Flying with Children – What to Pack

Flying with Children – What to Pack

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Every single trip begins with a packing list…or an idea of what to pack. When it is just you and other adults you focus on outfits – comfort and fashion. If you forget something, you’ll just have the experience of shopping in your new destination, right? It will be part of the adventure! Shopping for new socks, like we did in Madrid and toothpaste like we needed in southern France can be a fun part of the journey.


Having to replace something you’ve forgotten can make you chuckle and lead to an interesting adventure when it is YOU – the adult who is missing something. But, if you are a parent…you know the nightmare forgetting something a kid needs!

Flying with Children – What to Pack – Learn from MY mistake!

Once, while out of town, I took the kids out to dinner. My oldest, who was three at the time, took her favorite stuffed kitty cat and….left it at the restaurant. No sooner than we left the parking lot in the teeth of traffic in Houston than we realized. I circled the block and we were back in the parking lot in minutes, but I had to get both kids out of the car seats, etc before we could get inside to retrieve kitty. You can guess the rest of this story….kitty was gone.

Oh, what a sad moment. My teary three year old was so shocked that someone would take kitty when *gasp* Kitty did not belong to them!!

It was near Valentine’s day and the only store near us was a drug store. I prayed they would have a cat that could replace kitty. I was NOT looking forward to bedtime without that stuffed cat!! You would have thought a cat would be easy to find, right? NO! I found llamas,gorillas, dogs of all types and other weird and unexpected animals but not cat. I tried – really hard, to convince my three year old that a lion was a cat, but she wasn’t having any of it. Seriously mom!

Thanks to hubby’s detective skills we found a nearby Toys R Us and rushed in the store literally minutes before closing and hallelujah, we found kitty a friend! Bedtime that night went well and I was so relieved.

Every parent can relate to a story like this one so packing carefully is the mantra of parents!!  All parents know that what you bring can make the difference between a fantastic flight and one of nightmares… so pack wisely!

Flying with Children – What to Pack – For the young – NOT potty trained flying child

1) Bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal or comfort item and guard it with your life!

After the experience losing kitty, my son had a very, very small stuffed hamster that went everywhere. It was so small I worried about losing it – and heaven knows a stuffed hamster is hard to find, so I packed an extra! Be prepared!

2) Pack an extra outfit for your child –  head to toe.

When you are flying with children, don’t forget shoes and socks unless kiddo is wearing a washable and dry able shoe like crocks.  If your child doesn’t pee pee on everything then they will spill something! Children are so very messy!

Don’t forget mom! Bring an extra shirt and bra. Having been doused with formula (which smells like a cross between dirty socks and vomit) and then having to live in it for more hours that I would have liked – I learned this the hard way! I smelled just horrible!

3) Include diapers –

When you are flying with children you need more diapers than you think. First, count the hours you expect to be gone so you can plan for how many diapers you will need. When you have that number add 5 extra in case the flight is delayed or you stay on the tarmac for some crazy reason or baby has diarrhea. Then.. if there is any room left over at all….stuff with extra diapers! Consider some extra booster pads inside diapers to keep leaks at bay!

4) Break out the snacks –

Bring more snacks than you think you will need when you are flying with children. This is the time to break out the extra yummy, really special, “kiddo NEVER gets to have’ type treats. Sugar, chocolate…whatever serves as your child’s favorite! Now is the time to splurge!

5) Comfort food –

Snacks are great bribes for good behavior, but nothing else will do when a child is hungry than real food! Dry formula travels well. Bring extra in case your spill or child is just hungrier than usual or you get delayed!

4) Remember the fun stuff –

Bring pipe cleaners, toys, small board books, sunglasses, etc when you are flying with children. New things are especially interesting. Take the time to show them all the things you can create with a ball of aluminum foil!

5) Brush up on games like peek -a-boo and the lyrics of a few songs.

Download the lyrics if you need to and don’t worry about others listening in. Everyone would rather hear a very soft rendition of ‘This old man’ instead of crying. When you are flying with children you need to break out all the stops!

We did a lot of singing to pass the time in the car. “This old man” was such a favorite song! I would pause when it was time to say bone and my 3 year old would add that word. One day when she wasn’t in the car, my baby said it… That my son’s first word was ‘bone’.  **** Choose your song carefully in case you have to sing it 8,000 times. :)***

“As in….This old man, he played one, he played knick knack on my  bone.”

6) Wipes, wipes and more wipes.

I LOVE clorox wipes to kill nasty germs left behind by all the travelers who have gone before you. Think I’m over-reacting? Read about germs on an airplane. The surprise was that the germiest places were the seatbelt and the air control knob above you. Don’t forget baby skin friendly wipes for kid messes and diapers because when you are flying with children – you’ll need them!

7) Bring a safety restraint system.

I’m a big believer in each child having their own seat. It is expensive, but in my opinion worth it. Use the car seat for the youngest travelers. Once children are over 1 year and weigh 22 pounds you can move to the CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) which is fantastic. It is small and easy to use. The top straps loops around the back of the seat, yet does not interfere with the people behind you. The lower strap is the seat belt. The small straps that connect the two keep your child strapped in and safe for the duration of the flight.

Kids love it, too, because they feel so much more ‘free’ than when they are in a car seat. We LOVED ours.

We flew with it for years. It is lightweight, easy to use, and the kids tolerated it well. Be prepared to show the FAA approved sticker to flight staff. It must be hard to keep up with all the new rules because we often ran into flight attendants who acted like they had never seen such a thing.

Flying with Children – What to Pack – Kids aged 3-5

Older kiddos who are potty trained have a whole different set of requirements for packing. When you are flying with children of any age it pays to be prepared!

1) Notebook/journal and pencils – Kids of this age can write, journal, draw photos, create cartoons or comic books, play tic-tac-toe.

2) Magnetic games like checkers and tangrams travel really easily. Magnetic stuff is brilliant. You don’t want to be chasing small pieces that get dropped. Be prepared to play lots of checkers. Go ahead and teach the strategy. My youngest became an absolute shark at checkers this way. LOL!

Read more about keeping children busy on long travel days in these related posts:

Preschool fun for travel

Road Trip with Kids: Kids’ Activities for Plane and Car Trips

MORE Activities for Traveling KIDS


3) Cards – If you don’t know the rules off hand for a few games like WAR, Snap, or Go Fish, now is the time to look them up.

4) Books to read. I suggest some that kiddo can read and also one that is above their level that you can read to them. DO NOT put all your eggs in one basket and bring only things downloaded onto Kindle. Trust me that sometimes electronics fail/run out of juice/aren’t allowed while sitting on the tarmac, etc. and you need something old fashioned.

Reading about your destination is really great for kids! Find books about your vacation spot in these related posts!

Greece      London     Italy      Hawaii     New York City    Caribbean     San Francisco     Canada      Paris 

5) Snacks – Bring MORE snacks than you think you need. There is something about sitting quietly for an extended time that makes you hungry, or think you are hungry. Munching is a quiet and harmless activity that makes everyone happy. Now is the time to break out the big guns of snack time – whatever you ration or don’t allow is perfect for a trip. This cool package has a little bit of everything and is perfect for flying with children.

6) Electronic devices – If you normally have a cut off time for amount of time spent on electronic devices I suggest you suspend that for the duration of the flight. If electronics helps pass the time and keep kiddo interested, engaged, and quiet – then all is right with the world. Consider a new download, movie, or app just for the flight.

7) Dollar Store ‘stuff’ – Some people love to wrap these these like presents but I never had the time.  Anything new will serve the purpose. Craft projects are good (be sure you don’t need scissors and if you need glue toss in a glue stick – not the regular liquid glue that is not allowed on flights) and so are those color on felt pitctures. Once, I bought several locks with keys and toddler sat quietly for ages and ages practicing unlocking them.

8) Painter’s tape – I never go anywhere without blue painter’s tape. It is like the kid’s version of duct tape in that it can fix/create anything!


Traveling with children is a new ball game! Read more about having a smooth travel experience with the KIDS in these related posts.

Packing for Infants – The Ultimate List

Get through Airport Security smoothly with KIDS

How to Handle Jet Lag with the KIDS

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Happy Travels!

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