With Christmas coming up, you might be planning a small getaway to a snowy place or even to visit family abroad. And it’s all very exciting until you find yourself surrounded by piles of little outfits, toys and all the paraphernalia you need to pack for your children.
After years of lugging extra luggage around whenever we travelled, only to realise that most of the things packed were useless, I have whittled down my children’s hand luggage to a list of essentials.
The list below may seem long but all of it takes little space and can fit in a backpack or small carry-on.
If your child still wears nappies, pack one for each hour you will be flying, plus an extra two or three. It might seem excessive but trust me, you don’t want to be caught unprepared if your child suddenly gets the runs halfway to your destination (it happened to us once).
You’ll be using them A LOT! Apart from needing them during nappy changes, there will be spilled drinks, food to wipe off their seat, grubby trays they will want to play on and sticky hands and faces. You might also want to include a packet of antibacterial wipes to wipe down the arm rests, tray and the toilet seat while you’re at it.
3) A change of clothes for each child.
I put them in a zip-lock bag and pack them at the bottom of my hand luggage. Over the years, we’ve had to change our children out of clothes soiled by leaky nappies, exploded smoothie pouches, spilled drinks…you name it!
4) Sippy cup or water bottle.
Remember you will only be able to fill them up after you have been through security.
Pack as many as you can. Even if the flight is short and you’ve just eaten at the airport, you can rest assured that your children will be whining for food the moment you find your seats. I try to stay away from sugary foods because nobody wants to share a plane with a child on a sugar rush and also because I find that sugar bloats them. What I do stock up on are smoothie pouches and dry foods like nuts, crackers and veggie crisps.
Unless your child is a newborn, you will need some form of entertainment on board. I used to pack a bag full of toys for every child, until I realised that they only ever played with the same few items: a few figurines (like Playmobil), a pen, triangular crayons (so they don’t roll off the tray) and a notebook to doodle in, and stickers. Sticking stickers all over her tray and seat is by far my youngest’s favourite activity to do on a plane. It has kept her occupied for hours during several flights and has taken us hours to peel off again before landing, but it’s so worth it! As children grow older, they will also love creating stories using their stickers so a sticker book is a good idea. For our eldest, who is 12, we also buy a new book from the airport before boarding.
7) For emergencies.
I am not a fan of my children using electronics. They become listless at first, then restless and they bicker a lot unless there is a device for each of the three children. However, we always carry an iPad with a few downloaded cartoons and a couple of games. We also download cartoons or a film on our phones for the same purpose. There were flights when we didn’t need to reach for the devices at all but there were others when only Ben and Holly could keep our youngest in her seat during takeoff.
8) A pillow or soft toy.
A travel pillow (you can get inflatable ones to save on space) can come in handy. If not, a soft toy that is big enough to double as a pillow is good enough. It’s even better if the soft toy happens to be a favourite of your child’s because it will be a source of comfort both on the plane and also when they will be sleeping in a new bed once you arrive at your destination.
9) Something to chew on
For children who are still small and take a dummy, carry a couple of extra ones in your bag because the sucking motion will help them during take-off and landing. I always pack some dummy sterilising wipes I get from the pharmacy before we travel. Those dummies will likely wipe every surface on the plane. For older children, chewing gum can help them to relieve ear pressure during take off and landing.
10) Saline spray.
The air on the plane and in most countries we travel to is much drier than the one back home, which can lead to a stuffy nose in children. That’s why I always carry a saline nose spray to moisturize their nostrils while on board and also when we reach our destination.
11) Baby carrier.
I am a big fan of baby-wearing and rarely leave home without a baby carrier packed in my car boot. It is also one of the first items I pack when we travel, especially when our youngest was still small enough to need to be carried often. It will make boarding and getting off the plane much easier and will leave your hands free to carry luggage and hold your other children’s hands if needed.
12) Zip-lock bags.
You know the bride’s father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and how he believed that window cleaner was the solution to everything? Well, I’m like that with zip-lock bags. I use them for everything, especially when travelling. All three children want to eat from the same giant bag of popcorn? Divide it into smaller zip-locks. Small toys running around in the hand luggage? Keep them in a zip-lock bag. Baby needs a change of clothes? Put the dirty ones in a zip-lock bag until you can wash them. Wrappers and unfinished food you need to hold on to until you can throw them away? You guessed it, zip-lock bags to the rescue!
My ultimate goal is to start travelling with only one carry-on each, without any checked-in luggage, but my packing skills are not quite that refined yet!
What about you? Is there anything else you pack in your children’s hand luggage that you wouldn’t fly without?
This article was written by guest contributor Maureen Saguna, founder of www.islandfairy.com and freelance writer and proofreader. Born and bred in Gozo, Maureen spends her days reading, writing, dreaming of Sweden, refereeing her three daughters and plotting ways to have a hot cup of coffee without any children hanging off her. Follow her adventures onFacebook and Instagram