What to pack when flying Long-Haul with a Toddler

What to pack when flying Long-Haul with a Toddler

We recently returned from the United States, where we spent a couple of weeks in three different locations. Each time we moved to a different city, we took two planes, though most of our connections were short. By the time we returned to the UK (via the Netherlands), we counted up that James had taken 30 flights in his lifetime so far. He’s now 30 months old, so that’s some going! We are therefore, I hope, pretty experienced in packing entertainment for a toddler on a flight.

He loves aeroplanes, and he travels well. I don’t know if the two are connected!

What to pack when flying with a toddler

I usually put together a little bag of his toys and activities before we go, and I thought I’d share our latest bag for keeping a toddler busy on a flight. I use a 12-litre backpack, which is just a regular child size bag.


First of all I put in the bag a pair of over-the-ear headphones. Some aeroplanes you get over-the-ear phones supplied, other planes you get in-the-ear. Not knowing which we’d get, and not wishing to have him put anything in his ears (don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!) I got some of these so he could listen to the movie in the plane. These headphones are by Urbanz, and are around £10 on Amazon. I did look at noise-limiting headphones, but I read that with the hum of the plane, you sometimes can’t actually get them loud enough, and I was wary that might lead to unnecessary toddler outbursts, so I got these regular headphones. They fit him well, and they’ll definitely grow with him as he currently has them on the smallest setting.


toddler using headphones on an aeroplane

James watching Frozen!


Next in the bag I put a couple of books. I chose books James had never seen before – one with two toddler characters Max and Millie and the other with a long-time favourite Peppa Pig. We didn’t read either book on any of our plane rides! But we did read them while were away. You can see what else we read during our vacation in this bedtime story post!


I picked up these cute wooden travel related tokens from Sainsburys. Again, they were new to James, and he really loved imagining roads and activities for the various vehicles to go on. They were £2.50, and they’ve been pulled out since we got home, so I’m pleased these were a hit! Packing for a flight with a toddler doesn’t mean buying toys they’ll never play with again, so you don’t need to go mad at Poundland to keep them busy.


tips to entertain a toddler during a flight - my toddler playing small toys on aeroplane

James playing while on the plane – tongue out for concentration!


wooden toys lined up on a plane tray table

Wooden toys


I also included a little magic mat, which you can paint on with water. The mat comes with a pen you fill with water, and when you draw on the white mat with the pen, different colours appear. It was £2 from Amazon, and the mat is small, with the actual writing area even smaller. But it kept James entertained for a bit more than ten minutes!

water painting pad

Lots of fun till it all gets wet, then let it dry and get drawing again!

The last thing to get chucked in his 12l backpack was these cute Old MacDonald’s Farm lacing cards. They are much bigger than I thought they’d be, and they only just squeezed in! I love these cards, and James usually enjoys ‘sewing’ but these were tricky. He persevered and has continued to attempt these since we came back.

old macdonalds farm lacing cards


I filled the front pouch of the bag with different snacks: some fruit sticks; fruit smoothie pouches; and a few different kinds of biscuits. If you’re flying with your toddler on a flight that includes meals, you still will want to take snacks. The cabin crew do have a special extra box for people if you’re hungry outside of mealtimes, but I’ve found that they are not particularly toddler-friendly and usually full sized chocolate bars. Any snacks not eaten by your toddler on the plane may need to be declared on the landing card, depending on where you’re flying to. We’ve always done this and never had a problem with keeping the snacks when we’ve explained they’re for our child.


Additionally I loaded the iPad with his favourite apps, and made sure there were a couple of new ones. On this trip he didn’t even look at the ipad on any of the planes, so there were obviously enough other things to keep him busy.

Tips on what to pack to keep a toddler entertained on a flight. Uses things you will be able to use again, and can buy cheaply - no need to be a crafty mama!

You can look at my Pinterest board “flight prep” to find some other things I’ve taken to entertain our toddler on flights we’ve taken previously.




Leave a comment

  1. March 16, 2015 / 11:07 am

    Love all of these suggestions – the doodlemat in particular looks fantastic. I’ve never taken our children longhaul but we are considering Spain by bus next year so I’ll probably be scouring pinterest for tips! Thanks for linking #traveltales

  2. March 16, 2015 / 2:52 pm

    Love these suggestions – water magic/aquadoodle etc is brilliant for travelling, I think, as there’s no mess. I love the look of the little wooden Sainsbury’s toys as well. I’m usually a bit wary of anything too small as my daughter drops everything (and guess who picks it up) but for £2.50 that’s a winner… #traveltales

  3. March 16, 2015 / 3:31 pm

    I flew with Sebby in September and was surprised at how good he was. We are flying again in May and I hope he enjoys it as much!

    • March 16, 2015 / 5:23 pm

      Well done Sebby!
      There are lots of interesting things about being on an aeroplane that kind of entertains them without all the extra stuff too. When James was 11 months we took him to Berlin and he was fascinated by the seatbelt for the who,e journey 🙂

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