We travel a lot. A LOT, a lot. My husband and I didn't travel much as a kids and we want that to be different for our little crew. So, whenever possible, we take the kids with us when we fly somewhere.
Thanks to the abundance of cheap airfare and all the upcoming holidays, I'm guessing that a lot of you will be flying with your children, too. After years of trying to entertain two small kids on airplanes, allow me to share my thoughts on what to pack in your kid's carry on:
What To Pack In Your Kid's Carry On
I cannot recommend enough getting your child their own kid-sized backpack for the flight. Every kid (yes, even lap infants) are allowed to bring a backpack on the plane (international flights may have different guidelines – be sure to double check before flying). So let them have one and free up space in your bag.
I let Melanie pick out a small, canvas backpack with a side pocket for a water bottle and an exterior pocket for small items. This is a completely different (and slightly smaller) backpack from her school backpack. This allows me to keep the “travel backpack” packed with the basics at all times. Here's the brand that Finn uses (they even make ones with detachable leashes).
P.S. I started letting Melanie pick out a small keychain to add to the zippers on her backpack from each place we visit. Honestly, one of the best spontaneous traditions I ever did. She loves getting to pick out an inexpensive keychain from the checkout aisle of whatever grocery store or gas station we're at while I rejoice in setting her up to be happy with cheap crap.
(Empty) Water Bottle:
For those who don't know – you CANNOT take a full water or juice bottle through the security checkpoints (even if you are TSA-PreChecked). Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up once you're through. Most terminals have water bottle fill stations next to the water fountains to make it easier. I like these ones but, honestly, any old empty bottle will work.
Tablet and Case:
Want a nearly stress-free and quiet flight? GET THEE A TABLET FOR EACH KID. I'm not even joking. 100% the best investment we have ever made in our sanity were the tablets for our children. NO REGRETS.
I load them up with apps that don't require WiFi and download a bunch of movies on to the SD card. Pop that puppy in a great protective case, put it on mute, and enjoy your flight. I mean, your kids will still fuss and mess around but really, the flight will be so. much. better. with tablets.
**I keep a set of back-up batteries in my carry on, just in case. We've had delayed flights, planes with no USB ports, and tablets that weren't charged the night before. So, yes – back-up batteries.
If your kids need sound, then pack a set of headphones. My kids are happy without sound and tend to chew on the cords so I skip this but absolutely pack some if your kids are smarter than mine and not Chewy McChewerson assholes.
FREAKING GOLD. I mean, they are handy in the event of a cut finger, severed limb, or paper cut. But! Did you know that Band-Aids are also great kid entertainment?
Well, they are. Bored kid? Screaming kid? Crying kid? 99.8% percent of the time, they can be distracted by offering to let them pick out a Band-Aid, put it on, and then show it to everyone willing to make eye contact within a nine aisle radius.
My daughter is old enough to be interested in taking lots of photos which is great but I got tired giving my phone to her so she could do it. I mean, I've got movies to watch the featuring swearing and adult content – I'VE GOT THINGS TO DO, TOO, MELANIE.
Anyway, on a whim, I bought her a kid's digital camera and she LOVES it. Not only is it a real digital camera but it also has games loaded on it (a bonus if the tablets don't work).
I love that it's battery operated, heavy duty in case of drops and/or throws, and I can easily download the images to my laptop with a USB cord.
We have this camera and really like it. I will probably get another one for Finn for his birthday.
Mess Free Art Supplies:
Crayons, Water Wow books, markers that only work on special paper – whatever it is, bring some. I have a Water Wow book (uses water in a special brush to create the art [which dries and disappears]) for each kid plus crayons (for Finn) or markers (for Melanie).
Or whatever snacks your kids like best. Mine love fruit snacks and fruit snacks aren't very messy so… fruit snacks it is! I recommend packing a handful of easy to open, not super messy snacks in a baggie or clear zipper pouch that your kids can open themselves.
Yes, that is their name and they are the best! Why? Because they are worth their weight in gold during take-off and landings on plane rides. Babies and kids can't pop their own ears so plane rides can be extremely painful.
I always put a baggie of Dum Dums in each kid's pack and let them suck on one during take-off and again when the plane lands. At pennies a piece, my crew can pound them like shots for all I care – so long as their ears pop.
And yes, I always let my kids fill a small zippered pouch with toys (often Happy Meal toys that are only exciting on plane rides) to put in their backpacks for travel. Those toys pull double duty later as toys to play with in the tub at bath time.
How about you? What's your gotta pack in your kid's carry on for travel must have? Let me know!