Yes, flying with children can be a challenge. But, no, it’s not always the gigantic stop-and-really-think-before-you-go-through-with-this event many parents like to make it out to be. Do a frantic terminal, rogue luggage carts, judgemental passengers and the thousand other possible hiccups make the daily parenting battles a bit more strenuous? Sure. But if you’re prepared, it’ll all be fine.
The key to successfully flying with kids boils down to three things: getting the airport early, planning ahead, and packing the right gear. (Also, extra snacks.) No, we can’t drive you to the airport or make sure you built in enough time to go to the bathroom before boarding. What we can do, however, is share this list of travel gear that makes the art of traveling a bit easier. From a backpack stroller, to a suitcase that turns into a baby bed, to a toddler safety harness, these 11 items help make that next flight much less stressful for you and your kids.
Trunki is a hard-sided suitcase with wheels (and steering horns!) that kids can ride or, more likely, you can tow down the jetway. It comes in one 12 colorful characters/themes (bumble bee, Hello Kitty, a double decker bus), holds up to 75 lbs., and converts to a bedroom storage trunk when your little road warrior isn’t headed to Des Moines for a big sales conference.
BRICA Cover Guard Car Seat Travel Tote
Look, you didn’t pay hundreds of dollars for a car seat only to let the baggage handlers beat the hell out of it. (Oh yeah guy, I can see you from the jet bridge.) The BRICA Cover Guard makes it easy to haul your convertible/forward facing seat through the airport (thanks to both wheels and backpack straps) and safely gate check it (or use it on the plane). Thanks to an easily accessible pocket, you can also stuff it full of whatever snacks that didn’t get stuck in the seat cushion.
Water Wow! ON The GO Travel Activity
If you don’t already know about it, the Water Wow! is pretty much the greatest coloring book ever invented. And for good reason: there are no markers, paints, or crayons involved. Here, kids paint with a giant water brush and each stroke reveals part of the hidden image. When the page dries, the picture disappears and they can start again. So hours of in-flight coloring entertainment. There are a bunch of books to choose from ⏤ animals, vehicles, fairy tales, etc. ⏤ and they only run $5 a pop. Fill up that carry-on.
BedBox is a hardshell ride-on suitcase for kids that converts into an in-flight bed once you’re airborne and free to move about the cabin. All you have to do is flip the suitcase’s lid, extend the plastic bed plate, and roll out the mattress. The bed is designed to be used by the window (although it works in the middle seat too) and allegedly fits every type of plane seat (Spirit is probably thinking “challenge accepted.”) For added safety, you can attach the seat belt under the child’s armpits to keep them from knocking into your tray table. And, of course, when you have to return your seats to their full, upright, and locked position, bedtime is over.
Omnio Backpack Stroller
Parents often want to bring a stroller on vacation ⏤ even if just to use in the airport ⏤ but would rather not haul an unwieldy convertible through airport security. Omnio is a lightweight (16.5 pounds) full-sized stroller that collapses into a backpack ⏤ which then conveniently fits in the overhead bin. It’s made to carry kids 6-months to 50 lbs., rocks all-terrain, omnidirectional tires that roll sideways without swiveling, and the same shoulder straps that keep Junior safe double as your backpack straps.
Primo Lapbaby Belt
Showcased at this year’s JPMA Baby Expo, this ingenious device straps your infant-in-arms to your lap when seated. That means you get both hands free to eat pretzels and sip tiny cups of soda, airplane seatbelt fits more comfortably over both you and the kid. It weighs less than a pound, folds up and stows in its own carrying case, and has an attached tether for toys and pacifiers. It fits babies 3-months-old and up and dude’s whose pants aren’t bigger than 54 inches.
Snug Play+ Folding Headphones
The beauty of the Snug Play+ headphones, other than they allow your kids to watch Wild Kratz without everybody on the plane staring you down, is that they fold up to fit in your carry-on. Plus, the comfortable cans automatically limit the volume to protect your kid’s ears and rock a sharing port so you can plug in another pair of headphones ⏤ in case you to have a second child in tow or just want to watch PBS, too. They’re made for ages 3 to 9 and come in one of 14 festive colors.
Fly-Tot Inflatable Airplane Cushion
Like BedBox, Fly-Tot wants to help your kid get some solid sack time on long flights. Essentially, it’s a 21-inch-tall inflatable ottoman that transforms the airplane seat into a toddler bed. It sits on the floor between most economy and premium economy seats, and inflates in less than three minutes using the accompanying foot pump. It’s built for kids up to 4-feet, 7-inches (or 165 pounds), and the new model which debuted this spring also includes a carry-on strap.
Kids Fly Safe CARES Airplane Harness
Your kid just turned two-years-old and to celebrate, you get to buy them their own plane ticket. Oh, goodie. The only problem ⏤ other than that you just paid $400 a 2-year-old to fly ⏤ is that the airplane seatbelt isn’t likely to fit properly. It’s designed for adults. Similar to the mifold portable booster seat for cars, the CARES aviation restraint system ensures that kids age 1 year to 44 lbs. (or 40-inches tall) are safely secured in their seat. It’s certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an alternative to a car seat and involves simply attaching a harness to the existing belt. Better still, it weighs 1 lb. and fits into its own 6-inch stuff sack. Peace of mind has never been so convenient.
Paperclip Diaper Bag
Millions of people walk through airports every day. Do you really want to change your baby’s diaper on the floor next the gate agent? Paperclip is a handsome dude-friendly backpack diaper bag with an attached, fold-out changing station. Designed by a couple of dads and unveiled at last year’s ABC Expo, it comes in two styles with names that resemble a morning zoo crew, the Bear and the Willow. It also has an outside-accessible laptop compartment and can easily convert into a messenger bag.
Abiie HUGGS Baby Carrier With Hip Seat
It’s a big travel debate for new parents: Stroller or carrier? What’s the easier way to tote that baby through the airport? If you lean carrier, then take a look at Abiie’s innovative new HUGGS ⏤ it just debuted at JPMA and is designed with an ergonomic built-in kid seat. It allows for four different carrying positions ⏤ front inward and outward, back, and hip ⏤ and rocks a decisively dad-friendly aesthetic, both in terms of color (gray and beige) and material (breathable mesh). Best of all, it only weighs 3.7-lbs. and is easy to stuff underneath the seatback in front of you.