Traveling standby is always an adventure, but traveling standby with kids is borderline crazy. Risking missing plane after plane and spending all day in an airport is nuts, but especially when you have toddlers or preschoolers who don’t understand why the plane just left without them. Then, you add in the fact that you’re having to pack in nothing but a carry-on suitcase and large purse and you have the recipe for disaster– unless you know what you’re doing. 99% of you will never fly standby, but you CAN benefit from my experience in packing a carry-on for kids on your next flight!
The first thing you need is the perfect carry-on purse. You want it to be big enough to carry everything you need, but not so big that it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you (the flight attendants are required to make sure you can exit safely!). This bag from Target (because who doesn’t love Target?) is literally my perfect bag for this use. It’s nylon on the bottom half, so it’s wipe-able should it get something gross on it under the seat, but still a pretty bag. It also lets me fit everything I need, including protecting magazines or my iPad in long, tall pockets on the inside. Plus, it comes with a pull out bag that I put diapers and wipes in so I don’t have to take the whole bag to the back of the plane or to the restroom in the airport.
If you’re traveling with a littler one, make sure you check out my post about how to handle the airport and flying with a baby.
So, what else do I pack?
Carry-on for Kids
- Diapers and Wipes– This is not the time to take the tiny package of wipes. Take way more than you think you’ll need and double the number of diapers, especially if you’re checking your suitcase. If you get delayed or cancelled, you may or may not be able to get to your suitcase and it’s HARD to find these in the airport. Plus, they’re awesome for wiping tray tables, arm rests, sticky hands, and more.
- Snacks– I try to pack as healthily as I can, while still including some bribery for the kids.
- Freeze-dried fruit and veggies– They’re lightweight, fun, and healthy. They double as bribery for my kids! Some of our favorites are the strawberries, edamame, and peaches. These links take you to 6-8 packs of them. They end up cheaper that way and you’ll have enough to save for your next trip (or in the car on a Tuesday).
- Granola Bars– We like the KIND Bars because they’re reasonably healthy and dairy-free (extremely hard to find), but anything your kids will eat works.
- Bentgo Box (right)– I don’t know what I’d do without them. I can put a variety of snacks in this so that my kids don’t get bored. Plus, these are completely leak-proof, so you can put dips, sauces, or even nut butters in the center without worrying about it spilling into the other compartments or your bag. In this one, I have veggie chips (I just get these in the bulk section at Sprouts), pistachios, dried blueberries, fruit leather, and fig bars.
- Fruit snacks– Our kids NEVER get these, so they’re a huge treat on a plane. It makes them perfect bribery to get them to chill out, sit down, or just fill their mouths. It’s also great for making sure they’re chewing on descent so that their ears pop before it gets painful. Just make sure it’s buried in your carry-on for kids or they’ll be found before you need them!
- Top 12 Essential Oils for Travel— there are a thousand and one uses for these, so I’m not going to go into them on this post, but check out THIS post because I won’t leave home without them (and neither will my pilot husband).
- EMPTY water bottle– don’t try to bring liquids through TSA (unless you have a baby), but an empty water bottle can be a lifesaver when traveling with kids. You can fill it up on the cheap (yay water fountains) or you can pour non-kid-proof beverages into it so you don’t have to worry about getting it everywhere. I like using a glass Lifefactory one because I can use my essential oils in it, and it has a straw which makes for easy drinking for the kiddos.
- Everyday Necessities– In that little flamingo bag, I keep extra hair ties, bobby pins, my lipstick, my phone charger, and a small tube of lotion. I also make sure I have my sunglasses with their case and a glasses wipe to be able to clean them, as well as my normal glasses.
- Books for Entertainment– We LOVE Usborne Books for on airplanes. They have awesome storylines and include something extra fun like fold out pages, textures, or even their flashlight books. I tend to pack airplane-related books because my boys are obsessed, but also because it’s fun to read about airplanes while you’re on one!
- Wallet– This seems like an obvious one in general, but not necessarily in a carry-on for kids. It’s too important not to include!
- iPad– As a last resort for us, I keep our iPad stocked with movies and apps that are quiet but entertaining for the kids. We try to entertain them with looking out the window, talking about the airplane, reading, snacks, etc. before we pull it out, but we’re definitely not above a little technological bribery! Make sure you pack some kid-comfortable headphones, too, so you don’t bug your neighbors.
- A CARES Harness— This keeps your kiddo in a 5-point harness on the jet, which means a safer flight (and less struggling with keeping them still, since it feels more like their car seat). It attaches to the seat super quickly and easily, but it does mean you have to have their own seat for them (which isn’t required by the FAA until they’re 2). Plus, it folds up SO small so it’ll fit in your carry-on.
- Magazines for Mama– On the off-chance that they fall asleep, I like to make sure I have a magazine or two to read. They’re lightweight, slim, and about any topic you want!
I know it seems like a long list, but it really, truly all fits in the bag pictured and slides under the seat beautifully. I do my best not to overpack and still be prepared since we never know how long a trip might end up being, but I think I have packing a carry-on for kids down to a science!