Flying with a Toddler- Carry on Bag

Before we start let me make something very clear, I am NO EXPERT on flying with a toddler. We have taken some pretty big trips with our little one and have somehow survived so I am simply sharing some ideas that worked for us. You know your little one best so go with your gut. I am hoping to simply throw out some ideas to inspire you on how to survive being trapped in a metal tube with a small ball of energy. Good luck!

The Bag

Whenever we fly I give up on the traditional diaper bag. Instead, I change it out for this Under Armour duffel bag.


The reason is that with the duffel bag you can easily slide this under the seat in front of you and during the flight it has a much wider opening to try to get things out. This particular duffel bag also has a side pocket that can be used to stick your smelly/dirty shoes. We use this (in combination with the Arm & Hammer diaper bags) to keep used diapers in until we can find a trash can without stinking up the whole plane.

The Essentials

Of course, you need to pack the diapers, wipes, and changing pad. I also add some cleaning items. The most important to me are the Wet Ones wipes for cleaning hands after being through the dirty airport, some Kleenex and I have recently added travel Clorox wipes. I used to be the person that thought people were crazy when they got on the plane and wiped down their entire seat, the arm rests, the window and the tray table. However, earlier this year Hubby brought home some terrible plague virus that he picked up at the airport on a business trip. It was horrible! We could not get rid of it. Ever since then I have sworn to clean the arm rests and tray tables and we haven’t picked up another cold (at least not yet). The Clorox wipes are totally up to you but are for sure in our bag. You will also notice in the picture below the Arm & Hammer diaper bags that were mentioned earlier. They come with a handy dispenser thing but we just carry them around in the roll.


You will notice in the duffel bag picture some gallon size Ziploc bags. These are always stuffed into our carry on bag. These are for the blow outs (either end), soaking spills or whatever thing my child comes up with to destroy his clothes (or ours) and make them stink terribly. It is just a quick solution to pack away wet smelly things until you escape the metal tube (remember that air is just re-circulated around the plane and no one wants to smell that). I also stash these in our diaper bag at home for the same reasons.

That reminds me. Always pack a spare pair of clothes for the kiddo and for you. You don’t want to sit in a spit up soaked shirt for 2 hrs (or more) and neither does the kiddo.


Ok you have the bag, diapers, clothes and cleaning essentials to get you through the flight now what are you going to do with the kiddo to keep them occupied and satisfied. Food! You are not going to force feed your kiddo but hell has no fury like a hungry toddler. So stock up. I love the small snack size Ziploc bags. It allows me to pack a bunch of options without taking up a ton of space. My usual go-to’s are Goldfish Crackers (aka toddler crack), pretzels, Chex Mix, carrots, granola bars and food packets. I also pick up other fruit in the airport once we get through security. Is this the best food options? No. But this isn’t about maintaining the perfect diet for your toddler. This is about surviving! You can go back to the all-natural organic food once you land.

Lets talk food packets. I am referring to the little packets of blended foods that you can pick up at most stores. There are a million different brands so just go with what your toddler likes. These packets are considered liquids.   In order to get through security you must follow the liquids rules which means each passenger is allowed 1 quart size bag with liquids inside with each container inside this bag must be less than 3.5 ounces. So when you are buying your food packet for travel pay attention to the size. The picture below shows a “big food packet” and then the 2 packets to the right are allowable sizes for the airport.


I can typically get 6 packets into one quart size bag.

We also take a snack cup with a lid and a small sippy cup with a lid to prevent spillage during the flight. We also take along a reusable water bottle (we like the Camelback ones with a straw) and fill that up once on the other side of security.


Well it has been 20 minutes into the flight, you have already had a diaper change and the kiddo is done eating. What do you do next? Time to pull out some games/toys.

As we are getting ready for a trip, I always start looking at the dollar areas at the store. They always have some cheap toys that can be entertaining for a short period of time (of course be careful that these toys are age appropriate). You also won’t feel guilty if the dollar toy gets lost or left behind on the plane. That is where I picked up the Slinky and travel size Mr. Potato Head.


A co-worker of mine suggested the idea of wrapping up these little toys in tissue paper. We have tried this for several trips and it is Genius!! Having the kiddo unwrap the toys gets you a couple extra minutes of entertainment and every minute counts. Don’t go too crazy on these. I just get a few toys and I reuse them a lot of times for future travel. I keep travel toys stored in a box at home so they only come out during travel time. It keeps them new and exciting for the kiddo.

I also bring some usual toys from home. My son loves the dragon puppet so it comes with us most of the time (plus super easy to pack) and he is also into flash cards right now. So those have been added to the mix.

A standard go-to is always the coloring books and crayons. However, I have a best kept secret…. Triangular crayons!! These are amazing! I have seen these sold at Target but I just bought ours online on Amazon. I have only seen ones made by Crayola. Triangular crayons were created to actually help kids learn how to hold a crayon properly as they are transitioning to learning to write letters. That is great but you know what makes them even better… they don’t roll! I’m not saying they are never going to fall off the tray table but I am saying these crayons will reduce your number of reps of bending down to pick up crayons off the floor. I love them! Everyone should own them. Go out and buy them now. You need them in your life!


I have started getting crafty (not like Martha Stewart but I own a glue gun now). I made this fun little toy out of a puff snack container and some pom-poms (more than is shown in the picture). Quick and easy to make and our kiddo loved this on the flight to Hawaii. He was about 18 months then and has since outgrown it but since it cost about $1 to make I am not too worried about it being tossed out. You can also do a smaller slit and use coins or poker chips (depending on your kiddos age).


Quiet books made of felt are also a great item. Google or look on Pinterest and you will find a million ideas of small felt quiet book pages to make. We have a quiet book but to be honest I bought it off of Etsy. I said I own a glue gun. I didn’t say it wasn’t collecting dust.

Ok final item and probably the most controversial, the iPad. When my kiddo was really small we didn’t bring this along but as he has gotten older it is an absolute must for us. We have some great educational apps but we have also downloaded some cartoons and movies to keep him occupied. There is no shame when you are trapped in a plane. Remember this and repeat this to yourself over and over if needed.


We also bought these Kidz Gear headphones to use with iPad. You might be numb to the sound of Paw Patrol in the background but those sitting around you might be annoyed so go ahead and get a pair. They are nice in that they are super adjustable so they fit our little guys head but they also fit my head if needed. They have a noise control so even if your kiddo cranks up the sound on the iPad he won’t blow out his eardrums. We also bought a splitter so that his headphones can attach and so can ours if we are watching a show together. A little warning with headphones, they take practice. Before our first flight when we planned to use these, we had the kiddo practice putting them on and wearing them at the house. He was kind of freaked out originally by having headphones on his head but once he realized he had to wear them to hear the sound then he was fine and would wear them a little longer each time.

That’s all for now. If you need any more ideas shoot me a message. I have a couple other tricks up my sleeve but this blog is already too long. Hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget… I am no expert so no guarantees that this will work with your kiddo. I am sure that I have also angered the travel gods so look for a blog on dealing with meltdowns on a plane in the future. Happy Travels!