Thursday, 28 November 2013

Travelling with Kids: The En-Route Packing List

Since Sera was born we've been on a handful of international trips; Canada twice, Japan, Thailand and this week we're heading back to Canada again so that she can experience a true Canadian winter.

Packing for a long-haul flight and an international trip is all about preparation. If you're well prepared the experience can be quite pleasant and almost completely stress free. That's my own goal for us for Saturday.

Essentially you can divide your packing preparation into 2 different categories: en-route and arrived. This post is about the stuff you need en-route.

Pack light. Pack smart. Don't bring anything you don't need. In the case of layovers or rushes to the gate your en-route luggage quickly becomes very, very annoying.  I like a backpack so I can remain hands free or something light and easy on wheels that I can drag along beside me. I also like to take along a stroller.


Airports and airplanes are notorious for spreading germs and bacteria. It's actually as likely to catch a cold or 24 hour bug on a plane as in a hospital.  This subcategory is essential for peace of mind during and after the flight. Bring along:

  • small (less than 100ml) bottle of antibacterial hand sanitiser. Use it to clean the tray tables and armrests of your seats as well as any buttons or other controllers for the entertainment system. Bring it along with you to the bathroom for washing your hands if you go. Aim to clean your own and little one's hands once an hour or so during play and especially before eating.
  • Paper face tissues. To be used with the hand sanitiser or for cleaning up small spills, wiping noses and drying tears.  Par for the course with small kids.
  • Baby wipes. These are needed for diaper changes, but also come in handy for tones of other uses. 
  • Diapers as needed (take more than you think you'll use, plan 1 per hour plus 2 extra)
  • moisturiser, lip balm (planes get very dry)
  • toothbrushes and small toothpaste
  • any prescription medications
  • children's fever medication and digital thermometer (it is awful when your child comes down with a fever 2 hours into a 10 hour flight and not being able to do anything about it... bringing this stuff along will make sure that if it happens you're prepared)


A busy kid is a happy kid and shortly, a sleeping kid. The only moment you're off the hook when travelling with a toddler is when they're asleep so that's your goal for at least part of the fight. Keeping the little angel busy will help you get there.  Here's what works for us:

  • Pack little gifts. These can be everyday items or things you were going to bring along anyhow wrapped in colourful paper. Some examples from our past bags are: character printed face tissues, a box of raisins, a sheet of stickers, hair elastics, a small toy, a favourite toy you told then needed to stay at home. When you give these to your child let them unwrap them by themselves. Let them be slow doing it. Then when they get the gift out, let them interact with it however they want. Don't show them what to do. Let them figure it out on their own. Pace yourself. Let them get bored before moving onto the next thing.
  • Snacks can double as entertainment. Let the be slow eating the meal and the snacks. Bring along your own healthy snacks and pull them out as necessary... since you're already fighting with jet lag on arrival don't be too strict on mealtimes.
  • Electronic toys. Be respectful of your neighbours by making sure you have headphones which are suitable for your child and then go crazy downloading free, fun, educational apps for your kids to explore in-flight. I have some suggestion here and here. Make sure to bring along your charger, some planes have power outlets at your seat.
  • No gadgets? No problem! Bring along the headphones anyhow and let your child watch some in flight movies. You can check with your airline before you fly as to what films are playing on your flight and start to get excited about a hour reading your book while the kiddie is mesmerised by the latest Pixar or Disney.
  • Colour. Bring along a small pad of paper and a multicoloured pen. I don't recommend crayons, markers o anything similar because you'll spend most of the flight on your hands and knees looking for the yellow marker cap and cleaning up messes.
  • Favourite cuddly toy.


The plane needs fuel, but so do you and your family. I mentioned snacks above but I can't stress how important they can be en-route. You may find yourself on a long layover with only a Maconald's in sight (AbuDhabi).  Pack what you would normally snack on at home and a few special snacks too. Put each snack in its own resealable plastic bag and bring along a small container that your child can hold in which you can put small rations. That way if everything does end up spilt all over you're looking at cleaning up 5 crackers, not 50.  Here are some ideas:
  • baby carrots
  • crackers
  • beef jerky/salami sticks
  • portable snack cheese
  • small juice box (less than 100ml)
  • empty sippy cup which you can pour the drinks they give you on board into in order to avoid spilling disasters.

Other Important Items;

You don't know what's going to happen so it's better to be prepared.
  • full change of clothes for your child
  • change of shirt for you
  • bracelet (can also be made of duct tape) attached to your child's wrist with  name and your contact telephone number
  • medical information / health cards
  • passports
  • letter of permission to travel with your child from non accompanying parent if you're not travelling together

Some more tips:

  • Make sure all of your liquids (toothpaste, hand sanitiser, moisturiser, lip balm, medications, juice box etc.) are less than 100ml in size and separated from the rest of your carry-on in a Ziploc bag when you go through security check.
  • Don't bring along heavy books or magazines to read during the flight. Download the digital copy or just read what you find on board - if you get a chance to read at all in between entertaining your little one.
  • Do your best to make sure that your child doesn't kick the seat in front of him/her or get too wild during the flight.  This is not the best time to take a break from parenting and good manners, even if it is a start to your holiday. Taking your child for a walk to the bathroom with you if they need to calm down at any point during the flight can really help out. Sometimes distraction is the best way to avoid misbehaviour.
  • Make the day you travel into an adventure. Even though you know that the security check is a hassle, you can make it seem fun to your child by using a bit of imagination. Point out all the unusual things that you can see in an airport. Talk about how the airplane food is cool cause it's on it's own trays. Enjoy looking out the window together. Ask your child questions about what is happening... you might just end up seeing the day as a fun family day out!

Hopefully these its of advice will help take away a bit of the travel stress on your next flight with a toddler and that every thing goes to plan on our trip!


1 comment :

  1. Those are some awesome tips!! Thanks Jess.. the idea of the bracelet is a really good one too -- I can't believe I didn't think of it.. anyhow, one last comment, please add under "Electronic toys - the 2 links under "here and here"". :)
    Have a good flight!!
    lots of hughs,