Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to pack Kids for an airplane ~ or any mode of travel

I write this, what seems would be such a simple topic, because I have never found one online tutorial to help me out.

I feel i have become quite an expert in the area, because exactly one year ago we moved 1,600 miles from home in WI to our new home in Sandy UT. When my hubby was deciding to make the move, he made sure we would be able to travel back to WI quite often to see family and friends.

So in the past year my children have made somewhere around 12-16 flights. (not including connections...just the there and back portions)

All of these flights have gone exceptionally well, except for flight #10, which you can read about here. Be prepared to laugh, it is quite humorous, now at least, looking back. Not so funny at the time however.

Any which way, I had searched and searched online for ways to pack three small children (6months-5) and keep them quiet and entertained on the excursions. We all know of, and are possibly guilty of, "the look" that other passengers give a poor young family.

There was next to nothing to help me. So after many travels I have my system down to a snap. I figured I'd share it with you. My hopes for this particular blog post is to really get it out there and circulating for those who are looking for something to help them, because there IS a science to traveling with small children!

So here goes. (how to pack a baby is at the bottom)

1. You want a backpack with NOT too many openings. (we tried that) and the more openings = more confusion and less your children can do themselves.

2. You want it to be LIGHT so they can carry it themselves. My middle was 3 at the time and she could carry hers most of the way.

3. You want to have enough different choices to keep them busy over several hours.

4. You want to keep their tummies full.

5. Everything you have/purchase for travel should only be for travel, do NOT let them play with it any other time, or it WILL loose it's power!

Coloring book
Crayons, pencil, and pens
2 Reading books
Pillow Pet
Water Bottle
Small Pouch with food
Food ideas: Squeeze applesauce, granola bar, dried fruit, rice krispie bar, 100 calorie packs, kool aid single...
Small McDonald Toy
Small toy
Tic Tac or small candy

The backpack we got had one big pocket and one smaller one (with a few compartments with in it)

Then one of the smartest purchases you can make is a SMALL pillow pet (ONLY let them use it for travel, then he is always new to them) They will almost always pull him out and lay on him. And a few lucky times you may just get them to fall asleep when they weren't planning on it.

To go with the pillow pet should be a blanket. You can't always count on the airplane to have em, and really are you sure you want to? You never know who has used them previously.

Wal- mart has these children's lap blankets that fold up nice and small, yet cover the child for $4 in the baby isles. I HIGHLY suggest them. Surprisingly these blankets come in handy in more ways that one. A blanket for when the air is on. A towel in an emergency, a floor cover for when you flight is delayed and they can play and rest on a clean spot.

Next you want quiet activities that dont involve you! ALWAYS a hit with boys or girls would be a small notebook (think dollar store or target dollar spot) and a baggie full of stickers. Again the dollar store has a great selection (if the page is big cut it in half) and target and walmart both have $ .99 stickers.

The can draw you precious pictures like this...

Also the tried and true crayons and coloring book. Get them a neat little pencil bag and new crayons to put in it. (right now is a fabulous time to purchase all of this, and if you plan on traveling a lot pick up a few packs (new is always more fun!) Add a pencil and maybe some dollar store gel pens and they are set.

A child of any age can "read" so pack them two books (you really dont need more, we have found two is the perfect limit, otherwise you are just adding bulk and weight, in the end for YOU to carry) Make sure these books are the paper back ones because they are easy to find and light to carry.

Save up, if you can, McDonalds or fast food toys. They make GREAT surprise toys that are free and fun for your children to discover. (Also dollar store sunglasses make them feel "cool")

Another great thing to find, is search garage sales, or goodwill for a small but really "busy" toy. In a girls case (I have three) I found this small wooden doll set (two dolls and tons of clothing) for $ .10 at a garage sale. Probably the BEST $ .10 I have EVER spent! They play for hours!

Lastly your food needs:

I found a great little clutch bag for $1 on clearance which makes finding the food easy and it is cute, therefor fun for the girls. I fill it with "treats" that they don't normally get. They mostly get healthy stuff, so for the purpose of the trip, they get fun candy and treats. They keep themselves busy eating this stuff for at least a good half hour.

You want a portable water thing (again not too big) because you can't bring water on, but I usually end up wanting a bottle myself and then I can just pour a small amount for each of them.

Additionally I pack a kool- aid packet for emergency like, THE HORROR, a delayed plane.

I always make sure to include a few healthy snacks as well. Dried fruit is wonderful and the best is the squeeze applesauce. They don't need to be refrigerated and they are approved by TSA so you don't have to do anything but disclose you have em!

Notice the pillow pet and blanket in the first picture?
One last important note: See the zippers in the last picture. Oddly enough, this is very important! It makes getting the items out of the bag MUCH smoother and accessible for the children if you make sure to keep them this way.

You don't want to over stuff the bag because when it is time to get off the plane surely everything will just be THROWN into the bag, not nicely folded and put away. Remember you will be in a hurry to get to your connection/destination.


Packing a baby/early toddler for the airplane

There are only a few differences to remember with a baby.

1. Their ears, they will not like ascent or decent
2. The busier they are the less they are aware
3. Food keeps em busy
4. They count on you for protection and comfort

For the baby you DO want a bag with many compartments, makes it easier on you to keep items separated.

The tower to the left is the most wonderful amazing baby food container. It holds cheerios, fishie crackers, etc and each is a small separate bowl. I LOVE IT!!!
If you can't find something like that, a bag like the one above for the girls works just as well.

The best part, you CAN bring juice and "baby food" for your child on the plane!! TSA approved. The Gerber small yogurt and/or juice drinks are approved. As are happy baby squeeze baby foods! They all fit easily in your bag and don't require ANY hoopla for bringing it on the plane!

You will always want a lovey, and favorite blanket, for obvious reasons.

You want a nuk even if your baby doesn't use one, you might be surprised that he/she will with the up and down of an airplane. (KK never used one, until teething and airplanes)

Have a fun snack (if they are old enough) that they don't normally get, I like the BUG graham cookies, because they like to tell you what you have, and eat it. Animal crackers is another good one.

Make sure you have two cups/bottles however if you plan on a juice, you will need one for water too. (again if the baby is old enough)

Some great toys for airplane play are:
Make it yourself! (or buy it for about $15) a seek n find. (notice the rectangle above) it is rice filled with a bunch of tiny charms. Stitch clear coat and fleece together and there ya go!!

A toy car

A small quiet rattle, they love some noise.

A Lovey to play peek a boo. This can keep a baby entertained for over a half hour if played right (over the backs of the chair, peeking from under your leg etc)

A board book to read (one by baby Einstein is the best, it has mirrors on every page and every baby loves the "baby")

Again a McDonalds toy or small building blocks keep them busy if it is new. Stacking blocks (small) w0rk well too.

Dont forget the diapers, a FULL thing of wipes. NEVER EVER assume you will be safe. Diapers, for a three hour flight you should have at least 4 and more likely 5.

Have a change of outfit

And lastly some handi wipes, because if baby is old enough to eat, if you can let him/her do it themselves, it takes longer and that means more of your flight time. However that will result in messy hands that need to be wiped fast and easy.

Oh ok and a PS, two quart sized zip lock bats. One for a diaper you just might not find a garbage can for and it is a total blow out. And one for a dirty outfit that can't be cleaned and is covered in scoopable poop. Come on it CAN happen to you!!!

Ok so there you have it! If you have any questions at all PLEASE ask away. I would love to help anyone in need of travel advice! Not only do we have experience in air travel, but our first treck out here was by van...with three sad daughters, and three unhappy kitties! So please ASK AWAY!!

Hope I have helped someone!


  1. That's a lot of trips!!! What a great list! I'm going to have to reread this when we get brave enough to take a plane trip. I've always been so scared to have my 3-year-old and 18 mo. old trapped on a plane together. But, maybe it's doable.

  2. Trust me I was close! It was quite comical, however my hubby didn't appreciate my stress at the time. :)


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