For many years I worked as a nanny for a family that traveled internationally on a fairly consistent basis. While getting the chance to see the world was a definite perk, I quickly realized that there are several must-haves to survive hours on a plane with small children. I’m not referring to diapers, wipes, and pacifiers (those are a given). These are extras that will make your in-flight journey epically smoother.
A tablet and headphones
Should kids be plugged into technology for hours a day? Of course not. But letting them watch a movie, read books, or play some games on an iPad® or Kindle® is a lifesaver on a long flight. If you’re traveling with more than one kid and only one tech toy, upload books and games that they can play together or divvy up the screen time between them.
Make sure to pack headphones that fit over the child’s ears. Experience has taught me that little ones — even elementary age kids — have a hard time with ear buds.
Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
Nine hours on a cross-continental flight with a hungry toddler is a nightmare. Yes, the flight attendant may gift you an unlimited number of pretzel bags, but it’s also smart to come armed with snacks of your own. Think dry options like crackers, raisins, and cereal that you can serve up in a small plastic container.
If your child isn’t comfortable with full-size utensils, pack a kiddie set from home. It means you won’t have to spoon feed the in-flight meal, or contend with a fiercely independent little one who is frustrated over the fact that they can’t eat by themselves.
An extra set of clothes
When traveling with little kids, I lived by the motto, “What can happen will.” I learned the hard way that no one wants to be trapped on a plane with a kid who smells like puke. After that unfortunate event, I made sure to pack an extra outfit (sometimes two) in my carry-on.
A notebook and crayons
This classic combo has saved the day on numerous occasions. The beauty of a notebook and crayons (or markers or pencils, for that matter) is that they can be used in a variety of ways (Drawing! Writing stories! Playing hangman!). They’re the gift that keeps on giving.
This is not for the children. It’s not even for you. It’s for the passengers around you, should the toddler you’re traveling with start to cry. Strange but true: Offering up a handful of Hershey’s Kisses to the businessman who’s sitting on the other side of your little one’s tantrum is a surprisingly effective way to ease his annoyance. Even if he doesn’t take them, I guarantee he’ll appreciate the gesture.