Flying with a Baby and Toddlers: Tips for Carryon and Activities
The prospect of flying with a baby and toddlers may be frightening, especially if they’ve never been on an airplane before.
I have four children and have done a lot of airline travel with them, including several international trips. Through the years I have learned several travel packing tips: what to pack in the carry-on and the best activities for kids when flying.
Check out my list of essential items to pack in your carryon when flying with a baby.
Plus I share tips for keeping kids of all ages entertained when traveling by plane or car!
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What to Pack When Flying With a Baby and Toddlers
Packing the carryon to keep a baby and young children happy on a plane is a task I have a lot of experience in.
If you’re travelling by plane with a baby or toddler, here are some tips on what to pack (and not pack!) in your carry on bag to tame the chaos, and keep everyone’s sanity intact.
The toddler and older kids enjoy having their own carry on bag too.
When I fly with a baby, I always pack my sling so I can have both hands free and available. Placing baby in a sling at the airport is one of the best practical and safe tips I can recommend.
Supplies for Baby
Diapers, wipes and extra clothes are essential when flying with a baby.
Believe it or not, diapers are not generally available for purchase in airport terminals.
Besides toys, electronics and other items to occupy your baby, there are a few other things you need to pack in your carryon:
- Diapers and wipes – pack more diapers than you think you’ll need. Flight delays, lost checked baggage and unexpected explosions are worth planning for.
- Complete change of clothes – consider packing an extra shirt for yourself.
- Baby’s favorite lovey and blanket.
If your child is willing to be entertained by a DVD player or tablet, bring it.
Limit screen time before your flight, especially in the airport where they can run around a bit, and pull it out at the last possible pre-meltdown second to maximum entertainment value.
Let the novelty of being on an airplane work it’s magic through first.
Consider buying a new movie or show (either DVD or download). Novelty will last longer, even in a new setting. And make sure you have pre-downloaded everything. Not all airplanes have free wifi available.
You’ll also want to invest in kid-sized headphones.
These will work with your portable DVD player, iPad or tablet, smart phone, or headphone jack on the plane’s screen.
They will be much more comfortable and less hassle than trying to use mom or dad’s earbuds.
I recommend over-ear headphones for kids. We’ve used both folding and standard over-ear kids’ headphones. The folding ones are very convenient for packing in a carryon.
Do NOT buy expensive headphones for young children. They won’t appreciate the sound quality, and trust me – the expensive ones break just as easily.
For the adults, noise cancelling earbuds are always a good choice!
Airports, and some airplanes, have charging ports, but you definitely want a back up.
Find a portable charger that accepts any charging cord with a USB on one end, and the portability can’t be beat.
Size Matters. When choosing toys to bring, consider how much space they will take up versus how much time your kids will spend playing with them.
My kids like to pick a few small toys such as matchbox cars, princesses and plastic dinosaurs or animals – we like Wild Republic Nature tubes. I let them fill a small bag with toys.
They can play with these toys on a play mat (read next item) on the tray table on the airplane, their laps in a car, the carpet in the airport, or wherever.
We never bring baby toys. They take up too much room for the amount of attention a baby pays them. The baby is happy to chew on basically whatever we give him. A favorite lovey and a larger toy belonging to his older siblings is good enough.
One toy that we always get good use out of while flying is a travel-sized magnetic doodle board. Fun for anyone over age 1. The kids like to give ideas for mom and dad to draw, then laugh and erase it, and do it again. You can use it for tic tac toe, Pictionary, to practice letter writing, and more.
Pack some paper or a doodle pad and a few crayons or colored pencils. Use a zippered binder pouch for pencils or crayons – they won’t roll away, and will store flat in your bag. You can also fold up paper and put it inside, if you don’t mind it folded.
One of the best uses of paper on an airplane is to draw a little “play place” for kids to play with their toys on.
Draw a farm or jungle scene for them to play with small animals, or draw some roads to drive cars on. This not only entertains the kids while they watch me draw, they can then play with it with their toys, and it can be left behind after.
If you have a pen in your purse, you can also do this on the back of a paper place mat in a restaurant. It’s a great way to entertain kids in a restaurant as well.
Stickers are another item that doesn’t take up a lot of space, but provides tons of fun. And again, you can just leave your sticker masterpiece behind.
Save stickers from junk mail, or pick up some cheap ones at the dollar store.
If you want to get a little fancier, we buy sticker books and Oriental Trading in various themes and use them for when kids need to sit quietly for a few minutes.
Tips for Flying With Babies and Kids
If you have children under 6, you can choose to pre-board. A benefit to this is that you will find space in the overhead bins, and you can get your children settled before the plan fills. However, it also means you’ll be spending more time confined on the plane.
If you have two adults with your group, I recommend sending one on with pre-boarding to get everything settled, and keeping any wiggly young children off until the end of boarding for some last minute wiggles.
Despite airlines charging for just about everything they can, car safety seats may be checked for free, even if your infant doesn’t have a ticket. You may also gate check a stroller for free. These items are NOT included in standard baggage allowance.
READ: Airplane Travel With Carseats | How to Travel With Carseats
Bulkhead Row Bassinet
If travelling with an unticketed infant, you may request a bulkhead row, which offers a bassinet for babies under 20 pounds.
Bulkhead rows do not have under seat storage, but it may be worth it if your baby will sleep in the bassinet.
Some airlines also have a sleep seat for heavier children (under age 2) that attaches to the bassinet shelf in the bulkhead row. The airplane sleep seat is basically a bouncer that doesn’t bounce, and it was a lifesaver for our 1 year old on our most recent international flight.
Airport Play Place
Many airport terminals have a designated area for kids to get some energy out. These range from a fenced area with busy boards for babies in a corner of the terminal, to outdoor atriums.
Ask if there is a play area when you check in. These airport play areas are perfect for letting kids run around during layovers or while waiting to board.
Don’t be afraid to breastfeed in public when flying or traveling. Traveling with a nursing infant is easier in many ways since you always have food available, and can easily calm a fussy baby.
READ: Breastfeeding Tips for Travel
Travel Tips With Kids
- Travel Journals for Kids (FREE PRINTABLE)
- Best Travel Strollers
- Travel Tips for Parents with Young Kids
- Tips to Avoid Jetlag
These are great tips! My heart goes out to parents struggling to keep kids happy during flights.
Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!
Thank you so much for the feature Richella! And yes, flying with kids is so hard!
Love your post! One tip we learned from traveling from Los Angeles to Nairobi with our 2.5 and 5.5 year olds was that although they loved the idea of carrying their own bags of toys/books etc onto the plane, after several hours of jet-lagged flying the novelty wore off and both kids were literally dragging along threatening to lie down in random airport passageways and we were so laden with carry-ons there was nothing we could do to help. On subsequent trips we’ve brought along an extra roller suitcase that holds both their small backpacks plus spare outfits and toiletries and snacks for the plane and even our camera. The goal was to ensure that between husband and I we could carry all the bags and the (large, heavy) children if needed… which it was!
Wonderful tip! Thanks for sharing Amy.
So smart! I totally love all of these myself haha!
Me too… I need stuff to keep me happy on a plane!
I do not have a toddler, but I still feel like I want a bunch of things on this list! haha I feel like they would definitely be helpful with a little one while traveling! I have shared this for my friends with kids!
Adults get bored on planes too…and many of these things apply to us as well!
I so appreciate when parents are able to keep their kids entertained and quiet and well-behaved on flights! Thanks for these great tips (we all thank you!).
Preparation is key, and a little luck sometimes as well 🙂
Wow! I didn’t know about the free check for strollers and car seats. I would probably add an easy puzzle to our bag. One of the only thing my son sits down for.
Oh yes, puzzles are good – thanks for adding that suggestion!
Very useful tips..my kid was struggling with the seatbelt too. The air hostess almost lost her cool before I could buckle in my kid.
Yikes! One of our kids struggled on several flights, but luckily, the other three have been good about the seat belts, because that’s hard.