Carry-on Luggage: What to Pack for Babies and Small Children


Get ideas for what to pack for babies, infants and kids in your carry-on luggage or bag, including a FREE printable packing list.

Packing your carry-on luggage for a trip with babies and small children can be overwhelming. Let us make it easier for you with this guide about what to pack for kids in your carry-on luggage. Our free printable carry-on luggage packing list is also available as a FREE digital download. Look for the sign up form later in this blog post to get yours.

Or just grab the Clutter Keeper Road Trip Planner. It has all the maps, checklists, and tips you need when you’re planning a vacation.

carry-on luggage

What to Pack in Your Carry-On Luggage

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Snacks and Drinks

It goes without saying that if you’re flying with small children, you will want to have plenty of snacks in your carry-on luggage. When we fly with our two children, we also pack empty baby bottles and at least two sippy cups. These can be filled with water from a drinking fountain once you get past airport security or filled by a flight attendant once you’re on the plane. When you’re onboard and ready for take off, put the filled bottles and sippy cups in the pocket of the seat ahead of you or make sure they are upright. We’ve found that the change in cabin pressure during a flight can cause them to leak in your carry-on luggage.

We also love the BooginHead SippiGrip which is pretty much a leash for your child’s sippy or snack cups to keep them close at hand. You can use it to attach the cups to your stroller, your front carrier or the tray table.

In 2006, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began restricting the size and quantity of liquids you could bring in your carry-on luggage to 3.4 oz or smaller. However, liquids essential for infants (e.g. breast milk, baby formula, food) are permissible. You just need to pull the liquids out of your carry-on when you go through airport security. Be sure to allow a few extra minutes to get through the security checkpoint in case additional screening is necessary. Visit the Transportation and Security Administration’s website for more tips about the airport security screening process.

New Toys and Books
plastic links to pack in your carry-on luggage

Small, inexpensive toys and books that your child has never seen are also a special treat and can keep your child occupied for quite some time. Prior to a trip, I usually visit a local dollar store to buy some cheap toys and books so that I’m less concerned if they get lost or damaged during our flights. I look for coloring books, crayons, blank notebooks, hidden picture books, small paperback storybooks, and small, quiet toys. Small plastic links are great for attaching toys to you, the stroller or the plastic tray table on the seat ahead of you.

Electronic Games and Movies

child-safe headphones to pack in your carry-on luggage

An iPad, iPod Touch, a portable DVD player, or some other electronic device loaded with games and movies can entertain your child for hours. Just be sure to bring along headphones, so the noise doesn’t disrupt other passengers. For our three year old, we recently bought the Kidz Gear Wired Headphones because they’re designed to fit small children and have a small cable to limit the volume and protect precious little ears.

Birth Certificates

Bring your travel documents and identification, including your child’s birth certificate. You may need it as proof of age for a lap child or as identification if the child has his or her own seat.

Extra Clothes

You should pack extra clothes for each child as well as at least one extra shirt for you in case you are on the receiving end of a spill or accident. You’ll also be glad you did if your flight gets cancelled leaving you stranded somewhere overnight.

Diapers and Baby Wipes

Have plenty of diapers in case one of your flights get significantly delayed or cancelled. I usually pack at least two days worth in my carry-on when I travel, just to be on the safe side. I also recommend using Huggies Overnite Diapers for your children when you fly. They’re designed to go 12 hours between changes so the extra absorbency helps prevent leaks. Tip: Most airplanes do not have baby changing tables in the lavatories, so change your child’s diaper before you board the plane. Baby wipes are also great to have for washing up messy faces and sticky hands during your travels.

Other Essentials for Your Carry-on Luggage

A gallon sized resealable bag is good for wet clothes or if someone gets motion sick. Small hand sanitizer (3 oz or less) used a few times throughout your travels will help keep germs at bay.

Stuff for You

Bring a book or magazine along for yourself as well. If your child falls asleep or is preoccupied with a game, book, toy or activity, you may actually get a little time to do something you like. I typically bring an empty plastic water bottle that I can fill for myself after I get through airport security. It also doesn’t hurt to throw some pain reliever tablets in your bag in case the stress of flying with small children causes a headache. Of course, never leave home without your cell phone and charger in the carry-on luggage. Gum or mints are also handy items that you’ll be glad you packed.

I’d recommend you use a backpack as your carry-on luggage. This will allow you to carry everything you need on your back, leaving your hands-free to push a stroller, hold a hand, or check your boarding pass.

Get the Free Printable Carry-on Packing List

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Is there something we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know what essential items you always pack in your carry-on luggage when flying with your small children. Happy travels!

What’s Next?

“Carry-on Luggage: What to Pack for Babies and Small Children” is one piece of a three-part series on Flying with Small Children. While you’re here, be sure to check out other family travel tips:

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  1. New toys and books were key to keeping my daughter happy during the 3 international flights she took as an infant. Without those distractions, it would’ve been hard since she wasn’t much of an airplane sleeper. Love that you included a printable. That’s great!

    1. She wouldn’t sleep? That’s rough. I wholeheartedly agree, some new toys and books that they haven’t seen before can keep them entertained for a long while. Any other tips from such long international flights?

  2. I flew solo coast to coast with a 9 month old and a 2 year old. What saved the day was a dvd and kid sized headphones. Also great were stickers that could easily be removed from the tray table (sparkly plastic ones, not papery ones.) Also, I do not believe in bribery, but I think that candy rewards/bribery lol are awesome for airplanes because it is such close quarters to so many strangers. Take small gummy candies that won’t induce too much drool (no sours.) What I wished I would have had was disposable change pads so I could change my baby on the floor, since the one bathroom with the change table was not close enough to leave the 2 year old strapped in the seat. Also, you mention hand sanitizer, but what I like better is the antibacterial wet ones in a re-closeable package. They don’t count as a liquid, you can use them for hands and the hard surfaces your kids will touch while sitting.

    1. Also, I don’t regret bringing my double stroller and gate checking it, because I had a connecting flight out of Atlanta and had to walk for 45 minutes at high speed with the 2 kids just to get to the gate on time. Couldn’t have done it without the double stroller. Getting the double stroller through security wasn’t that much of a hassle to make it not worth it.

      1. I totally agree. We actually brought our double stroller for our most recent flight. We weren’t in as much of a hurry between flights as you, but it was still helpful to give our three year old two options at the airport: “You can walk or you can ride in the stroller! We’re not going to carry you.”

    2. These are GREAT tips! Thank you for taking the time to share them with our readers. That’s such a smart idea to bring disposable change pads to use for changing the baby’s diaper and antibacterial wet ones for hands and hard surfaces. I’m so glad you stopped by.

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