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As we gear up for our big summer trip to Switzerland, one of the things I’m trying to plan ahead for is what to pack in the kids’ carry-on bags. What I remember to pack can honestly be make-or-break during the stressful period of time that starts when we lock the doors to our house and doesn’t end until we open the door at our family’s home. Yes, that includes a very long plane ride (2, actually), but the carry-on bag is on hand to help with the entire trip, start to finish.
So here’s what we’re packing!
- Quality carry-on bags. You can check out my previous blog post on this topic. So many parents forget that every seat you pay for also comes with a free carry-on bag and free “personal item” allowance. You’ve paid for that space, so use it! Involve your child in the packing of the bag and help them get familiar with what’s inside, and where to find it. It will make life easier when it’s time to look through the bag later!
2. Loaded iPads. This is actually something we are hoping to not use at all on the flight, because we are going to try very hard to get the girls to sleep on the plane because that will work much better for jet lag (more on that, later). But again, I want to stress that you are packing for the ENTIRE travel experience, and being on the plane is just one piece of what you need to be prepared for, friends. Netflix now allows for quite a large number of streaming shows to be downloaded and you are definitely going to want to take advantage of that, so that regardless of whether or not you have internet access, you’ve got some entertaining shows on hand for the kids. You will want to download these shows only a day or so before you leave (or else you’ll risk downloading content that your kids have already watched). If you don’t already have a tablet, there are a lot of reasonably priced options out there (just read the descriptions to understand how much space they have for video downloads).
3. Portable charger. Don’t count on being able to find an outlet when you need to recharge your devices. Have your portable battery source with you! They don’t take up much space and they will save your life (a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea).
4. The right earphones. I love that there are many companies out there making earphones that are safe for kids, volume-wise. But there’s one problem: when you are on a jet plane and seated near those engines (as we often seem to be) the “safe” volume settings on those earphones is just too quiet. I love that BuddyPhones has an in-flight option to go a little bit louder during those times while still not allowing for ear-damaging decibels. This feature, along with the fact that it has an extra port so that a second child can listen to the same content, makes this our choice for earphones on the trip.
5. A change of clothes. I don’t advise packing a change of clothes in the carry-on out of fear that checked luggage will be lost (although that can happen!). Rather, it’s good to have a change of clothes because kids spill things and also throw up with little to no warning at the worst possible times. Just sayin’! After having to purchase a very expensive shirt inside a theme park for one of my kids, and have another have to spend all day in the heat with a chocolate milk stain on her pants, I’ve learned my lesson. Throw in some extra clothes. Put them in gallon-sized plastic bags and that way, if you need to use them, you can put the soiled clothes in a bag that will keep them separated from everything else.
6. Whatever helps your kid sleep. If you are taking a long-haul flight, at some point in your travels you are going to need your child to try to sleep. Even if that’s not the case, you will want to help your child be able to sleep well once you reach your destination. So in our case, that means that each child will have 1 stuffed animal that she normally sleeps with on hand, not as a toy but as a sleep buddy. We are also going to pack a soft blanket, which takes up quite a bit of space, I know, but getting the kids to sleep is just that critical, so we need to allocate space for what really matters. We also use lavender essential oil so I’ll have a tiny bottle of that on hand, too. Some parents try out Benadryl and that’s not for me to recommend or not, but I will just say that after getting the green light from your doctor on it, be sure to give it a trial run BEFORE your travels, because it does have the opposite effect on some kids.
7. Medicine/resource bag. I’m using the term loosely here to describe a quart-size ziploc bag I’ll have with some helpful products: antibacterial wet wipes to wipe down our airplane seats and trays (the last thing I want is for my kids to get sick at the beginning of our vacation, so I’m taking extra precautions), a handful of tissues, 2 extra empty quart size bags simply because they are so useful, a few rubber bands (another surprisingly useful item to always have with you), nasal spray and lip balm (to counter the super dry air in planes), small amounts of child-friendly medicine for a variety of ailments (cold, allergies, nausea). If space allows I’ll also include their multivitamins for the trip in here.
8. Activity bags. Each child is going to have a bag of activities. Inside will be one deck of cards, a dot-to-dot book, 8 crayons, a book of mazes, 5 or 6 sheets of blank paper, a sheet of stickers, a pencil, a package of wikki stix, a small container of play-doh, and a few blind bags just for fun. Again, my hope will be to not have to break this out on the flight, itself, but to have on hand for other parts of the trip. Depending on the ages of your kids, you would need to modify this list for their preferences, but try to keep the items light, engaging, and somewhat disposable so that when the fun is over, you can let the pages/packages go and lighten your load!
9. Special treats. This is the time to really go big on your snack game. Make great use of those snack size or sandwich size ziploc bags and load them up with more snacks than you could possibly need, because that is actually going to be the exact amount you DO need. 🙂 I’ll have goldfish, yogurt covered cranberries, some chocolate, those cheese and cracker sets that are so gross but that my kids rarely get and ADORE, squeeze pouches, gummy fruits, a few bananas if I can get them packed without squishing them, and whatever else I can find at the store that is portable. I can guarantee you that your kids will ask for snacks about 10 minutes after you leave your house and won’t really stop asking unless they are asleep. They’ll also ask for snacks during the entirety of your trip, as well as the entire way back home, so however much you pack, it’s not too much!
10. Refillable water bottles. The last thing you want to have to do is to wait for the in-flight beverage service for your kids to get something to drink. It will take 1,000 years and they will spill it 30 seconds after they get it. Be sure that they have their own water bottles (that you know they won’t spill!). You can fill them before the flight once you are past security with no problem.
I hope this list helps you pack smartly for your upcoming long-haul flight with kids. A well-packed bag doesn’t guarantee happiness during the trip, but it can sure help prevent a lot of misery! Safe travels!