What To Pack In A Child’s Carry On

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Stressful is one of the words that come to mind when traveling with kids. My first experience traveling alone with my was when they were all under 6. We were traveling cross country and we had two scheduled layovers. The kids were (THANKFULLY) well behaved during the flight. What I was not prepared for was the layovers. I did not have anything to keep them busy. I wish that there was a list back then that I could have used. So here is one for you. These are the things I am currently packing for our trip this summer. I have learned that knowing what to pack in a child’s carry on can make or break a trip. A fully properly packed carry on is one of the most important parts of making a plane ride run smoothly when traveling with your children. Most airlines allow one carry-on per passenger, so when packing a carry-on for the kids you must keep in mind the different needs that may arise while traveling.


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I always  put a change of clothes in my kid’s bag first; you never know what might happen while traveling. Spilled drink while eating lunch while waiting for a connecting flight, an upset stomach, or lost luggage when you arrive will all necessitate a change of clothing. I add a gallon Ziploc with smaller Ziplocs inside of it in the front pocket of the backpack. These have endless uses including but not limited to holding wet clothes or keeping leftover snacks fresh. Then there are the hygiene items such as toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush with hair ties attached (see picture), and any other necessary personal hygiene items for each child (deodorant, glasses, tissues, chap-stick, wet wipes, retainer, etc.). Last but not least I throw in a pair of socks, even if the kids are wearing sandals or flip-flops. You never know when small feet will get cold and need to be covered.


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If you have little kids bring empty spill-proof cups and straws to fill after you get through security. My girls are bigger so we just buy bottled water once we are waiting for our plane. Pack crackers, granola bars, pretzels and dried fruit for easy snacks that don’t need to be kept cold. I like to put them all into another Ziploc (are you seeing a pattern yet?).


Sanity (um, Electronics)


Each of my girls have a Kindle that they like to bring when they travel. It works two-fold for having books to read and games to play. Most airports have free Wi-Fi service and many of the airlines now offer Wi-Fi, which works perfectly while in the air for movies if you have an online service like Netflix or Cable-On-Demand. Make sure you pack headphones for quiet enjoyment.

Busy Items

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My kids like to be off of their electronics as much as they like to be on them so I make sure that they have plenty of other options to help keep them busy. I always pack crayons, pads of paper, and stickers so they can draw or color. Since they were little, my girls always liked to draw a picture for the stewardesses and the pilots to say Thank-you for the safe flight. I add a card game, a small non-messy craft (that doesn’t need glue, tape, or scissors) and a small toy of some sort. I recently found these Play-Doh Makeables that are small kits with just enough Play-Doh to make one or two small items with included instructions. After the girls make them and are finished playing we place them in a Ziploc bag. They are fun, not messy at all, and the perfect size for the carry-on.

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The pictures here are of the actually things that we are taking with us when we leave for a family trip. It may seem like a lot (Ziploc with clothes not shown) but it all fits into a small backpack that be easily carried by it’s owner. Traveling alone with all four kids has come a long way since that first trip ten years ago.

I originally wrote about this over on Mom It Forward. You can check it out here.