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Traveling Essentials for Kids: What to Pack in Your Carry-On

Traveling Essentials with Kids: What to Pack in Your Carry-OnI’m no newbie to cross-country air travel. We’ve probably flown from California to the East Coast to visit family and friends 40 times since we moved here 12 years ago, and at least six times with kids in tow. You’d think I’d be an expert by now, but just like every other aspect of parenthood, traveling (and knowing which traveling essentials to pack) is a perpetual learning experience. Our most recent trip was no exception.

As our flight started its descent into Newark, New Jersey, I let out a big sigh and thought, “Ok, 30 more minutes and we’ll be off this plane”. Our kids had been as good as could be expected. My 15-month-old pooped before we got on the plane and then took a two hour nap. My four-year-old watched videos for four of the five hours we were in the air. It was a little bumpy, but otherwise it was shaping up to be our best flight yet.

My friendly little lap infant looked across the aisle and finally got a smile out of the grumpy older woman in 32D. He then turned back to me and proceeded to throw up all over himself and me. As my husband and I frantically tried to mop up the puke, it was all I could do not to cry. Thankfully, the flight was nearly over. I had extra clothes for my son, and I was wearing a tank top under my shirt, which I promptly took off. Underneath my stained, threadbare, white tank top was a black bra, but at least it wasn’t covered in puke. I made a mental note to add “change of clothes for me” to the packing list for our next trip.

Traveling with kids is stressful, and there are so many things to remember, prepare, pack, and bring. It’s inevitable that something(s) will be forgotten. Here’s my running list of traveling essentials:

Traveling essentials to pack in your carry-on

I usually pack the items below in my carry-on backpack, and have my four-year-old carry a small backpack with his toys, activities, electronics, and headphones.

Change of clothes
For kids AND parents.

Diapers and wipes
Pack twice as many as you think you need.

Whatever your kids’ favorites are, including some gold-standard treats. I especially like things that are relatively neat and take a long time to eat like apples, edamame in the shell, and lollipops.

Water bottles
Many airports now have water bottle-filling stations past the security checkpoint, where you can fill up empty bottles.

Muslin swaddle blanket
This ultimate multi-tasker can function as a blanket, pillow, nursing cover, emergency outfit for my baby, a napkin, and more.

Burp cloth
I’ve used them as napkins, tissues, placemats, and for wiping up spills.

Ziploc bags
These come in handy for so many things – saving snacks for later, on-the-go ice packs for bumps and bruises, sealing up smelly diapers or clothes in case you can’t get to a trash can immediately, and so much more.  Bring a few small bags and a few large bags.

And, last but not least…
Patience, patience, and more patience.

What’s in your carry-on bag when traveling with small children?

Traveling Essentials with Kids: What to Pack in Your Carry-On

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