After 14 flights with my son, I’ve put together what I believe to be the ultimate flying packing checklist to bring on the plane — for both you and your baby. My son is now one-year-old and has never (knock on wood) had a meltdown on the airplane, thanks to some luck and a lot of preparation. I hope you too will be able to experience a relatively calm flight with the help of this packing list!
Every trip is a bit different so please keep in mind that you may need more (or fewer) of certain items — diapers for example — depending on how long your flight is.
I always recommend that you have in you and your baby’s carry-on bags: What you’ll need at the airport, in the airplane, in the car rides (to and from the airport), and the items you’ll want immediately at your destination (change of clothes and basic toiletries).
Below you’ll find my essential flying packing checklist for you and your baby (also available at the end of this article in PDF format). Detailed explanations and photos will follow! Pleasant packing and good luck 🙂
Personally, I think it’s always better to bring a little bit too much, just in case there are any delays or you arrive at your destination and there are no shops open. I like to pack a few extra diapers, wipes, and extra clothes (also in the case that the airlines loses our checked baggage!).
You may also enjoy: How to Actually Keep a Toddler Quiet on a Plane (10 Tips)
What to Pack in Your Baby’s Carry-on
Your packing list for the plane can really be divided into three distinct sections: (1) diaper change items, (2) food/drink items, and (3) activities to keep your baby busy.
These are the three compartments I make sure and have designated when packing my baby’s diaper bag for the plane (I include extra clothes as part of the diaper change items). Any miscellaneous items go into the front pocket, especially if I need easy access to them (such as my son’s pacifier).
I use the back flap/easy-access compartment of my diaper bag to keep diaper change items in (diapers, wipes, changing pad, and butt cream!). It’s really important when traveling that your diaper items be as easy to access as possible, in case of blow-out emergency. Some other parents keep diaper change items in a separate baggy, placed on top of their diaper bag for easy access.
Your baby’s carry-on checklist:
- Diapers (x8)
- Wipes (1-2 packs)
- Changing pad
- Diaper rash cream
- Socks (x2)
- Pajamas (x2)
- Light hoodie/sweater
- Baby blanket
- Light, breathable muslin blanket (to cover up for breastfeeding)
- Pacifier (x2)
- Pacifier/toy leashes
- Portable sound machine + extra batteries
- Water bottle
- 1 sippy cup/bottles
- Baby Tylenol
- Hand sanitizer
- Baby nail clippers
- Snack catcher
- Lots of dry snacks
- Mini first aid kit
- Ziploc/wet bag for soiled or wet clothes
- Activities for the plane
- Basic mini travel size toiletries (baby soap, toothpaste, toothbrush)
- If walking, soft stretchy shoes
Some items are optional of course, such as a portable sound machine. The plane offers its own sort of white noise from the engine, but there are sometimes a lot of pilot and crew announcements that can jostle your baby awake.
I found these in-flight announcements SO frustrating with a young baby on several of our flights and wished I had had our portable white noise machine with us. It might also be useful for napping at the airport and at your destination.
A strong Ziploc or wet bag is a good idea because your baby will inevitably soil himself or spill something or have a blown out, and you want to be able to keep the item of clothing but separate it from the rest of your carry-on stuff.
I always travel with baby Tylenol just in case there are any ear, teething, or other pain issues that pop up during travel days. A mini first aid kit with band aids and something to clean small wounds with is also very practical.
I listed baby nail clippers because I find that I really notice my son’s sharp little nails when I’m in very close quarters with him for hours on end, and like to have them close! You could also just cut them the day before your trip.
Bring something like a bottle or pacifier (or boob!) for your baby to suck on to relieve the pressure in their ears during takeoff and landing. Bring dry snacks and a Munchkin snack catcher so they don’t make a huge mess!
Basic toiletries in travel size, such as baby soap, toothpaste, and your baby’s toothbrush (if they have teeth) are a good idea to keep with you in your carry-on/diaper bag so you don’t have to go digging through your checked bag if you arrive late at night. It’s nice to just be able to wash your baby (if you want to), throw on pajamas, and put them to bed.
For the crawling, standing, and learning to walk stage, I can’t recommend enough these soft stretchy leather first-walker shoes. I’ve loved them so much in general but especially for travel days.
Activity Ideas to Pack in Your Baby’s Carry-on/Diaper Bag
Depending on your baby’s age, you may want to bring a range of in-flight entertainment along with you. When my son was 3 months old, he only needed a couple of crinkly toys to stare at. Now at 13 months, he needs a LOT more stimulation throughout the flight — and he’s still a bit too young to stay interested in screens for very long.
For our most recent 6 hour flight, we needed roughly 7-10 different little activities to keep him busy, so I’m glad I came prepared! You can find a really detailed list of what we brought for our son here. Below are just a few ideas that you may want to steal for your own upcoming flight with your baby:
- Sticker books
- Masking/painter’s tape
- Dollar store (cheapy) toys
- Pill boxes filled with snacks
- Sensory/busy boards
- Buckle pillow
- Downloaded videos on a tablet or phone + toddler headphones
- Coloring book and crayons
- Empty spice containers + pipe cleaners to pull through the holes
- Old wallet or travel wallet filled with plastic “credit cards” (old memberships cards, bus passes, etc.)
- Pipe cleaners and uncooked pasta to string
- A small empty water bottle with the bottom cut off + colorful pom pom balls to put through the hole
- Anything with zippers or strings
- Window cling stickers
- Window suction spinners
- Magnet toys
- Water Wow books
- Mobi Zippee Silicone Pull Toy
- Pop it or fidget toys
Snack Ideas to Pack in Your Baby’s Carry-on/Diaper Bag
If your baby is eating solid foods, snacks are a great “activity” and distraction during the flight. To spread out the activity as long as possible, I recommend only letting your baby snack and not “do” another activity at the same time. So if they’re snacking, they’re only snacking and not also playing with a toy, for example. This allows you to stretch out each of your activities as much as possible.
I recommend only bringing dry foods and baby food in pouches to avoid a mess. I brought chopped fruits on the plane once and my son made a sticky mess — avoid if you can!
- Baby food pouches
- Rice Cakes
- Fruit or veggies (might be a bit messy though!)
- For older toddlers: salmon jerky or dried fruit (takes a long time to eat, making it a good travel “activity”)
Bringing Milk in Your Carry-on Bag or Diaper Bag
I have heard that parents bringing formula on board will often measure out, and place formula into the bottles BEFORE going to the airport, so that on the plane they only have to ask for hot water and not worry about anything else.
For toddlers drinking regular milk, many parents choose to bring shelf-stable milk so they don’t have to worry about looking for milk at the airport or on the plane. I have heard mixed reviews about going through security with shelf-stable milk, unfortunately. They are not supposed to open up your milk to test it if you ask them not to (opening it will force you to use it right away, or it spoils), but some security agents do this.
The TSA rules for bringing liquids on board for babies are much looser so don’t worry about bringing only tiny quantities of food and water. If you’re breastfeeding, you’re allowed to bring a breast pump on board in addition to your carry-on and personal item — but you may want to just bring a light hand pump to avoid lugging around a heavy, awkward pump.
Additional Items to Carry on the Plane for Your Baby
Most major airlines will allow you to check your baby stroller and car seat for free, or gate check them if you wish. But what if you want to take your car seat on the plane for your baby? If you purchased a seat for your baby, this won’t be a problem, as long as your car seat meets the country and the airline’s safety standards (check before you go!).
And for lap infants who don’t have a full-price ticket? Some people choose to bring their car seat to the gate and ask if there are any empty seats on the plane. If there are, some airlines will allow you to bring your car seat onboard free of charge.
I would recommend bringing a baby carrier and baby wearing throughout the airport (and on the plane) as this has been a total life-saver for us. It’s SO helpful (crucial really) to have your hands free. Consider bringing:
- a stroller (to gate check, or a mini stroller to carry on)
- a car seat (to gate check or take on board if you want to and there is a seat for your baby)
- a soft-framed baby carrier to “wear” your baby
Your stroller comes in handy even if you aren’t using it — as a sort of caddy for your bags! We always baby wear and then just push our stroller through security to our gate will all of our stuff in it.
What to Pack in Your Carry-on
It’s very important to be thoughtful about your own carry-on too. Gone are the days where you could just chill and watch a bunch of movies on the plane and maybe get a nap in — Back then, you were probably concerned with packing your own snacks, eye mask, and making sure you had some downloaded playlists and movies on your phone!
Now you have a little person taking up most of your time and attention during your flight time, with lots of brain space allocated to keeping them happy and quiet.
With most major airlines, you’ll be allowed to take one carry-on bag and a personal item (in addition to your baby’s diaper bag). You can check this table I created of airlines and whether or not they count a diaper bag as one of your carry-on items.
I recommend packing all of your baby items (in the checklist above) into your diaper bag and then splitting your items (below) into two additional bags if necessary.
Your carry-on checklist:
- An extra outfit (including underwear)
- Headphones/ear pods
- Phone charger
- Adult Tylenol
- Plug converters for your destination
- Lap top/tablet
- Camera + batteries
- Snacks for you
- A folder with all of your important documents (passport, visas, birth certificate, copy of your travel insurance, etc.)
- Ziploc bags
- Baby monitor
- Breast pump (handheld)
- Basic mini toiletries (soap/shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, glasses/contacts, etc.)
- Fanny pack (to wear in the airport)
An extra outfit for YOU is necessary in case anything gets spilled on you or your checked baggage is misplaced — At least you’ll have something fresh to change into right away. Don’t forget an extra pair of underwear!
When you first arrive somewhere, especially if it’s night time, the last thing you want to do is have to dig through your checked luggage looking for clothes and toiletries. And when you have a cranky baby to put to bed, you really don’t want to do that! Having some travel size basic toiletries in your carry on bag, as well as a cozy extra outfit can make this process more seamless and less painful.
Carrying plug converters in your carry-on bag is important too — If you’re going to the UK or Europe or many other locations around the world, the outlets at your destination will likely be different.
Since you’ll want to be able to charge your important electronics, like your phone, right when you arrive (and not have to go searching for a shop with a converter plug, or digging through your checked baggage), don’t forget to throw a couple converters in your carry-on!
Ziploc bags serve all kinds of purposes. If anything starts to leak or you’re concerned that something might start leaking — you have Ziploc bags handy. Anything dirty that you want to keep (like a baby onesie) but also keep separated from the rest of your items — Ziploc bag! They are so so useful when traveling, especially with a baby.
I usually carry a folder with me of important documents that I might need in my carry-on bag and then wear a fanny pack to put my IDs, money, passports, bank cards, etc. in — items that I will need very close to me during airport time.
If you’re flying internationally and not sure what documents to bring with you for your baby, I wrote a detailed breakdown here that will help you out.
A baby monitor is nice to have handy for your arrival (again, no digging through your checked bag while trying to put your baby to sleep) but you also might want to keep in it your carry-on so it doesn’t get damaged.
If you’re breastfeeding, most major airlines allow you to bring your breast pump on board without it counting as one of your carry-on items. However, in my experience, carrying my breast pump has been a pain in the butt because it’s so heavy and clunky. I would recommend bringing a hand pump or a Haaka instead, if that’s an option for you.
PDF Version of the Essential Packing Checklist
Here is my PDF version of the essential packing checklist you just read about, for your convenience. I hope it helps!