While flying with a toddler may not be on any parents' list of top 10 things they love to do, packing a well-stocked carry-on bag can help make an otherwise long flight smooth sailing.
Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks
Flying with a toddler with low blood sugar is bad for everyone. Select easy-to-eat, nonsticky foods like cereal, fruit snacks and raisins. Keep snacks already portioned out in individual plastic bags and easily accessible. And don't forget to pack snacks like lollipops and other special treats in case there's an epic meltdown midflight.
Portable Entertainment Device
If you previously had a rule limiting screen time for your toddler, now may be the time for a special exception to bust out that iPad. Experienced traveling mom Keryn Means of Walking On Travels shares, "When in doubt, we pull out my laptop, pop in some 'Curious George,' 'Cars' or another PBS show (we pretend our TV watching is educational at least) and all take a little break in our seats." And if you want any special apps or shows, download them before you leave home so you won't have to rely on the airport's Internet connection.
Related: Keryn Means of Walking On Travels
"My carry-on always has a small bag of 'travel' toys. These may be special cars that only pop out when we hit the road or maybe even a new matchbox truck," says Means. You can also wrap a never-before-seen toy for every hour of the flight. The unwrapping of the "present" and novelty of the toy should keep your toddler occupied for at least a good 10 minutes. Every minute counts!
If your toddler is old enough to pay attention to a show or movie through the airplane's entertainment system, invest in headphones that are made just for kids -- they may end up being a lifesaver. Just make sure they practice putting them on at home so they're not thrown by something unfamiliar.
According to airline attendant Beth Henry, "Since I work for an airline I know it is best to assume milk will not be available on your flight. Airlines do supply it, but in small amounts and not at all times of the day." So if your toddler is drinking milk, you'll have to purchase it after you pass through security. If they have special dietary restrictions and need a special kind of milk, you'll have to declare it at the security check-in, which does allow a "reasonable amount" of milk through if it's for your child. Just know that your time in security may be long and plan accordingly.
Sippy or Straw Cup
Having a clean vessel that your toddler knows how to drink out of will be essential for those long, dehydrating flights. And any parent who has struggled with watching a toddler fumble with those flimsy plastic airplane cups knows how invaluable a spill-proof cup can be.
Wipes are so multifunctional that you can never have enough. Not only are they essential for diaper changes if your child is not yet potty-trained, but you can use them to wipe sticky hands, clean the tray table, wipe down fallen toys and just about anything else.
Change of Clothes
From spilled liquids to diaper leaks to random tantrums, there are plenty of reasons a toddler might need an outfit change midflight, so it's always best to be prepared. "Not many things can make a flight more miserable than sitting in damp, puke-smelling clothes in close confines with strangers," says Means.
Whether your toddler still uses a pacifier or has a favorite lovey or blanket, make sure you pack it -- and extras if you have some -- in your carry-on. This way if your checked baggage ever gets lost, you'll still have her most precious item on hand with you.