Preschoolers, ages 4 & 5, start to become significantly easier to travel with. They can sit for longer and stay entertained with one thing for more than 5 min (mostly!). If you involve them in the process and talk about your adventure ahead of time this age should be nice and easy! Whether your flight is one hour or ten, having the right stuff on board will help keep your preschooler entertained and well behaved. Here’s my use have list of what to pack when flying with preschoolers.

1. The Most Important Thing – A Backpack

A sense of independence is incredibly important for all kids, but especially once they get to preschool age. Help your preschooler pack all the things she’ll need for the plane in her own backpack. She’ll know exactly what she’s got and where it is, and it’ll give her a sense of responsibility for taking care of her own things. Plus, they look super cute in their little travel backpacks!

what to pack when flying with preschoolers

We love our Osprey packs!

This is our favourite backpack, with our must-have items!

2. Keep Them Fed – Pack Snacks!

Snacks are 100% a necessity on the plane. Some flights have snacks on board, or snacks for purchase, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be available when you need them! Snacks also provide a great distraction and keep your preschooler from getting hangry. A few packs of fruit snacks and some granola bars are all you’ll likely need. We do often buy snacks on board, and our girls have now come to associate “Swedish berries” with flying on Air Canada! It’s nice to buy snacks on board, but I also really appreciate having a few others for take-off and landing. And, I have them when I need them instead of waiting for the cart!

3. Save The Mess – Bring A Drink Cup

The drink cart is an integral part of the flying experience, but it never fails that something ends up spilled. Small cups on a bumpy plane in a small space are a recipe for disaster. We’ve had our fair share of spilled sprite (I would only let the girls have clear beverages to avoid the mess!!) on many flights before I got smart! I recommend bringing a small drink-cup with a lid and straw, or a sippy cup of some kind if your preschooler will still use it. This’ll decrease your chances of using the spare change of clothes!

The other reason I love bringing our own drinking cup, is it eliminates the plastic cup use on board. I’d rather wash out a reusable cup than throw out a handful of plastic cups from the plane.

These are my favourite kid-friendly water bottles that work great on the plane!

4. Always, ALWAYS Pack Spare Clothes

If you have checked luggage it’s always a good idea to have a spare change of clothes in the carry-on bag. I recommend a complete change of clothes (shirt, pants, underwear) for you child, and at least a spare shirt for yourself.

5. Travel Must-Have – Electronics

If there was ever a time for electronics, flying is it; whether it’s the seat-back tv, games on an iPhone, or pre-downloaded movies on an iPad. A few of my electronic essentials:

Earbud Headphones

A movie is a great way to spend an hour or two on a long flight. By this age your preschooler’s ears are big enough to fit kid-sized ear buds. The benefit of this is that they can be in for take-off and landing as long as they’re plugged into the airplane’s entertainment system. The Ety Kids earbuds are comfortable and have volume-control so they’re safe too.

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Handheld device

An iPad/Smart Phone/Tablet all come in handy when flying. They don’t have to be stored during take-off and landing so they can fill the time when the seatbelt sign is on. Some pre-downloaded movies on a tablet, or a few games on a smart phone is really all you need. A few of my favourite games: Toca Boca (any of them, they’re all great!), Mee Genius and Peppa Pig’s Golden Boots. To find more age-appropriate apps, there’s a great list HERE!

Leap Reader

The Leap Reader is one of those toys we reserve for airplanes only. The books are a bit expensive so I don’t want the girls to get bored of them. The reader has a headphone jack so everyone on the plane doesn’t need to listen to the story, and each book has activities to go along with it providing more entertainment than just the story itself. It also has lots of memory so I can download all our books onto both readers and the girls can share.


6. Other Distractions

Luckily at this age you don’t need to load up with too many distractions. The following are my favourite


We don’t go ANYWHERE without Lego, it’s an absolute must-have for us and provides hours of entertainment on flights. We have a small container with a baseplate on the top. It’s been rigged up with anti-slip car cell phone mats so it doesn’t get bumped off the tray-table as easily. the cell phone mats don’t keep their stick forever, but we usually can get a few trips out of them. When they start to get gross, I just wash them in the sink, let em dry and use em again (until they rip!). It’s amazing what a young imagination can build on a little baseplate.

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Mini Boogie Board

I picked up a pair of these little Jot 4.5 Boogie Board eWriters a few years ago and they’ve been amazing for traveling. They’re great for just drawing on, or you can play games like hangman and tic-tac-toe. I usually pack a spare just incase one gets left behind!

what to pack when flying with preschoolers

Play Pack

We try to avoid disposable items as much as possible, but sometimes the kids just want to colour. I think it’s good for their development, and it’s something other than a screen so I relax a bit with this one.
The dollar store, Target or Michael’s Crafts usually has little $1 play packs with 4 crayons, a few stickers and a little colouring book. They’ll usually last for a return flight, and they’re small enough to throw in my purse for any needed entertainment while we’re traveling. Plus, for $1, they’re pretty disposable.

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Read More: Check out these 21 airplane activities for preschoolers and toddlers if you’re looking for more!

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Essentials Preschoolers

Check out my “Tips for Flying with Preschoolers” to make your flight easier.

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