Packing for a trip with a toddler in Indonesia

We’re a family of three who went road tripping around Lombok on a bike. Here’s a guide to what I packed (and didn’t pack) to help you out if you’re in the same situation and need to pack light for a trip with a toddler. Although my experience is mainly from travelling in Indonesia, much of the advice applies to Southeast Asia in general, and in fact any destination that you might travel to with a toddler.

Packing for bike travel

We travelled by bike (125cc so really a moped/scooter) and we just about manged to get the three of us plus luggage for two weeks onto it. I won’t lie; it was a bit of a squeeze.

We started off with this setup:

family of three on a bike

A smaller backpack at the front between the driver’s legs, the driver carrying our daughter, and the passenger carrying a larger backpack. I found this put quite a strain on my back so half way through we swapped baby for large backpack. My husband was able to strap the backpack to his front and rest it on the one below, while our daughter sat between us, strapped to me.

We could have taken two bikes and had a bit more space, but it was nice to all be on one and not have to worry about being separated as we drove around. It also meant I was free to navigate.

We already had a large backpack but I bought a super-cheap smaller one that was big enough to carry a useful amount of stuff but small enough to take on day trips.

cheap rucksack from Indonesia
Just don’t carry anything heavy in it!

When I say cheap, it was 70,000. The lady in the shop told me on three occasions not to put anything too heavy in it. I only needed it to last two weeks (which it did, with a couple of holes) so I was happy.

Packing for the journey there

Our journey to Lombok involved a 1.5-hour bike ride, followed (not immediately) by a four-hour ferry trip (which actually took over six hours), with about another half an hour by bike to reach our accommodation. The ferry is supposed to run every hour, but you can’t exactly book a ticket for a certain crossing. It’s more a case of just turning up and joining the queue.

The plan was to leave as early as possible in the morning and hopefully arrive about 4pm, but it was actually 6:30pm and dark by the time we docked. That made it a very long day and not a great start to the holiday, but at least we got there.

We had already managed a trip to Turkey and two to the UK with our daughter – most recently at Christmas when she was one and a half. That involved a 13-hour flight, so this was nothing in comparison. My main worry was with security on the boat – I had visions of an open deck with generously spaced railings that our daughter could fall through.

Fortunately this wasn’t the case at all. We were able to grab a space on the floor in an indoor area, but even outside there wasn’t any chance of her falling overboard.

Still, it was very useful to have some things to keep our little girl entertained – and these of course stayed with us throughout the trip.

This is what I packed in terms of toys:

  • colouring books and crayons
  • two of her favourite books from home and one new one (hardback to avoid getting damaged in the bag)
  • a few small cuddly toys
  • a colourful sorting tray (pictured below)
  • some small plastic animal figures
  • a compact set of mini building blocks

Sorting tray toy with colourful buttons and pompoms

I should add that the iPad accompanied us too. Although our daughter doesn’t usually play on it, we did rely on it for some periods of respite during the trip.

While we were there

One great thing about Lombok, Bali, and in fact a lot of Southeast Asia is that there are laundries everywhere and it’s cheap and quick to have your clothes washed. This is just as well, because we couldn’t have carried two weeks worth of clothes with the space we had.

The fact that we did lots of swimming in the sea and in pools helped, because swimmers are so easy to rinse and dry.

On the downside, the weather was hot and humid, just like in Bali. This gave me a 0% chance of being able to wear anything for more than a day.

Taking all of this into account, I packed enough clothes to last about four days at a time, and it turned out to be just about right. This translasted to four outfits for Chandra, and about eight for Abigail and me.

Taking a two-year-old on holiday

It’s surprising how much stuff has to accompany such a small person. Nappies, toys, and books in particular.

We use washable nappies at home but I wasn’t prepared to deal with those on holiday. Instead we relied on disposables.

There was never any risk of us running out altogether since practically every corner shop in Indonesia sells nappies in some form. However I did struggle to find the ones we usually buy, but in a 10-pack that was small enough to fit inside our bags. I tried a different brand but those were a bit of a disaster, so in the end I just bought a 40-pack. This lasted us for the rest of the trip, but I did feel a bit ridiculous turning up at places with two backpacks and a big pack of nappies. That’s the glamourous life of a backpacking parent, I suppose.

When it came to toys and books, there was a balance to be found between having enough to keep Abigail entertained, and not having to carry too much around with us.

I was very pleased when I found these blocks:

Mini building blocks - perfect when packing for a trip with a toddler

They are a mini version of the ones we have at home – still big enough for little fingers to manage – and they come in this little carry pouch.

The toy shops in Indonesia are full of plastic tat which I try to avoid for our toybox at home, but it’s perfect for a trip like this. It has some novelty value, it isn’t too heavy or bulky, and if it gets broken or lost it’s not the end of the world.

Tip: Stock up on plastic tat.

Packing for a trip with a toddler: some more essentials

Here are some other things I packed for our Lombok road trip:

  • Daughter’s pillow – so she had something familiar to lie on each night
  • Mosquito plugin – not all of our accommodation provided a mosquito net and I don’t like spraying the room my daughter is sleeping in, so this is a good alternative
  • Mosquito repellent – we don’t usually use this in Bali but were more careful about bites in Lombok
  • A 1-to-3 plug converter – this proved very useful as one place only had one plug socket and with electronics to charge as well as the mosquito plugin, we needed the extra space
  • Wifi modem – our portable wifi modem uses a sim card which we top up each month, and was useful as a backup when the wifi at our accommodation left a lot to be desired
  • Snorkel (one) – no need for two as one of us was always looking after our daughter. We bought one as we envisaged plenty of chances to snorkel and didn’t want to rent every time. In actual fact, we only made it to one really good snorkelling spot. Snorkels are usually included with boat trips and are widely available for hire, so this isn’t an essential unless you plan to make it to lots of deserted beaches.
  • Sarongs – any seasoned traveller – particularly in Southeast Asia – already knows the value of a sarong. It can be used to cover up, keep warm, sleep on, dry off, and probably a hundred other things. And when you’re travelling with a toddler you can add to that list: play with, wipe noses and clean up milk spills.
  • Bags and more bags – Backpacks aren’t known for their neatness; the moment you try and find one thing, everything else spills out into a big mess.

And that’s about all I have to share about packing for a trip with a toddler in Indonesia. If you found this information useful, check out my other post on how to keep a toddler happy when you’re travelling. You can read a full account of what we got up to in Lombok here.

If you’re a pro when it comes to travelling with a toddler and packing light for your trips, I’d love to hear any tips you have! You can share them by leaving a comment below.

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