The Ultimate Packing List for Flying With Kids

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From activity books to wipes galore, everything you need for your next flight with kids.

<p>Travel + Leisure / Reese Herrington</p>

Travel + Leisure / Reese Herrington

The trick to flying with young kids? Careful preparation. Our writer has traveled the world with twins, and she knows that flying with children can be miserable if you don't bring the right items on board with you. But with the right tools, a flight with your youngsters is not just feasible but can even be fun. We've rounded up all the supplies you’ll need for feeding, cleaning, soothing, and entertaining little ones — plus transporting all that cargo. So use this guide to prepare properly for your next family flight .

Packing Checklist for Flying With Kids

We've broken down all categories of things you’ll need to pack when flying with children and included the exact items we’d recommend.

Read more about our specific recommendations below and start your own checklist, too.



Food and Drink




T+L's Top Picks and Tips

Entertaining kids is absolutely critical to keeping the peace on any flight. For babies and younger kids, one rule of thumb is to think of entertainment in 15-minute increments; bring enough options to rotate activities often. For older or generally tech-minded kids? Well, the magic power of screens sure comes in handy.

Best Tablet: Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition

Why We Love It: This tablet has plenty of storage space and comes in a virtually indestructible case.

What to Consider: This isn’t as full-featured as, say, an iPad, so kids will outgrow it eventually.

Tablets are great for long-stretch occupation — just be sure to download your child's favorite shows and movies ahead of time rather than relying on airplane wifi to stream. Amazon’s Fire for kids simpler and less expensive than standard adult versions, and it comes with an indestructible, kid-friendly case with a stand. The Fire HD 10 also includes a two-year guarantee and a yearlong subscription to Amazon Kids+. We find this to be a great investment to keep children from ages 3 to 5 occupied.

Price at time of publish: $200

Best Headphones: Puro Sound Labs BT2200s Volume Limited Kids Headphones

Why We Love It: These Bluetooth headphones have a safe maximum volume for kids.

What to Consider: They are pricier than some alternative kids' headphones.

In the same way that you’ll likely lean hard on that tablet to keep kids occupied, you'll depend on a quality headphones to go with it. This compact but powerful pair is made to protect early hearing damage by following the World Health Organization’s recommendation of an 85dB-limited volume range. The Bluetooth capability has a 30-foot range of movement so the child can feel free to move about the cabin, too.The lightweight, durable headphones come in nine fun colors.

Price at time of publish: $99

Best Tech Stand: Airglo Airplane Travel Essentials

Why We Love It: This universal tech holder is a great hands-free solution for use in planes, cars, and more.

What to Consider: It might not be the most secure stand for larger phones or tablets.

This nifty gadget is the brainchild of a flight attendant who saw a need for a phone stand that would allow passengers to watch movies and TV shows on long flights. Now kids can also watch on your devices hands-free with this tool that fits any brand’s gadgets. It folds fairly flat when not in use, and this lightweight stand could also be repurposed to hang a bag on a chair or tray table.

Price at time of publish: $15

Related:The 8 Best Kids' Headphones for Travel in 2023

Best Coloring Book: Bendon Unicorn Imagine Ink Magic Ink Book

Why We Love It: This compact book is small, self-contained, and mess-free.

What to Consider: The cover is slightly misleading: This book isn’t actually full of unicorn themes.

These invisible ink activity books are self-contained — no crayon collection to roll under plane seats — and guaranteed mess-free. Kids just use the Imagine Ink marker to stay busy with 16 pages of games, all in a portable-size book just right for tossing in a travel bag. We've found invisible ink books particularly effective for children aged 3 to 6.

Price at time of publish: $6

Best Book: Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey Paperback

Why We Love It: This book is challenging for kids of all ages (including pre-readers) and delivers on a healthy dose of nostalgia for parents as well.

What to Consider: A book will never be as tempting as a tablet for tech-addled kids.

Books that challenge little ones keep them entertained. And Where’s Waldo does just that — even for kids who aren’t reading yet. The paperback book is not only small and lightweight for travel, but its journey motif fits in nicely with vacation adventures, too.

Price at time of publish: $8

Best Activity Book: On The Plane Activity Book

Why We Love It: This lightweight book gets kids excited about their flight, with plane-themed games and activities.

What to Consider: You’ll need to bring and keep track of your own coloring implements.

Engage kids in the excitement of travel with this activity book that has an airplane journey theme. Think: spot the identical pilots on their way through the airport, true-or-false airplane and flying facts, and more. Just pack a pencil (or probably two).

Price at time of publish: $13

Best Craft: Purple Ladybug Wax Craft Sticks for Kids

Why We Love It: This generously stocked wax stick kit has plenty of sticks to share between or among siblings.

What to Consider: You'll probably leave some sticks on the floor and in the seats.

This set of wax craft sticks will be a novelty for most kids, and waxy sticks won’t roll away as easily as crayons or markers. This kit comes with 300 sticks in 15 colors and two different lengths, plenty for multiple siblings to have a go. Kids can endlessly shape and reshape them with no noise and no mess.

Price at time of publish: $13

Best Game: The Purple Cow Magnetic Animal Homes Matching Puzzle

Why We Love It: Magnetic pieces keep this tin game set together for play on the go.

What to Consider: Pieces are only magnetic on one side.

Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to travel with a game that’s rendered immediately useless after some essential piece slides irretrievably under an airplane or car seat. This compact game set provides a frustration-free alternative with magnets that keep everything together. We recommend it for children over 2.

Price at time of publish: $8

Best Set: Mini Voyager 4-7y Jetsetter Travel Kit

Why We Love It: This kit combines a customized array of kids entertainment items into one grab-and-go bundle.

What to Consider: You may save money by finding and buying all of these items separately (if you have the time and inclination).

If creating a DIY bag of entertainment ideas for every flight seems like a lot of work, buy this kit, which compiles it all for you in one convenient bundle. Choose from multiple items to build your own customized pack based on your kid’s interests and ages, including stickers, books, toys, and games.

Price at time of publish: $65

When kids don’t get adequate rest, the whole thing goes off the rails in a hurry — for everyone. In addition to comfy clothes and layers, these packable items help keep children warm, soothed, and rested on the plane.

Best Sound Machine: FridaBaby 2-in-1 Portable Sound Machine

Why We Love It: This portable sound machine also has a nightlight, and it hooks onto a tray table hinge or arm rest.

What to Consider: It can be hard to differentiate the buttons in the dark.

This little machine produces five soothing sounds for kids, including shushing and a heartbeat. It has an adjustable strap, so you can hook it onto an arm rest or or tray table hinge, or a car seat or stroller once off the plane. During your flight, just but be mindful of using anything beyond pink noise in flight out of respect to your fellow passengers. Conveniently, it also has a nightlight with three glow levels which could help you locate items in a dimmed cabin, too.

Price at time of publish: $30

Best Pillow and Blanket: Roamwild Kids Travel Pillow

Why We Love It: This cute and cuddly set is a pillow, blanket, and toy all in one.

What to Consider: While the sleeve-style cover adds comfort to an armrest, it’s still an armrest — so it may be too firm for some kids’ tastes.

A travel pillow and blanket are always useful tools in keeping children cozy for long flights. This one has a niche feature: After you remove the blanket, the sleeve-style toy slides over any armrest to transform it into a kids’ pillow. So, it’s a penguin toy, a comfy pillow, and a warm blanket, all in one cute and compact package.

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Portable Bed: FlyAway Kids Bed

Why We Love It: Not just a place to sleep, this comfy surface also keeps toys and accessories from rolling onto the floor.

What to Consider: You’ll be happy to have it on the plane, but then you’ll be committed to traveling with it for the duration of your trip.

When kids are overtired, everyone loses. And a tool like this can be just the ticket for helping them sleep on long flights. The bed for babies, toddlers, and little kids inflates in 90 seconds and deflates quickly, too. It comes in a carry bag with a pump included, and it can be wiped clean.

Price at time of publish: $159

Related:The 9 Best Travel Cribs of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

When it comes to traveling with kids, you’ll always need more snacks than you think. Think you’ve packed enough? Great, now double it. And don’t forget a refillable water bottle to kep your kiddo hydrated.

Best Reusable Water Bottle: YETI Rambler Jr. Kids Bottle

Why We Love It: This water bottle is impressively leakproof and made to withstand a beating.

What to Consider: The bottle itself is heavy, especially compared to its relatively small 12-ounce payload.

Staying hydrated with kids while traveling is a must, and this water bottle means business. The Yeti is durable, spill proof, and double-wall insulated to keep drinks cold (or warm) for hours. Plus, a straw cap makes it easy for kids to sip on the go.

Price at time of publish: $30

Best Lollipops: Ring Pop Individually Wrapped Bulk Lollipop Variety Party Pack

Why We Love It: It acts as both a snack and a bribe — er, reward, that is — and can help reduce ear discomfort on planes.

What to Consider: Nope, there’s no nutritional value here!

Lollipops and their ilk are a multifunction tool for traveling with kids: It’s a snack! It’s a reward! It keeps them busy! And the act of swallowing while sucking on them can also ease ear pressure on takeoff and landing. Even better, Ring Pops are a smart, toy-like alternative to stick lollies for hands-free holding.

Price at time of publish: $8 for 20

Best Snacks: Stuff Your Sack Healthy Snacks Variety Pack Organic Care Package

Why We Love It: This variety pack includes 18 different flavors to keep kids interested.

What to Consider: The packaged snacks may be organic, but they are still processed food.

Having kids means having snacks handy at all times; traveling makes it all the more necessary to keep kids fed and comfortable to combat whining. This variety pack includes 25 organic packaged snacks from 19 different brands; 18 different flavors keep them intrigued as little surprises unfold throughout a long journey.

Price at time of publish: $38 for 25

Best Snack Activity: Fred Match Up Memory Snack Tray

Why We Love It: Dispensing snacks this way keeps the experience fun for kids — and prolongs the process to keep them busy, too.

What to Consider: Make sure your child is able to push buttons.

Snacks serve two important functions: nutrition and amusement. For that reason, try to prolong these food breaks as a way to keep kids busy and amused. Try putting different snacks into this fun tray with compartments; it’s fun for littles to discover treats behind each door, and it adds time to the whole process. For slightly older toddlers and children, you can make a memory game out of it.

Price at time of publish: $20

Keeping kids clean — and cleaning up after them — has long been a top concern among traveling parents. A global pandemic only underscored the importance of traveling with wipes and sanitizer.

Best Changing Pad: Skip Hop 202206 Pronto Changing Station

Why We Love It: When you travel with your own changing pad, you’re guaranteed a non-public surface no matter where you are.

What to Consider: A separate changing pad may not be necessary if you have a diaper bag that comes with one.

Change a diaper on the go without fear of exposing baby to gross, public surfaces. This changing pad takes the form of a clutch, with a large mesh pocket that holds four diapers and accessories, plus a translucent wipes case. A front zipper pocket holds essentials like keys and cash. Drop it in any bag, or clip it on a stroller or luggage handle instead.

Price at time of publish: $30

Related:The 12 Best Travel Strollers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Best Multi-purpose Wipes: Hello Bello Unscented Baby Wipes

Why We Love It: You can use these extra-soft baby wipes on just about everything.

What to Consider: These full-size packs aren’t tiny.

Is there nothing a baby wipe can't do? From diaper changes to on-the-go hand cleaning to wiping up half-eaten miscellany, traveling with baby wipes is a must. These are super soft with aloe and chamomile extract — and no alcohol, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, or parabens.

Price at time of publish: $19 for 3 packs (180-count each)

Best Face Wipes: Boogie Wipes

Why We Love It: These hypoallergenic, ultra-soft saline wipes are great for cleaning snotty faces and even clearing airways.

What to Consider: If you don’t want to pack a bag full of different wipe options, this specialty product might be the first to go.

With kids, runny noses are just about guaranteed for chunks of the year, and they're even more likely when you add in the fatigue and exposure from traveling. These hypoallergenic and alcohol-free cloths are designed expressly for nose-wiping, with gentle saline, vitamin E, aloe, and chamomile to soothe sensitive skin.

Price at time of publish: $13 for 90-count

Best Surface Wipes: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes To-Go Pack

Why We Love It: You’ll find tons of uses for this travel-sized package of wipes when traveling through public spaces with (or without) kids.

What to Consider: These are ideal for surfaces, but they are not for use on kids’ faces.

These germ-busting wipes are ideal for cleaning nonporous surfaces like a tray tables or seatback entertainment screens, and they're a must for both safety and peace of mind when traveling with littles known to touch everything.

Price at time of publish: $8 for 3 (15-count each)

Best Hand Sanitizer: Kinia 8 Pack Empty Mixed Kids Hand Sanitizer

Why We Love It: These cute and colorful hand sanitizer holders keep gel easy to access for frequent cleanups.

What to Consider: Be advised these containers come empty, so you’ll need to fill with your favorite brand.

In addition to wipes, hand sanitizer is a must for quick cleaning on the go. Keep your gel handy by filling these colorful jelly wrap silicone carriers. The 1-ounce, flip-top-cap bottles attach with adjustable silicone cords to backpacks, diaper bags, and just about anywhere else.

Price at time of publish: $10 for 8

Depending on kids’ ages and sizes, they may be candidates to tote their own cargo. Backpacks, rolling bags, and even ride-on options help keep the process moving smoothly. Adults, on the other hand, can benefit from bags that keep hands free in case they need to carry tired children or hold little hands along the way.

Best Diaper Bag: Dagne Dover Indi Diaper Backpack

Why We Love It: This bag is sleek, chic, and unisex, and it delivers on functionality with tons of specialized compartments.

What to Consider: It's spacious and deep, so smaller items can be hard to spot in a hurry (and when are you not in a hurry when traveling with kids?).

Traveling with kids means prioritizing performance; we're huge fans of Dagne Dover because the brand fuses functionality with style so well. Done in chic, 100-percent vegan neoprene, this backpack-style diaper bag also clips to a stroller upon arrival. It includes a mini changing mat and extra pouches, with an extra zipper opening for easy access to wipes.

Price at time of publish: $165 for small

Related:The 11 Best Diaper Bags for Travel of 2023

Best Crossbody Bag: Kibou Black Diaper Bag

Why We Love It: This crossbody doubles as a compact diaper bag for hands-free convenience.

What to Consider: A diaper bag this small obviously isn’t a feasible option for longer outings or multiple babies, so consider your usage.

This vegan-leather waist pack, which extends into a crossbody, is a great choice for traveling through airports and wearing on the plane. The ultra-compact diaper bag has tons of features so you can travel hands free: A built-in waterproof pocket holds 20 wipes wet for up to a week, a detachable changing pad unfolds from the back flap, a hook holds a pacifier or key, slots secure credit cards or cash, and the nylon lining is wipeable and stain resistant. It's even possible to use this as a regular bag once your little ones are out of diapers, too.

Price at time of publish: $98

Best Kids Backpack: Herschel Heritage Backpack | Kids

Why We Love It: Encouraging kids to carry their own backpack builds independence while keeping the family’s cargo moving.

What to Consider: This kid-size version is best for ages 3 to 7; move up to youth size for older kids.

Herschel has just the right size backpack for children preschool age and up to carry their own gear — both to help out the family and to develop a bit of self reliance. This kid-proportioned version is just 13 inches high and has a removable sternum support strap. The next size up is right for youths ages 8 to 12 and, at 15 inches high, it also features a 13-inch laptop or tablet sleeve.

Price at time of publish: $40

Best Wheeled Backpack: JanSport Driver 8 Core Series Wheeled Backpack

Why We Love It: A rolling backpack keeps the weight off kids’ backs and holds a solid amount of cargo.

What to Consider: This well-equipped pack is substantially sized and a better bet for grade school ages and up.

This 21-inch rolling backpack is packed with features for bigger kids. It has two spacious main compartments plus skate wheels and a telescoping handle for a smooth ride. An exterior mesh bottle pocket stretches to fit large bottles, and a 15-inch laptop sleeve has a buckle to keep technology extra secure. It comes in an array of solid colors and appealing prints, and you can easily tuck away the shoulder straps when not in use.

Price at time of publish: $150

Related:The 10 Best Kids Backpacks for Travel of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Best Kids' Carry-on Suitcase: Rockland London Hardside Spinner Wheel Luggage Carry-On

Why We Love It: Kids can grow with this 20-inch spinner, small enough to manage but large enough to hold proper cargo.

What to Consider: A 20-inch spinner will be too large for preschoolers to easily maneuver.

When it comes to kids’ roller bags, we advocate for choosing a piece small enough for them to manage but large enough to hold a meaningful amount of cargo. To be worthwhile, it must be an efficient use of hands and bin space, not just a character-shaped gimmick that holds very little. Our writer's twins have these durable hardside cases, which they’ve carried independently since age 6 (going on three years and many miles and still going!).

Price at time of publish: $120

Best Ride-on Suitcase: ​​Stokke JetKids BedBox

Why We Love It: This wheeled ride-on suitcase transforms into a leg rest or bed in flight.

What to Consider: Not all carriers permit the use of items like these as leg rests while in the air.

This ride-on rolling suitcase has hidden talents beyond scooting through the airport: It transforms into a leg rest, or an in-plane bed, to help keep kids comfy and rested during the flight, too. Bonus: It even includes two sheets of stickers for kids to personalize their own luggage.

Price at time of publish: $229

It may seem overwhelming to keep track of all the things you need to bring, especially after you've left home. GPS trackers can be lifesavers for locating your items during the journey, and a small first aid kit and plastic slider bags prepare for just-in-case moments and help clean up mid-flight messes, too.

Best Luggage Tracker: Apple AirTag 4-pack

Why We Love It: Track your kids’ stuff — or even your kids themselves — amid hectic environments like airports.

What to Consider: These tiny trackers are made to interface with Apple devices only.

In crowded, chaotic environments — especially when the dependability of baggage handling could use improvement — a small GPS tracking device tucked into a bag can make all the difference in reuniting with it after, say, a kid blithely walks away from their belongings after being distracted by a candy display. You can also use these tags on children themselves, with an array of specialty wristbands, keychains, and necklaces designed to incorporate the tags for wearability.

Price at time of publish: $99 for 4

Best First Aid Kit: PreparaKit Small Compact First Aid Kit for Kids

Why We Love It: This well-stocked first aid kit covers the basics in a compact, highly portable package.

What to Consider: You can save money if you choose to compile your own kit with customized supplies.

This TSA-approved mini first aid kit contains all the essentials for babies and toddlers in a package just about the size of a wallet. The curated array of 50 items includes bandages, gauze, tape, scissors, thermometer strips, and more. There’s also additional room to add your own prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Price at time of publish: $22

Best Storage Bags: Hefty Slider Storage Bags

Why We Love It: They have a stand-up bottom for convenience.

What to Consider: They're less durable than sturdier bags made for freezer storage,

There are so many uses for slider storage bags while flying with kids: Use them within backpacks to organize cables, toys, and snacks. Or, use them to separate wet or soiled items, and to collect trash tidily. Plus, they’re super lightweight and waterproof.

Price at time of publish: $7 for 66

Tips for Packing

Prioritize new or special items

When it comes to keeping kids entertained during a long flight, they’re most likely to stay engaged when playing with something that is new to them. Now’s the time to choose new or rarely used games, books, toys, and technology to pack in your kit for maximum novelty value.

Consider portability

You may be accustomed to your full arsenal of supplies at home, but carefully consider how portable and necessary each of these items is before committing to travel with it. Luggage fees add up, arms and hands quickly fill, and only the truly portable items are usually worthwhile to bring along on travels with kids.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can kids have their own carry-on and personal item?

Children over the age of two must have their own ticket, and therefore are entitled to the same baggage privileges of other ticketed passengers in the category. Check your airline and ticket class for the specific baggage allowances.

Can I bring my child's drinks on the plane?

Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby or toddler food (including purée pouches) in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces are allowed in carry-on baggage, according to the TSA regulations; these are considered medically necessary liquids. Just make sure to take these items out of your carry-on bag to be screened separately.

The same permission applies to breast milk and formula cooling accessories, like ice packs and freezer packs.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Alesandra Dubin is a career travel and lifestyle writer and a frequent traveler. She’s also a twin mom with plenty of hard-earned experience from world travels with kids.

Related:The 13 Best Backpacks for Disney Vacations in 2023

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