The packing list for flying with a toddler on your lap is… short
And that’s because you are alone. Nothing makes the traveling alone more difficult than bringing too much stuff. And let’s face it, the kid is enough.
In my post outlining how to prepare for the flight, I left out what to pack (purposely) because it deserves it’s own internet home!
At 2 years old, my baby girl has been on 16 flights. Half of those have been just the two of us. And we only had our own seats on 2 of them. I’ve had to simplify our [shared] all-inclusive carry-on for those “solo” trips.
Tips for flying with a toddler on your lap
Before I get into my must have items, here are some tips I picked up from all those one handed trips through security.
- Use a backpack. Hands-free, baby!
- Minimize time spent at the airport. I know you don’t want to miss your flight, but planes do not leave early (unless everyone is already on board). You don’t want to be stuck killing an hour at the gate. Airports get boring real fast.
- A 25-35 minute long buffer for security is sufficient. Plus, TSA typically gives you priority if you are traveling alone with an infant. Especially when it’s an obvious struggle.
- If baby isn’t a solid walker yet: you need something to stash the baby in. Carriers are great, but they can be limiting. I always used a stroller. The big monster one. It makes getting through the airport so nice and just gives you another place to tie that baby down! You can check it at the gate and it flies for free (it’s regarded as a wheelchair, pretty much).
- Most airports allowed me and the stroller through security. Only Laguardia in NYC made me collapse it. My daughter was sleeping and I was pissed and it was the worst. This is only one of many major issues with that mess so avoid Laguardia at all costs.
- Mom! Wear the simplest shoes possible. Preferably something you can slide off (and back on again).
- Babies don’t need to remove their shoes through security, but JUST IN CASE I only bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
- Getting through security with a laptop or iPad isn’t the worst thing ever. Just be sure to pack your bag in a way that you can easily shimmy them out and shimmy them back in. I use a magazine or hard notebook to keep the laptop sleeve easily accessible.
- Bring as little as possible. If it can’t all fit in a backpack, then you shouldn’t go. JK! But stick to a one bag carry-on limit. Check the rest.
[EXCEPTION] I always, always, always pack a second wallet in my backpack and stash necessary items in a small cross-body bag that can fit in my backpack if needed. This bag has my ID, my phone, a phone charger, a debit card, and any cash.
Alright! Now that those tid bits are out there, this is what you need:
What to bring when flying with a toddler
This is another baby specific thing. You wouldn’t bring coloring books with a 3 month old, and you wouldn’t bring 18-month-old. I’m preparing you for flying with an unreasonable “lap infant” which could be up to 2 years old. The kind that can’t talk, reason, or be bribed. A general list is as follows…
Even if you are a cloth diaper-er, now is the time to whip out some disposables. Any time I leave the house for 5-10 hours, I stash a (mostly) full pack of wipes and 8-12 diapers. It is easy to prematurely change a barely wet diaper only to have the next take be a blow-out. This is your chance to prevent a disaster like that!
2. Spare clothes.
Two to three new outfits. Honestly. Spare yourself that issue. Even that many outfits left us carrying a naked baby at our final destination. Expect everything that can go wrong to go wrong.
**Pack some simple spares for you, too! Like the lightest leggings you own and a forgiving tunic.**
I was held up by security once, and had to bolt across the airport without a stroller. My toddler was on my hip and her diaper LEAKED PEE ALL DOWN MY PANTS AND SHIRT. We got to the gate with maybe 5 minutes to spare, and I
3. Changing pad.
In my limited experience, I have only seen changing pad liners (provided/stocked) TWICE. (In my LIFE, not just on planes…) I don’t depend on them, and neither should you. NOTE: there is a changing table on every plane! It’s hard as a rock, but it gets the job done.
I use a light blanket aka a swaddle for this purpose, but my favorite things are disposable changing pads. They are very easy to pack.
4. A wet bag.
Or whatever you want to call it. I stashed a handful of 1 gallon Ziploc bags in my backpack. Why? To hold wet clothes or diapers.
You definitely don’t want to throw a poop-covered onesie into the same bag as baby’s snacks and toys. And heaven forbid you don’t have a trash can nearby when you need it most. Prepare to hold on to some nasty shit. Pun intended.
This includes drinks! Although we all know you can’t just bring a bottle of milk/juice/water, you can bring dry snacks (we went with goldfish, ritz crackers, Gerber’s yogurt melts).
Planes usually do not have milk on board, so unless you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to buy a $5 bottle of milk in the airport. After you run out of milk, watered down juice is an awesome option for plane people! You just want to keep that baby’s mouth busy. I always say “she can’t cry if her mouth is full!”
6. A Cup.
It could be a bottle, but you’re going to need something baby friendly to hold any liquids you purchase past security. The cups on a plane are hoarded until the magical drink-serving window, and if that wasn’t bad enough – they are so WIDE.
It’s easy for ME to spill while drinking out of them, so you can only imagine how tough it is for a baby. Cup-drinker or otherwise.
Old toys. New toys. Particularly, SURPRISE TOYS! Something they haven’t seen yet, but you know they’ll love.
I always bring a tried and true stuffed bunny, as a happy reminder of home. As well as some newbies! We received a lot of old-school trolls, which had been stowed away. So they were my perfect free solution to surprising new toys.
For those one-handed diaper-changing trips… I like hand sanitizing wipes, because they aren’t liquid & don’t require special TSA handling.
Because nothing is quite as comforting as a little extra warmth. Also, try building a 1-2 seated fort with the tray table (in its upright position) and your head to hold it up! I probably had more fun with this, but it’s always a hit.
10. First Aid.
It could be baby Tylenol or even a cookie. You’re going to need something if hell breaks loose, so bring something real or just the perfect placebo. (Ours are oreos….)
The most realistic problem you might run into will be the discomfort of popped ears. Baby Tylenol is perfect for this!
Get the free printable packing checklist
I made this thing for YOU to print & pack with along with your tickets. It’s designed to be folded so you have one side for departing and another for returning.
Because it doesn’t get much worse than forgetting to pack something for the way back….
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Do you have any other travel concerns? Please let me know in the comments and feed the blog content monster in my head!
I’d love to share more flying baby solutions!