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I Won’t Fly Anywhere With My Kids Without This Collapsible Tote

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

Unsurprisingly, flight attendants do not like it when you inform them that you have dropped your phone into the seat and need them to call a specialist in to dismantle the chair to find it. Your family also will not like it when they have to wait near the plane doors while your phone is being retrieved, baby crying, toddler exhausted, connecting flight about to depart.

We’ve recently been returning to frequent travel, and I can’t help but think everything about the journey has become more tedious and cramped and chaotic. Part of it is probably that we as a people seem to have lost all civic sense during COVID, but it’s also that now my husband and I mostly travel with a very active 4- and 5-year-old in tow.

It’s become somewhat easier since I started packing this collapsible tote into one of our carry-ons. I pull it out as soon as we board and dump crucial in-flight things in it — headphones, snacks, eye masks, water bottles, lip balm, face cream, kids’ activities, phones, chargers, and books. As we fly, instead of having to squeeze things into the tight magazine compartment or risk losing them in the seats, or having to keep getting up to access the overhead compartment, we can all toss things into the structured open bag (it usually sits near the kids, as their legs aren’t yet long enough to reach the ground). And then, when we land, we can just pull the whole thing off the plane and rearrange it on the ground. And nobody is asking the staff to help find phones, nobody is having to return in search of lost stuffed unicorns, and we’re on our way.

In recent months, as a family, we’ve flown from New York City to Montreal, Miami, and London, plus— the ultimate challenge — taken a 17-and-a-half-hour direct ultra-long-haul flight to Auckland, New Zealand. Seventeen and a half hours is a long time to keep two kids occupied, even with a semi-full night of sleep involved, but my magical bag of activities helped significantly.

My husband and I used it to tuck away cheese and crackers to have with wine after the kids fell asleep, and there at 40,000 feet above sea level, we raised a toast to human ingenuity (air travel but also, to a lesser degree, sturdy collapsible bags).

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I Won’t Fly With My Kids Without This Collapsible Tote