Diaper Bag Essentials For Toddlers (Tips For A Stress-Free, Space-Saving, And Lightweight Bag)

Diaper bag essentials for toddlers

Diaper Bag Essentials For Toddlers (Tips For A Stress-Free, Space-Saving And Lightweight Bag)

You know you’re a mom when your purse is a diaper bag.


Actually, for me, it’s the other way around.

Yup! That’s right folks! I’m finally putting myself first and learning to accommodate my toddler and NOT accommodate ME for my toddler.

i am putting my foot down
I am putting my foot down!
Photo by nick jenkins on Unsplash

Okay, okay not totally, but i’m getting better.

So, there’s this trend with diaper bags, and that’s diaper bags that don’t look like diaper bags but have all the extra space and pockets so that it acts like one.

It’s inevitable for us moms to create a what if this happens or what if that happens type of day in our heads that we just start packing everything from medicine stuff, extra diapers, extra snacks, and even extra clothes for you in case you get dirty stuff.

But what made you feel the need to start packing medicine in the first place? Are they even sick? How about the extra diapers, snacks, and clothes? You know how many times you change and feed your toddler in a day, so why be so extra?

I get it, it’s a better safe than sorry situation.

I use to be guilty of having the tendency to create this whole scenario of my car breaking down and getting stranded somewhere, or my car being stolen and me having to wait forever for someone to come save us.

Anyone else here do the same?

It justified the need to bring all the extra stuff that I packed, and when you’re a mom packing for a toddler, everything becomes essential.

Actually, correction – that’s a new mom with an infant.

Let’s try this again..

When you’re a mom packing for a toddler, anything to keep them entertained becomes essential (like all their favorite toys), because you just want to have all of that on deck to keep them occupied for as long as you can – otherwise havoc right?

Related: 30 Must-Have Toddler Toys

crying baby
Anything to prevent this.
Photo by Muhammad Murtaza Ghani on Unsplash

But what about their actual essentials – the one’s they really need?

Toddlers are dirtythey make messes; they’re hungrythey want snacks; they’re sweatythey need water; and what about potty training?

Ugh, ugh, and UGH!

Oops, I got so caught in the moment with that last ugh, my daughter’s not even potty trained.

laughing at dramatic mom
Photo by Kate Oseen on Unsplash

From my experience, I found there to be true essentials and overkill essentials. I was able to sort my toddler’s true essentials versus the overkill ones after being frustrated with all the extra space/extra pockets and asking myself one day; are diaper bags even necessary?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you were to make a qualifying purchase from those links then I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You can use the table of contents below if you want to skip to the 6 space-saving/lightweight toddler products list.

Table of Contents

    Are diaper bags necessary?

    Large chunky diaper bags seems like a thing of the past. Truth is, when I had my 2nd child, I ended up purchasing the biggest and chunkiest, but oh so adorable diaper bag a mom can find. It was the JuJuBe – Be Prepared in the Donutella print.

    So, this diaper bag was really cute in my imagination and all I really wanted was to “be prepared.” In reality, I didn’t have the time to pack such a big diaper bag nor the strength (after having a cesarean) to be traveling with a diaper bag so huge. It was causing me to be over-prepared and it just wasn’t functional.

    tired and frustrated over big diaper bags
    and me being over-prepared
    was starting to look like a hot mess
    Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

    I then purchased a diaper bag that looked like a regular backpack. It was the Miss Fong Diaper backpack. It was cute, practical, comfortable, and affordable.

    It was good quality, especially for the price. In fact, I liked it so much that I purchased the bag in 2 colors.

    However, the minute I purchased the bag in 2 colors, I stopped wanting to use the bag.


    Because it just wasn’t functional anymore.

    I found myself always needing to switch between two different bags bringing on unnecessary frustration and because I wanted to justify the fact that I spent money on the same diaper bag in a different color.

    Related: 8 Functional Parenting Tips To Minimize Stress At Home (For Working Moms)

    Okay, ha ha, the truth is out. My bad for wanting to be the cute mom.

    I learned that I no longer wanted to be the cute mom because it was really just making me a hot mess mom!

    Related: 11 Mom Life Quotes That Prove We Are Overworked, Scary, A Forgetful Mess, And Not Alone

    This led me to use my own personal bag. Since then, I never went back to either of those diaper bags.

    In doing so, I found that having a diaper bag made me pack extra things that I convinced myself my daughter needed because I had “space” and the extra pockets to do so. Essentially, this made everything seem “essential,” and hence; overkill.

    So going back, are diaper bags even necessary? For me, as a mom with a toddler, it wasn’t.

    I recently travelled by car with my toddler and I didn’t even feel the need to bring an actual diaper bag nor did I find myself needing one. If that’s saying much.

    I ended up just using my own personal backpack that I use as an everyday bag.

    However, I’ll still be using the term “diaper bag” so it’s not too confusing for this post.

    This brings me to the next point.

    What should be in a toddler diaper bag?

    Aside from a toddler’s true diaper bag essentials, this really depends on your toddler’s needs.

    So what exactly are true toddler diaper bag essentials?

    True toddler diaper bag essentials

    1. Diapers (if not potty-trained)

    2. Baby wipes

    3. hand sanitizer spray/wipes

    4. Water bottle

    5. Snacks

    6. A toy

    7. Change of clothes

    8. A few bandaids (I actually keep this in my wallet)

    9. Anything medical related for children who have a medical need for them.

    Some of you may be asking, what about the changing pad? I really just change my daughter in the car if I needed to before leaving the car. To me, the changing pad, is an additional essential depending on where and how long i’ll be staying at a particular place.

    From my experience, essentials change because of the weather, the type of trip you’re taking, sickness, etc… and there are things to consider that I might add to my toddler’s true essentials.

    Things to consider: Additional diaper bag essentials for your toddler

    1. Is your toddler potty trained?

    -pull-ups/training underwear

    -on the go training seat/seat covers

    -empty water bottle for boys (in case you don’t have a bathroom close by)

    -ziplock bag in case of an accident

    2. Are you packing for a whole day or half a day?

    -I’ll pack the number of diapers my daughter would need for a whole day and half that for a half day.

    -I re-use small ziplock bags for her wipes to place exactly 20 pieces of wipes for a whole day or 10 for a half day. These save more room and are more flexible to squeeze in a bag than an ordinary travel wipes case or one of those single cases.

    -for a half-day, I’ll pack one onesie or romper because they take up the least amount of space. For a whole day, I’ll pack 2 extra clothes (usually it would be 1 onesie/romper and a nighty in case she needed to be changed at night and the weather got cooler)

    -for a whole day i’ll usually pack my daughter’s iPad, her charger, our 48oz Hydroflask, and a gallon size ziplock bag if she was going to be with me the whole day.

    3. Will you be packing for daycare or the sitters?

    -For water, I would either pack a silicone straw with collapsible cup or her water bottle that has a straw.

    -favorite toy

    Swaddle Blankets (thin, lightweight and has multiple uses: toddler blanket, towel)

    -changing pad if they’re not potty-trained

    -potty training items if they’re potty trained

    -teething tablets or medicine for fevers/pain/discomfort if still teething

    4. What will you be doing, where will you be going and will you be walking/standing for long periods of time?

    -consider the bag you are using and keep it lightweight

    -A silicone catchall bib, silicone straw, and disposable place mats if you plan on eating out

    -potty training items if they’re potty trained

    -changing pad if they’re not potty trained

    5. What will the weather be like?

    -your extra clothes would change to a thick nighty

    -a blanket if it’s cold

    -If it’s hot: sunblock, a folding/portable mini fan, a foldable sun hat with UV protection, and a swaddle blanket (thin, lightweight, and has multiple uses: to wipe sweat, sun cover for stroller, beach blanket/towel)

    -I would also pack more diapers and wipes on hot days because they may be drinking more water than usual and because they tend to get dirtier (ice cream, parks, beaches, etc..)

    6. Will you be doing a quick errand, grocery shopping, or leaving to a doctor’s/dentist appointment

    -I usually just pack 2 diapers with a thin romper/onesie (depending on the weather), wipes in a small ziplock bag, hand sanitizer foam/wipes, a fruit/veggie pouch/fruit snack, a toy, our Hydroflask, and our insurance card (always in my wallet along with a few bandaids)

    Again, depending on what i’m packing for, these would be added to my true essentials which are my daughter’s diapers, wipes, snacks, water bottle, hand sanitizer spray/wipes, a few band-aids, and a toy.

    After going from a large diaper bag to just using my everyday backpack, this was what I’ve narrowed down to as my true toddler essentials. Anything else would be overkill.

    Example: Overkill is if your child is not sick but you’re bringing medicine in case they do get sick (on a normal day trip) versus if you’re child has a food/environmental allergy and you’re bringing their allergy medicine for that purpose (true essential.)

    Because I was using my everyday backpack, I needed products that didn’t take up space in my diaper bag that also wouldn’t add too much weight on my shoulders and would provide my daughter with the most function.

    You’ll find these awesome products in the list below.

    6 toddler products for your diaper bag that are space-saving and lightweight.

    1. Ziplock Bags

    I use Ziploc bags for everything and they’re reusable so it can be eco-friendly.


    • It’s see-through making it easy to find what you’re looking for
    • Has multiple uses
    • Good to store wet or dirty clothes in
    • DIY iPad car mount
    • DIY on-the-go diaper changing pouch
    • Snack holder
    • Flexible, making it easy to squeeze into tight spaces
    • Easy to clean


    • Unsustainable, but I reuse the Ziploc bags unless they’ve gone really bad to where I need to exchange it for a new one.
    • Not aesthetic
    do it yourself iPad car mount
    DIY iPad car mount

    on the go diaper changing station in ziplock bag
    on-the-go DIY diaper changing pouch. This is all that I’ve needed since Covid, but if I were to be out and knew that I would have to change my daughter at someplace versus in my car, I might add a couple of disposable changing pads and little baggies for poop diapers, which I usually have hanging on my bag already.

    2. Collapsible snack cup

    I love this cup because I can store her little snacks in it without her making a mess if she were to eat her snacks in the bag it comes in. My daughter has a tendency to pour her bag of goldfish, graham crackers, etc out of the bag while in her carseat.


    • Less mess with smaller snacks
    • It collapses so that it doesn’t take up too much space in your bag
    • It’s light so that it won’t weigh you down
    • Easy to clean
    • Comes in many cute colors

    Cons: No cons found

    3. Collapsible Sippy cup

    I love this product because parents can use it too for drinks like coffee.


    • It’s lightweight
    • Easy to clean
    • It collapses so that it saves space in your bag
    • Adults can use too
    • Comes in many cute colors

    Con: The top can easily be taken off so I usually give the cup to my daughter and then take it away once she’s done drinking from it

    4. Foldable Keychain Silicone Straw

    Very useful when drinking in the car versus having to drink straight out of the bottle, especially in a moving car.


    • It takes up very little space in your diaper bag
    • You can attach it to your keychain
    • It’s lightweight
    • Comes in a cute case and in cute colors
    • The straw even comes with a pipe cleaner in the same case if you needed to clean the straw
    • Adults can use this product too

    Cons: Can get stuck if you leave inside a 16oz plastic water bottle.

    5. Foldable Catchall Silicone Bib

    I remember eating at a Sushi restaurant with our family and my daughter made the biggest mess. It was so hard to clean because of the sticky rice. I felt so bad and only wished I had a catchall bib that lessened the mess. The same is true for when my toddler is at her grandparent’s house.


    • Foldable/Flexible so it takes up less space in the bag
    • It’s lightweight
    • Easy to clean
    • Comes in many different brands, colors, and prints

    Con: Does not catch everything

    6. Swaddle Blankets

    I love swaddle blankets because they have multiple uses. I love them, especially during summer, because they don’t take up too much space in my bag and provides me with the most bang for my buck.


    • Has multiple uses: toddler blanket, towel, stroller cover, picnic blanket, window sun cover for your toddler when sitting in the car seat on a sunny day, change pad
    • They have thin and thick swaddle blankets
    • Comes in many different brands, cute colors, and cute prints

    Cons: Does not suffice as a warm blanket on really cold days

    How I pack my bag with my toddler’s essentials

    1. The bag I typically use for a quick errand, half day, and a whole day

    2. Packing for a quick errand if I wanted to go lighter than my usual day brown bag.

    Diaper bag size comparison
    Size comparison between the two bags

    Take Away

    Extra space and extra pockets only create more stress and frustration resulting in moms packing more things than they need to for their child even if it’s just for a day. I was able to find my toddler’s true essentials when I exchanged the good ol’ diaper bag for my own personal bag. No more accommodating you for your toddler and start accommodating your toddler for you.

    Toddler diaper bag essentials
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