Flying with kids is a means to an end. You want to visit friends and family? Explore your country? See the world? You may have to get on an airplane. While being trapped in a tiny row with your toddler isn’t an exciting prospect for any parent, it’s manageable and can even be (relatively) painfree.
I’m a mom of two and I live in a different country than all my family. My husband’s family is spread out across the U.S. So, we fly a lot. My daughter was only three months old for her first flight. In her four years on earth, she’s been on about 15 flights, half of which she and I did solo.
She’s now a big sister, a transition that, among many things, has ushered my husband and me into the world of flying with two kids. Having the means to fly with our kids is wonderful but also expensive and stressful. Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way as we’ve logged our miles and tried to black out memories of flight delays.
Below I’ve broken down some of our favorite must-haves when traveling for your kids and you. While none of the items can help you avoid lost luggage or delayed flights, they can make flying with kids – dare we say – enjoyable. Okay, maybe that’s going too far. But flying with kids is doable and will make you appreciate it the next time you fly solo and watch an entire movie by yourself. Heaven!
TRAVELING WITH BABIES
Traveling with a baby can feel daunting and terrifying. What if they cry the whole flight? What if they never sleep? What if you run out of diapers/formula/onesies/sanity? I get it and some of those things may happen. You will make it through the flight with a little preparation, some useful products, and a deep breath. But always pack a few extra onesies.
Ergobaby All Carry Positions Breathable Mesh Baby Carrier with Enhanced Lumbar
BEST BABY CARRIER
A baby carrier is a must-have when traveling with infants and toddlers. You can keep your little one strapped to you while going through security and they may even sleep in the carrier while you’re flying. The Ergobaby Omni Breeze is a great travel option because it works in every carrying position, can be used for newborns and toddlers, is breathable and has a fanny pack that will fit passports, a phone and more.
Read More: The Best Baby Carriers For Moms and Dads
Ergobaby All Carry Positions Breathable Mesh Baby Carrier with Enhanced Lumbar
$200.00 16% Off
Bumkins Waterproof Wet Bag
BEST WET DRY BAG
Maybe it will be you, maybe it will be your baby, but someone at some point during your flight will get puked/pooped on. Have a place to store soiled clothes with the Bumkins Waterproof Wet Bag.
BEST BABY BOOKS
There’s a fine balance when traveling between being prepared for every situation and not overloading your bag. The Indestructibles book series is perfect for parents of babies and toddlers. Their books live up to their name and are rip and chew-proof, non-toxic and washable. Plus, they are so light you won’t even realize they’re in your carry-on.
Skip Hop Pronto Baby Changing Station & Diaper Clutch
BEST FOR DIAPER CHANGES
The Mile High Club has to be a myth because I can barely fit myself and my tiny baby into an airplane bathroom. Don’t even think about trying to bring your diaper bag in with you as well. Instead, use a changing pad like the Skip Hop Pronto Baby Changing Station & Diaper Clutch, which has a spot for wipes, diapers, and a onesie for backup (always have a backup).
JuJuBe Be Right Back Unisex Travel Backpack
BEST DIAPER BAG
Several great diaper bags are available for parents, but the JuJuBe Be Right Back Unisex Travel Backpack is my top recommendation for travel. I’ve had mine for five years, two kids, and about 15 plane rides and it still looks new. It’s comfortable, and has tons of space for their stuff and mine, including a padded laptop section. It has a full-zip opening for ease of use and a unisex design that works for my husband and me.
Read More: The Best Diaper Bags for Dads
BEST JUST IN CASE ITEM
Even if your little one is feeling great when you leave for the airport, a fever or teething pain can pop up at any time. Be prepared with a small container of Infants’ Tylenol.
EmBeba Soothing Skin Balm
Airplanes can dry out your baby’s skin, your big kid’s skin and your skin. We like the EmBeba Soothing Skin Balm, which is safe for infants, kids and adults and can immediately add moisture and help soothe irritated skin just about anywhere on the body, from lips to toes. SPY has received a sample of the EmBeba and we liked that it has a mess-free application and is safe for the whole family.
Nuna Pipa Lite RX
BEST CAR SEAT FOR BABIES
Car seats, specifically which to buy and what to do with them (gate check? carry on board?) are easily one of the most stressful parts of traveling with kids. If you can swing it financially, buying a seat for your baby or toddler under 2 will make it a much more pleasant flight for you. The Nuna Pipa Lite RX is one of the most travel-friendly infant car seats. It weighs only 6.9 pounds, making it lightweight for carrying through airports. It’s also FAA certified for aircraft and safe for use in cars without its base.
TRAVELING WITH TODDLERS AND BIG KIDS
The toddler stage can be one of the most difficult travel periods since little ones want to be on the go and may not be able to sit still for extended periods. Thankfully, several products can help keep kids entertained during long flights. When in doubt, bring out the snacks.
Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet
BEST KIDS TABLET
Read More: The Best Kids Tablets
Every parent has their own feelings about how much screen time if any, is appropriate. The old saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” can be updated for traveling with kids. “Screen time when on an airplane stays on the airplane.” Sure, you might not let your kid watch four straight hours of Peppa Pig when you’re at home but flying with kids is about survival – yours and theirs.
iClever TransNova Kids Bluetooth Headphones
BEST HEADPHONES FOR KIDS
My kid has used the iClever TransNova Kids Bluetooth Headphones for multiple flights and never complained about their fit, which is one of her favorite pastimes. I especially like this model because it has volume controls for parents and can be used in wireless Bluetooth mode or corded, making it great for tablets and use with the airplane’s in-flight video system. It also includes detachable plates; my kid loves picking which plates she can display for her next trip.
BEST LITTLE KID WATER BOTTLE
Read More: The Magic Leakproof Thermos
Nothing derails the perfectly packed carry-on like a leaking water bottle. I’ve previously written about my love for the Thermos Funtainer and highly recommend it for travel.
Skip Hop Baby Snack Container
BEST SNACK CONTAINER
It’s usually pretty evident which seats were occupied by families with young children by the end of a flight. Try to contain your mess and your kid’s snacks with the Skip Hop Baby Snack Container, which has a flexible lid that kids can put their hands through to grab their snacks.
BEST FAMILY SUBSCRIPTION
We don’t need to explain why reading to kids is great or that books are HEAVY and not fun to lug when running through an airport. Scrib is a new subscription service that works for the whole family. It has magazines, podcasts, audiobooks and e-books, including books for babies and activity books for children.
Skillmatics Marvel Card Game
BEST CARD GAME
I limit my kids to two toys per flight because LBR they mostly just watch their tablets. The Skillmatics Marvel Card Game is a great option for big kids because they can play together and it’s a game you’ll want to play with them as well. SPY received a sample of the Skillmatics game and we can confirm it is much more fun than eye-spy. Everything is more fun than eye-spy.
Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Activity Books Set
BEST ACTIVITY FOR LITTLE KIDS
The Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Activity Books Set is another airplane-approved toy in our house because it is lightweight and fun for my kids and lightweight and reusable and lightweight. Don’t even think of bringing a toy with heft on an airplane.
Slumberkins 14″ Kin & Board Book
You can bring your kids’ favorite stuffy on the airplane, but that does come with the risk of losing the stuffed animal and dealing with a hysterical 3-year-old for a five-hour flight. Gifting your little one a new stuffy is another option. SPY received a sample of the Slumberkins line and we love the ultra-soft stuffies, which each come with a corresponding book. The Alpaca promotes stress relief, another helpful tool for nervous fliers.
Snacks are crucial to a happy flight for you and your kids. While it may seem like a great idea to pack your bag with treats that will keep them happy, sugar highs and crashes are very real and un-fun when you’re trapped on a plane. Instead, opt for healthy snacks that won’t result in a big mess if dropped and, if possible, can be shared by little and big kids. Also, don’t introduce new snacks. Allergic reactions while trapped on a plane are also un-fun. A few suggestions:
SpoonfulONE Early Allergen Introduction Puffs
The SpoonfulONE Early Allergen Introduction Puffs are an excellent option for travel because they come in individual bags. SPY received a sample of the puffs and we are impressed with the healthy flavor variety. My 10-month-old can’t get enough of these and my 4-year-old likes them too, a rare situation I call a win-win.
Mott’s Snack & Go Applesauce
Applesauce and yogurts in pouches are great because they cut down on mess and can be enjoyed by little and big kids. Plus, they’re small enough so that they won’t be flagged by TSA.
Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites
My kids love these, I love these, and it’s the easiest way to eat healthy while traveling without having squished fruit at the bottom of your bag. SPY received a sample of these and we can confirm that healthy can also be yummy.
YumEarth Organic Lollipops
BEST FOR POPPED EARS
I know I said to limit sugar, but these organic lollipops have a pretty low sugar content and sucking on a lollipop can help kids relieve pressure in their ears during take-off and landing. Plus, candy is great for bribes when flying with kids.
You may be so busy packing for your kids that you’ve forgotten some necessities for yourself. Happy, rested and stress-free parents are the best parents and while you may not be able to achieve all three things while flying with kids, these items will help to at least check off two out of three.
Level Tech Tee
Traveling with kids is a marathon that also includes the occasional sprint. It’s a sweaty endeavor, which is why we recommend dressing in a moisture-wicking shirt like the Level Tech Tee from Four Laps. It’s made with 37.5 Technology and porous volcanic sand that pulls sweat out of the shirt and it has cooling properties, so you can literally keep cool while traveling. It will help to vent heat on warm flights and hold heat if the pilot is pumping the AC. Packing a backup shirt for yourself is also smart, especially if you have a baby prone to puking.
JLab Epic Sport Air Earbuds
Read More: Most Comfortable Headphones of 2022
If you’ve got older kids who can watch their tablet for an extended period, pack your over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones and enjoy yourself. If your kids are still in the baby/toddler stage, don’t waste the real estate space in your carry-on. Instead, pack smaller earbuds, like the JLAB Epic Sport Air Earbuds, and keep your fingers crossed that you may get in half a podcast.
Anker PowerCore 20,100mAh Portable Charger
BEST PORTABLE CHARGER
Read More: The Best Anker Portable Chargers
Hell hath no fury like a 6-year-old whose tablet died mid-Paw Patrol episode. Keep everyone’s devices charged from takeoff to landing with the Anker PowerCore 20,100mAh Portable Charger, which can charge two devices at once.
If you manage to get your baby to sleep/older kids occupied, enjoy some “me time” on the flight with the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s the lightest way to carry a huge library of books at once, it’s backlit so you won’t disturb sleeping kids, and it’s waterproof, a must-have feature for literally everything you own as a parent. Kids get everything wet.
OLIKA Ultra Hydrating Hand Sanitizer
Is there a more germ-filled experience than flying with kids? Probably not. There are approximately 1 million hand sanitizers, but I especially like Olika’s hand sanitizers. SPY received a sample of the Olika sanitizers and we like that they are refillable, most come with a clip to attach to backpacks, they are moisturizing and use conscious ingredients, the fragrance isn’t overpowering, and my kids like the cute bird-like designs but haven’t mastered pushing the spray button. So, it’s also a toy.
Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle with Flex Sip Lid
BEST COFFEE AND WATER TUMBLER
Traveling with kids is when you need coffee the most, yet it is the most difficult time to drink it. If you’re carrying babies/toddlers/all the luggage, you don’t have a free hand to hold your much-needed and overpriced latte. Get your coffee before boarding and transfer it to the leakproof Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle with Flex Sip Lid, which will keep your beverage hot until you can safely sip. Hopefully, that happens before you land.
Hydralyte Hydration Plus Immune System Boost Vitamin C
BEST HYDRATION HELPER
Coffee is key to flying with kids but staying hydrated is also key to flying with kids. Hydrate and boost your immunity against travel germs with Hydralyte Hydration Plus Immune System Boost Vitamin C.
UNREAL Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Being a parent and showing your kids the world through travel is a privilege. It’s also expensive and exhausting and you deserve a piece of chocolate. SPY received a sample of these and now I always pack UNREAL Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups when flying with my kids. The chocolates are great because they are individually sealed for on the go and come in red packaging, so I can tell my kids they are spicy and therefore won’t like them.