flying with kids in airport

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How to pack light when flying with kids.

Flying with kids, especially younger children, makes parents cringe a bit – or a lot! Kids come with a LOT of stuff, and keeping them happy and busy while waiting in the airport or traveling on the plane can cause a bit of worry. What ends up happening is the kids’ carry on bag gets filled with so much stuff that it becomes heavy or even hard to keep track of the items inside. Worst yet, the parents are the ones who end up carrying their kids’ carry on luggage. 

It doesn’t have to be that way! We’ve spent many years traveling with our kids, and I can finally say I have packing the kids’ carry on bags down to a science. It’s taken a lot of practice, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to keep those carry on bags manageable.

Traveling with Children: Must-Have Items in Kids Carry On Luggage

What I’ve learned from years of traveling with kids is not to overpack their carry on luggage. Firstly, we always allow our kids to bring one of their favourite small stuffed animals and their blanky. Having these comfort items helps them relax or even sleep on the plane. 

After that, there isn’t a whole lot of space for toys, so instead, we opt for one or two small travel-sized activities. Our experience is travel-sized Play-doh is always a hit and allows for some creativity and fun. Or small ‘surprise’ packs containing crayons and activity books allow for the excitement of opening them and doing some engaging activities. Any other small toys seem only to take up a minute or two before they get dropped on the floor or lost under the seats. So, I would say to leave those at home.  

Finally, it is so important to have a change of clothes, including underwear packed in your kid’s carry on. Drinks get spilled, and other accidents can happen. Worst case scenario, luggage gets lost, meaning the extra outfit you packed is the one your kid can change into for the next day or two while you wait to be reunited with your checked bags. 

Technology is your friend when traveling with children!

Relax the screen time rules.

If you worry about too much screen time, remember, it’s okay to take a short hiatus from that rule when traveling. Your kids will be completely fine if you allow them more screen time than usual just for travel. You will be calmer and less anxious when flying with your kids if you embrace technology as your friend! Using technology also means you don’t have to pack as many other items to keep them busy for those long flights. Just remember to take breaks and they’ll be just fine!

So, be sure to pack a tablet and some kids headphones and load up with movies and games that will keep your kids entertained on the plane. Many airlines now have an app you have to download to the devices that allow you to connect to a large inventory of movies and tv shows.

What kind of carry on luggage is best for kids?

In the past, our kids loved the idea of having their own rolling suitcases. What we found is that they would get tired of handling them, and us parents would end up having to take over. Recently, we switched to mini travel backpacks for each of our kids, and they are much happier. The bags fit easily under the seat, and we also made sure to choose packs that had different compartments to keep items organized. 

Here is a packing checklist for your kids carry on luggage.

  1. Favourite stuffed animal and blanky
  2. Change of clothes, including underwear and socks. Put these items in a large Ziploc bag; that way if there are any spills or accidents, you’ll have somewhere to put the old clothes. 
  3. Snacks. Again, put these items in a large Ziploc bag to keep them together. I recommend things like granola bars, mini cookies, mini crackers, fruit snacks, and other kid-friendly favourites.  
  4. Tablet and headphones. 
  5. Small activity such as travel-sized Playdoh or surprise activity package that includes pencils or crayons
  6. Gum, chewy candy or lollipops for take-off and landing
  7. Small refillable water bottle you can fill in the airport after you’re through security.

Other things that you should bring on the plane are wipes or hand sanitizer and medications such as children’s motion sickness or pain relief. Those items should go in your own carry on bag. Remember, take a minimalist approach to your kids’ carry on bag and just bring the essentials! You’ll save the trouble of extra weight, lost items (that cause a lot of tears), and the stress of having to keep track of all of it. 

Is there anything you bring on the airplane for kids that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you, leave me a comment below! 


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