My word for this year is ACTION. Because sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in dreams and planning and the day-to-day activities of life and never actually take action. In the past, I’ve had a hard time posting regularly because I needed every post to be perfect. And that’s why I have so many (dozens) of draft posts hanging out and just waiting to be finished and shared.
So, in the spirit of action, I’m letting go of the need for each of these posts to be perfect, paired with beautiful, staged photos and a heartfelt story. In reality, you probably don’t have time to read those stories anyway, and all you really want is the recipe or the tip or the guide.
So, here it is, the list of activities and toys we pack for Theo while traveling. Obviously, the number of things you bring will depend on the length of your trip and where you are going. This is his sixth big trip in his two years, and each time I get a little better with the packing. This list is for a three-week trip to Mexico, where I knew were not going to be able to buy anything.
Pack in the Carry On
For this trip, I got Theo this adorable backpack, so he could have his own bag of goodies for the plane. I love that this backpack is handmade and supports a small home business. I packed it and gave it to him when we arrived at the airport. He loved having his own bag!
In the backpack, we packed Theo’s Amazon Fire for kids. Theo gets VERY limited screen time when we’re at home, but when we’re traveling in the car or on a plane, all limits are off. We load his favorite shows, like this one, and everyone is happy. He also has these headphones for kids, which are great.
I also packed this Quiet Book, which lets him play with snaps and buttons and zippers. It weighs almost nothing, and it can be squished fairly flat.
When traveling, I count snacks as an activity, both for Theo and for us. I pack snacks in small individual containers and then place everything in one small, lightweight cooler bag, to keep it organized and easy-to-access. Here is a list of mostly non-perishable, easy snacks to bring on the plane: nuts, dried fruit, granola, peanut butter sandwiches, cooked and cooled baked potatoes, plain cooked pasta, raw vegetable sticks, cut fruit (like apples or pears), cheese sticks, crackers, kale chips, seaweed snacks. I try to avoid anything that stains (like blueberries) or makes a big mess (like quinoa salad).
I also pack small cartons of shelf-stable milk for Theo. You can find it at Whole Foods, and sometimes you can also find them at Starbucks in the airport (although I find that they often only carry chocolate milk). TSA will screen them, but you are allowed to bring milk for toddlers through security.
Pack in the Suitcase
If you have a plane ride longer than a few hours, you may want to include some of these in the carryon as well. But here are the toys and activities I pack in the suitcase. Actually, I usually cram all of this into the bag with the travel crib, so it doesn’t take up precious suitcase space or weight.
If your toddler has a favorite stuffed animal or doll, bring it along, even if he doesn’t always need to sleep with it. Having a familiar ‘friend’ can be helpful in adjusting to a new environment. This may need to come on the plane, too, depending on your child.
Theo can play with LEGO DUPLOs for hours, so I pack an assortment of his favorite trucks and enough blocks to build a carwash (he loves Carl’s Carwash) or a tower. This is undoubtedly the toy he spends the most time playing with. We also take them to the beach and they make great sand toys.
I pack a variety of activity books, and then I bring out a new one every few days. That way, there is always something new to play with. Things that are flat and light get priority. Here are a few that have been a hit with Theo:
These Water Wow! books are great, and are also good for the plane. You can get one with a theme that interests your child.
Same with this train magnetic playsets, which has a scene for the train magnets. These also come in different themes, from farms to dolls.
You can see I have a theme with stickers, because they are lightweight and reusable. This farm sticker playset has two scenes and dozens of stickers for storytelling.
Lastly, all kids love tape. This tape activity book has different scenes where you can make up stories as you play with tape. Elie is actually the expert storyteller in our home. He makes up funny, silly stories that make Theo laugh.
I also pack at least a dozen other books in the suitcase (all paperback). Since we spend so much time reading, I start with a few and then rotate in new ones every few days, so we have a selection to choose from.
A few other ideas that I didn’t bring on this trip, but have stashed away for future trips: multi-colored pom poms (good for SO many activities), bubbles, puzzles, and crayons and coloring books.
Bookmark this post for your next trip with your little one! And I’d love to know–what do you pack in your carry on and in your suitcase for your toddler?
Note: You may notice bumps on Theo’s face in these photos. They are mosquito bites that he got while sleeping. We took him to the doctor, and we now have a mosquito net for his crib. So hopefully, they will heal quickly! In the meantime, they don’t seem to bother him at all.