The biggest travel parenting mistake I’ve witnessed is parents simply being unprepared for traveling with their tots. If you are traveling with an active toddler on an airplane, you need lots to entertain your little one packed in your carry on bag.
After many plane flights with my daughter, I’ve developed extensive infant and toddler packing lists the past few years. Here’s the first installment of my packing list – tried and true items I carry aboard airplanes with my three year old.
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Toddler Packing List for Carry on Bags
- Crayons & coloring/activity books: Triangular crayons work best for airplanes, as they won’t roll off an airline tray table. My daughter also loves the Play Pack coloring books that come packaged with a small set of crayons included.
- Wet Wipes: I’m not a germaphobe, but planes are nasty. I wipe down the tray table with Wet Wipes as soon as we board because I know that my daughter will be touching it a lot and (gasp!) even placing food directly on it. It’s also a good idea to wipe down armrests and seat belts for good measure.
- iPad: The best toddler travel invention ever. Load it with a few of your child’s favorite movies or TV shows and even some apps that your little one will like. I’ve found that the iPad mini works especially well for toddlers. If the cost of an iPad or other tablet is prohibitive, consider getting a portable DVD player as those can be purchased much more cheaply these days.
- Toddler earphones: There is nothing that drives me crazier as a passenger than hearing other passengers’ movies or video game sounds. Don’t bother your seatmates and give traveling parents a bad name… get your child some earphones to block the noise. Kidz Gear is a brand that has held up well for our family and comes with a volume restricting adapter to protect little ears.
- New small toys: Stop by the Target dollar section or the Dollar Tree the week before your trip to load up on small and inexpensive distractions. Whenever possible, I like to try to get a toy related to the destination we are visiting (for example, something Mickey or Minnie related when we take a Disneyland trip).
- Snacks: Bring double the snacks you will think you will need in case of delays or just an exceptionally hungry day. Kids can be picky and may not like the offerings on the plane or in the airport. Don’t worry so much about perfect nutrition but rather what will keep your child quiet and occupied. My rules on treats are definitely relaxed when we travel – I regularly bring gummy snacks and cookies for tough moments. (Need snack ideas? Check out my post on 50 snack ideas for kids on airplanes.)
- Drinks: The TSA liquid restrictions make travel with milk and juice a bit challenging, but you should know that if you are traveling with an “infant or small child,” you can bring some liquids aboard above the three ounce limit. I like to travel with ultra-pasteurized milk boxes from Organic Valley or Horizon and with a juice box or two (see my tips for air travel with toddlers and milk). You can always also bring an empty water bottle or sippy cup and fill it after you pass through security.
- Stuffed animal, lovey, and/or blanket: If your child is going to be traveling at nap time or on a redeye flight, bring the items that he or she would use at home for sleeping. Plus, planes can be cold and a blanket might come in handy even if your child doesn’t nap.
- Extra clothes: I always travel with extra clothes for my child. There’s always a chance of a diaper leak or explosion for younger toddlers or a potty training accident for the older ones. You may also want to consider extra clothes for yourself if your child is prone to collateral damage.
- Ziploc bags: Great for holding and containing food wrappers or soiled clothing or diapers.
- Small towel: I bring a small hand towel aboard most flights to have at the ready for spills. Those airplane napkins don’t cut it when something really disastrous happens.
Don’t forget to check out my MASTER packing list for all ages and stages of travel.
Need more toddler travel advice? Check out these related articles:
- Favorite Toddler Travel Gear
- Where Should My Baby or Toddler Sleep On Our Travels?
- Air Travel with Toddlers and Milk
- The Lap Child Debate: Should You Buy an Airline Seat for Your Infant or Toddler?
- Car Seats on Airplanes: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
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