Have you ever considered getting your little one their own travel bag? It becomes a treasure chest of all their favourite things on the flight and helps your kid pull along their own weight at the airport. Unfortunately, not every toy, snack and book in their long list of cherished items can fit inside a carry-on. So, what essentials should you prioritise when travelling with a toddler? A Dubai-based mum packs her two-year-and-10-month-old daughter's bag with us.
Should kids have their own carry-on?
Mums and dads are increasingly opting for an independent carry-on travel bag for their children. At a stage when toddlers grow possessive of their belongings, Nawrin Ela Huq, a luxury travel influencer on Instagram (@nawrin.ela.huq), finds it easier to let her daughter carry her own toys.
"Toddlers definitely need a bag of their own - it's comforting for them. We introduced a carry-on for our daughter in the past year because she doesn't like being in the stroller sometimes," said Huq, whose toddler has already traversed seven countries, without a hitch.
Another advantage of a separate bag is that you can quickly reach in and pull out whatever's needed to soothe a restless toddler. "I don't have to rummage through my carry-on to find her things, so the bag has everything she needs, like her comfort blanket," Huq added.
There are plenty of innovative, child-friendly bags on the market, such as Huq's part-scooter, part-trolley carry-on, by the Norwegian brand Stokke. Naturally, it's our number-one pick for your toddler, but if budget doesn't allow, then Huq says any bag with wheels should do.
"A carry-on travel bag for kids should have wheels and be small in size. Since you will have your luggage as well, a small bag will be easier for the toddler to manage on their own," advised Huq.
How do you pack a toddler's carry-on?
An essentials list will differ from toddler to toddler, but some items make up a common pile we can work with. Huq highly recommends starting with two extra sets of clothes, complete with paired socks and trousers, in case of accidents mid-flight. She packs them in durable ziplock bags, which can be repurposed to store dirty laundry.
Don't forget to add any medication your toddler may need, as well. "I bring along medication like paracetamol and antihistamines, because my toddler has food allergies," said Huq. If you're unable to get their ears to 'pop' during takeoff, Huq suggests a pacifier or anything the child can suck on, like hard candy.
As for toys, Huq only picks out those that are not battery-operated, so options boil down to soft toys and activity books, though any contraption that doesn't create a mess and isn't noisy should do.
Dive into her list below for more ideas, from snacks to kids' entertainment, and ensure a smooth flight for your little one. Shop with Amazon Prime for free, fast delivery.
1. Best Carry-on Bag: JetKids by Stokke BedBox
Let's start by picking out a carry-on bag. There are few dedicated child-friendly travel bags like the Stokke JetKids - Huq's toddler cruises on the ride-on suitcase through the airport and then sleeps on it in-flight. Suitable for children aged three to seven, the JetKids Bedbox weighs 3.3kg and has a storage capacity of 20 litres. It comes with straps that children can use to pull their suitcase along, besides riding it, or have parents carry it over their shoulder. With the included mattress and side panels, the carry-on slides under the leg rest and transforms into a bed, too! Plus, little ones will get to decorate their Bedbox with stickers. Mums and dads in the reviews say the airplane seat is now much more comfortable for their toddler to sleep in, especially on long-haul flights. The only caveat is that the approval of its sleeping mode is at the airline's discretion. According to Stokke's list of airlines, Etihad Airways is one of many that have officially approved the Bedbox.
2. Best Headphones for Toddlers: ONANOFF BuddyPhones Play+
- Wired and wireless
- Safe listening levels for kids
- Study mode makes vocals crisp
- 20-hour battery life
- Comes with stickers and soft travel case
- Not foldable
Toys are a great way to entertain your children in-flight, but eventually, they'll move on to more interesting activities. Huq says screentime is inevitable on really long flights, and airplane headphones are seldom safe for young ears. She invests in a pair of BuddyPhones Play Plus by Onanoff, which is colourful in appearance and comes with decorative stickers. It's both wired and wireless, and only has three volume levels that max out at 94 decibels. Kids can control the volume from the earcup and walk up to 20 metres away from the connected device. In study mode, the headphones emphasise vocals to help them focus better. You can pack it away in its soft travel case for the flight. Reviewers have plugged it into flight screens and attest to the headphones pairing instantly with the tablet. Parents were also able to set the maximum volume limit. Check out other children's headphones here.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two years for Dh19.
3. Best Entertainment Device: Yoto Mini Audio Player
- Screen-free children's content
- Plays podcasts, story books, rhymes and activities
- Hands-on analogue dials
- Can be used as a speaker or an audio player with headphones
- Cards are sold separately
- Needs Wi-Fi to load new cards
There's a tablet in the bag, but many parents would rather limit screens for at least part of the flight. Look for screen-free entertainment for an older toddler who's tired of activity books and puzzles. Yoto Mini audio player is one such device that's going to be incredibly exciting to your little one - it's a small speaker with analogue controls, a cool pixel display to go with every audio clip, and playable cards that run like cassettes. Pop in audio cards of bestselling books, rhymes, podcasts and activities, and enjoy up to 20 hours of child-friendly content - free of ads, mics and cameras. It's compatible with headphones, too, so the player is A-okay to bring along on a flight. Parents get access to supervision via the Yoto app, note reviewers. Bundle your purchase with Yoto audio cards on Amazon, like this starter pack with seven cards. Make sure to download the cards onto the 16GB storage space beforehand to play them without Wi-Fi.
Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh44.20 for 12 months with select banks.
4. Best Activity: Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads Set - Habitats, Vehicles, Town
Sticker books are noiseless, reusable and educational, immediately making them travel-friendly. Sticker games are Huq's go-to for keeping her toddler preoccupied en route. We've picked three large sticker activity pads by Melissa and Doug, each containing over 150 stickers. Children will stick objects and people onto colourful, glossy background pages, and by doing so, work their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, narrative thinking and creative expression. They'll learn about towns, habitats and vehicles with this bundle in the bag. Reviewers love how the stickers are not adhesive on floors, walls and tables, but just on the pads and glass surfaces.
5. Best Busy Board: Guolely Busy Board Montessori Toy
Featuring several activities in one, busy boards promote independent play and do exactly what they're called. This Montessori toy squeezes in 35 toddler activities into a folder bag, teaching them to tell time, buckle and unbuckle, and revise their alphabets, numbers, shapes, animals and more. The Guoley activity board is made of durable fabric and non-toxic materials; plus, the cutouts are made to fit small hands. Rave reviews by parents say the board's contents are engaging enough to hold their children's interest for hours on flights, so much so that kids up to six years of age enjoy playing with it. Pick from a dinosaur- or animal-themed set.
6. Best Water Bottle: Philips Avent Bendy Straw Cup, 200ml
Let your little one sip from their own cup and stay hydrated without any spills. Huq loves this 200ml Philips Avent bottle with a flexible straw, which is gentle on the gums, and soft ergonomic handles. The straw has an anti-leak valve design with a flip top to prevent accidents. Kids don't have to lean back and forth to catch the last sip, either, since the lower straw bends to catch everything in a natural drinking position. Reviews say it's perfect for introducing sippy cups to young toddlers, and the bottle even survives drops from heights.
7. Best Snack: Bear Fruit Rolls, Mango, 18 x 2 rolls
Curate an aeroplane snack meal in mini ziplock bags, says Huq, who advises dividing servings into separate bags, instead of tossing them into the carry-on. This method will save you time and help you oversee portion sizes. A popular snackable you can include is fruit rollups, she adds. These Bear Fruit Rolls have no added sugar nor concentrates and are high in fibre. It's an all-natural treat that's safe for preschool lunches as well. Every pack equals one cup of fruit for your little one, and there are three flavours to choose from, including raspberry and apple. Once they go through all packs, they'll have an impressive collection of bear cards on their hands.
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