Think you’ve got your packing strategy mastered? Know how you’ll be getting yourselves to the plane? I bet one of the things you’ve pondered over for the longest though is
WHAT TO PACK IN MY TODDLER’S PLANE BAG!
Well, today you’re going to get the inside scoop – exactly what will be going into my kids carry-on bags this summer – particularly Master J who will just be turning 2.
If you want more about tackling the actual flying experience with toddlers, don’t forget to check back with our earlier post 10 Toddler Flying Mistakes to Avoid.
The Bag – what should your toddler carry on the airplane?
Before even contemplating what to put everything in remember this. YOU WILL END UP CARRYING IT.
You might find it helps to separate things from your own carry on bag (with essentials like nappy’s, wipes, bottles, snacks) so that your tot can independently explore their toys – but remember size, weight and practicality are far more important than looks!
We will be using these cute little Beatrix NY backpacks. They come in two sizes which is great, my bigger kids (4 & 6 years old) who are used to carrying a school bag will have the “Big Kid” ones which can include their iPads and headphones, while the smaller “Little Kid” one – less susceptible to overpacking – will be used by Master J. I will also carry the “grown-up backpack” – more below!
Essential toys for toddlers on a plane
As I mentioned in my previous toddler flying advice post – no amount of toys can guarantee that a toddler (we’re talking around the 15 month – 30 month age bracket) will be kept entertained for any length of time on a flight.
It really is mission impossible and this toddler crowd; they really are a tough bunch to please. Especially if you don’t want anything too large, noisy, disruptive. Basically anything short of a bicycle with bells on it misses the mark as far as our Master J is concerned; he’s a seriously tough, fidgety travel companion!
So in more hope than anticipation they will work, our toddler plane bag this year will contain:
- 1. The bag itself – see above
- 2. A small action figure – obviously check for age appropriateness. My little guy loves gripping little toys like this and playing along with his siblings, something bigger and chunkier may be more appropriate for your toddler but base it on their age and interests.
- 3. iPad/tablet – by no means a miracle worker for young toddlers that haven’t mastered the touch screen yet but with some guidance, this one might work this time – I haven’t bothered with headphones as I know he won’t keep these on – see more below.
- 4. Nice chunky pencils – pencils or crayons that they can easily grip are the best. I know flying with Etihad on all our legs we will get new kids activity packs that will include paper for drawing on but the pencils are too small for a toddler. Avoid anything round that will roll to the floor – look for triangle/hexagon type shapes.
- 5. Water-wow book – hands down the best type of trvael toy for this age group. The amount of water needed to fill the “magic pen” is minimal so don’t worry too much about spillages, the magic picture appears coloured in, then fades and you can start again. Desperately worried about spillages (or lost the magic pen)? the good news is you can either colour these in with a wet-wipe!
- 6. Simple stickers – these come with a use with caution inclusion! I haven’t been able to find a small reusable sticker book this year so got some very straight forward easy-to-peel type – though you will in all likelihood still need to help a toddler – reuseable stickers are undoubtedly better.
- 7. A lovie – essential for those all-important naps they’re going to take during the flight, right?
- 8. Post-it notes – entertainment doesn’t get simpler than this. Peel them, write on them, stick them all over the chair or window. These are amazingly simple and mess-free to clean up compared with stickers.
- 9. Little cars – again this might vary by your child’s interests but what little boy doesn’t enjoy making vroom-vroom noises? A couple of ideas here – very simple Lego car and one that can also float in the bath, a real bonus for bath time at destination!!
- 10. A finger puppet book – I think this one is highly optimistic of me, what a lot of tots are completely engaged by books, especially ones that can move and be chewed! Master J has shown very little interest until now but I live in hope. His big siblings love singing along with him so this is more for them!
You can check each of these out in our Amazon store for toddler travel gear or products linked here for your shopping convenience
For more toy inspiration you can also read these great guides:
- Best airplane toys for babies
- Best travel toys to pack for your 1-year-old
- Best travel toys to pack for a 2-year-old
- Best travel toys to pack for a 3-year-old
- Best travel toys for kids of all ages
- Best toddler travel toys for long road trips
What did we leave out of our toddlers plane bag?
I think this is a far more pertinent question than what’s going in!! If you haven’t read my ranty post on our band in-air substances for toddlers, go check this out, you’ll thank me I promise!
Due to the size of our bags, I have left out several large books that may have made the cut if I had my husband’s big bag and carrying power:
- The airport “lift the flap” book is a family winner, and we’ll be reading it a lot in the lead up to our flight I am sure. Instead, try a cloth book that can fold up much smaller.
- All my kids like the “look and find” style books – on a cooperative day they will actually do these together, even Master J understands now and tries to join in.
- And a reusable sticker, tell a story style book – even the youngest of fingers can get to grip with these, and they are fairly easier to clean up than permanent stickers.
Other Toddler Supplies for travelling
Of course, there are far more toddler needs than just toys! The toddler supply items will go into my bag (along with tickets, passports, money… etc, etc). If you’ve already accepted you will likely be doing all the carrying then these items could be packed together with the toys.
Snack essentials -Especially if your child is under 2 and won’t be served a plane meal, or you know they’ll be fussy with the onboard selection. Try to keep them in different spots of your bag or hidden to make the experience last longer! As beautiful as those fishing tackle boxes of colourful snacks might look on Pinterest, show a toddler that in one go and they will promptly up-end the box, I promise you. Squeezy packets for on the go like Ella’s are great, small dried fruits, crackers. Avoid foods that are overly sugary – we have a complete guide to great healthy toddler snacks here.
Bottles – if you are still on bottle-feeding, bring formula supplies with you. You can try to bring a thermos with water but this may be excluded in some security checks – certainly flights in/out of the US will only allow bottled breast milk which is screened – we have a complete guide to travelling with baby milk here.
Sippy Cup – if they give you a juice or water in a little plane cup, tips these into a sippy (despite any protests) to save spillage. Avoid bottles that are susceptible to cabin pressure
Diaper change – as quick and convenient a bag as possible. If you’ve ever changed a diaper on board you’ll know by toddler time this is airplane origami. Try and master the standing change on the toilet lid before you go! Wrap around diaper are easier than pull-ups where you don’t need to take pants/trousers off completely.
Medical kit – don’t need to go overboard but it’s sod’s law you don’t bring something, they’ll need it. A small number of sticky plasters, sterile wipe. Here’s our complete guide to what should go in a family travel first aid kit.
Spare clothes – never assume you can go without these! We try to stick to neutrals now that can be missed around among siblings but always at least one spare top and bottom, and if its a long flight and you have space, through the pajamas in too.
Keeping toddlers entertained
I can’t stress enough that the toddler group is tough to travel with, especially long-haul where there’s no escape. Here are just a few ideas to bear in mind to try and make the experience more pleasant and use what is around you – for more ideas visit our page GETTING THROUGH THE FLIGHT
- Plan your flights and seats well – overnight if possible when they should be sleepy, and if possible sitting somewhere on the aircraft you may be able to spread beyond your allocated seats.
- Exhaust them to the extent you can before boarding, let them run around and explore. If possible to split your group only have one adult pre-board to set things up and the other exhaust until doors need to close.
- Explore the in-flight seat pockets – do “look and find” in the in-flight magazine, make up stories, read the safety card, use the barf bag as a hand puppet.
- Befriend passengers and crew around you! If they can see your child is not the complete devil then maybe they will happily play with them for 5-10 minutes. Note they are not a babysitting service though, but nor should you feel the need to “hand out gifts” or any other bollocks with your fellow passengers.
RELATED READING: 10 Commandments of family air travel
Graduation to pre-schooler; more plane bag options
Once you are past those trying toddler flying days, plane entertainment options truly do open up. Here are some examples of what I have packed for our 4 and 6-year-olds. A new sticker and activity book can be an absolute winner, along with more advanced scratching, sticking, decorating games.
Do still try to avoid very small parts that can roll under chairs – and note if you are travelling with a toddler as well, they will be hell-bent on destroying any peaceful activity you create with your older tot.
For the more crafty of you, head over to our Pinterest board for more on activity bags.
Please do be warned, I can’t stress enough don’t overpack activities for toddlers. Sure they might all be good ideas that your kids love, but feel you need to use all your ‘great ideas’ for one flight. Nobody wants a pipe cleaner incident on their hands…. And keep a couple of ‘new’ exciting items for the return trip too.
So do you agree? Are there any other mustn’t miss items in your toddlers plane bags? Have you found that winning entertainment solution?
For more on preparing for family travel and what to pack, make sure you sign up to be a part of the Globetrotter community and you can receive you FREE Ultimate Family Travel Checklist
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