Packing a carry-on bag for a long haul flight can be challenging. On one hand, you want to be sure to pack plenty to keep kids entertained, but you don’t want to over pack and end up with a bag that is too heavy. Complain about electronics we do, but they do make for easy flight and layovers. Here are nine other items we are sure to pack in kids’ carry-on bags.
1. Buff or Scarf.
A buff, a long rectangle of t-shirt material sewn at the end to make a circle (see them worn various ways in picture above), or a cotton scarf, can be used for various purposes: keep necks/heads warm, wipe sweat off faces or keep hair off faces, but they can also be used to cover eyes on long flights. They are lightweight and don’t take up much room and are very versatile!
2. Pipe Cleaners
I love the fact that pipe cleaners can be used over and over again. On a recent 8-hour layover in El Salvador with 14 kids in tow, the four 9th graders (14 and 15 year-olds) that were with us spent lots of time building huge towers out of pipe cleaners…so it’s not just for the younger kids! Seamus loved making African animals with them on the cross-Atlantic flight to South Africa.
3. Clay or Silly Putty
Again, reusable! They can form shapes and balls, or, with the Silly Putty pick up prints. And because it is reusable it’s not a one and done thing. They can put it away and bring it out later in the trip and it’s like having a new toy all over again!
4. White Board and Dry Erase Markers
Again, the white board can be used over and over again…are you sensing a trend here? It can also be used for multiple purposes…to draw pictures, play hang man, tic-tac-toe, and other games…so it’s a great addition to a child’s carry-on luggage, especially for long flights. And you don’t have to worry about running out of paper.
5. Book about the Destination
One of my favorite parts of travel is educating myself and the kids about the people and places of the world. So, I always pack a book about the destination for the kids to read before we get there. Whether it’s a paper book or on an eReader, kids will get excited about the place before you even get there and they will be knowledgeable about the history and culture of the place when they are there. (Sorry for the plug, but just wanted to mention what I think is a great non-fiction children’s book series: our series “ Nate & Shea’s Adventures” – 5 titles available as of now) We also download a video about the destination (again…our video series Travel With Kids, is a good resource :-), or set in the destination, and some songs that are popular in the destination to get ready for some cultural immersion!
It may seem outdated or old fashioned, but kids will thank you for it later! We still pack a traditional notebook type journal, or for more visual-oriented kids, a drawing pad and colored pencils. You could also go with an electronic version through a notes program or blog! Some teachers will also give the kids credit for their trip tales!
7. Extra Clothes
Planes can get cold, so I always pack a couple of warm layers. Socks are essential as I usually have the kids where flip-flops or sandals to ease the run through security at the airport. I also tell them to pack a sweatshirt and one change of clothes (great to have for spills or accidents on the plane and good to have once you land in case of baggage loss or delay…and while on that topic travel insurance is always a smart choice to help with little hang-ups like that. Our partner RoamRight has some good options for families).
8. Travel Pillow
A comfortable pillow will help them sleep on an overnight flight. Many airlines do not supply pillows (or at least not enough for all passengers) nowadays, so you may want to bring one from home. Test a few out before you buy one, but I like the inflatable neck pillows because they can be condensed so small into your kid’s carry-on bag.
I usually pack a few healthy snacks as you never know what you are going to be served on flights these days. I try to keep it somewhat healthy, but also easy to travel with …crackers, dried fruit, raisins, pretzels, nuts, sunflower seeds, veggie straws…you get the idea. I also pack a couple not so healthy snacks…something sugary that won’t melt like lollipops…in case of a melt. Gum is also a good idea for clearing ears during the descent. And, I make sure each kid has a water bottle (to be filled once past security) so they stay nice and hydrated on the flight!
For more information on packing for family travel, visit the Travel With Kids family travel packing tips page.
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