Packing Guide: Airplane Carryon for Babies Toddlers and Kids
I try to keep my airline carryon as light as possible. Nothing wears me out faster than trying to juggle too much stuff on the trek through the airport. I carry everything in a backpack to keep my hands free for the kids. My favorite airline carryon is the Baby Sherpa Diaper Backpack
Make sure you understand and follow the
TSA Guidelines regarding Liquids. If you are travelling with formula or expressed breastmilk, it can be helpful to print and bring a copy of the TSA Guidelines Regarding Liquids for Children and Babies.
Travellers transiting through London may have special requirements regarding baggage size and liquids. Check the Heathrow Airport Website for details before you travel.
Utility and Safety
Two times more diapers than you would typically pack in your diaper bag. You never know what the air pressure will do to little tummies. Plus wipes and a few disposable changing pads.
Any medications you or your child might need on the trip (you don’t want to risk losing them in checked baggage). Don't forget to write dosing information on the bottle, and separate any liquids into your ziplock.
Plastic bags for diaper disposal or soiled clothes
For toddlers and older children, consider using a
CARES Airplane Seat Harness on the plane, rather than bringing a carseat. The less you have to carry, the better! If you are travelling with a car seat, or with the CARES system, make sure to bring documentation demonstrating that it is FAA approved.
A change of shirt for you and your child. For babies, you may want spare pants as well.
PJ’s for your child if you expect them to sleep on the plane. Putting on PJs will help set the stage for sleep.
Snacks and More
Passports and travel documents (babies and children are required to have a passport of travelling abroad, but not required to have ID for domestic flights). It's useful to have emergency contact numbers as well.
It’s useful to attach a couple of carabiner clips to your bag. They always seem to come in handy
Any important documents (passport, immunization or medical records, etc)
Pack a bag within your bag with some quiet toys, books, and music for the plane. For ideas, check out our Guide to Travel Toys and Building an Airplane Busy Bag
Your child’s lovey or blanket.
A light blanket, jacket or sweater for your child that you can add or remove depending on the temperature of the plane
Any electronics or cameras you are travelling with as these often “disappear” from checked baggage and most airlines will not cover them. In a pinch, saved pictures on a digital camera are great entertainment for toddlers and small children.
A magazine or book for you (and some wishful thinking?!). A magazine can double as entertainment for a child. Send them on “treasure hunts” looking for a picture of something specific in the magazine, or flip the pages asking them to make up stories about the pictures they see. For very young children, it can be entertaining just to look at and name the pictures in a magazine.
Child Safety Seats / Car Seats
An empty sippy or bottle if needed.
Non perishable food for your children, especially if you’re travelling during mealtime. I’ve never successfully gotten baby or toddler food on a flight, and while older children may be able to eat the meals, many airlines are cutting back to light snacks or nothing at all. Nothing makes kids grumpy faster than being hungry and having nothing to eat. If you cannot bring something from home, pick something up in the airport. If your child requires special utensils (E.g. a baby spoon) bring one.
Our favorites: sliced cheese, freeze dried fruit, Cheerios. puffed wheat. You're likely to be in close quarters with other kids, so avoid allergens like peanut butter. If your child is old enough for solids, avoid liquids like applesauce (which need to be declared separately at security).
If you have a baby who drinks formula, it’s easiest to bring powdered formula and mix it with water on the plane. Note: Never use tap water from the airplane bathroom to rinse or fill a bottle as it may not be safe.
Milk if your child will need it during takeoff or landing. Note that you need to buy this after clearing security at the airport. While some airlines are happy to provide milk during takeoff and landing, others carry enough milk only for coffee service and will not make more than a few ounces available for your child.
If you need a Car Seat at your destination, you may need to carry it on board with you. Check out our handy guide covering everything from whether you'll need a car seat on board the plane to the best ways to get the car seat through the airport.
Part I: Which Babies, Toddlers and Kids Need a Car Seat Onboard A Plane
Part II: Checking, Renting and Carrying on a Car Seat When Flying
Part III: Airport Car Seat Carriers (Product Reviews)
Part IV: Travel Car Seat (Product Reviews)
Guide to Travel Toys and Building an Airplane Busy Bag