Travel with Kids: What to Pack for Kids on the Plane (Short Haul)

Packing their hand luggage is the favourite part of my kid’s pre-holiday prep! But if it was up to them we would board the plane with backpacks full of Lego minifigures/toy pigs, and none of the things we actually need for the flight! For that reason, I tend to take the lead with packing the hand luggage backpacks filling them with the essentials they leave, and asking the boys to choose the toys they just can’t live without. I start my planning several weeks in advance (because I can’t help myself!) whilst the boys add their bits the night before we travel. Wondering what to pack for your kids on the plane? Here are my top tips:

Note: My sons are five and eight, so we no longer need to travel with nappies, wet wipes, and other essentials that you would need for younger children. I would suggest that this list would be most suitable for children within a similar age range of between around 4-9 years old. The bag pictured here belongs to my 8 year old son.

  • Electronics
    I know some people don’t like their kids to have too much screen time, but we are not opposed to using the digital babysitter on travel days! My eight year old has a Nintendo Switch and my five year old son has an Amazon Kindle for Kids. If you’re going to use a Kindle, make sure you download their favourite shows/movies before you leave home (whilst you have free wifi) as this can be very expensive at the airport. Although we pack electronics for the kids, we try not to let them use them until they get on the plane.
  • Headphones
    Whilst I’m happy for my kids to watch TV on the plane, not everyone else wants to hear the latest updates from the Teen Titans! Both boys have comfortable overhead headphones, to minimise the disturbance to other passengers. My kids are Mario crazy, so they have Mario headphones which you can buy here.
  • A Comfortable Travel Pillow
    Whether they want a nap or simply want to relax, you can’t beat a good travel pillow. We opted for memory foam pillows with hanging loops and buttons to hold them in place under the neck from Relaxeazzz. We found ours on eBay for £14.99, but you can buy from the brand directly or find them via Amazon. They come in a wide range of designs and as well as using them at the airport, we also use them in the car: they were well worth the investment.
  • A Clean T-Shirt
    If there’s something to spill, I can almost guarantee my youngest will spill it! If you’re travelling with similarly mucky pups then pop a clean T-shirt in their hand luggage, so that you can change them just before you arrive at your destination. So many of my arrival photos have big airplane food stains in them, so we learnt this one via trial and error! (for the same reason, I also carry wet wipes in my own airplane hand luggage, but that’s another post!)
  • Swim suits
    If we’re heading to a hot/beach destination, we always travel with the boy’s swimsuits in our hand luggage (theirs if there’s room and mine if not). Why? Because if our hold luggage is lost, it’s easy enough to buy new shorts and t-shirts in any destination, but swimwear with a high level of UV protection might be harder to find. And at least they can still hit the pool as soon as we arrive.
  • An Empty Water Bottle
    You can’t pass through airport security with an empty water bottle, but you can fill it up as soon as you get to the departure lounge. This will both give them easy access to a drink whenever they need one, and save you a few pennies on the plane! We are in love with the boys stainless steel water bottles, which are from Rex London. They’ve been reduced from £14.95 to £4.95 and you can get them here. My boys are both happy to drink water, but if not I recommended Robinson’s Squash’d: a portable squash drink that you can just add a drop or two to their water bottle to create flavoured squash. (We often pop one of these in our bag when we’re out and about!) As the bottles are under 50ml, we’ve never had any problem carrying these through airport security.
  • Special Cuddlies
    Both of the boys have special bears they just couldn’t be without: and that includes on the plane. They may take up more space than I’d like, but the idea of putting them in the hold and then losing them gives me cold sweats! I just couldn’t take that risk: it would ruin our whole holiday. They are placed firmly in the kids hand luggage!
  • Magnetic Game and Top Trumps Cards
    We carry magnetic Bingo and magnetic hangman (ideal because the pieces can never get lost) and the boys each picked a themed pack of Top Trumps cards. They can play these with each other at the airport, as well as on the plane and they make great pool-side or balcony entertainment when you reach your destination too. I often give the boys a ‘travel present’ before we fly, and new Top Trumps cards always make the cut!
  • A Notebook and Pen
    The boys love to draw, so we carry a notebook and pen with us almost everywhere: it keeps them distracted in queues, in restaurants, and whilst we’re travelling too. Colour changing pens or stackable crayons are a good choice if you want to carry different colours but don’t want to spend your whole flight picking crayons up off the floor. (These can also be given as a travel gift if you want to give new ones). The dinosaur one pictured is from Smiggle: these are currently on offer and instead of being £3.50 each they are 5 for £5: they have loads of different designs for girls and boys.
  • Stickers
    I am yet to meet a kid that doesn’t love stickers! A brand new packet of stickers or sticker book is sure to keep them entertained: Usborne have some great travel themed books for younger children, or you could look for stickers themed around your destination for older children.
  • A Book
    We try to choose stories that are themed to our destination, or even age-appropriate travel guides for our oldest son. Learning a little about the place they’re going to visit is a great way to invest your kids in the trip: even if it’s just a local nursery rhyme or folk law, it’s a great learning tool. The Horrible Histories books are hugely popular in this house, sharing gory stories about days gone by.
  • Small Toys
    We always pack Lego mini figures or Playmobil people, but you can tailor this to your child’s interests: dinosaurs, small cars, anything small and easy to play with will work. As an extra bonus, why not buy a few new small toys and wrap them? You can them give your child a ‘gift’ at intervals throughout your journey: for some reason, kids are always so much more excited about things when they’re new! It’s the perfect distraction, especially if you’re travelling with a toddler or smaller child.
  • Snacks
    Travel with plenty of snacks! Not only do they act as a great distraction, they’ll also cure any hunger-based crankiness. We always pack lollipops to suck for take off, and then add plenty of pre-packaged snack options: yoghurt tubes, tins of Pringles, flapjack bars, anything they see as a treat and don’t eat often will work.

    Note: Because of new Brexit regulations, whilst you can still take food on the plane, you can’t take anything off the airplane with you and import food into an EU country. For this reason, only pack the snacks that you will need for your travel day, and leave anything you don’t eat on the plane, so that you don’t have anything to declare at customs.
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer (post-Covid)
    Where will we go without our face masks and hand sanitizer any more? At present, all children over the age of 6 will have to wear facemask on the plane and at the airport. You are also advised to change your facemask every four hours (This is the info given on the TUI website right now, which is who our next flight is with) so pack plenty of spares, depending on the length of your journey.

What do you pack with you when you’re travelling with your kids? Do you have any top tips, or is there anything you pack that you think would enhance this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(There are no ads here! Any products I mention I have paid for myself, and am recommending them purely because they’re what we love and use.)

3 thoughts on “Travel with Kids: What to Pack for Kids on the Plane (Short Haul)

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