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Fat Mama's 24-Hour Flight Essentials Travel Pack

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Between yearly trips to the Hawaiian Islands, visiting family in Wisconsin and on the east coast, and turning work trips into family vacations, Itsy Bitsy has averaged two to three 4-hour (or longer) plane flights per year since she was 6 months old. That means that this Fat Mama has endured more than 100 hours of flying with a child under the age of 5. So when I say that I know how to fly with a kid and how to help you, dear reader, keep your sanity while flying cross country with your kid, I’ve definitely logged the hours to back up the methods to my madness.

First off, let me assure you, traveling with kids gets easier with age and practice … but mostly practice. I think the most stressful part of traveling, especially flying, with your child (or children) is simply the unknown. Therefore, the very first time you do it is going to be the hardest. Now, that doesn’t mean the first time is going to be the most challenging. Oh no!

Itsy Bitsy and Fat Papa asleep on the plane.

In hindsight, Itsy Bitsy’s very first time flying at 6-months old was probably her easiest. It was the most stressful for Fat Papa and I because we were worried about what to pack, what not to pack, what to check, what to carry on … all that stuff that adds to anxiety and makes travel not fun. But, being only 6-months old, and overall a great baby, Itsy Bitsy was her normal well-behaved (slept most the time) self on the plane. The drama came on later flights when, due to our own poor planning, weather delays, missed connections, or bad packing choices, we had total meltdowns and horrible flying experiences … but that is for a different post.

Dr. Fabby Note: Most parents find this age to be great for travel. As a pediatrician, I frequently recommend to new parents who are interested on travel that they plan a trip between 4 and 6 months old. Most babies will sleep for most of the flight and it is one of the EASIEST ages for travel. All bets are off once they start learning to walk!

My point is, travel is like all things, practice makes perfect. The first time you travel with your kids, regardless of their age, is going to feel overwhelming and daunting. I can help set you up for success with my favorite on-plane packing list. The best part, it doesn’t matter how old your kids (or perhaps man-child) are, this list works for everyone!

The History of the Flight Essentials Travel Pack

When I was growing up, we spent a week or two every summer visiting my grandparents in Washington. Because this was a yearly activity, Gigi, who loves her routines and lists, started a family tradition that soon became part of all our trips … the travel backpack. I loved this tradition. The funny thing is, it’s only now that I am an adult with my own child that I realize how much this fun tradition was more about my mom’s own OCD and prepared-for-everything attitude then it was about creating a fun surprise for Jackalope and me.

Either way you look at it, go-bag or fun surprise, our travel backpacks were Gigi’s way of making sure Jackalope and I had everything we would need for 24-hours of travel. And let me tell you, ducky, those travel bags were quacking useful on more than one occasion. I’m looking at you canceled connection in Dallas.

So, it is from this family tradition that I have created my own family’s travel backpack tradition. I have combined Gigi’s practical prepared-for-everything readiness, with my own love of surprises, and Itsy Bitsy’s immense curiosity. I hope you find this Fat Mama 24-Hour Flight Essentials Travel Pack list helpful.

Fat Mama Tip: While I really enjoy using a backpack for my Fat Mama 24-Hour Flight Essentials Travel Packs (you can read all about how I choose my backpacks in my blog post Fat Mama’s Favorite TWF and Family Travel Backpacks), feel free to use whatever type of carry-on bag works best for your family. And find fun ways of adapting this tradition to match your family’s unique personality and sense of humor.

What Are Flight Essentials?

While each person’s specific flight essentials may be different, everyone has 4 main categories of essentials that should be packed in a carry-on for every flight lasting more than an hour. Just my humble opinion. When you fly, every person in your party should have items in their carry-on for:

  1. Entertainment

  2. Mastication

  3. Comfort

  4. Must-Haves

It doesn’t matter what age you are, what your interests are, how you like to fly, how hassle-free you like to travel … EVERYONE should fly with items covering these 4 categories in their personal carry-on item. So what do I mean by entertainment, mastication, comfort, and must-haves?


On any flight over an hour (for me its really any flight … period … the end), you are going to want some form of entertainment with you. This is doubly true if you are traveling with children. Of course, since most of us these days are glued to our electronic devices, the likelihood is that your entertainment is going to be your phone, laptop, or tablet. Oh, by the way, get the internet. It’s totally worth it.

Motherly Advice: When it comes to doctor visits and travel, the rules go out the window. There is no time in her life when Itsy Bitsy gets more junk food, more screen time, more bribes, more whatever than when we travel (or when she needs a booster shot). Whatever your rules about screens and sugar at home, consider suspending or modifying them for travel. Your day will go so much smoother, especially if screen time is a treat for your child.

Itsy Bitsy enjoying a movie on the plane.

Before every flight, Fat Papa downloads Itsy Bitsy’s favorite movies to our iPad to have it ready to go on the plane for her. But, we also purchase the internet on every flight so that she has access to her favorite apps. What are those apps you ask, dear reader? Well, some of our favorite kid apps include: