Tips for packing a carry-on for a loooooooong plane trip with kids

Tips for pack carry-ons

  1. Carry a travel purse.  I use an Eagle Creek Pouch I purchased years ago that has a thick cross-body strap, top flap and lots of zippers.  This is where I keep our passports, itinerary, $, etc.  I don’t ever take it off when we’re in the airport, just to be sure I don’t lose our important info.
  2. Take a change of clothes.  You can live with pee/puke dried on jeans for a few years, but its positively miserable to live in it for much more than that!  Don’t forget a few extra pair of underwear!
  3. Bring food. Due to the horrible news stories about runway delays combined with the unpredictable quality of airline food + kid moods, I also take snacks like energy bars, fruit strips, goldfish, apples, clementines, and grapes.  When the kids were small, we also had to make sure we had enough formula and our own water (one airplane we were on actually ran out of water once!).  Candy isn’t a bad idea for bribery purposes (like when your kid is screaming while the rest of the plane is asleep!).
  4. Pack some entertainment.  For entertainment, we take as little as possible now, but we do include a few books- ones where you have to search for things (e.g. Waldo, Usborne Great ___ Search, etc.) are great for passing the time.  My daughter’s now reading chapter books, so she’ll bring what she’s currently reading.  For myself, I throw in a fluff book (heavy reading nearly never goes well on this long of a trip!) and some sort of word puzzle book.  I also include a notebook and some writing utensils for them to draw or journal.  They each choose one *small* stuffed animal they’d like to journey with them.
  5. A necessary evil?? While its out of character in our normal lives, we break down and allow handheld electronics, so our ipods and leapsters come along as well.
  6. Keep valuables with you.  Though it takes up a lot of room, we also put our computers and cameras in our carry-ons simply because we’re not comfortable checking them…
  7. Keep medicine with you.  If anyone in your family takes medicine that they need on a daily basis, I keep this in our carry-on as well in case our luggage gets lost.  Since we travel to the developing world, its never a guarantee that they’ll actually find our luggage if it gets lost.  We can replace lots of things without a huge hassle, but medicine is a little trickier when we need it on a regular basis.
  8. Take a neck pillow.  I know it takes up a lot of space, but man, you can’t beat a neck pillow for getting a little comfy sleep sitting upright on a cramped airplane seat.  Neck pillows beat sleeping with your head on the tray table hands down.
  9. If you have babies/toddlers, my prayers are with you!  Travelling with a two-year-old is about as enjoying as sticking a needle in your eye.  Some hit items for our kids were dollar store tape dispensers that they could unroll, handheld videos/games, lollipops, and markers.  Take heart, the non-American airlines (and passengers) were generally much more hospitable and welcoming to children than the American ones.  A German lady once even tried to play her violin for my inconsolable two year old!   (It didn’t work, but hey, it was a nice gesture…)

For more on travelling with young kids, see How to pack for an international trip with children and Travelling with small children, staying sane along the way. Stay tuned for a printable packing list coming soon…


3 thoughts on “Tips for packing a carry-on for a loooooooong plane trip with kids”

  1. Also, when traveling w 3 kids under 4 or 5 (been both of these places), we try and lower our expectations to zero. If someone naps, its like a glimpse of heaven. Great categories in the sidebar, BTW


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