These products will make flying with kids as painless as possible.
There’s one rule we tell our kids when we travel: You are only allowed to bring what you can fit in your backpack and carry yourself. As parents, this mantra is on repeat—we always have more than enough to lug without having to add our child’s backpack full of…stuff to the mix. Traveling light isn’t always easy when you have kids in tow, but these items will help make traveling easier and more fun for everyone involved.
Easy-to-Pack Car Seats
Finding a car seat at a car rental agency in some foreign countries can be nearly impossible—let alone finding a seat that’s clean and trustworthy. And let’s be honest, who wants to schlep one more thing? If your child weighs between 40-100 lbs. and is between 40-57 inches, we have two options for you that meet the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. At just 12 inches wide, the inflatable and compact Bumblebum can be easily packed and carried. Another option is the mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat, which comes in a variety of colors, and at 10 inches long and 2 inches thick (4 and a half inches wide when in use) it’s also easily packed up or stowed away.
Safety Harness Instead of a Car Seat
If the thought of lugging your kid’s car seat through the airport and somehow attaching it to the airplane seat makes you want to stop flying altogether, check out the CARES Child Safety Harness. It’s FAA approved and offers an equivalent level of safety to a car seat. It’s for use with kids who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds, are less than 40 inches tall, and who can sit upright alone in a forward facing position. It’s perfect for wriggly toddlers who need to have their own plane seat. It’s approximately 1,000 times lighter than your kid’s car seat and 1 million times easier to install, with one strap that goes around the back of the seat and one that fits onto the plane lap seat belt.
Lego Tape to Secure Pieces
My kids are big Lego fans, and those tiny mini-figures and pieces can keep them occupied for hours. However, I’ve been hesitant to let them pack Legos because of all of the tiny little pieces that are impossible to keep track of. That was until I found Mayka Toy Block Tape. The two-stud tape is compatible with Lego and perfect for sticking on the plane tray table, car window, or seat back in front of you…basically anywhere there’s an empty surface. The instructions say the tape’s reusable, which I’m still not sure about, but it’s worked during a six-hour flight, so I’m a fan. I pick up a few packs of the “blind bags” of Lego Minifigures and one or two small box sets to hand out sporadically and they are occupied for hours creating scenes and stories.
Speaking of the “blind bags,” I love giving my kids these surprise packs when we’re flying because they take up no room, weigh nothing, and occupy my kids for a bit. Plus, if the toys happen to get lost or left behind, there’s no great loss. These packages come in every theme–Disney, Marvel, My Little Pony, Playmobil–and can be purchased at just about every chain drugstore or megastore.
Earbuds for Kids That Actually Work
It goes without saying that space is at a premium when packing for an airplane trip, and a pair of headphones with a case can take up a lot of room. Thankfully, there’s a solution—BestBuds Earbuds. Recommended for ages 6 and up, these earbuds fit perfectly in tiny ears and have a volume limit to protect still developing eardrums. They come in three color combinations (white/blue, pink/white, red/black) and have a hard travel case to make storing them a cinch. There’s even a SharePort Adapter so that kids can share whatever they’re listening to or watching.
Keep Warm and Snuggle On
Planes are cold and flights are long, so having something to keep kids warm and snuggly is a must. My go to is the aden + anais swaddle blankets that I used when my kids were babies. At 47 inches by 47 inches, the blankets are large enough to cover your entire child and thin enough to dry quickly if there’s a spill or it needs a wash. Another warm option are the Fly With Me Animals from Emirates Airlines. Originally only available to the airline’s youngest onboard passengers, you can now purchase your own Travel Buddy, which comes with a cozy blanket inside of the cuddly animal. There are 11 options to choose from, including Lewis the Lion from Africa and Peek U the Panda from China. If your child loves stuffed animals, Cubcoats—stuffed animals that turn into hoodies—will be right up their alley. Sizes run from 2-7 and there are 8 options, including Waia the Whale and Kali the Kitten. They are perfect for chilly planes, restaurants, or naptime snuggles.
Customizable Travel Stories
Family Stories is a customizable book that stars your child as the main character, traveling to Peru, Kenya, Australia, Jordan, China, Italy, and the USA. Go online to order and choose what the characters look like and what their names are, as well as the family makeup. Even the title is customizable, i.e. Jack Travels the World. Another plus? The last few pages of the book contain information about a child from each country featured; it’s a great way to help them connect with the places they’ve just learned about.
Traveling with Waldo
My son could spend hours looking for Waldo and his band of merry cast of characters, which is a great time occupier on long trips. However, the book’s cumbersome size can be prohibitive, especially when packing for a plane trip…until now. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the first Where’s Waldo book, two compact titles were released—Where’s Waldo? The Totally Essential Travel Collection and Where’s Waldo the Coloring Collection. At 6 inches by 6 inches, they are perfect for on-the-go Waldo hunting, plus, The Travel Collection comes with six postcards that you can send while you’re adventuring.
Games on the Go
Easy to pack and stow games are another must. You can’t go wrong with a classic deck of UNO cards–fun for the whole family–but for something new, check out Games to Go from Mudpuppy. Perfect for age 5-10, the fabric bag that stores the game pieces IS the game board (brilliant!). Jungle Run! was inspired by the ancient Indian board game Pachisi. Mudpuppy even has a series called Puzzle to Go, which has the puzzle pieces in a convenient canvas bag. My favorite? The Map of the World of course! Another great travel game is Spot It!, the finder game that requires you to find the matching symbol on two cards. It’s easy enough for a 4-year-old to play and hard enough that adults actually have to pay attention. They have themes that cater to all different kinds of kid interests–sports, Frozen–as well as educational components–letters, numbers. It’s small and lightweight and easy to pack for plane rides and restaurants.
Kids Can Sleep on Planes
If you’ve ever been on a long haul or red-eye flight with kids, you know how important sleep can be. But unless you have a 5-seater row all to yourself, kids have to make do, and that usually means they end up sleeping on top of you. Not fun. Upgrade your kids to business class with the Fly Tot, an inflatable cushion that fits in the legroom space between seats. It allows kids to put their heads on their own seat and place their feet on the Fly Tot (while keeping the airplane seatbelt on) so they can rest easier. While kids are awake it also creates a space to put things or prop up their feet. Check with the airline ahead of time, as not all allow the Fly Tot. You’ll be jealous your kid gets to sleep in comfort (but really thankful they can fall asleep).
Turn Any Bed Into a Crib
I love the Shrunks inflatable travel beds, but when flying to another country, they are a bit too bulky to pack. So, instead I get a hotel with two beds and keep my kiddo safe from falling off the bed with these small, inflatable bed rails. The Shrunks Inflatable Kids Bed Rails are small enough to pack, but inflate to adult bed length. They easily fit under sheets and don’t slide around the way pillows do. The foot pump is so easy to use that kids can even do it themselves. Best of all? It’s BPA-free and phthalate-safe.
A Portable High Chair
Here’s the scenario: you arrive in your dream rental apartment. You made sure there was a portable crib for your baby, but did you check out the high chair situation? Probably not. Now you’re stuck feeding your baby in your arms or plopping them in a chair where you’re not able to look away for a minute because they might fall out. Enter the Totseat. This miracle cloth attaches to any chair and straps your wiggly baby in with a 3-point harness so you can feed them without having to restrain them yourself. Because of the cumberbund design, it even works for backless chairs. The seat can be used for babies 8 months to 30 months old. For toddlers, this is a great option to keep them seated in a regular chair without the hassle or germs (yuck!) of restaurant high chairs. It’s so small it fits in a purse, comes in cute patterns, and is machine washable.