Packing to Fly with Children (0-5 yrs)

Traveling with children is a whole different experience than traveling with adults or teens.  It requires a fine tuned skill set.  *sigh*  🙂


While infants on vacations may be rare, there ARE times when we may need to take an infant on a flight…visiting family, holidays, relocating, funerals, etc….   If you find yourself in that situation, here are a few tips:

  • On a recent flight to Hawaii, there was a baby on our flights both going and returning from the islands.  On BOTH flights, within just a few minutes of taking off, the babies began a high-pitched scream. The ‘noise’ didn’t bother me, but the painful cries broke my heart!  I KNEW what was happening.  Their ears weren’t popping and they were in pain.  The intensity of the screams made it obvious. (A mom knows the pain cry)

    Photo Credit: Kona Gallagher on Flickr CC lic.

    NOTE TO PARENTS:  Babies needs to swallow during altitude changes in order to help with air pressure/ear popping.  Without it, they may be in a lot of pain.  (As with adults, I think it’s an individualized thing) While a pacifier may get them to suckle, there’s no guarantee they’ll swallow.  That requires a bottle…  A “Little Tip” here…If you board the aircraft with your baby slightly hungry, it increases the chances he/she will actively swallow during take off. Obviously, you know your child better than anyone so make your decision based on your own knowledge. Just be aware of the need to swallow to make the ears pop….and PLEASE, help your infant with this!!!

  • It has been suggested on several blogs or articles making their way around Facebook that parents with infants bring along ‘treat bags’ for the other passengers.  The idea behind this is that fellow travelers will be more tolerant of your baby’s cries if they have a candy bar in hand.  I have been amazed at the amount of controversy this practice has garnered online…though I shouldn’t have been. EV.ER.Y.Thing. garners controversy online….ha!  However, I mention it as something to consider…  It could cost a LOT if you make up 10-20 of these bags…and honestly, that’s how many passengers will be within earshot of a crying baby. If you feel this is a good idea for you, then by all means do it…but also, do what you can to alleviate your baby’s pain…  That will make it easier to keep him/her calm and happy.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about medications to alleviate congestion –which contributes to problems with air pressure/ear popping. This is a controversial topic, but I mention it for your consideration….
  • Use the clips that are meant to clip onto clothing and hold the baby’s pacifier, to also hold teething toys.  This keeps them from being dropped under the airplane seat or while you’re walking through the airport.
  • Discovery Toys Boomerings are phenomenal!!! Though other companies make similar links, the Discovery Toys Boomerings are more durable, imho.  🙂  These can be connected in various lengths to hold
    Product Details

    Photo Credit: Discovery Toys and Amazon

    several toys and will keep items from getting lost on your trek through the airport or on the plane.  (No, I am NOT a Discovery Toys consultant AND I am not being reimbursed to ‘advertise’ for them….this is truly my opinion.)   I share this because I LOVED them and used them for MANY things when my children were young.

  • Snacks/Bottles:  Of course, bring these, but be cautious of over-using them as it will increase the number of diaper changes you will need to do.  I mention this because I’ve seen parents who use food and drink as “calmers”….That will work against you in the long run.
  • Getting through security is always going to be a challenge with a baby. TSA liquid restrictions are ‘less’ for infant formula or medicines.  You are allowed to bring a “reasonable” amount through security.  (Check the TSA website for more detailed information)
  • Packing the diaper bag:  Make the diaper bag a “bag of bags” using Ziploc bags to separate items….a Ziploc bag for snacks, a bag for toys, a bag of a change of clothes, bag for 2-3 diaper changes…   It’s easier to grab a small Ziploc bag when you need a toy or a snack —or are heading to change a diaper rather than having to tote the entire diaper bag…or rummage through it for individual items then carry them loose.


  • Security:  Children and Airport Security will give ideas on File:2007 report child plane.jpghow to prepare your child for going through security.  This is EXTREMELY important when maneuvering through security with toddlers or preschoolers who don’t yet understand what is going on and what is being required of them.  It becomes exponentially more important if you have 2 (or 3)  young ones with you.
  • Snacks/Drinks:  Of course, you’ll need some of these, but be cautious about “over-using” them. (i.e. using food/drink as “calmers”)  It will just increase the number of diapers or trips to the “tiny” airplane bathroom you will have to make.
  • Toys:  A few toys are a good idea, but good judgement certainly has a place here.  I’ve seen parents who bring the child’s entire toy chest on the plane.  They’re just making the trip more stressful for themselves.  By all means, make the experience of the flight an exciting experience for your child.  There’s so many interesting things to see.  Of course, gone are the days when children could go up to the cockpit for a visit with the captain…but still, there are interesting things to see while there.  Make sure the child has a window seat and talk about what they’re seeing.   Computer games or favorite dvd’s can provide several hours of entertainment when the ‘newness’ of the plane wears off. (Don’t forget the earphones) Bring a favorite book – the one they ask you to read over and over at home.  You can get hours of reading and only carry 1 book.  🙂  Of course, a few well-chosen toys, crayons, or colored pencils and paper/coloring book are a good idea; just choose wisely.  My governing thought:  As many activities with as few items and weight as possible.
  • If your child is like mine, they attend countless birthday parties where they are given goodie bags.  Store some of those items throughout the year (crayons, stickers, plastic toys)  for the flight. They’re small and you won’t Toys at the Dollar Storecare that much if they get lost.  DON’T bring that treasured toy unless activity, coloring and puzzle booksYOU want to take responsibility for keeping up with it!  Of course, another option for cheap lightweight toys is the dollar store.


  • Make a “tent” for naps or play time by clipping one end of an airline blanket under the top of the folded-up tray and the other end under the headrest.  This is not only great for nap time, but makes an excellent “play area”….most kids LOVE “tents”.  🙂
  • Some recommend moist towellettes for freshening up or cleaning messes on a flight.  I actually do two different things. First, I bring antibacterial wipes for those times when germs are a concern (taking a child to the restroom where it’s very tight quarters and they have a tendency to touch everything! ha)  For cleaning up the messes children can make or for freshening up after a long flight, I prefer to bring a dry washcloth (in a Ziploc bag). Ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water, then wet the cloth for use.   Wet washcloths are much more effective in cleaning up messes.  When you arrive at your hotel, rinse or wash it out with soap or shampoo and hang to dry.  Return it to your plastic bag when dry and it’s ready for your return flight.
  • Plan layovers to allow your child to walk off energy.  Long or non-stop flights might be ok for adults or teens, but not for small children. They NEED to get off the plane, walk around, go to a regular sized restroom, and get something REAL and substantial to eat.  Some airports are putting in children’s areas with play equipment.  Kayak  (app and website) has information on what is available at airports.

FOOD ON THE FLIGHT:  The airlines offer lunch boxes, but they are WAY over-priced for what they contain – which is typically pre-packaged items. You can purchase your own (on sale!) for much less.  These items pack very easily in a carry on or diaper bag.

snacks for travel

snacks for travel

Meal Suggestion: Take sandwiches then wash and freeze some grapes and put them in a freezer  bag. When placed in the sack with a sandwich(es), they’ll keep sandwiches cold. (Ice can’t go through security – it’s considered a ‘liquid’, but frozen grapes are OK.)  They’re actually quite delicious as they begin to thaw, but are still a little “icy” in the center.  After we did this on a flight, my kids starting asking for frozen grapes at home.  🙂

PHoto Credit:

Photo Credit: Sabrina S. CC Lic.

Candied ginger is a preventative remedy for motion sickness if you prefer to avoid medications.


Recommended by a Doctor: Using a little saline mist spray before boarding will keep your nose  from drying out and over producing moisture (a cause of the stuffiness after a long flight).  If your children will ‘allow’ you to give this to them, it’s a GREAT idea.  Saline is not a medication…it’s just “salt water” so is perfectly safe for children.  🙂

Happy Flying!!  🙂


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