Do you travel with kids? Don’t forget these essential and must have items. Close your eyes and think about flying alone; the ease of it all. All you need is yourself and your luggage. You may not even need to check in a bag; a backpack or carry on may do the trick. Now, think about flying with a child/ren. Imagine all the things you will need, stroller, car seat, carrier etc. Flying with a child requires a lot more preparation. I have tried several different things, and can confidently make the recommendations below.
(this post contains affiliate links. please see disclosure policy for more information)
Aiden and I have been on over 60 flights.
He was 18 months when he flew for the first time, and he flew as a lap baby (Children under the age of 2 are allowed to fly free with a paid adult ticket within the United States).
Car Seat / Child Restraint System
Before Aiden was born, I spent a lot of time doing research on car seats and strollers. We decided on the Orbit Baby travel system. He used the G3 Infant Car Seat until he was one. We then switched to G3 Toddler Car Seat which he still uses now. I have always taken Aiden’s car seat with me when we traveled. When he flew as a lap child, I took his car seat to the gate hoping that there’d be an empty seat so he could use it on the flight. Sometimes I was lucky and sometimes I wasn’t. The Orbit Baby G3 Toddler Car Seat, even though the most amazing car seat I have ever come across, is very heavy. It weighs a whooping 40lbs. I have had to carry it on and off each flight that we have taken up until recently.
I recently decided no more, and bought the two car seats below from Amazon to try out.
1. Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat – FAA Approved
Weighing in at 11lbs only, is perfect for travel. Remember, this should only be used for children 2 years of age and older.
Also, it cannot be used rear facing.
2. Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat – FAA Approved
Weighing in at 11.6lbs, lightweight as well and perfect for travel. This car seat can be used rear facing and forward facing. It is great for children under and over 2.
Both car seats above (Evenflo Maestro and Safety 1st) weigh under 12lbs, which means they are lightweight and perfect for travel.
Most of all, both are also FAA approved.
3. MiFold Booster Seat – Not for Airplane
This car seat is not approved for use on airplanes, but we do use it for short trips via Taxi/Uber/Lyft etc. I much prefer Aiden in a 5 point harness but when we travel we use public transport most of the time. So this booster seat doesn’t get used as often. Make sure you child fits the weight limits first. It it designed for kids 4 years and up weighing at least 40lbs.
No car seat, No problem.
If you are flying somewhere and you know that you will not need a car seat at your destination, another option for you is the CARES Child Safety Device. “It is the only approved harness-type restraint for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. This type of device provides an alternative to using a hard-backed seat and is approved only for use on aircraft” – Quoted directly from the FAA website. Aiden has never used this, but I did order it and will update this post once he gets a chance to use it.
We used the Leg Rest Travel Pillow on our most recent vacation to SE Asia and it was a blessing. We flew for about 13hrs one way to Beijing, and Aiden slept 85% of the flight. He slept well, and he slept comfortably. It is also very easy to blow up and folds flat when the air. Aiden carried it in his backpack and my husband blew it up once we were in the air and Aiden was able to lay on it as soon as the seat belt sign was off.
We’ve also used it with Aiden and his cousin to Japan and the boys slept 8hrs of the 10hr flight. It was bliss, for me at least, lol
Car Seat Stroller
This is very essential if you are going to use your child’s car seat on the plane. I purchased the Go-Go Babyz Mini Travelmate Car Seat Stroller from Amazon. It attaches to the back of a toddler car seat and it is very easy to install. It weighs 4.8lbs and can easily fit in the airplane overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
The GoGo Babyz Travelmate turns your car seat into a stroller – WATCH HERE
A few other options are:
- GoGo Babyz Travelmate – This is just the bigger version of the GoGo Babyz Mini Travelmate above
- Britax Car Seat Travel Cart – This another version of a car seat stroller made my Britax. It is also cheaper if you don’t want to buy the GoGo Babyz.
- Go-Go Babyz Travelmate Car Seat Luggage Strap – If you decide not to travel with a stroller, or even just to take your carry-on with you on the plane/train, there is an option for you. This luggage strap will enable you to attach your car seat to your carry on and all you have to do is push or pull your luggage and off you go.
Aiden’s Orbit Baby car seat system has it’s own stroller base, the G3 Stroller Base and that’s the only stroller he has ever used. When I decided not to use his Orbit Baby car seat for travel, I had to find an alternative. It may sound crazy, but it took me weeks of researching, reading reviews and watching YouTube videos. If you know me well, that won’t surprise you, lol. I finally decided on the UPPAbaby G-LUXE Stroller. It is soft and comfortable for Aiden, stylish and easy to maneuver. It also has a great canopy for sunny days and it reclines for nap time.
We also have a GB Pockit Stroller – This stroller actually holds the record for the world’s smallest fold-able stroller. No need to gate check it, you can actually take it in the plane with you and it’ll fit in the overhead bin with no problem. It is perfect for travel with 2 kids.
Other lightweight stroller options (all of them weigh under 13lbs):
- ZOE XL1 Lightweight Umbrella Stroller
- Summer Infant 3Dlite Convenience Stroller
- Baby Trend Rocket Lightweight Stroller
- Joovy Groove Ultralight Lightweight Travel Umbrella Stroller
This should have been the first item of this list of must haves. I do not go anywhere without my carrier. Aiden is 3.5yrs old and I still use my carrier (YES I do). It allows me to be hands free at the airport. When he was an infant, I used a Baby K’Tan as well as a Ring Sling. When he got to big for both, I bought an Ergo. After he turned 2, I bought a Toddler Lenny Lamb. Best investments I’ve ever made.
Baby K’Tan, Ring Sling, Ergo
Toddler Lenny Lamb
(He fell asleep on the flight & I didn’t have to disrupt his sleep after the plane landed)
Early morning flight, toddler Lenny Lamb to save the day
Aiden’s first luggage was a Sesame Street Luggage. He loved taking it everywhere we went. It was very small, and perfect for him say. I’d say, it’s perfect for a one to two year old. I have looked everywhere for that same luggage set and cannot find it anywhere. This is the closest thing to it – Sesame Street Kids Luggage. This one looks even cooler.
When it was time for a new suitcase, a close friend of mine who knows Aiden’s love for Thomas & Friends surprised him with a Thomas the Train Kids Pilot Case Wheel. He loves this one just as much, and it goes everywhere with him.
Sometimes instead of a luggage, Aiden takes his Paw Patrol Backpack when we travel. It’s the perfect size for him to carry and has a side pocket for his water bottle. He got this as a gift from his aunt. We use this backpack on short day trips as well.
We recently upgraded Aiden’s backpack to an Osprey Jet 12. We purchased one for him and his cousin and they love their backpacks. Especially the fact that you can hang key chains on it that shows all the countries they’ve been to. This is the BEST backpack for kids out there. Read more here “Best Luggage For Kids”
I use a Samsonite luggage. It has gone through a lot of TSA rough-handling and still doing well. Having a luggage with 4 wheels is a must. It makes getting around the airport with more than one ten times easier.
On our trip to SE Asia in 2016, we decided to backpack it through. We had 4 countries to visit and didn’t want to risk checking in a bag in case it got lost. My husband and I used the Osprey Porter 65-Liter and Aiden used the Osprey Pogo Daypack. The Osprey Pogo is a little on the bigger side for him, so I also got him the Osprey Youth Jet 12 Backpack (photo above) which is smaller and would work great on day to day trips.
Headphones are essential in keeping kids entertained on the flight.
Aiden has gone through so many pairs of headphones. Kids headphones don’t seem to be made for heavy usage. Especially for a kid who uses them on a weekly basis. It’s usually a chord issue, gets stuck somewhere or pulled and then no sound.
Aiden’s first pair was Kid Safe Over The Ear Headphones – Spider-man. They worked great for a while until they broke.
Because we travel so much and Aiden uses his headphones quite often, my husband decided to buy him durable headphones – Beats Solo2 Wired On-Ear Headphone. They’re great, and comfortable also.
Packing / Staying OrganIZED
How and why didn’t I know about these sooner?
TSA always seems to go through my luggage and ramshackle things in there (my luck right). Packing cubes are an essential part of staying organized, especially when you pack only one luggage for the entire family. No more digging through bags to find things. It’s also so much easier when everyone has an assigned color.
Shacke Packing Cubes pictured below. Seriously, I can’t imagine my life without packing cubes !! Really
Other good ones are:
- Pro Packing Cubes
- Rusoji Premium Packing Cube System
- Travelwise Oacking Cube System
- Bago Packing Cubes
Space Saver Bags
- Travis Travel Gear Space Saver Bags
- Acrodo Space Saver Compression Bags
- Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac Set
Car Seat & Stroller BAG
We own one of each below, one for Aiden’s car seat and one for his stroller. It is necessary when checking in a car seat or stroller at the check-in counter or at the gate. TSA doesn’t handle things very well and you may be surprised when you get your items back. So, yes this is important.
- J.L. Childress Gate Check Bag For Standard and Double Strollers
- JL Childress Gate Check Bag for Umbrella Strollers
If you have a picky eater like mine, and need to travel with food, then you absolutely need this. I would warm up his food immediately before we left for the airport and it stayed warm until it was time for him to eat. I’ve used it for oatmeal, rice, soup, etc.
I also purchased the matching water bottle which is great for keeping water warm or cold when you need it.
I actually purchased 2 sets, so 2 water bottles and 2 thermos. I only travel with one water bottle, but sometimes I need use the second thermos to pack something different.
Please contact me with any questions you may have. As time goes on I will update this page with more travel essentials.