The 13 Travel Essentials That Got Me Through a 24-hour Flight to Australia With 2 Toddlers

And they’re all under $30 at Amazon.

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I Flew for 24 Hours with 2 Kids, Here Are My Must-Haves for Sanity

Travel + Leisure / Reese Herrington

Our family recently relocated from New York City to Sydney, Australia, and while there were lots of things to think about as the move date approached, my biggest anxieties surrounded how we’d navigate a full day of travel (a six-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles, a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, and a three-hour layover in between) with our two toddlers, ages 3 and 15 months.

I love my sons more than anything, but the thought of spending 24 hours with them on two cramped planes and in three hectic airports filled me with dread.

Luckily, this wasn’t my first long-haul flight with kids. My husband and I had previously flown with my older son a handful of times, including this same route to Sydney when he was 2 months old. We also underwent an eight-hour flight with both boys when they were 2 ½ and 8 months, which went surprisingly smoothly. So I had some idea of what to expect, and what I might need. 

But as many parents know, flying with a child who falls somewhere between ages 1 and 2 makes any journey uniquely challenging. At this stage, they’re old enough (and eager, and stubborn enough) to want to be moving ALL THE TIME, but they don’t follow directions and have little interest in quiet activities like coloring books or screens.

With my very wiggly and surprisingly strong toddlers in mind, I spent the weeks leading up to our flight scouring Amazon for products that would help me entertain them, as well as pack their stuff more efficiently, and generally feel more organized and prepared — and they’re all under $30. Here, the items that actually did make the journey easier.  

GoBe Kids Snack Spinner

GoBe Kids Snack Spinner - Reusable Snack Container with 5 Compartment Dispenser and Lid BPA and PVC Free | Dishwasher Safe


I spent more time than I care to admit searching for the perfect reusable snack container. And while this GoBe spinner was one of the pricier models I came across, it ended up being the best pre-flight purchase I made.

Not only is this container ideal for bringing a variety of bite-sized snacks onto the plane, but the spinner functionality delivers built-in entertainment. Both of my sons loved pushing the button, spinning the compartments and selecting their snacks, and I’m convinced the “fun” factor actually encouraged them to eat more, too.

The included alphabet stickers are a nice touch, perfect for spelling your child’s name on the lid. And unlike some products you might buy to get through a long flight, this spinner is useful in daily life — a few weeks later, we’re still using it for on-the-go snacking.

The one downside is that with its smaller compartments, it’s truly only appropriate for snacks (I was able to fit Goldfish crackers, cut-up berries, cubed tofu and some puffs, for example), so you’ll need a separate container for anything bigger you want to bring on board, like premade sandwiches.

To buy:, $30

Packism Clear Toiletry Bag

PACKISM Clear Makeup Bags


Whenever I’d ask other parents who had done long-haul flights with kids for their advice, they'd stress how important it is to be organized. While you don’t want to overpack, you want the things you do need to be easily accessible. With that in mind, I made it my mission to find the perfect storage bags to keep track of small-but-essential items during our flight. I returned a few bags that felt too flimsy, but these Packism toiletry bags were — literally! — clear winners.

Four quart-sized bags are included in this set, and I assigned each a purpose: one contained a first-aid kit and all of my sons’ medicines; another had toothbrushes and toothpaste for the entire family; the third my own personal care products; the fourth miscellaneous small items, like adult headphones. Not only did these bags help me pack more efficiently, but they made it easier to keep track of tiny items that could easily go missing during the flight. And because they’re clear and shallow, you can quickly locate the one thing you actually need.

They also pack well, transforming into a stackable rectangle when filled. You just can’t overstuff them (they are definitely not stretchy), so I’d size up to something roomier if you’re looking to fit larger items like full-size toiletries. 

To buy:, $17 for 4

Bonds Baby Wondersuit

Baby Wondersuit 2 Way Zip Sleep and Play Fold Over Cuffs


No matter the time of day, my personal opinion is that footie pajamas are the only thing worth dressing young kids in during a flight. They are a complete outfit — no need to pack multiple tops, bottoms and socks — saving space in your bag, and they’re the easiest thing to get on and off in an airplane bathroom. I’ve tried countless brands, but nothing compares to the Wondersuit from Bonds, an iconic Australian store. The two-way zipper, foldover footie cuffs and super durable fabric are standout features, and you can find them on Amazon in sizes up to 4T.

To buy:, $30

Ltrop iPad Case

LTROP iPad 6th Generation Case


Every family has different feelings about screen time, and it’s worth mentioning that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against it altogether for children under 18 months, and recommends no more than an hour per day for 2- and 3-year olds. But for a flight this long, my feeling was that the typical guidelines can be loosened. 

To prepare, we preloaded an old iPad with apps that could be used without Wi-Fi, downloaded an infinite number of shows, movies, and audiobooks, and purchased this truly indestructible iPad case. While it won’t score any aesthetic points and is bulkier than ideal, you can’t beat its kid-friendly usability. The three handles are easy for little hands to grip, it has a detachable strap and kickstand, and the material is thick and shockproof (critical, as toddlers are pretty much guaranteed to drop the thing constantly).

To buy:, $14

Farm Animal Party Favors Stickers

Farm Animal Party Favors Stickers


When in doubt, stickers. And when traveling, removable stickers are key. These gel decals cling well to a variety of surfaces (we used them on the plane windows and seat-back trays), and they come off just as easily, crucial for avoiding tantrums. Plus, I loved that they were thick and sticky enough for my younger toddler to manipulate on his own. My 15-month-old was particularly obsessed with farm animals when I ordered these, but the brand also has jungle animals and dinosaurs if that’s more your kid’s thing.

To buy:, $9

The Dreidel Company Plastic Multicolor Coil Spring

The Dreidel Company Plastic Multicolor Coil Spring


I packed plenty of coloring books, stickers and art-y activities for the flight — and while they were great, something I hadn’t accounted for was how much time on the plane would be spent sitting in the dark. On a long-haul flight, there’s a good chance that a big portion will be overnight, meaning the cabin lights will be out and some activities will be harder for little ones to see.

Enter my entertainment MVP: a plastic coil toy. Honestly, I can’t understand why this thing captivated both of my kids so well, but captivate them, it did. They each took turns bouncing it up and down in the space between the seats and made up endless creative games with it. Because it was easy to play with in the dark, it became the go-to lights-out toy. My only regret was not buying two.

To buy:, $5

iRag Kids’ Headphones

iRAG J01 Kids Headphones Foldable Stereo


I already owned these headphones, which I’d purchased before a previous flight with our older son, but made sure to buy a second pair for my youngest before our flight to Australia. It’s difficult to find children’s headphones that aren’t super clunky, and I love that these are adjustable and easily fold into a compact shape. Something about the soft, smooth finish on the headband just feels nice, too, and I’ve found that the material holds up well over time. 

Keep in mind that as far as headphones go, these are pretty basic — there’s no microphone or Bluetooth capability, and they don’t have a safe noise limit, so you’ll have to monitor the volume on your child’s device. But for occasional use, especially when traveling, these are the best I’ve found at such an affordable price point.

To buy:, $17

Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Reusable Water Reveal Activity Pad

Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Reusable Water-Reveal


If you’re a toddler parent, you’ve likely encountered the Water Wow! books before, or at least spotted them out in the wild (they’re great for entertaining kids at restaurants). I packed two for our flight, and both received plenty of play. I could go on and on about why these things are so amazing — the pages “refresh” even after frequent use, each pad includes a built-in storage container for the pen and they’re available in countless themes. Just make sure you pre-fill the pens with water (a good time to do this is in the bathroom after you get through security but before boarding), since it’s harder to do once you’re on the plane.

To buy:, $8

Imagine Ink Magic Ink Pictures

Imagine Ink Magic Ink Pictures


As with Water Wow! pads, Imagine Ink lets kids “draw” without leaving marks on other surfaces. (In this case, the pen contains a clear, mess-free ink). But while Water Wow! pads can be used by both younger and older toddlers, Imagine Ink is definitely best suited for tots 3 and up, since it uses a regular-sized pen that would be difficult for 1- or 2-year-olds to grip. This one is a good choice for kids who are obsessed with “Paw Patrol” and will be excited by the sight of familiar characters. Crucially, I learned from experience that the magic pen doesn’t dry out even if you lose the cap.

To buy:, $6

Mini Butterflies Toy

U.S. Toy Mini Butterflies Action Figure (12 Pack)


A few weeks before we moved to Australia, my sons went to a butterfly exhibit at a children’s museum with their grandparents. From then on, they were obsessed with butterflies, which is why I added this pack of 12 miniature butterflies as a last-minute addition to my shopping cart. But while my kids were going through a bit of a butterfly phase at the time, I think these would be a good fit for most traveling tots. They offer limitless opportunities for imaginative play, and they’re small and easy to pack (but not so precious that you’d be devastated to lose one). 

To buy:, $6

Sassy Baby Disposable Diaper Sacks

Sassy Baby Disposable Diaper Sacks, 200 Count, Packaging may vary


Regardless of whether your kids are still in diapers, having small plastic bags in your carry-on can be really helpful. You can use them to dispose of dirty diapers, but they’re also great for stashing soiled clothes that you want to separate from clean ones, or trash you accumulate in your seat. A few quart-sized Ziploc bags also work, but I’m partial to these diaper bags, which are very lightly scented, hold a surprising amount given their small size, and easily tie closed. They’ll also last forever — I actually bought this 200-count box back in 2019 and am still working my way through it.

To buy:, $11

Zak Designs Kids Durable Plastic Spout Cover

Zak Designs Bluey Kids Durable Plastic Spout Cover and Built-in Carrying Loop, Leak-Proof Water Design for Travel


A water bottle is a must on any flight for keeping your kids hydrated. Although it will have to be empty when you go through security, you can fill it up in the airport and ask the flight attendant to continue refilling it in the air. I’ve tested countless kids’ water bottles over the years, and this one is by far the most durable and it’s actually leak-proof, as long as the lid is on. I also like that it's super lightweight and the design is easy enough for toddlers to open and close on their own.

To buy:, $16 for 2

YumEarth Organic Fruit Flavored Pops

 YumEarth Organic Fruit Flavored Pops,


You can prep and plan and try to anticipate every potential tantrum trigger, but some things are simply out of your control when you travel, and that’s especially true with young kids. For moments when you need to quickly redirect an older toddler’s meltdown, I found it really helpful to have a few emergency lollipops in easy reach. A lollipop will buy you at least 15 minutes of silence in a tense situation (TSA line, while boarding the plane, mid-air when the lights are out and it’s completely silent except for your screaming kid). As far as candy goes, these aren’t terrible — they’re organic, free of most allergens and don’t contain artificial dyes. Just supervise your child closely, as hard candies like lollipops are a common choking hazard.

To buy:, $9

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