Traveling by Plane with Littles: What to Carry On

Taking little ones on a plane is always a daunting thought.  What do I pack for the flight?  Will their ears pop?  Will they loose it and scream the whole time?  Can I keep them contained for the duration of the flight without them bothering everyone around me? What will the people around me say or at least what will their looks communicate they’d like to say?

Our first flight with Josiah was close to 5 hours and he was 3 months old.  Since then our three and a half year old has been on 12 round trip flights varying in length from 2 and a half hours to 6 hours long.  Three of those trips I flew alone with Josiah (now that is a feat!).  I’m certainly not an expert, but I’ve picked up some helpful tips along the way.  My motto, “engage, distract, and stay positive!”

Here’s my carry on packing list:

  • Snacks on snacks on snacks
  • Water bottle
  • New activity book
  • Few small toys 
  • Cards/Card Games
  • Coloring book with small pack of colored pencils (or crayons)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wipes and/or tissues
  • Bandaids 
  • iPad with downloaded shows
  • Kid’s headphones 

Here is why:

SNACKS: you can never have enough snacks. Snacks solve most problems.  Screaming…have a snack. Bored…have a snack.  Want to get out of your seat…have a snack. Ears aren’t popping…have a snack (swallowing helps pop ears). Hungry…HAVE A SNACK.  Snacks are good before you board and while on board.  TSA regulations do not apply to food for our kids.  So if you want to bring a pouch or milk on board which does not fit within the TSA regulations, you can do that.  You must pull these items out separately and inform a TSA agent before your items go through security.  They will likely test any liquid, but you can bring what will be helpful for your kiddo.  

WATER BOTTLE: once you go through security, you can fill your bottle.  There are water bottle filling stations all over the airports that make this easy.  When taking off and landing, your little one’s ears need to pop to relieve the pressure from the change in elevation.  Swallowing does just that.  Flight attendants don’t pass out water until after you reach a certain height. Mama, we can’t wait that long.  I start Josiah drinking once we take off until his ears pop.  Additionally, the flight attendants only give small cups of water which easily can be spilt..enough said!

NEW ACTIVITY BOOK: something new is the key here.  It is exciting to get a new something and what better time to be excited than while confined to a small space.  Our little ones will play and enjoy something longer the first time it is introduced.  Take the time to explain this new activity book, let them explore it independently, and join them as they engage it.  This will extend the amount of time this activity will last.  A book also will that have several activities within the book.  So if one page gets boring, move on and find something that looks exciting.  If you get an educational book, you can get a little bonus school time in while playing. 

COLORING BOOK AND COLORED PENCILS: coloring is a great way to pass the time. I recommend colored pencils as the won’t melt if you leave them in your bag once you arrive at your destination. Melted crayons are not welcome on my vacations.  

FEW SMALL TOYS: there is no space for large toys when trying to stow a bag under your seat.  Grabbing a few small toys is space efficient.  Having a few options allows you to pull out several iteams throughout the flight for a little  fun.  I’d advise hiding the toys before the trip so they seem new even if they aren’t.  Also, be aware of bring a favorite toy that would be devastating if lost.  

CARDS/CARD GAMES: Target always has fun educational cards or games in their dollar section.  Cards are small and perfect for planes.  Learn some trivia or play a game while flying or waiting in the airport.

HAND SANITIZER: this is an essential! Airports and airplanes are dirty.  Our kids put their hands in their mouth regularly.  These things do not mix well. Kids often get sick after travel because of this.  Use hand sanitizer every step of the way.  When ou go through security, after playing on the floor before boarding, while on board.  I tend to overuse it, but I hate having a sick kid…particularly on vacation.  (Side note: Also recommend making sure vitamins and probiotics are regularly taken before, during, and after a trip).

WIPES/TISSUES: you never know when you are going to need to clean something up. Sticky? Sneeze? When you are stuck in a tiny seat, it is best to be able to have all the supplies you need.  

BANDAIDS: these things are miracle workers in the lives of our littles.  Get an “owie,” a bandaid can fix that.  Most owies on the airplane are going to be superficial, but sticking a bandaid on it just makes little hearts feel better.  Tears stop and they can move on.  

IPAD WITH DOWNLOADED SHOWS: this is a lifesaver.  When all else fails and all my resources are exhausted, it is the iPad to the rescues.  A little Daniel Tiger fixes everything.  Netflix and Amazon Prime both allow you to download episodes and movies to your device for viewing when you are offline or in airplan mode.  These downloads do have a time expiration so be aware of that when watching.  Likewise, most Bluerays purchases come with a code for a digital download.  This allows you to download the movie to your device to be accessed as well.  

KID’S HEADPHONES: if you are using an iPad, it is best to have headphones to go with it. You can’t allow your kid to watch with volume on too loud.  Flight attendants will ask you to turn it down/off if it seems too loud.  Headphones are fun for kids and give you a littl peace and quite.  

I also will use my phone for entertainment.  Our favorite plane phone pastime is playing with Snapchat or Instagram story filters.  Looking like a puppy always is entertaining.  When kids see themselves, they are engaged and often calmed when throwing a fit. Give it a try. 

Plan ahead and pack your plane bag when your child is not around. You want to be able to pull out surprise after surprise while traveling.  Use a bag that has different compartments. Organizing your items will make access much easier when trying to pull them out from under the seat in front of you.

When traveling with little ones you never know what you are going to get.  Expect everything to fall apart.  Be prepared mentally and with your bag of tricks.  If you are ready for the worst, you will be alright if it happens or pleasantly surprised when it goes well.  Most of our travels have been positive.  I attribute that to being prepared and having a good outlook.  People can be rude, but you’ll most likely never see them again,.  Brush it off.  You are paying a lot of money to travel and have every right to be there.  Kids are kids and that is okay! 

So hang in theire mamas.  You can do this!!

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