baby and toddler with luggage

18 Toddler Road Trip Essentials

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If you are thinking of going on a family road trip, I say go for it. Traveling with a toddler isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

We have driven to or through 12 states, recording more than 8,000 miles with our toddler.

Most of that time has been pleasant, but a few hours of our trips have been downright miserable. Although it isn’t fun while it is happening, we’ve learned from our mistakes.

You have to keep in mind, it’s all about the experience. Ultimately, “it doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.” That is one of our favorite road trip quotes.

Here are the toddler road trip essentials you need to make your next road trip more manageable and stress-free.

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If you are planning to take a long road trip with a toddler, having the right toddler road trip gear is essential.

Although some of these things are no-brainers, a few of them fall through the cracks.

Here is our list of toddler road trip essentials that you’ll need before hitting the road.

Car Seat Travel Tray

Lusso Gear Kids Travel Tray

I don’t know why these haven’t been around for decades; they are so awesome. Car seat travel trays will keep your little one entertained while on your road trip.

The different pockets make it easy to organize everything you need. There is a place for everything, and most importantly, nothing will end up on the floor. 

Related Post: Best Car Seat Travel Tray

Lusso Gear Kids Travel Tray Price

Comfortable Car Seat 

Symphony Elite All-in-One Car Seat

A comfortable car seat is essential when traveling with a toddler. Imagine being strapped into a 5-point harness for hours at a time. Wouldn’t you want to be in a comfortable seat? If so, that’s how your toddler feels.

Before we started traveling full-time we used the Symphony Elite car seat because it could grow with our toddler and was very comfortable. He would sit in that car seat for hours without crying.

So, if you plan on taking a road trip with your toddler, check if their car seat is comfortable for this.

Note: If you have a lightweight car seat (with less cushion), consider stopping more frequently to give your toddler a break.

Symphony Elite All-in-One Car Seat Price

Car Sunshade

Car Sun Shade

Until recently, I’ve never had to think about a car sunshade because I had tinted windows. After seeling our car, I realized a car sunshade is essential when traveling with kids.

There is nothing fun about the sun beating down on you. If your car does not have tinted windows, you should invest in a car sunshade for your little one(s).

Car Sun Shade Price

Insulated Cooler Bag

Insulated Cooler Bag

Insulated cooler bags have been a part of our lives since our son was born. We needed to keep his breastmilk cold after I pumped while traveling.

Now that our baby is no longer a baby, we use the cooler for his snacks. He LOVES to eat, so we like to have food packed and ready before starting a road trip with our toddler.

This cooler bag is leakproof and can hold up to 50 pounds, that’s more than enough to hold our toddler while on a road trip. The cooler is also collapsible so, it doesn’t take up much space in your trunk.

Insulated Cooler Bag Price

First Aid Kit

No products found.

A first aid kit is one of those things that you know you need, but somehow always forget to buy.

I know my wife has been telling me for over six months to get a first aid kit, and I say okay, but somehow I always forget to buy it.

If anyone is interested, I purchased this first aid kit for our move to Mexico. I am sure we’ll have this kit for years, which is perfect because that’ll be the next time I will remember to buy another one.

No products found.

Laundry Bag (For Dirty Clothes)

Travel Laundry Bag

When traveling on a road trip with a toddler, you will have a lot of dirty clothes.

Our son goes through at least two shirts a day, almost every day because he loves to take dirt baths outside. Since we know, he will likely be dirty before his first nap we always pack a laundry bag.

Packing a laundry bag allows us to keep dirty clothes separated from clean clothes. Trust me, getting dressed will be a lot easier if you separate; your clothes.

When you return home, you can throw the clothes from the laundry bag into the washer without having to unpack other items.

This tip is for all of my procrastinators because I love packing for vacation, but hate unpacking when returning from vacation.

Travel Laundry Bag Price

Portable Diaper Changing Pad

Portable Diaper Changing Pad

I used to think portable diaper changing pads weren’t needed and were a ploy to get you to buy more baby stuff you don’t need, I was wrong.

Our portable changing pad has been a lifesaver ever since our toddler has decided he no longer likes getting his diaper changed.

Not only is it cleaner than using the changing table in the restroom, but it is also less risky.

The surface is waterproof, so it is easy to clean with wipes. The large pockets give you enough storage; for extra diapers and wipes. There is a padded cushion; to keep your little one comfortable.

Related Post: Best Travel Potty for Toddlers

Portable Diaper Changing Pad Price

Diaper Changing Story

While at the airport, I was changing our son in the restroom. I turned around for less than ten seconds to grab more wipes because there was a lot more poop than expected, and by the time I turned back, he was about to jump off the changing table.

It felt like everything was in slow motion because I caught him mid-jump, and he thought it was hilarious.

From that moment on, we have been using a portable diaper pad, closer to the ground.

Related Post: Best Travel Backpacks for Toddlers & Older Kids

Toddler Road Trip Snack Essentials

There is nothing our kid loves more than eating. Our lives revolve around making sure he has snacks, and that he eats on time. If his food isn’t ready, we know an epic tantrum is coming.

His temper tantrums are the reason snacks are number one on our road trip packing list.

Stainless Steel Insulated No-Spill Sippy Cup

Stainless Steel Insulated No-Spill Sippy Cup Price

We love our son’s no-spill sippy cup. We do not go anywhere without his cup.

It has made our lives so much easier because he can no longer pour out his water. The latest improvement is the stainless steel insulated sippy cup.

This cup can keep drinks cooler, compared to other cups for up to 15 hours. It is a win/win scenario for everyone, cold drinks with no mess.

Stainless Steel Insulated No-Spill Sippy Cup Price

Snack Catcher with Lid

Snack Catcher with Lid

If you haven’t noticed, we love Munchkin brand products. They are the only brand that our son hasn’t conquered in terms of making a mess.

The snack catcher with a lid is our go-to for snack time. This cup is designed to keep snacks inside the bowl and requires them to take out a few at a time.

The lid helps keep the snacks fresh, so they are exposed to air and become stale.

Snack Catcher with Lid Price

Toddler Snack Bowls

Last update on 2024-06-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Reusable Food Pouch

Reusable Food Pouch

If you aren’t using reusable snack pouches, you are missing out on savings. We buy jars of yogurt, apple sauce, puree, and sometimes ice cream to fill these pouches.

It is a lot cheaper to buy the larger containers and fill the pouches than it is to buy them individually.

Not only are you saving money, but you are helping the environment by producing less waste.

All you have to do is fill them, clean them, and store them for next time. We’ve been using these since our son was nine months and do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

Note: You can prefill the pouches and put them in the freezer for a few days. Take them out the night before your road trip, and give them to your toddler. They will love them.

Tip: This is also how we get him to eat veggies if he’s being too picky. We blend apple sauce with some veggies and he doesn’t taste the difference. 

Reusable Food Pouch Price

Flipping Holder

Flipping Holder

We recently discovered the flipping holder, and it has been a game-changer. Our son loves making a mess, so we needed something to hold his pouches, so he’d stop making a mess.

The flipping holder lets him hold his pouches without spilling them everywhere. They not only work on snack pouches but they can also be used for juice boxes or Capri Sun.

Flipping Holder Price

Related Post: 50 Road Trip Activities for Toddlers

Reusable Storage Bags

Reusable Storage Bags

We are making an effort to use more eco-friendly, sustainable products. To cut down on our waste as a family on the move, we switched to reusable storage bags. 

As we all know, traveling with a toddler means you always need to be prepared with snacks. Whatever snacks we need to pack for the little one, we use these storage bags.

Related Post: 20 Toddler Travel Essentials

Reusable Storage Bags Price


Our #1 tip when traveling with a toddler is, have a lot of road trip entertainment or activities. Toddlers are little balls of energy, so sitting in a car seat or booster seat for several hours isn’t appealing.

To keep them from getting frustrated, you must have a lot of different activities to keep them entertained.

Car rides aren’t fun for them, so creating road trip games, packing toys, and having different entertainment is an easy way to keep the tantrums, frustration, and boredom at bay.

Related Post: 20 Screen-Free & Fun Toys for Toddlers for Long Road Trips 

Kids Fire HD Tablet

Amazon Toddler Tablet

Before tablets came about, I remember our van having a tv with VHS for us to watch movies during long road trips. Thanks to advancements in technology, tablets for kids have made traveling with a toddler easier.

We download learning sing-along shows, movies, and music for our toddler to watch and listen to throughout the road trip.

To keep his screen time at a minimum, we only allow him to watch his tablet in one-hour increments.

If he watches a show for one hour, he then has to play with toys, draw, or color for at least an hour. This way, we keep him engaged, and he is not spending hours on his tablet.

A single charge can last up to 12 hours, so the tablet can be used for a few days before needing to be charged.

Amazon Fire Tablet Price

Related Post: Best Tablets for Toddlers

Toddler Headphones

Toddler Headphones

Headphones keep me from going insane as a parent.

I can only listen to the same song so many times before I feel like my ears are going to start bleeding.

Toddler’s headphones will keep you sane you need them if you plan on taking a road trip with a toddler.

The headphones we use are Bluetooth but have a wire included, just in case the battery dies.

We purchased these headphones because they are more durable compared to other brands.

Our baby Hulk has broken three pairs of headphones (snapped by the earphone), and so far, these have held up.

Related Post: Best Headphones for Toddlers

iClever BTH02 Toddler Headphones Price

LeapFrog Builders

Toddler Travel Essential Toys LeapFrog Blocks

We do not go anywhere without toys. Recently, our son has gotten into blocks. Since he has been excited about stacking, we purchased the LeapFrog Builders, and they are amazing.

The blocks are large enough for a toddler and easy to connect and pull apart. The best thing is, the blocks help him learn.

There is an interactive cube that helps them learn numbers, fruits, shapes, animals, and people.

These blocks aren’t just for boys; these blocks are for toddlers of any age to help them learn and grow. I just purchased two sets for our big move to Mexico next week.

Related Posts: Toys to Keep Toddlers Busy on a Road Trip

LeapFrog Blocks Price

Coolplay Alphabet Water Cards

Coolplay Alphabet Water Cards

One of our favorite mess-free activities for our son is the coolplay alphabet water cards. 

I like that these cards are attached, so it’s less likely they’ll get lost. Plus, he can’t draw on the walls, doors, or floor.

They don’t use ink, just water, so they are safer than other markers. Each card is double-sided with letters on the front and words on the back, to help your toddler learn the alphabet, then transition to reading.

Coolplay Alphabet Water Cards Price

Related Post: The 25 Best Travel Toys for Toddlers

Double-Sided Busy Boards

Double-Sided Busy Boards

Busy boards are one of my favorite toys for toddlers. They help them learn hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, fine motor skills, and getting dressed.

This double-sided busy board is perfect for toddlers learning how to tie their shoes, button their shirts, and zip up their jackets.

This learning toy also comes with a travel bag for your little one to carry.

Double-Sided Busy Boards Price

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