Updated by Jodi Grundig in 2020, originally written by Shannan Powell in 2018.
One of the keys to a successful vacation is being well prepared for any situation that might arise. Of course with kids, that can mean a lot of crazy circumstances that you need to be ready to handle. Making sure that your kid’s carry on bag is well-stocked can be a huge help as you’re traveling to your destination, especially if there are a few bumps in the road.
With older kids, I especially like them to pay their own bags, because they will take some responsibility for what they have. Younger kids can pack their own, but you’ll need to go through them before you leave to make sure everything is packed.
Here are a few important things to pack in your kids’ carry on bag to make sure that they’re happy, comfortable, and entertained whether your trip is smooth and on schedule or if there are delays and challenges along the way. These items work for road trips as well as flights or train trips.
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7 Things to Pack in Your Kids’ Carry On Bag
For younger kids, you just never know when accidents may happen and what form they may take. Whether a spill, bathroom issues, lost luggage, or a drastic temperature change at your destination, having an extra set of clothing on hand can be a lifesaver.
Also, add a set of pajamas and a swimsuit just in case your luggage is lost or delayed. Your little one will still sleep comfortably and be able to take a swim in the event your luggage doesn’t arrive with you. It’s especially helpful to pack pajamas in your carry on if you are arriving late – that way you won’t have to dig through your bags to find them.
For older kids, I do like to pay at least one outfit per person in a carry on bag. Even older kids can get airsick or spill something on their clothing.
New Reading Material
Bring along a new book or magazine to help keep your child entertained while at the airport or on the flight. Choose the next book in a favorite series or grab a magazine that has lots of fun stories and articles on a topic they really love.
Older kids may consider packing homework and required reading books. It will give them something to do during the journey and will cross something off their to-do list.
If you’ve got a little one who has a special blanket or “lovey”, add that to their carry on instead of packing it away with the checked bags. It’ll help to soothe them if they become upset or need a nap, plus there are no worries about it vanishing if something happens to your checked bags.
Just take care to keep track of it as you move around the airport and as you depart the plane. Make sure you have it at every step, especially if it’s a beloved item. You don’t want to lose it!
Airport food can be ridiculously expensive and sometimes it can be difficult to find good choices for picky eaters when hunger strikes. Pack some favorite snacks in individual bags that you can hand out when the need arises.
Crackers, chips, cookies, granola bars, and even sliced fruit and veggies are great things to pack in your child’s carry on and will help to keep everyone fed and happy along the way. This is especially helpful if your kids have allergies or are picky.
Be sure to include any important medications that your child may need to take while traveling. It’s much safer to keep these in their carry on than to check them and risk them being lost.
Don’t forget allergy medicine, Tylenol or Advil, plus motion sickness medication if your child tends to have issues when traveling. I usually pack these in the family carry on bag, but they are definitely important to have.
Electronics and Chargers
Tablets or electronic games can be a great source of entertainment while traveling. Make sure that everything is fully charged before you leave home and bring along chargers and extra batteries/portable chargers for on the go.
Stash a pair of headphones or earbuds in their bag so that they don’t disturb other travelers. If you are flying, make sure your headphones are compatible with the in-flight entertainment system if applicable. Even when my kids were younger, they enjoyed watching movies and cartoons on the plane.
A notebook or some paper, as well as pencils and crayons, can go a long way to keeping kids occupied. They can write, draw, or play games like tic tac toe to help pass the time. Bring these out to give them a break from screens to keep them from electronics overkill.
While every child has a unique set of needs, these items are great things to pack in your kids’ carry on bag to help ensure a smooth trip. Just think comfort, entertainment, and personal care when you’re getting their bag ready and you’ll be sure to be prepared for anything that comes your way.
Kids’ Carry On Bags to purchase:
Guest post: Shannan Powell is a full-time work at home mom with a home overflowing with testosterone. She spends her days trying to find the balance between wife, mom of three, and stepmom of one, while maintaining her career as a freelance writer and influencer marketing campaign manager.
Shannan began her work at home life more than a decade ago, following the birth of her second child. She lives with her husband and their boys near the Delaware coast. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram to follow her family’s adventures.