Bringing the right things on board with you in your hand luggage can help make your trip easier. But what to bring does change, depending on the age of your kids. Here are some tips on important items to pack in your carry-on, if you're traveling with a baby, if you're traveling with slightly older kids (say preschool age and elementary school age), and some items that are great to bring along for both age-groups.
Carry-on items to bring when flying with a baby
- Diapers and wipes - Bring more than you need, just in case of delays.
- Pacifier Clip or soother strap - If your baby uses a pacifier, it's a good idea to use a strap or clip to attach it to baby's clothing. Airplane floors are not the cleanest of places, and also, you do not want to lose that soother!
- Something to change your baby on - Change tables on board and in airports are available, but not always clean or comfy. Bring something, a change pad or even just a small blanket or towel for your baby to lay on.
- Nursing Cover or formula - If you are breastfeeding, you don't need to pack the bottles and formula required otherwise. Bringing a cover-up to wear when breastfeeding on board can help give you and your baby some privacy. If you're bringing formula, remember that even with restrictions on bringing liquids on board, you are allowed to bring baby-food on the plane. Just be prepared to show what you're bringing with you to security personnel.
- Easy-to-bring-along toys - My own kids did not need a lot of toys on board when they were babies: they spent most of the time sleeping. But it's a good idea to bring along a favorite toy that is also easy to pack. Hand puppets, or small toys that clip on to clothing can be perfect.
Carry-on items to bring when flying with preschool/elementary-school-aged kids
- Litterless Juice Boxes - I swear by Rubbermaid's litterless juice-boxes, while others may prefer other types of spill-proof cups. Bring something that you can put the kids' drinks in while on the plane, since this will make it easier for them to enjoy those drinks, and will reduce the risk of spills.
- Favorite snacks - There are snacks and food available at airports and on board, but if your kids are like mine, you don't know if they'll actually eat anything of that. Bringing along at least a couple of familiar, non-messy snacks can really help. Granola bars, dry cereal, pretzels... anything that's easy to pack and that won't go bad or get crushed in your hand luggage!
- Favorite toys and/or apps - My kids usually don't require a lot of toys on board (they mainly watch the movies and TV-shows on the personal entertainment screens), but a couple of favorite items are a good idea. Maybe a stuffed animal, a sticker book, a coloring book, a favorite game to play on the cellphone or tablet... lots of choices. Pick something you know will keep your child occupied for at least a little while!
- Books - A few books can help calm down a wound up or anxious child, and are a good way to spend the time, especially while waiting at airports in my experience. Bring old-school books, or your e-reader.
- Children's Headphones - The headphones available on board usually don't fit kids that well, which can be frustrating. Buy some child-sized headphones and bring on board to improved the experience.
Carry-on items to bring for both age-groups
- An empty plastic bag - This is to put soiled, wet clothes in. Spills and accidents can happen, whether your child is a baby or a preschooler!
- Antibacterial wipes or sanitizing hand-gel - To keep everyone's hands more germ-free on board!
- Travel pharmacy - My must-haves include a child decongestant, anti-nausea medication, and a pain-reliever/fever reducer.
- A change of clothes - I bring a full set of underwear, shirt, pants or shorts, and socks for each of my kids. If they spill, if they get sick and throw up, if anything messy and unexpected happens, I know I've got something clean for them to wear.