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Air Travel with Kids: My Carry-On

I just took my kids on another international flight by myself–I do this twice a year. When I tell friends and acquaintances about my plans the usual reaction is either horror, empathy for what will sure be a difficult time, or awe.

While I always get very nervous the week before my flights, I have yet to have a truly horrible experience. I am not superwoman or supermom, but I know what to put on my carry-on bag, which becomes my home away from home for the duration of the flight, and makes a huge difference in my life. This is what you’ll find in mine:

Ready for Takeoff: A full back pack and my kids blankets and lovies

Ready for Takeoff: A full back pack and my kids blankets and lovies

A meal and snacks: We don’t eat plane or airport foods. The extra sodium and extra sugar often found in them won’t help you with a smooth trip– think sugar highs and extra thirst/bathroom breaks. Also, there is enough newness in travel on its own, well-known foods will give your kids a sense of comfort.

What I bring: A sandwich for each, plus an extra one to share, pretzels, cheese crackers and granola bars. Also, a couple of fruit pouches. I purchase water in the airport, and fill sippy cups as needed.

Entertainment: International flights have the benefit of having movies and TV shows on-demand. These keep my toddler entertained enough, but the baby needs other things. A mix of new and well-loved small toys and books keep them happy for a long while. Stay away from anything that makes sound for your sanity and out of respect for other travelers.

What I bring: Rubber animals, board books, and a couple of cars. If all else fails, I have my phone fully charged and will let them watch photos or videos. If your kids like to color, bring the triangle-shaped crayons–they won’t roll out when left on the tray. 

Comfort: A big problem with air travel is that it is usually both long and uncomfortable. Dressing comfortably, keeping a routine as much as possible, and having things they love, will make your children feel more at home.

What I bring: When we travel overnight I bring a set of pajamas that I change the kids into during the first part of the flight. This helps with keeping that routine we would do at home before bedtime, takes a bit of time and gets them very comfy. If flying during the day, they wear sweatpants or similar cotton clothes. I also bring their favorite blankets and their lovies and let them have them through the entire flight, at home they stay in their bed/crib.

Just in Case items: Because you never know what will happen during air travel, I bring a bunch of things that make my life easier.

  • A large changing pad (think puppy potty training pads) to change diapers in gross airport bathrooms or anywhere you need to
  • A floor blanket for the kids to sit or play on while waiting to board the plane (Before they were mobile)
  • Copies of my kids’ birth certificates, as photos in my cell
  • Extra wipes, sanitizing wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer
  • An extra set of clothing for the kids
  • Cell phone charger

In case you are wondering, I carry a bag pack. I wish I could carry a stylish tote, but with two small children a backpack has to do. I like it  because it has compartments, you can carry a lot of things and once it is on your back both arms and hands are free to deal with kids, boarding passes and passports.

In the next few weeks I’ll write a couple of posts about traveling with small children. What would you like to know?

– Olivia

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