I always thought it was so cliche when people would say “enjoy every moment because kids grow up so fast.” Olivia is only a year and a half old, so it’s not like we woke up one day and all the sudden she’s 17. But our recent trip last weekend got me thinking back to her first flight. It seems like time has flown (literally) by. Since that first flight when she was just 3 months old we’ve learned so much about flying with kids and thought it would be helpful to put together a list of some of our favorite things to pack for every age.
Some Things WON’T be Flying with Kids
But before we get to the fun stuff, let’s talk about what NOT to pack. We know through experience to leave toys with a million pieces at home. They will fall on the floor and they will roll backwards five rows. Sorry, but your kiddo’s collection of tiny legos probably doesn’t make the cut no matter how much they love it. The caveat to this is toys that come in a neat little carrying travel tote. But more on that later.
Another thing to leave at home is foods prone to spillage. When Olivia was about 6-9 months, we actually tried to bring jars of baby food and spoons to feed her. What were we thinking? Rookie move. It only takes one time walking off the plane wearing more baby food than was actually eaten to quickly learn the lesson. These days there are so many travel pouch style baby foods (and formula) that are way less messy. They are lifesavers!
And lastly, our simple advice is don’t overpack. Clothes. Toys. Food. Of course you want to make sure you have enough of the basics like diapers and wipes, but you don’t need 10 outfits and 30 toys for a two hour flight. At first, we (ok – I) would pack every toy we (I) could manage to squeeze in the diaper bag. And she was totally over every last one about 15 minutes into the flight. You know what entertained her for the next two hours? Five plastic cups that were given to her by the flight attendant to build towers with. Sometimes simple is best.
Newborn (0 – 2 months)
Before we share our favorite products, let’s be clear that this list doesn’t cover essentials like diapers, wipes, burp cloths, food, etc. Instead we want to focus on things we didn’t initially think of, but after putting them into practice, flying with kids became so much easier. First up is the newborn stage.
I think this tops our list as our favorite baby product that we own. Not even just related to travel, but in general. It was literally the only thing Olivia would sleep in for the first few months of her life. And turns out, it’s the perfect carry on for the plane. We always get asked how we deal with naps/sleeping on the plane. The DockATot, that’s how. For a newborn, you can carry it on and spread it over your lap. Then your newborn can get some rest, while you have your hands free to do other things or squeeze in a nap yourself. Trust us – you won’t regret it.
Infant (2 months – 1 year)
Finding toys at this age to entertain an infant with a non-existent attention span is a challenge. Other than cups, magazines, and whatever else we could find on the plane, these books worked great. The interactive tags and textures are great for sensory play at this age. And for older babies, you can start to point to the pictures and develop words. We also love how soft they are, making them easy and compact to pack.
GB Pockit Stroller
It took us quite a while before we settled on the perfect stroller. There are a lot of options and we were never sure if we should bring a good one that would we would lose sleep over if it got damaged with checking it. Or go inexpensive knowing the wheels may fall off during our trip. So we looked for that sweet spot and found the GB Pockit Stroller. If you do a decent amount of traveling, this thing should be at the top of your list. Full disclosure – it’s not the most sturdy and I don’t know if I would walk around Disney World with it for 5 straight days – it is basically an umbrella stroller, after all. But it folds up to carry on size (and fits under the seat in front of you!) so you don’t have to worry about checking it. And it’s extremely lightweight. It makes flying with kids much, much easier.
Toddler (1-4 years)
Buckle Toys Backpack
We just got this for our little one and she is a year and a half. Why do we love this backpack so much? It’s multi-use because it’s practical, but also a form of entertainment. Younger toddlers are often very into buckles and this backpack has a whopping eight of them. They are great for entertainment because they are attached to the backpack, so you don’t have to worry about losing them. Plus, it introduces your kids to being responsible for their own carry on. We basically established a rule that any toys she wants to bring have to fit in her backpack.
Travel coloring book
Starting at about a year old, anything artsy is always a hit. But it’s often messy and hard to travel with. That’s why we like these Crayola Coloring Pads. They are perfect for travel, won’t leave a mess due to the invisible ink, and will keep the kiddos entertained for a good chunk of time. Leave the big art kits at home, and pack one of these instead.
Older kids (4 years and up)
JBuddies Foldable Headphones
For flying with kids over 4, we recommend a good old-fashioned pair of headphones. Except these have a few more bells and whistles than the traditional kind. They fold up nicely to make them perfect for travel. They have volume control and regulators to prevent kids from rocking out past a certain level. And they have a comfortable design to keep them lasting during the entire flight. Most kids this age are entertained by iPads and music, so we figure why reinvent the wheel?
How are you Flying with Kids?
And there ya have it! These are things that have worked well for us. Of course every child is different. Ours was into tags, buckles, and music. But yours may be into something completely different. Hopefully this gives you some ideas if you’re looking for things to pack beyond the basics. And if you have anything to add to this list, we’d love to hear about it!