What To Pack When Flying With A Toddler

what to pack when flying with a toddler
The thought of flying with a toddler is terrifying. The key to being prepared and semi-relaxed is having a carry-on that’s ready for any sort of toddler emergency that you can think of (catastrophic hunger, major blow out, epic melt down, etc). We recently flew to California (five hour flight) with our 19 month old and I spent way too many hours making sure my carry-on was prime for the journey. I’m not claiming to be a travel expert, but here’s what I packed (including my exact carry-on). If this post helps one person feel more at ease or even sleep the night before travel, then my mission here is complete.

what to pack when flying with a toddler
Lo and sons carry on bag

Have a good carry-on. I brought this Lo & Sons bag and it’s the perfect carry-on. This bag was stuffed with everything we needed and it still had room for more. The bottom zipper is ideal for stashing coloring books, magazines and even your travel changing pad cover. There are three total inside pockets (one with a zipper) that are great for storing your iphone, wallet and other small travel essentials that you need to reach for quickly. Bottom line is this bag is designed so well and they really have thought of everything. You can shop all their bags right here.

Pack individual ziplock bags for all your stuff: Organize all the stuff you need in your carry-on in large ziplock bags. This way you aren’t rummaging through your bag trying to find a diaper while  your child is trying to ninja escape down the aisle. Also, when your toddler poops on the plane (mine did), all you have to do is grab the diaper ziplock and you are ready to face the challenge of changing your toddler in the smallest bathroom known to man.
Pack lots of new toys: New toys are the best toys for travel. Go to the Target dollar aisle and grab all the stickers, new coloring books, and any new gadget your toddler can play with.

Here’s the complete list of what I packed in my carry-on:

1. Wipes: Don’t short yourself on these. You will need a lot. I packed one 56 count in my carry-on and got the travel size (20 count) ones on Amazon for the actual ziplock diaper bag.

2. Snacks: Bring double what you think you will need. I brought snack bars, Annie’s Bunny Grahams and pouches. Basically, just give them what works.

3. Cooler: We packed a small cooler for our five hour flight with pre-made sandwiches, hummus and fruit. The frozen pack was not an issue going through security at all. Also, put some food in there for you too—this is no time to get hungry.

4. Pacifiers: We typically only use these for sleep, but had these on hand for meltdowns, take off and landing (pressure changes) and it also helped her nap on the way home—score.

5. Stuffed animal and small blanket: Anything that is familiar and comforting is good to have on hand.

6. Toys/stickers/activity books/crayons: Bring the triangular crayons (they won’t fall off the tray). New coloring books and small toys worked great for us.

7. Change of clothes for toddler and yourself: In a separate ziplock, pack a change of clothes for your toddler and if you have room, yourself too. Remember, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I also packed a pair of socks and put them on her so her feet didn’t get cold during the flight.

8. Small towel: This is easy to overlook, but it came in handy for us. We spilled a small drink and I just whipped the towel out and wiped it right up. Also works as a small pillow for your toddler if he/she looks like they may sleep. Just roll it up in your carry-on.

9. Wet bag or plastic bags: These are great for trash and/or soiled clothes.

10. Empty sippy cup and snack cup: The snack cup helps contain messes and this way you don’t have to put any food on the tray table (germ farm). I packed an empty sippy cup and poured water into this when we got through security.

11. Copy of birth certificate: If your toddler is less than two and a lap child, you may need this at the request of the airline, We didn’t, but it’s best to have it just in case. Here’s an article that talks about bringing identification when traveling with children.

12. Ipad: We pre-downloaded a few shows (Hey Duggee and Elmo’s World) that she likes to watch, but honestly, this only kept her occupied for a short time (minutes). I think Ipads/tablets are magic for toddlers when they are a bit older. I would still bring one and make sure to pre-load your shows because you can’t rely on the in-flight wifi to work especially when trying to download large files.

What I bought, but didn’t pack:

1. Headphones: She wasn’t really into these at all. I think these are a must with older toddlers/kids, but for us it wasn’t going to be worth lugging them on the plane.

2. Airplane Travel Harness: She had her own seat, so one of us was always next to her and made sure she was sitting/secure during turbulence and take off/landing. She doesn’t like riding in the car at baseline, so we did not consider bringing her car seat because we knew it wouldn’t be successful for us. The car seat and safety harness are probably the safest options, but we just focused on what would work for us and I’m glad we didn’t lug either one on the plane.

Other tips:
-we pre-packed a box of diapers and wipes and sent it to the hotel. It saved us a lot of suitcase space and we just picked it up at check-in.
-these travel cubes were so helpful for keeping her stuff organized. 
-buy all the travel size items you can on Amazon.
this travel stroller has been great for us—so lightweight and reclines too.

Photos by Paige Winn

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