What to Pack in Your Toddler’s Carry On


Are you planning on taking a trip soon with your toddler soon? Are you wondering what you need to bring to manage your time on the flight? Here are some of my time-tested recommendations for what to pack in your toddler’s carry on to rock your next trip!

toddler carry on

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What to Pack in Your Toddler’s Carry On

1.Disposable Placemats + Antibacterial Wipes:  Holy germs, Batman! Use them, you will not regret it. I’ve seen grown men put their feet on the tray table and clip their toes. So. Gross. Yeah, so wipe everything down. Trust me!

2.Toys + Books they haven’t seen before: Toddlers have a short attention span. There is a reason children’s programming is the length that it is. What do you think will hold their attention longer; the same car they’ve been rolling for the last 4 months OR a shiny new toy bulldozer? Spoiler alert!! It’s the new toy. It doesn’t have to be expensive. The dollar store is your best friend. If you really want to level up on this, try wrapping it up like a present. You can use it as an incentive and it adds a little excitement to the whole thing.

Depending on the length of the flight, I aim to have something in my bag of tricks to open every 1.5-2 hours OR if things hit critical mass and I need a diversion.

I know there are people out there mentally rolling their eyes at me, but unless you’ve traveled 32 hours by yourself with a 7-year-old, 5-year-old and 6-month-old across the other side of the world, flying coach, multiple times, I ain’t got time to hear it. The name of the game for me is to reach my destination with all my marbles intact. Ha!

3. Headphones: Ya’ll, not all toddlers dig earphones! Shocking, I know. Make sure the first time you are using them isn’t on the airplane when you are expecting them to wear them. A few of you may be surprised about the pushback you’ll get.

4.Melissa and Doug On the Go Water Wow! These are EVERYTHING! Small/portable. Keeps them entertained for a while. Reusable. They have a pretty good variety, a little something for everyone. My daughter will play with this for an hour. Just add water!

5.Magna Doodle.Similar to the Water Wow! It’s easy, fun, and no mess.

6.Stickers: You can go to the dollar store and get all kinds of stickers on the cheap! I bring a couple pieces of blank paper OR let her stick them on the disposable placemats that I put on her tray table. She sometimes stickers me or herself. It’s all good as long as she’s quiet and happy. Besides, who doesn’t love stickers?!

7.Snacks: Goldfish, puffs, squeeze pouches, cut up fruit or veggies, peanut butter crackers, Cheerios, cookies, the kids gummies (I use for takeoff and landing because gum and a toddler = nothing good), cookies, etc.

8.Small count puzzles:  The dollar store has 24-50piece puzzles and my toddler will work on this for awhile if we do it together!

9.Play-Doh or Wikki Stix: Ok, I’ll be honest. The airline people give me the side eye when I break this out BUT, I always put one of those disposable tray covers down and only open 1 mini container at a time. My girls love this and will attend to this for awhile.

10.Books: Chick-fil-a has those really thin eye-spy books and others they give away in their Kid’s meals. I’m just saying that’s free ya’ll. You can also print the eye spy pages offline.

11.Cars, trucks, airplanes.

12. Coloring pages + crayons: Note that I wrote pages and NOT books. No one is coloring a whole book on an airplane. Save yourself the weight and space and either print some out or tear out a few pages.

13. Favorite music +movies: If your children are on the older end and you are A-OK with screen time. Download a few new apps or their favorite shows. Again, try to choose something they don’t see very often and maybe their guaranteed favorite that you know they ask for/love.

Pro tip: You can download episodes directly onto your tablet (you can even select the quality to save on storage space) from Netflix and also Amazon Prime. No need to purchase shows just for your trip. Also, I make sure to download different things for departure and return flights.

14. Window Gel Clings: These are fantastic and mess free. I find these all the time in the Target dollar spot.

15. Small figurines like Playmobil or Little People.

16.Change of Clothes: Because its a toddler and accidents happen.


Traveling with a toddler is a marathon, not a race! Pace yourselves. Planning ahead and organization are key to a smooth travel experience. 

What do you pack in your toddler’s carry on??


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Kristen is the founder and content creator at Mom Managing Chaos where she teaches busy moms how to simplify and organize their life and finances. She writes about frugal living, budgeting, productivity and organization.