One of the best ways to survive (and thrive) on long plane flights and distant travels with young kids is to be prepared. You’ll need supplies and lots of them: snacks, toys, and travel gear. Although that may mean carrying a little more stuff than you’d prefer, the extra few pounds are almost always worth it.
I’ve had the chance to try out lots of products for travel with kids at various ages and stages. I loving finding gear built with travel in mind – compact, lightweight, and efficient. Also important is finding these products at the right price while still maintaining quality. The kid travel years are short, and some of these products are only needed a handful of times. Parents need to get maximum value.
Here are my recommendations for some truly helpful and useful products for travel with kids that won’t break the bank. To make the list, the item’s recommended manufacturer’s price had to be under $20 or the product had to be available on major retail sites like Amazon.com or Target.com for under $20. I’ve included my recommendations for the appropriate ages and stages where the products work best.
(Key: B=Babies, T=Toddlers, P=Preschoolers, E=Elementary School Age Kids)
[Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links. See my full disclosures here.]
1) Kidz Gear Wired Headphones ($19.99): T, P, E
This is the most purchased kids travel item by Trips With Tykes readers, so it definitely gets top billing. Tablets and DVD players are a great way to keep kids entertained on long flights but don’t be that jerky parent who lets their kids annoy seatmates by watching movies or playing games without headphones! Common courtesy, people.
The Kidz Gear headphones come in several bright colors. Each pair also includes a volume restrictor attachment so your younger kids won’t cause hearing damage by cranking up the volume too high. My family owns two pair, so we’ve tested them for many years in the travel trenches with great success.
2) Cozy Cover On-The-Go Changing Pad ($12-13), B, T
I fell in love with this slim padded vinyl changing pad on my most recent travels (see my full review of the Cozy Cover On-The-Go Changing Pad). It’s the perfect size for changing diapers in tiny airplane bathrooms and doesn’t need washing while on the go. The price is so much better than many of the fancier diaper clutches on the market.
3) Triangular Crayons ($5-6): T, P, E
Ever had crayons roll off airplane tray tables? Did you spend time fishing them out from under nasty airplane seats? No more. Triangular crayons offer a simple solution to a common problem with only a few pennies more in cost.
4) Wikki stix ($4.95) P, E
Most craft supplies are a recipe for disaster on airplanes. To keep little fingers busy without mess, I always carry a few packs of Wikki stix, which are wax-like sticks that can be molded into 3D shapes. Plan to use Wikki stix a lot with multiple kids in a variety of situations? I highly recommend the assorted pack of 50 pouches for just $17.90. We raid our stash of these before each trip and have not yet run out.
5) Contigo Autoseal Kids Trekker Cup, Set of 2 ($11.99 for 2): P, E
Once my daughter outgrew sippy cups, we still needed to carry a drink container with a closed top to prevent airplane spills. Straw cups worked well on the ground but they turned into geysers when opened them on planes due to the pressure change. The Contigo Autoseal Trekker Cup is a great non-straw alternative. It truly doesn’t leak and is easy for kids to operate. In addition to using it for travel, it is our go-to water bottle in school lunches now.
6) Munchkin Snack Catchers ($4.49-$8.49): T, P, E
If you don’t want your airplane row to look like a Cheerio bomb went off when you deplane, you need to minimize the chances your toddlers and younger kids will drop snacks everywhere. Although snack catchers can’t prevent damage from a child purposefully throwing food, at least they minimize accidental spills.
7) Munchkin Duck Safety Baby Bath Tub ($16.99): B, T
It is really difficult to bathe babies and young toddlers in a big hotel bathtub without getting yourself drenched or risking your child’s safety. This inflatable tub makes the job much easier and doesn’t take up much space.
8) SippiGrip ($7.99): B, T
Tether your child’s bottle or sippy cup to your stroller, car seat, or high chair and never crawl under dirty airplane seats or restaurant tables again. A total no-brainer. See my full review of the SippiGrip here.
9) EarPlanes ($7.30): T, P, E
Toddlers usually have the toughest time with ear pain during air travel because they don’t yet know how to adjust to the pressure changes and many are no longer taking a bottle or pacifier to help. EarPlanes earplugs helps little ears (ages 1-10) adjust. These are especially important if your little one is flying with a cold or congestion.
10) Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tote ($10): T, P, E
Art is a great way to keep your little one busy in-flight without a screen, but mess is definitely a danger. The Crayola Color Wonder products are great because the markers only work on the special Color Wonder paper. This travel tote has space for four markers and a replaceable activity book.
11) Cozy Cover Easy Seat ($17): B, T
If you’ve ever found yourself in a vacation rental with no high chair for a squirmy toddler, you need this product (see my full review of the Easy Seat). It’s a cloth harness that turns a regular chair into a high chair. Competitor products costs $30 or more and are similarly-designed, so why not opt for the more inexpensive choice?
12) Bumkins Reusable Snack Bags (2 for $6.99): B, T, P, E
These reusable zip top bags are great for containing snacks or small toys. And no need to pack extra Ziplocs for the return trip because you can use them again!
13) Cool Gear Travel Potty ($19.99): T, P
Road trips and potty training don’t exactly go hand in hand. This little training potty is just the right size for kiddos still learning and ready for use as soon as you pull off the road (no nasty truck stop restrooms!). It uses disposable Ziploc-style bags as liners so you can seal up and throw away the mess.
14) Gate Check Stroller Bag ($17.99): B, T, P
Strollers that you check on the jet bridge aren’t exactly treated with kid gloves. Protect your stroller from dirt and grime with this simple cover. Our bag is now covered in grease stains after dozens of uses and that would have been on our stroller itself had we not used this product.
15) SkipHop Neck Rest ($12-$13): T, P, E
A kid-sized neck pillow to help your little one get some rest on your next flight. Comes in cute kid-friendly animal designs that match SkipHop’s luggage and lunchbox products.
16) Jeep Car Seat Bag ($14.55-$19.99): B, T, P
For the same reason you want to protect your stroller when you gate check it, you will also want to protect your car seat from grease and grime. This is one of the least inexpensive bags on the market. While it isn’t fancy or padded and doesn’t have wheels (ones with wheels cost more), the Jeep bag is made of fairly thick material protects against regular wear and tear.
17) Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray ($19.99): T, P, E
Long road trip coming up with a child in a convertible car seat? This tray gives them a surface on which to color, play, or snack, along with some pockets on the side for storing things within their reach.
18) The Shrunks Inflatable Bed Rail ($14.49): T, P
The hardest age for travel sleeping arrangements is with toddlers and preschoolers who are often too big for hotel cribs but who still don’t know how to sleep in an adult bed without falling out. You can often use pillows to keep them contained, but this inflatable bed rail that fits securely under the fitted sheet is a more reliable solution. (Insider tip: a swimming pool noodle serves the same function!)
19) Headphone splitter ($4): T, P, E
If you have more than one child but only one tablet or DVD player, you need a headphone splitter. It allows both kids to plug into the single device – no sibling rivalry needed. It has the added side benefit of potentially saving you money, as you only need to rent or buy one movie for two kids.
20) Wet Wipes ($1-2/pack): B, T, P, E
Last but definitely not least is the one item I never leave out of my carry on bag: Wet Wipes! Airplanes are nasty, germy places and you will need them for a variety of purposes like wiping down tray tables and arm rests and cleaning sticky fingers after snack time.
Need more travel gear recommendations? Check out all my travel gear posts, and follow my Pinterest board, Travel Gear for Kids.