Kids Carry On | Must Have Packing List

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So, you’re flying with your child and wondering what to pack in their carry on bag. You want something to keep them happy, quiet and busy. Am I right?!

After close to 10 years of flying across the globe, here is my list of essentials!


kids carry on

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What to Pack in Your Kids Carry On (Pre-K+)

1.Disposable Placemats + Antibacterial wipes: Germs, ya’ll. Germs!

2.Books + Magazines:  I like Kids National Geographic, Highlights for Kids, Ranger Rick and whatever books they are into at the time.

3. Paint by Sticker: THIS!! These are amazing! They don’t make a mess. They are fun! You can use them for multiple trips and they will suck up a good bit of time. My girls love these and there are a bunch of different books. So. good.

4. Coloring + Activity Sheets:  I print a few of each and keep in a folder instead of bringing an actual book. Again, save yourself the weight and space.

5.Origami paper with instructions: This is good for the older end of small children. My first grader will sit with instructions I’ve printed offline and paper and sit and make boats, animals, etc.

6. Quart size bag of figurines: Playmobil, Lego people, Marvel, etc. Note, I only hand a few out at a time for the younger end of small children, otherwise, you are fishing around on the floor for them when everyone else is de-planing. Nothing says fun, like hands and knees on the floor or contorted into a human pretzel trying to look under the seats in front of and behind you, for Captain America. Good times!

7.Jewelry making: Friendship bracelets, strings, and a few beads. Keep it simple, keep it small. I get a snack size bag and let them have at it.

8.Origami paper: I print out directions for simple pieces to make and bring about 10 pieces of paper and tuck it all into a gallon baggie. Easy!

9. Legos: I velcroed one base plate onto the lid of a small Tupperware and threw some Legos inside and close it up. Plus side, it keeps them busy for awhile. Downside? It’s tons of small pieces. It’s good for my 8-year-old…not so much for the 3-year-old.

10. Wikki Stix + Play-Doh

11. Headphones.

12. New Apps+ Movies +TV Shows: If you are A-OK with screen time, download a few new apps or their favorite shows. Again, try to choose something they don’t see very often and maybe their guaranteed favorite that you know they ask for + love.

Pro tip: You can download episodes directly onto your tablet (you can even select the quality to save on storage space) from Netflix and also Amazon Prime. No need to purchase shows just for your trip. Also, I make sure to download different things for departure and return flights.

13. Change of Clothes: Accidents happen.

14. Blanket + Pillow: If you are on a long flight and its happening during nap time, worth it to bring these. If it’s a short flight, I don’t. I try to keep my carry-on to as small as I can get away with.

15. Light Jacket + Socks: Planes are cold, plus you can always ball it up and use it as a pillow in a pinch. Socks if your kids are the kind who take their shoes off on the plane and want to keep their feet warm.

16. Snacks: Traveling by plane always feels like an all-day affair and more often than not, airlines aren’t passing out free food.  I always bring snacks and I bring a variety. Granola bars, peanut butter crackers, cut up fruit, vegetables, jerky, peanut butter jelly sandwiches, etc.

What kind of kids bag do I need to pack my kids carry on?

Over the past 10 years, we have gone through many carry on bags– and here are my top 3 favorites.

-This 17-inch rolling carry on isn’t just cute — it can fit quite a bit and keep everything super neat!

-Not only is Skip Hop Luggage adorable with lots of good options, ours has lasted for a number of years and in my opinion a great value. My daughter has the bumblebee bag and it’s going strong seven years later!

-My youngest daughter has scooted her way through many an airport on her favorite Trunki ride-on suitcase. This is a fun, boredom beating answer to carry on’s and it fits quite a bit inside– win-win!

Traveling with a baby or a toddler? Read here for my checklists for toddler carry on or baby carry on!

Those are my must-have’s for kids carry-ons. I’d love to hear your must-haves!


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