The last time I was on a plane with my family was a breeze. A BREEZE. Maybe it was because I won some type of parent lottery and the travel gods decided to smile upon me, but I like to think it was because after almost seven years of traveling with kids, I know how to prepare…for ANYTHING. Air sickness, lost luggage, delayed and cancelled flights…all of these things give me anxiety, but it’s nothing that we moms can’t handle. So what’s my key to successful air travel? My family’s carry on bags. I have spent years trying to perfect our system, and I am happy to share with you my secrets for What Parents Should Pack in Their Carry On Bag. So before you head to the airport, first consider bringing me with (I don’t use up that much room and I’m GREAT at taking photos!), and then read my straightforward tips.
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GET A GREAT BAG
What makes a bag perfect for a carry on? Wide straps so they don’t dig into your shoulders, lots of separate compartments (for containing wet items—hello, parenthood!), and a large capacity. And if this bag is stylish? You are GOLDEN.
I absolutely LOVE my Just Porter bag, but I don’t love the high price tag. Some other great options? The Baby Cubby has some awesome diaper bags that are perfect for travel, from Petunia Pickle Bottom to Freshly Picked. They are all stylish, roomy, and just begging to hop on a plane.
PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED
It REALLY stinks when kids have accidents a plane, whether they aren’t fully toilet trained or they get motion sickness. But you know what makes it even worse? When both you and your child have to stay in soiled clothes for the rest of your flight and until you meet your luggage at the airport. The solution? A gallon sized Ziploc bag filled with a full change of clothes for each of you. Since space and weight will be an issue, I always put a pair of pajamas for my boys in their bags (I mean, can you get any more comfortable than that?) and a tee shirt and leggings for me since these items don’t take up much space.
What about when your flight is smooth sailing but your luggage is nowhere to be found? In lieu of totally and completely stressing out (I mean—your BEST stuff was in there!), pack a swimsuit and sandals for everyone in your carry on luggage so if you have to stress, you can stress while enjoying the beach or the pool.
USE SOME OLD STANDBYS
While I stock up at the Target Dollar Section on fun trinkets and small toys for my kids to play with on the airplane, I also don’t overlook their tried and true favorites. I mean, if they love a game at home most likely they will also like it on the plane. For us, that means Spot It, Playdough, coloring books (remember to bring the triangular shaped crayons so they don’t roll off the airplane tray as easily) and window clings have a permanent spot in our carry on luggage.
TRY SCREEN-FREE FIRST
All of my rules about screens go out the window when in a small confined space with complete strangers for hours on end. But before I give in and let my kids zonk out in front of screens, I try to engage them in some other activities before. For example, simply looking out the window is quite amazing from high in the sky and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t enjoyed cuddling up and reading a book while on an airplane.
Kid not digging it and SUPER pumped to get his hands on the iPad (my oldest is SO GUILTY)? Then hand it over and take out your own book.
FEED THE BEASTS
As just about all parents know, a fed kid is a happy kid. So pack snacks, snacks, and more snacks for the airplane. Fruit snacks are especially great because they help with any ear popping issues and I also make sure to bring some treats that are typically off limits, such as salty chips and other snacks my kids love because hey—it’s vacation!
HAVE A SECRET WEAPON
You might not have to bust it out on the first leg of your trip, so hide it in your luggage and save it if the flight home starts to get a little rocky. And no, I’m not encouraging you to bring a weapon onto an airplane! I’m talking about having one specific toy/game/activity that you know your child will GO CRAZY FOR that you only give to them when they are actually going crazy. It might be a Minecraft activity book, game on your phone, movie, doll…just make sure you have something good in case of meltdowns.
DON’T FORGET THESE ABSOLUTE MUST HAVES
Hand wipes—because airplanes are SO GROSS
Tissues—because kids are SO GROSS
Plastic bags—for just about anything (garbage, puke, clothes, carrying tons of random stuff)
Pain reliever—chewable tablets are best
A lovie/blanket—comfort items are important because traveling can be stressful
Lollipops/suckers—great for taking off and landing
Fully charged electronics—c’mon, do you even have to ask why?
A sense of humor—because you are going to need it
Along with these tips and my family travel checklist, you shouldhave a great trip. If not…well…remember that when you travel without kids it is called a vacation but when kids are with you…it’s just a trip.
And if you are flying in/out of Chicago, stay up to date and prepared with my airport tips (play spaces, car services, and more!).
Safe and happy travels!
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