- Snacks and Gum
Much like adults, there’s no greater way to help ensure a smooth (and silent) flight for your kids like a tasty treat. While it’s always fun to try new things, be sure to pick some familiar snacks that are guaranteed hits with your family. Jenny S. and Carrie M. both suggest lollipops as a way to keep everyone smiling. Multiple moms have stressed the importance of having gum to help little ears adjust during takeoff and landing. When offering your child gum, chew a piece as well, and explain to your child why their ears might have a funny feeling and that it’ll go away pretty quickly. Don’t forget to have a napkin or wrapper on hand when the gum-chewing has finished!
- First Aid Kit
Mom-of-two, Deana S., suggested this, and the experts agree. Having a small kit that includes basics like band-aids, alcohol pads, tweezers, ibuprofen, and Tylenol can help soothe unexpected boo-boos and keep a trip on-track.
- Layered Clothes (And a change of clothes!)
Kimberly T. says a sweatshirt is a must for any plane ride to make sure your little one is comfortable when the air conditioning kicks in. It’s also great to dress them in layers in case they become too warm during the flight. Mom-of-two, Angie H., suggests a change of clothes for your child and you as well to combat any spills that might happen along the way.
A number of parents, including Andrea F., say you can never have too many wipes. Sanitizing wipes will help disinfect tray tables and arm rests but shouldn’t be used on skin. Baby wipes will likely be in your carry-on if you have a small child but can be great to have on hand for older kids and even adults to help with in-flight messes.
- In-Flight Entertainment
On some flights, you may have seat-back entertainment, which will likely include shows tailored for children. Don’t forget to bring along headphones with a ⅛” mini adapter. On flights that do not offer in-flight choices, Sari Z. uses age-appropriate activities to keep her daughter occupied. Coloring books, games, mess-free markers, and small toys are great choices. Dad-of-two, Michael A., suggests downloading plenty of cartoons and games onto a tablet.
- Noise-Canceling Headphones
Multiple parents shout about the benefits of noise-canceling headphones for kids. These special headphones use tiny microphones to listen to the actual noises around you and pump in frequencies to drown out unwanted sound. They can be a great way to calm down fussy flyers and reduce anxiety in both children and adults. Be sure to look for active noise canceling, or “ANC,” when purchasing headphones.
- Power Strip
Want to make friends in the terminal? Stacy L. suggests bringing along a small power strip that will allow you to share a plug while waiting for your flight at the gate. This can be useful in airports with limited outlets, as well as ensuring that your own battery-powered devices have enough juice for the entire flight. For international travel, be sure to use a voltage converter that allows you to swap different plug types at the wall.
- Sound Machine
Sleeping in an unfamiliar surrounding like a hotel or Airbnb can sometimes be a challenge for little travelers. Aubree D. suggests packing the sound machine. We use a small, inexpensive, rechargeable one for our baby, and it really helps keep him relaxed when it’s nap time. If you forget to pack yours, use your phone to play soothing sounds or noise from a free app or music streaming service. (Just watch out if you have a free version; nothing interrupts a peaceful rest like a loud advertisement!)
- Consider NOT Packing the Pack and Play!
Pack-and-plays, strollers, and wagons are great for vacations. But they’re bulky and yet another thing to haul along. Check with your hotel to see if they provide cribs and pack-and-plays. Some places, including Disney resorts, offer multi-day stroller rentals. There are also rental services like Babies Getaway and BabyQuip that will deliver items to your rental property.
- Anti-Lost Wrist Link
Adventure Mom Nedra says, “if your toddler is a wanderer, an anti-lost wrist link is essential.” This simple device is under $15 and consists of two bracelets—one for you and one for your child—that are connected via a coiled tether. For a more high-tech version, GPS-enabled clothing tags are another way to keep tabs while on vacation in unfamiliar or crowded environments.
- Digital Camera
Offer your child a digital treasure hunt and provide a list of items they have to snap a photo of on the trip. Looking through the photos together can be a great activity for the plane ride home. Try using a quality, inexpensive waterproof camera with a strap instead of worrying about your kid using a $1,000 phone. Consider using an online photo printing service when you return to turn some of their photos into a blanket or wall art for their room.
- Baby Monitor
How accustomed have we become to knowing our baby’s every move? We discovered it quickly on one of our first trips with our newborn when we forgot to pack a baby monitor. Whether a simple audio monitor or a compact video monitor, the peace of mind from being able to watch your child while enjoying some quiet time on the patio outside is priceless. Some video monitors also utilize apps that will alert you when your child wakes up.
- Ear Plugs and Goodie Bags for Neighbors
No matter how much you plan and how well-behaved your child normally is, there’s always the possibility that the experience of flying might become a bit overwhelming for them. Crying happens. So to help make friends with the people around you, consider bringing along some small goodie bags for your seat mates with a note explaining this is their first flight. Include earplugs and some candy as a peace offering.
Dad-of-one, Kevin G., says that patience is the most important thing you can pack, especially for first-time little flyers. Make sure to arrive at the airport earlier than normal to allow plenty of time for bathroom breaks, unexpected meltdowns, and time to get to the gate. To help alleviate the fears of nervous new travelers, explain what’s happening around them. Talk about where the luggage goes after you drop it off at check-in. Ask them questions about what a pilot does, or, for older kids, use it as an opportunity to teach them about how planes work.