Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Pack a Diaper Bag for a Flight with a Toddler

And by "How to Pack a Diaper Bag for a Flight with a Toddler" I really mean "How I Pack a Diaper Bag for a Flight with a Toddler." I'm not an expert-- I just happen to be packing for a flight tomorrow (we're off to see the grandparents!) and thought this would be a fun post.

I have, however, flown a decent amount with my little guy in his less than two years of life-- at least 11 (I think) one-way cross-country flights and about that many shorter ones, more than half of which were without my husband.

The diaper bag is my only carryon as I always check my other bag (so worth the extra money if you're not flying JetBlue or Southwest, which give you a bag for free).

For traveling, I don't use my normal diaper bag, which is structured and a bit heavy. I use this one that I call my "adventure bag" to make it sound super exciting to my toddler. You obviously should use whatever bag works for you (none of the products in this post are sponsored), but here's what makes this one a good bag for plane travel:

  • Lightweight
  • Unstructured (fits under the seat in front of you)
  • Machine washable
  • Spacious
I'm not much of one for tons of pockets in diaper bags, but I do like to organize things in smaller bags that make it easy to grab what you need and contain it in some sort of orderly fashion. Here's what I packed: 

I like to keep all my changing supplies together in a pouch so I can just grab one little bag and head to the rest room. Our flight is only 1.5 hours (thank goodness). If it were longer, I would certainly pack more diapers. In fact, as I'm writing this Lisa is at the airport with her toddler and their flight is 7 HOURS delayed. So pack a few extras just in case.
I know this is counterintuitive, but I read this post about not packing loads and loads of toys (I should note that my child is about 18 months old), and it has worked for us as well. Let's face it, your kid is going to be entertained with each toy for a couple minutes max, so better to limit the amount of toys you bring and be amazed by how amazing the barf bag is to your child. I limit myself to what fits in this cute bag my sister-in-law made me. (And don't worry, A. I took the batteries out of the electronic toys, B. that's a stylus, not a pen, C. those aren't real credit cards, and D. yes, I know that's a Medela breastmilk storage bottle-- but it was the only clean thing I could find with a screw-on lid-- he loves those.)

One wet bag with a change of clothes. Yes, I know these are pajamas, but we were going for lightweight and minimum bulk here. If he yucks up his current outfit, I'll just swap it out for the clean outfit inside the wet bag.

We don't normally do cereal, but I like it for plane trips. Here's our snack catcher (get the kind with a lid!) and a ziploc of backup cereal. I also love to pack freeze-dried fruit because it's less messy than fresh (and C loves it). Once I tried to pack a lunchbox with cheese and cucumbers and fruit, but C didn't wasn't having it. I feel like traveling lessens his (and my) resolve to eat vegetables. 
I don't normally let C use his binky in public, but I like him to have something to suck on the plane. Not pictured (because I just remembered it), we do have some Arm & Hammer pacifier wipes that I will probably bring in case his binky touches something gross (100% inevitability).
Liquids in a clear ziploc bag, (packed on top, ready to grab). Squirt some hand sanitizer on a wipe when you first get on the plane and wipe down your seat, tray, and arm rests.

Obviously, don't forget your boarding pass, wallet with ID, and phone (not pictured because it was taking the picture). Know if you need your child's birth certificate (varies by airline and whether you are traveling domestically or internationally). Also, iPads can be marvelous for the little ones. I try not to travel with a laptop if I can help it when I have a wee one (since it's heavy and you have to take it out of your carryon if you don't have a special bag).

Empty water bottles for kid and me to fill up at a water fountain after security. Just one sippy's worth of water is never enough, so it's good to have a water bottle for refills. (Plus you need to drink too.) Of course, the flight attendant will be more than happy to get you some extra water as well. Also, beware that if you fill your sippy at ground level, it may spray when you open it in the air due to the pressure difference! You may want to unscrew the lid first before popping the straw out. 

All packed and ready to go! I like to put the wet bag along the bottom since we hopefully won't need it. Everything else I stand up vertically so I can see what I've got from the top. The liquids are on top for easy access. The wallet and boarding passes are in a separate pouch. Not pictured: "Doggy," because C is sleeping with him as I write this post. But rest assured, he is the most crucial piece to the diaper bag (we have two backups). 

And that's my diaper bag. Wish us luck!

Speak up -- What tricks do you have for packing for flights with children?


  1. Love this post!!! The one thing that kept my then-18-month-old entertained for the longest period of time on our cross-country trip was an empty week pill container (one with seven little compartments that snap open and closed). So random, but sooooo entertaining to him. It was a life saver.

  2. My #1 tip: Aquadoodle. So great for any age kid. They provide hours of entertainment and are mess-free. Seriously life-changing.

    Here's a travel version on Amazon, $18.

    1. I may be buying this for C's birthday...

    2. If you don't, I will. I should have also been more specific--hours of entertainment also means for you. I think I might have spent more time drawing than my niece and nephew did when I was playing nanny duty on our long flight.

  3. It's so funny that you took the less is more approach to toys. I wish that would work for me. For my little girl, letting the plane entertain her would end in a screaming mess. She's a VERY busy girl who doesn't like to sit still for any period of time. So I opted for as many versatile and small toys as I could reasonably fit and carry in my bag.
    I blogged about it here:

    I love your bags inside your bag idea though. That's super handy.

    1. I guess it just goes to show that each kid is different! Thanks for sharing for all those people with kids that would do better with your approach!

  4. Here is what worked great for me on my last 5 hour red eye flight with my 18 month old: Watch 6 episodes of Duck Dynasty (thank you Jet Blue) on full volume while the baby screams. Best flight ever!

    Warning: May cause you to dream you are on an episode of Duck Dynasty.

  5. Here is what worked great for me on my last 5 hour red eye flight with my 18 month old: Watch 6 episodes of Duck Dynasty (thank you Jet Blue) on full volume while the baby screams. Best flight ever!

    Warning: May cause you to dream you are on an episode of Duck Dynasty.

    1. Haha! That is hilarious. I hope you had the Bose noise cancelling headphones.

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