A Comprehensive List of What to Bring on a Flight With Children:
What to Pack for a Flight With Kids: A Complete Checklist
1. Travel Documents
First and foremost, one of the things that you need to pack when flying with kids are your travel documents. These would include your passport, ID and flight tickets. If you’re traveling internationally, don’t forget your visa or any other required documents as per the country’s immigration laws.
If your children are traveling for the first time, keep in mind that they will also require their own travel documents such as a passport. Depending on the circumstances, you might even need consent forms or letters from the other parent if they are not coming with you.
Perhaps, you are a seasoned traveler and always remember to take these essential items. But in the chaos of planning a family trip and trying to keep the kids calm and excited at the same time, even the best of us can forget.
Here’s what happened once. Before we left for our family trip to Canada, I had ensured that I’d packed everything needed for the holiday. However, as we reached the airport, I realized that I had forgotten my younger son’s passport at home. This resulted in a panic-stricken trip back home amidst peak traffic hours, ensuring we nearly missed our flight!
- Passport for all family members
- Valid ID proofs
- Signed and stamped Visa documentation if needed
- Airline tickets/boarding passes
- Consent forms or letters, if necessary
- Hotel reservation confirmations
Second on the checklist for flying with kids should be an assortment of their favorite snacks. While airplanes do provide meals and refreshments, children can get cranky and peckish during long flights. It’s always helpful to have a small supply of familiar and comforting snacks at hand.
Plus, airlines’ meal schedules may not always align with your kids’ usual eating times. Having snacks on hand can prevent crankiness associated with hunger and help keep your kids occupied during the trip.
Remember to pack snacks that are non-messy, not too sugary to avoid a post-snack energy overdrive in the confined airplane conditions, and those that won’t get squished easily.
Consider this: On our last trip, we packed small boxes of raisins, cheese cubes, carrot sticks, crackers, and some homemade muffins. This ensured they had something to snack on whenever they felt like it. Plus, these were healthy and their familiar flavors helped soothe any in-flight anxieties as well.
- Raisins or other dried fruits
- Cheese cubes or string cheese
- Carrot sticks or cucumber slices
- Crackers or rice cakes
- Homemade muffins or banana bread slices
- A couple of their preferred candy or chocolate bars to serve as incentives when needed
3. Comfort Items
Traveling can be an overwhelming experience for young kids. Between unfamiliar surroundings and a disrupted routine, they might feel anxious and unsettled. This is where comfort items come into play. Packed in your carry-on, these could include soft toys, blankets, or a special item that your child finds reassuring.
Furthermore, comfort items also play a crucial role when it comes to helping your child nap or sleep comfortably on the plane. A favorite teddy bear, blankie or pillow can make a world of difference.
Be sure not to forget these items, as buying replacements at airports can be quite expensive. But more than the expense, the new items might not offer the same sense of familiarity and assurance to your child.
Just think about it. On one occasion, we forgot to bring along our daughter’s favorite bunny plushie. The entire flight was a constant struggle to keep her calm and handle her tantrums. Ever since then, double-checking if ‘Bunny’ is packed has been the first thing we do before leaving for any trip!
- A beloved soft toy
- Comfort blanket
- Favorite small pillow
- Child’s preferred book
- Baby pacifier, if your child uses one
- Special trinket or item of sentimental value that reassures your child
Long haul flights can get quite boring, especially for active kids. To counter this, ensure you have enough entertainment options packed in your bag. These could include story books, coloring sets, card games or their preferred hand-held electronic gaming device.
Moreover, while many airlines provide in-flight entertainment systems, they may not always have kid-friendly options. Or, your children might simply prefer their own familiar games or shows more.
Remember: technology can be a lifesaver during flights, but don’t forget to pack headphones (preferably noise-cancelling ones) so your kids can enjoy their games or movies without disturbing other passengers.
Our tip? Take advantage of apps designed for different ages that reduce the amount of physical things you have to carry for entertainment. On our last trip, my sons were engaged for hours with an engaging interactive app on their iPads that kept them learning while having fun at the same time.
- Favourite storybooks
- Activity books or coloring sets
- Travel-sized board games
- Handheld gaming devices with charger
- Tablet with pre-downloaded games and movies – don’t forget the headphones!
- Card games such as UNO or Go Fish
5. Change of Clothes
No matter the age of your kids, carrying a change of clothes in your carry-on bag is always a good idea. Spills, accidents or just the mere discomfort from sitting in the same clothes for long hours can be taken care of with a fresh set.
Additionally, packing an extra layer like a sweater or sweatshirt is advisable as it can get quite chilly on board a flight. You might also want to consider packing pajamas for longer flights to make sleep time easier.
A cautionary tale I remember is when my friend’s son spilled orange juice all over himself and his mother, halfway into their eight-hour flight. The extra clothing she had packed was a great relief!
- Spare set of clothes for each child
- A spare T-shirt for the adult(s), because accidents don’t discriminate
- Additional jacket/sweatshirt as flights can get cold
- Pajamas for overnight flights
- Spare underwear
- Extra pair of socks
6. Hygiene Essentials
While airplane bathrooms are equipped with basic hygiene essentials, it’s always best to carry your own, especially those required for children. Baby wipes, hand sanitizers, tissues, face masks and travel-sized toiletries are some things you should pack in your carry-on.
In particular, baby wipes can serve multiple purposes like cleaning hands and faces, wiping surfaces, or even refreshing yourself during a long flight.
Remember also that the air in planes can be dry, so carry some lip balm and moisturizer. And don’t forget the most critical item in current times – a mask for everyone above two years of age!
I fondly remember one incident where we faced a rather dubious situation where the plane’s washroom had run out of soap. Thanks to the hand sanitizer we had in our bag, none of us had to compromise on hygiene.
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizers
- Tissues or pocket-sized toilet rolls
- Face masks for each family member
- Travel-sized toiletries like toothpaste, soap, shampoo etc.
- Lip balm and moisturizer
7. Baby Essentials
If you’re traveling with an infant, you need to be ready for everything. Diapers (more than you think you might need), baby food, formula milk, a feeding bottle, pacifiers – all these must go in your carry-on.
Apart from these items, packing some ziplock bags can also be a boon. They are perfect for storing dirty clothes, used diapers or even leftover snacks. Versatility at its best!
Trust me on this one! I thought I’d packed enough diapers for my then six-month-old during a short 4-hour flight. But surprisingly, we somehow ran out! The experience ended up being quite awkward and uncomfortable till we managed to land and buy more diapers.
- Adequate numbers of diapers
- Baby food and utensils
- Formula milk and bottles
- Pacifiers and extra pacifier clips
- Ziplock bags
- Baby blanket
Packing a small first aid kit with basic medication is always wise, especially when children are involved. Band-aids, antiseptic cream, pain relief drugs, medicine for common issues like cold and flu or upset stomach should be there in your travel kit.
In case any of your children is on specific medication, don’t forget to pack that too.
Also, remember to keep all the medications in their original packaging with clear labels, so there are no issues during security checks.
Remembering a past trip where my older son caught a cold, we were grateful we’d packed some common cold medicine. It helped us avoid a late-night pharmacy run in an unfamiliar city.
- Basic first aid supplies (antiseptic wipes, band-aids)
- Pain relievers and fever reducers
- Medicine for common cold and flu
- Stomach ache or anti-diarrheal medicine
- Allergy medication, if applicable
- Essential prescriptions specific to your children
9. Portable Charger
In this digital age, a portable charger is a must-have while traveling. Children nowadays often have electronic devices to keep them entertained, and you certainly wouldn’t want these to run out of charge in the middle of the flight.
Similarly, having your phone charged at all times is of utmost importance. Whether it’s for communication, navigation, or just about anything else, keep a portable charger handy.
It’s amusing to recall how my kids staged an impromptu ‘horror movie’ session on their tablets during our landing delay once. To our surprise, their drama had most surrounding passengers joining in the laughter too!
- Portable charger big enough to handle your devices
- Usual charging cables for all devices
- Adapters, in case of international travel
- Travel-friendly power strip, especially for families with multiple devices
- Spare batteries for any non-rechargeable items
- Headphone splitter if kids will share a device
Lastly, there are a few miscellaneous items that can come in handy when traveling with kids. These include plastic bags for dirty clothes or trash, a pen for filling out custom forms, a bottle of water (which you can fill after passing security), and any other thing that your child may need on the flight.
Recalling the ever-famous incident when my daughter had an unexpected motion-sickness episode, we surely sighted the importance of carrying some extra plastic bags along!
- Plastic bags for dirty clothes or trash
- A pen for filling custom forms
- Refillable water bottle
- Comfortable footwear for walking through large airports
- Neck pillows for longer flights
- Sunglasses, if you’re landing somewhere sunny immediately after the flight!
Here’s a little table to summarize everything up before your next family trip.
|Passport, Visa, Plane tickets, ID proofs, Consent forms
|Dried fruits, Cheese sticks, Crackers, Homemade muffins, Candy bars
|Soft toys, Blankets, Pillows, Pacifier, Sentimental item
|Storybooks, Activity sets, Board games, Electronic devices
|Spare clothes, Underwear, Socks, Jacket/sweatshirt, Pajamas
|Sanitizers, Wipes, Masks, Travel-sized toiletries, Moisturizer
|Diapers, Baby food, Bottles, Pacifiers, Ziplock bags, Baby blanket
|First aid kit, Pain relievers, Cold medicine, Prescription medicines
|Portable charger, Charging cables, Adapters, Spare batteries
|Plastic bags, Pen, Water bottle, Comfortable footwear, Neck Pillows
Being prepared for every possible scenario helps ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey for everyone. So, next time you plan to fly with kids, remember to refer to this detailed packing checklist. May your trip be as pleasant as the skies you’re flying under! Happy Journey!