to leave behind

How are we travelling?

Travelling by car obviously gives a little bit more flexibility when it comes to packing. I am much more laid back about throwing in items that we may or may not need when we are driving to our destination!

Flying takes a bit more thought as you are restricted by what the airline will allow you to take.

If flying…

What is our baggage allowance? 
This can vary from airline to airline, so confirm what your allowance is, both for hold baggage and for hand luggage. If you don’t think it will be enough, you can purchase extra allowance. It’s worth doing this in advance rather than finding out at the airport that you have gone over the weight allowance, as you are then charged huge fees.

Don’t forget to check what the allowance is for your toddler. Even if they are sitting on your lap for the flight, you may still be given a hold baggage allowance for them; this proved useful for us last year. Now ToddlerGirl has a seat of her own, which means she has a hand luggage and hold baggage entitlement.

What do we need in our hand luggage?
This will probably be fairly similar to what you would take on a normal day out! (In addition to your travel documents, of course, and any items that you want to take for yourself – if you can squeeze them in.) For us that means snacks, nappies, a change of clothes and, importantly, entertainment for the flight. Don’t skip the snacks as airlines often do not provide an onboard meal these days unless you are on a long haul flight, and their trolley service may not be suitable or be delayed.

What is the policy for carrying pushchairs and car seats?
These are usually outside of your main luggage allowance, so you do not have to factor in the weight of your pushchair.

You can often keep your pushchair with you until you board the plane, which can be useful. For my flight to Edinburgh, when I was travelling alone with ToddlerGirl, I could even collect it as soon as we got off the plane, rather than waiting until baggage reclaim, which was definitely handy.

Whether we are flying or driving, I also consider the following questions:

What essentials do we need to take with us?
These are the items I write in capital letters on my ‘to pack’ list! For us, our essentials include several bedtime bits and bobs so that we can keep the bedtime routine as consistent as possible wherever we are: a travel blackout blind, our musical sheep that ToddlerGirl listens to when she falls asleep, her special bedtime soft toys, and the monitor.

Packing essentials for a holiday with a toddler

Can the accommodation provide any equipment?
This helps enormously. Often you can request items such as travel cots, bed guards and high chairs and sometimes safety gates and blackout blinds.

Can we hire any equipment at our destination?
I’ve come across several cities and resorts with baby and toddler equipment hire services, which is a great way of keeping the packing light without skimping on the things that you need. For example, you may be able to hire a pushchair and leave yours at home.

What toys/entertainment should we take?
It can be tempting to want to pack a myriad of toys to keep your toddler amused! If you know that you have good facilities on site and nearby, you will obviously be using these and not be spending as much time in your accommodation.

I try to pack items that have some longevity. Colouring books and stickers go down really well with ToddlerGirl and I cram in as many books as I can. It’s also worth taking a couple of new toys for a novelty factor. Or you can create a selection of printable activities that won’t take up a lot of space in your luggage, such as homemade puzzles.

It’s also worth thinking about what there may be that you can use at your destination. This is particularly true if you are self catering, which will give you items such as pots and pans to play with. Last year, we purchased some flour and oil to make our own playdough, which bought us half an hour or so each morning while we were getting ready to go out. And we made use of our outside space for some water play with lots of plastic bottles and a bucket. The husband even knocked up a DIY sprinkler!

What are your packing essentials? Share your tips in the comments, I’d love to hear them :) 

The final part of this series gives tips on making sure the holiday works for the whole family once you’re there.

Find links to the whole Planning a Holiday with a Toddler series below:

3 Comments on “Packing essentials (Planning a Holiday with a Toddler series)”

  1. Love this…have taken note of your tips as we will be going on our first family holiday to Canada next month. The plane with a 3 year old and a baby should be interesting…

    • Glad it’s useful :) Good luck for the flight, fingers crossed it will all go smoothly! A trip to Canada sounds wonderful. We went there a few years ago – it’s where we got engaged! I’d love to go back. One day…!

      • Thanks! We’re really looking forward to it…we will be visiting relatives and exploring a national park for 3 whole weeks. I have a feeling I won’t want to come home…

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