1. Zo & Co Travel Totes
Oh my gosh, how I wish I'd found these earlier. I only just found out about them this past year while browsing Amazon, and I want to spread the word. These are a must-have travel organizer if you travel economy.
|I thought the size of the pockets in the Original version were just right - the largest pocket held my Kindle Paperwhite in the standard Amazon Case perfectly, and the taller pocket on the right was just right for holding my travel mug. In the pockets on the left, I put in Babyganics Stain Eraser marker, spray hand sanitizer, lip balm, and my earbuds. The tiny pocket in the middle held a collapsible cell phone stand. The seat back pocket then held my bullet journal.|
There are sturdy metal clips built into the organizer that clips it to the seat back pocket. The organizer folds into thirds (there's a small piece of velcro to keep it folded) to make it easy to toss into a bag after the flight. I had looked at other organizers, but this one still retains the usability of the tray table, and is more flexible than a pouch. In the photo above, you can see it takes minimal leg room.
|The kids version of the Zo&Co Travel Organizer comes in a quilted fabric and held both kids' water bottles, crayons, and a compact notebook for coloring. The carabiner clips were handy for holding the kids' headphones. You can see their backpacks tucked underneath.|
While you're at it, tuck in a small handled plastic bag into one of the many pockets. You can later clip it to the carabiner and use it to collect trash in-flight, to keep your seat area tidy.
2. Insulated Straw Water Bottle
We have the Thermos Foogo Water Bottles, which have lasted over six years now. I always ask the flight attendants to serve the kids drinks in their water bottles to prevent messes. I actually don't travel with wipes - just saving the wet wipes and napkins served during snack time and dinner - because preventing spills is easier than cleaning up after them.
I will note that the straw parts can get gunky if you're not vigilant about cleaning and drying them out, but replacements are readily available (I stocked up on a bunch awhile ago).
I myself travel with the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Insulated Travel Mug, which is easy to clean and has a flip-open lid with a lock, plus incredible insulation power. While the kids have their own Zojirushi bottles, the open sipper design makes it less ideal for in-flight use. Like the Thermos bottles, the rubber stoppers and sipper components are replaceable.
3. Skip Hop Toddler Kids Backpack
These are inexpensive, durable, hold a surprising amount, and come in a variety of fun styles. Until my eldest started grade school, he used this backpack everyday for preschool and kindergarten. At the airport, my kids carry their own water bottles, pillow, blanket, and amusements.
|Skip Hop backpack holding the Skip Hop travel pillow, Zo&Co travel organizer, aden+anais muslin blanket, and Thermos Foogo insulated straw water bottle.|
To go along with the backpack, you can get a coordinating pillow, or a different one. My kids like to use them while sitting up, and also while lying down. They've also used them on road trips. I once forgot to bring their pillow on a low-budget flight, that while short-haul, had turned into a red-eye because of weather delays. Never again.
5. Lightweight Cotton Zip Hoodie
You probably already have one at home. They're great for keeping warm when the air conditioning gets too strong. (As an aside, for warm-weather travel I adore Uniqlo's Airism UV Cut Zip-up Hoodie for myself. It's inexpensive, lightweight to be comfortable in hot, humid climates, and yet also surprisingly warm during spring and fall. The fabric is also so thin that it folds easily and compactly into your purse.)
6. Muslin Swaddle Blankets
Now there are lots of different brands; I got the aden+anais swaddle blankets when my eldest was a newborn, and this is one baby item that has held up. It's surprisingly warm, highly breathable, and the swaddle size means that it's big enough to be usable even though my kids are now 8 and 4. This also means that if your youngest is still asleep when your plane lands, you can scoop them up wrapped in this blanket. I've also used it as a makeshift sun shade. It's the equivalent of a pashmina for kids!
|aden+anais muslin swaddle blankets (still used after all these years!) and Skip Hop travel pillow|
7. Kids' Headphones
We have the Kidz Gear Wired Headphones for Kids - customer service was great about replacing our daughter's faulty headphones 6-months after purchase when we put them on one day and realized she could only hear out of one side. These are sized for smaller heads, and are adjustable, so adults can also easily check the volume and sound quality. The complimentary earbuds or headphones distributed by the airlines have never worked for them.
8. Snacks packed in Easy Lunchboxes
I'll pack fruit, crackers, and whatever will otherwise rot in my refrigerator if I didn't bring it with us in these handy compartmentalized containers by Easy Lunchboxes. They're easy to clean and stackable, so they take up less space when we're done with them. The compartments mean that if they're not feeling hungry during meal service, packing any leftovers from their airline meals (e.g. bread rolls, fruit) for them to eat later (although make sure all fruit and veg is eaten up before disembarking the plane and lining up at customs!) is easy.
To be honest, I didn't start packing an tablet until this year, when my kids were 7 and 4. Usually, they're fine with the existing in-flight entertainment (remember, I'm flying international long-haul, not short-haul flights on an American carrier), crayons, and paper. The flight safety card once provided my son with at least 15 minutes of entertainment, as he deciphered the various exit points on the plane. The toy that has consistently provided the most amusement are the Melissa & Doug Water Wow Activity Pads. My kids have also enjoyed Wikki Stix, magnetic doodle boards, and the Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad (although the pad itself is rather bulky, and so has been disqualified for future flights). Bring paper and pen with you, and you can play tic-tac-toe, fold paper airplanes, or do other origami crafts.
10. Change of Underwear
Now that kids are fully toilet-trained, I only bring a spare set of underwear (tucked into the front pocket of their Skip Hop backpacks). During the toilet training years, because sometimes the line to the bathroom, especially after meal service, is long, I've only once had to change underwear and bottoms. If your child is bringing a hoodie anyway, that can substitute for a wet t-shirt. Keep things simple. When my kids were infants, I'd bring a spare onesie and leg warmers. I think I only changed my top once. I found I tended to pack more than I actually used.
Now, for babies, I'd also recommend:
11. Structured Baby Carrier
Even after my infants were well into their toddler years, I still got a lot of use out of my Boba Baby Carrier. The structured carrier meant that it was easy to put on (just two buckles to snap together), and given that you can carry up to a 45-pound child on your back, it's ideal for a keeping jet-lagged, overtired child calm while waiting in long lines at immigration and customs.
12. Nursing Cover
Breastfeeding was my number one tip for dealing with infants in flight, because they're not going to fuss if they're in their happy place, nursing in mom's arms. Now, while I generally didn't use nursing covers, I found them useful for flights because the rigid neckline provided air flow while also blocking out extra light (from all the signage such as the seatbelt light, toilet occupancy light, etc.) which can be distracting for an overtired infant. I was given a second-hand Bebe au Lait nursing cover, so that's what I used, but any one with a rigid neckline would do.
13. Skip Hop Pronto Changing Pad
This portable changing mat has thoughtfully-designed pockets so that you could tuck a number of diapers and wipes in to minimize the amount of stuff to carry with you to the toilet, as well as a handy strap that could hook the pad out of the way.
14. CARES Travel Harness
I only once carried my child's car seat in flight, and I vowed never to do it again. It was heavy, it was bulky, and I didn't get that much value out of it (my child did not sleep for more than an hour in the seat). However, good for toddlers is the CARES FAA-approved restraint system, which creates a shoulder strap with chest buckle restraint system. They're safer, and also less likely to wiggle about.