Are you looking for toddler travel essentials to add to your packing list?
My husband and I travel frequently with our two little girls, and we have found that the key to a successful plane ride is to be as prepared as humanly possible!
By now, our six year old is pretty easy on road trips and flights; however, our 18 month old is an entirely different story!
We make sure to pack a carry on bag full of toys and activities to keep her happy during both short and long flights.
Most of these items are staples in our daily diaper bag as well, so you will get use out of these travel essentials well beyond your trip. We find them really useful at restaurants, grocery stores, soccer games, and even in the carpool line! The list below consists of must have items that I find make flying with a toddler so much easier!
- Rules for Toddler Carry On Bags
- Best Bag for Moms with Toddlers
- Toddler Packing List
- Tips on Essentials to Take on a Plane
(Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Rules for Toddler Carry On Bags
You may be asking yourself if your baby or toddler is even permitted to bring a carry on bag on the flight. The short answer to this is….it depends.
If you purchased a ticket for your toddler, he/she is allowed the same carry on items as any other paying passenger.
So, a ticketed child may have both a carry on bag (that fits your airline’s specified dimensions) and one personal bag.
↓↓ Grab Your Travel Planner ↓↓
Some airlines will also permit a baby or toddler carry on bag/diaper bag even if you don’t have a ticket for that child.
So, if you are flying with your little one on your lap, check with your specific airline before traveling to determine what their rules and regulations state.
It is important to note that most airlines will allow you to bring a car seat and a stroller with you whether your child has a ticket or is riding on your lap.
Best Bag for Moms with Toddlers
I have found that a backpack is the easiest type of bag for families to carry when traveling.
This is because they are so easy to wear, and they allow mobility of your arms and hands.
In other words, you don’t have to put the bag down to pick up your child, to grab drinks, or to wipe noses.
My husband and I also use a backpack for our toddler’s daily diaper bag because it’s so roomy and versatile.
We actually received this backpack after my husband ran a marathon to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We LOVE this bag and have gotten a ton of use out of it!
It has multiple sections both large and small, which help to keep things organized.
It also has spaces for drinks on the sides, as well as a small easy-to-access pocket at the top.
If you are in need of a handy toddler carry on bag, this is the backpack we have! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Backpacks are also super convenient because they are easy for kids to carry themselves!
My six year old is able to carry her own bag of activities and essentials so that I have one less bag to worry about!
Toddler Packing List
So, what do you need to pack in this carry on backpack for your toddler?
It’s important to overplan for a flight, especially if it’s your toddler’s first time riding on a plane.
I can remember stressing over all sorts of things before my kids’ first flights, including ear pain, dirty diapers, nap schedule, and crying/screaming.
Just keep reminding yourself that people fly with babies and toddlers all the time, and they survive the flight no matter how long it is!
The following essential items will help you feel prepared for your flight, and they will (hopefully) make traveling with your little one much easier!
- stuffed animal for your toddler to hug if scared or nervous
- blanket or lovey to help your child sleep on the plane
- favorite toys that you know will keep your little one’s attention
- new items that your toddler will be interested in during the flight
- iPad or tablet to watch favorite shows/movies
- toddler headphones
Food and Drink
- pre-packaged snacks to eat on the plane and in the airport
- empty sippy cup to fill with water or drink of choice
- gallon zip lock bag to place trash
- disposable diaper bags
- diaper rash cream
- change of clothes
- diaper changing pad
- disinfectant wipes
Tips on Essentials to Take on a Plane
These toddler activities and essentials are listed in the checklist above, but I wanted to provide more specific information on certain items.
These are my family’s favorite toddler items to take with us when we travel!
1. Food and Treats
I always make sure to travel with plenty of snacks whenever we are going on vacation.
For some reason, food always seems to entertain my almost 2 year old.
Whenever she starts to get fussy, I find that a small snack tends to help improve her mood.
Some of her favorites are Lara Bars and Goldfish crackers. These are also snacks that are permitted in your carryon since they are pre-packaged.
You can click here to read the TSA guidelines for traveling with food to see if your toddler’s favorite snack meets the requirements!
Another must have treat I keep in the diaper bag is Smarties Lollipops. These are perfect for toddlers because they aren’t sticky at all!
My little one has even wiped the sucker all over her face, and it didn’t create a sticky mess like most other lollipop brands would have.
These are the lollipops that I buy. (Amazon Affiliate Link)
For some reason I have a hard time finding these anywhere other than Amazon. If you know of a store that keeps them in stock, please comment below and let me know!
2. Disposable Diaper Bags
We love these disposable bags made by Arm & Hammer. The dispenser has a convenient clip making it easy to attach to your carry on bag.
The bags are scented as well, which make them great at hiding odors from dirty diapers!
They also come in handy for pets! If you need to clean up after your dog while on a walk, these bags are super convenient to have on hand!
3. NEW Toys
Before going on any vacation, I always stock up on NEW toys or activities that my kids can enjoy during our travels.
My six year old loves to color, so I buy a couple new coloring and activity books for our departure and return flights.
Although my toddler will color for a short span of time, it doesn’t hold her attention as long as other activities do.
Right now she really likes stickers, so I bought a couple books FULL of stickers for our upcoming holiday travels.
The items pictured above were all purchased at my local Hobby Lobby store, but I’m sure you can find similar products at any craft store or on Amazon.
I also LOVE to buy invisible ink coloring books for my kids to use in public places like restaurants and airports.
These books really keep their attention, and they are completely mess free!!
Your kids can accidentally color or draw on something other than the book, and the color won’t show up at all.
For some reason, I have a really hard time finding these anywhere other than Amazon.
I have seen many versions that look similar; however, the pages tend to be “activity” pages like Tic Tac Toe, word searches, etc.
I like the ones I linked above because they are strictly just coloring pages, which are perfect for little kids and toddlers!
I think the key is to buy the kind that say “Magic Pen Painting” since they seem to be the most toddler friendly.
4. Toddler Friendly Tablets
We always take our tablets with us when we travel because nothing keeps my kids quiet like an iPad.
My six year old pooled her Christmas gift cards together last year and bought the iPad pictured below.
This is the tablet we have! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
I then found an AMAZING case to protect her new tablet, and it was priced really reasonably!
My daughter has dropped the iPad on numerous occasions, and this case has kept it completely free from damage.
I also like that it has a handle to make it easy to carry the tablet. You can also bend the handle, and the iPad will stand freely.
You can see the case we have here! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
I bought a Kindle Fire for my toddler before a long road trip last spring. The Kindle is perfect if you are looking for a cheaper tablet for your kids.
It also came with this really durable case and some kid friendly apps and games; although, my 18 month old mostly uses it to watch The Wiggles.
You can see the Kindle Fire she has here! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
The best thing about the Kindle Fire (besides the less expensive price tag) is the two year warranty that automatically comes with it.
Amazon will send you a brand new Kindle if yours breaks or shatters within two years.
Ours actually stopped working after a couple of months, and I had to contact Amazon. The process was super easy, and they immediately mailed a brand new one!
5. Kid Sized Headphones for Tablets
I mentioned above that my toddler loves to watch The Wiggles on her tablet.
I am well aware that others around us may not fully appreciate this show like my one year old does!
Therefore, I purchased kid sized headphones that work with both of our tablets. These headphones are super cute and comfortable for kids!
These are the toddler friendly headphones we have! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
They also come with a great feature for volume control.
You can easily turn the volume up or down on the headphones to ensure that your child doesn’t have them turned up too loudly.
6. Change of Clothes
In addition to all of the fun activities and games, we also make sure to pack sensible items as well.
I like to keep a change of clothes for our toddler in her diaper bag and definitely in her carry on.
This is to ensure that she has something to change into if she has a leaky diaper, spills water all over herself, or just gets filthy trying to feed herself.
I keep the change of clothes in a gallon sized ziplock bag. This way the top, bottoms, and socks stay together and are easy to find in the bag.
The ziplock bag then comes in handy to hold the soiled clothes you are taking off of your child.
This keeps the dirty items contained in a sealed bag so they aren’t touching any of your other belongings.
7. Travel Changing Pad
I received this changing pad from a friend, and I really think it’s one of the best inventions for parents.
It folds up into a compact clutch as pictured below and even has a convenient strap to carry it.
When you unfold the changing pad, you can lay it flat like an ordinary pad.
OR you can use this brilliant divider feature!
This way, you can give your toddler some toys for a distraction. The divider keeps your baby’s hands (and toys) away from the diaper changing area.
You can see the different designs and versions of the changing pad here! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
8. Sippy Cups
We usually pack an empty sippy cup in our travel bag, and then we purchase water or drinks at the airport.
These are the ones I like to use at home and on the go. You can shake them or turn them upside down, and they don’t leak at all.
These spill proof sippy cups are also easy for babies and toddlers to hold.
I have also found that these particular cups help train toddlers on how to use cups without lids, which is an added bonus!
Final Thoughts on Packing a Toddler Carry On Bag
Flying with babies and toddlers is always a bit unpredictable!
However, I feel much more prepared when I have a carry on bag full of things to keep my kids entertained.
In addition to the items listed above, I also make sure to pack my little one’s lovey and special blanket.
These items help to ease any anxiety she is having about being in a new environment.
Overall, I think if you pack your toddler’s carry on bag full of his/her favorite toys, new activities, and snacks, you will have a much easier time traveling to your destination!
What are your must have items to take when flying with kids?
Comment below to share with other families!