You’ve decided to plan an amazing vacation to Europe and now you’re starting to wonder if you’re crazy for bringing your toddler along. Been there, done that and I’m here to tell you that you are NOT making a bad choice. Traveling with toddlers can be so much fun! It definitely has its ups and downs, and each day won’t go exactly as planned, but it’s worth every second. You just have to make sure that you have all the essentials for traveling Europe with toddlers!
You’ll get the opportunity to slow down and literally stop to smell the flowers like I did in London with my 15 month old. You can visit new places and sites that you wouldn’t have if you left your kids at home. In Amsterdam, I took my 2.5 year old daughter to the zoo and we went to a kids amusement park in Norway!
The biggest difference is that you need more stuff. The smaller the human, the more stuff you need. Luckily I’m here to help you figure out just what you need to bring with you as you embark on this exciting adventure!
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On the Go
1. Lightweight collapsible stroller
Whether it’s a single or a double make sure you bring a lightweight stroller that you can collapse when needed this is the number one essential for traveling with toddlers. Your stroller is super important if you’ll be traveling by plane or train which is likely to happen when you’re in Europe. I’ve taken my Evenflo Sibby single stroller (pictured above) to Europe three times now! It’s sturdy, but lightweight and folds up to fit through security and stores well on trains. Bonus points because it lays back all the way for naps.
This time around, we’re using a JOOVY twin umbrella stroller and it’s been great! Both kids can ride in it, it fits through doors and it folds up easily for carrying or storage.
2. Baby/Toddler carrier
Some places don’t allow strollers and some aren’t quite big enough for them! It’s nice to have another option to tote your toddler around. Pay attention to the height and weight limits on your structured baby carriers, you may be able to tote your toddler around in it! My daughter fit in our baby carrier when she was 3 and still falls in the weight limits. I recommend the Tula Free to Grow (7-45lbs) and Lillebaby (7-45lbs) because I’ve used both of them and love them! I’ve also heard great things about the Ergo Baby 360 (7-45lbs).
Skip the purse or tote bag and head straight for a sturdy backpack to travel with. I recommend a regular backpack or a diaper bag backpack. Anything that can possibly fall off of your shoulder is going to be a nuisance when traveling with a toddler. You need both hands for chasing, holding and whatever else may come your way. Plus backpacks have more room to hold the essentials. I’ve used this diaper bag backpack and a Dakine Prom backpack, both of which worked great!
**You’ll notice that I don’t have a carseat on this list. I personally have found that traveling with a carseat is a pain. Even more so if you have to travel with multiple carseats. We’ve traveled Europe with and without a carseat and believe that without is leaps and bounds better. We simply do not travel by car. All we use is public transportation to get around the city and trains to go between cities! You’re in Europe, so it’s pretty much possibly everywhere. Definitely do your research ahead of time though to make sure that’s a possibility for you.
In the Hotel
4. Sheets from home
I recommend bringing a fitted sheet from home to put on the hotel crib/cot. This is more important for babies and young toddlers to help them sleep better! Their sheets have a familiar look and scent that comforts them in the middle of the night. It can be hard adjusting to sleeping in a new place especially if it is a new city and room every couple of nights.
5. Sound/White noise machine
If you use one of these at home, I highly recommend traveling with one as well. If you don’t use one of these at home, I recommend traveling with one. Traveling in Europe means you don’t have a lot of space to work with in your hotel room most of the time. You’ll be glad you had a white noise machine when it’s time to put the kids to bed, but you’re not ready to fall asleep yet. It will help drown out the noise you make shuffling around, talking or watching tv. We have this owl shusher which is small and portable, so it works in the hotel and on the go too!
6. Toys or Activity books specifically for the hotel room
Before you leave, hit the Dollar Store and grab a few toys that you don’t mind losing or tossing. Think about toys that don’t have a lot of parts and can be fun! A few things I’ve found in the past are a mermaid Barbie-like doll, 7 piece block set (yes, pieces will get lost), coloring book and crayons, small, squishy ball to throw around, toys for the bathtub, etc.
The key here is not to give them these toys on the plane. Keep some specifically for the hotel room. You can use these toys as prizes for being good throughout the day or sitting quietly through dinner. Then they can choose something at the hotel to wind down with in the evenings.
7. Water bottle
Every sippy cup I’ve tried has found a way to leak. The last thing you need is to have a leaking sippy in your backpack. Find a good water bottle and stick with it. I have three that I love: Contigo, Camelbak and Thermos.
8. Snack cups
I don’t travel anywhere without these Munchkin Snack Catcher cups. First of all, they aren’t very expensive (on sale for less than $5 for 2) and secondly, they keep snacks contained. You don’t have to worry about your toddler dumping everything out on accident. You can just hand them the snack cup while they’re chilling in the stroller or sitting at dinner, and they can happily much along.
9. As many snacks as possible
You can’t have too many snacks. There is no such thing. I would say this is the #2 essential for traveling with toddlers. It’s that important! What we like to do is pack a few of their favorite snacks from home to get us through the flight and the first couple of days. Then we find a grocery store and let them choose a couple snacks! They’re fun, new and chosen by them which naturally makes them even better. And if your toddler is anything like mine, they eat ALL DAY LONG. Snack after snack after snack. Feeding them is usually the best way to keep them happy and quiet, so I’m all for it!
For Entertainment Purposes
10. Tablet & Good headphones
It just makes sense. Not only will you have a long flight ahead of you, you’ll also have down time throughout your trip. Train rides, sitting in the stroller, before bed and more where you’ll be thankful for the extra entertainment. I’m not suggesting you stick a screen in front of your toddlers face by any means. I’m just being real and having a tablet can be a Godsend at times.
At first I let my daughter use my iPad, but now she has her own tablet. She got a Kid’s Kindle Fire for her 4th birthday and it’s great. We’ve loaded it with shows and movies that we approve along with educational games that will keep her busy while we explore things she may not be interested in. Along with a tablet, don’t forget some good headphones. I bought these toddler headphones when Chloe was 15 months old. She was definitely too young for them then but was ready for them by the time she was 2!
11. Melissa and Doug Activities
Pretty much anything in the Melissa and Doug On the Go line. They’re perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, and will keep them busy for quite a while!
12. Stuffed Animal or Baby Doll of choice
Let your toddler choose a stuffed animal, baby doll or lovie before you leave for your trip. Just one. If they have a favorite they cannot live without, make sure it’s that one. If they aren’t as attached, I recommend pushing them towards one that isn’t their absolute favorite or one that can be easily replaced. No matter what they choose, it will become their favorite on that trip since it’s their only one!
The baby my daughter chose below was a $5 baby doll from Walmart. She liked it, but it wasn’t her absolute favorite from home. On our trip she was OBSESSED. That baby went everywhere with us and always had to be perfectly wrapped. I wanted to make sure we always had it, but it was nice to know that if baby was lost, we could get another one!
There you have it 12 essentials for traveling Europe with toddlers! Trust me, you CAN do it. One key thing to remember though DON’T PACK TOO MANY SUITCASES! You have a stroller, possibly a carseat (only if you plan to travel by car at any point), backpacks and multiple suitcases. I recommend 2 large suitcases and no more. Yes, I’ve learned from experience.
Now you’re ready to plan your trip and pack your bags! Will they remember all the details? Probably not? Will they be more worldly, well rounded people because of the trip? Most likely not. Will they learn a lot about traveling? Absolutely. And so will you. My daughter has traveled to Europe 4 times now, and as a 4 year old, has wonderful travel etiquette. She has learned a lot and even though she won’t remember all the details, her father and I will. Plus we have all the pictures to prove it!
If you’re wondering how on earth to begin packing for your toddler, check out my How to Pack for your Toddler post. I was actually packing for a 3 week Scandinavian adventure when I wrote that post, so I felt like a pro by the time I finished!