What to pack for children on the plane (ages 3-8)

We’re off on holiday again shortly, and one of the things I feel we’ve got down to a T, is what to pack the older two children (now age 5 and 6) in what I would class as their hand luggage or ‘carry on’. This is a rucksack (or formally a Trunkie) that contains lots of useful bits to keep them occupied, whether it’s on a long train journey, or a flight. I tend to keep a lot of these items stored in a box in the kitchen, so they can be located quickly and easily. The content of these rucksacks is also ideal to bring along on a day out when you know there might be lots of waiting around, or you’d like to enjoy a meal out that isn’t whizzed through in half and hour (ha!).

How to pack for a flight with kids

When it comes to packing for our children, I can safely say that less is more! Left to their own devices Freddie and Sasha would pack the most random stuff (play doh hairdressing set anyone?), so we try and narrow it down so they have some entertaining essentials. Each child is, of course, allowed to take a couple of favourite toys (Freddie would choose a couple of small toy planes and his Teddy, for example), but not a whole load of them. 

Here are the things that are currently always included in our children’s flight luggage/carry on rucksacks:

  • Kindle Fire and headphones. The kids only really use these at the weekend at the moment, so they’re always really appreciated when they appear! We pre-load games onto them (current favourites are various Lego, Dr Panda and Toca Boca ones), and they can also read books on them. When we have wifi, we can also keep up with any homework if needed online (the kids are going away during term time on this occasion so this something we’ve promised the school that we’d do). 
  • UNO and other card games. Games like Uno and Happy Families have saved many a potentially lengthy/boring travel situation (and we all love to play, even the grown ups!). A Peppa card game made 2 hours whizz by a whole lot quicker when we accidentally got on the wrong ferry in Lake Garda and ended up doing a massive detour to our holiday site!
  • Cosy socks. Useful on long-haul flights with children as they can keep their shoes off during flight and get comfy.
  • Snacks. We always take a couple of snacks in each bag, although usually buy something/get given something on the plane. I usually pop in a fruit loaf bar and some fruity snacks (that the kids are convinced are sweets #cunning), as they’re not that messy. Avoid crisps and anything that crumbles/squashes badly in the bags at all costs!
  • Tissues and baby wipes. For snotty noses and inevitable post-flight meal mess. 
  • Small pencil case with pens/pencils. Our two love to do drawing and colouring, so we always pop a selection of these in a pencil case to go in one of the bags. 
  • Colouring and activity books. These are a big hit when travelling for our kids- I love the Usbourne travel books for kids. 
  • Story Cubes. Great for whiling away the evenings on holiday, or whilst waiting for a flight. 
  • Lollies. Okay, not great for teeth but these are honestly AMAZING for aching, popping ears on a flight. The kids sit quietly (10 minutes of silence, woohoo!) and sucking them helps avoid the ear pain due to the changing pressure. 
  • Camera. We often challenge our two to take photos of their trip, or of a theme, i.e. see how many yellow things you can snap, another good way of passing the time.
  • Figures. We let the kids take a handful of Playmobil or Sylvanian Families figures- it’s amazing what scenarios they come up with, even on a small plane or tray tray!

What do you pack for your children when you fly?

I’d love to hear about anything I could add that would make a difference.

2 thoughts on “What to pack for children on the plane (ages 3-8)”

  1. Those Usborne activity packs are brilliant – my mother in law is amazing at finding things like that, and they’ve kept my eldest (he’s now 5) occupied for hours, even before he could read.
    Planes are so tricky with kids. I hope you have a lovely holiday.

  2. I bring Highlights magazines! I order a subscription, along with Hidden Pictures Club, so I get 2 magazines a month. I keep a couple in both vehicles and then bring a few in his backpack.

    I also pack a throw blanket and jacket. Planes can get chilly and it’s always easier to sleep when warm and snuggly. (A chosen Build-a-Bear teddy works well as a travel pillow).

    Some (US) airports are starting to search snacks (major eyeroll) so be prepared if you bring snacks. I stopped packing them in everyone’s bag and now have 1 carry-on bag (usually my backpack). And that bag contains everything that may require extra searching.: the laptop, snacks, and the quart ziplocks of toiletries.

    Another snack hack: I get $1 store containers with lids to pack crunchy snacks. My kid lives for goldfish and cheese it crackers. I feel a small twinge of plastic guilt when I toss them once empty but they’re cheap so I don’t feel money guilt over it.

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