I travel often with my kids and while it’s much easier now as they’re getting older, I still remember the horrific time with one baby in a carrier, the other standing beside me trying to manoeuvre in a tiny airplane stall. And then there’s the flight where at least one child has cried for 9 straight hours. Yes, I have experienced flights from hell, and lived to tell the tale.

So I prepare, and I start with the luggage. The suitcases are usually packed a few days before my travel date so I can focus on the carry-on bags the day before. This is important because one has to be ready not only for throw-ups and tantrums but also flight delays and long layovers.

Here’s the essential list of items parents should take in carry-on bags – regardless of your kids’ ages!

Changes of clothes

Depending on the length of the flight, one or two outfits each for the kids, and one for myself (because guess who gets thrown up on). Don’t forget the socks! All matters of “ick” will seep through right to the bottom.

Snacks that you can safely carry to your destination

This excludes fruits and veggies. My favourite are goldfish crackers, cheerios, small cookies. Favourite junk food is good here to appease meltdowns.

Books, games and electronics

Yes. Also DVD players, Nintendo DS, Tablets, doodle pads, drawing pads with crayons, whatever your budget and inclination. Don’t forget chargers to allow for delays. Many international airlines accommodate for plugs to charge up the devices.

Hard candies

They help with the popping of ears during take-off and landing.


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Small pillows and sheets

These will make the flight much more comfortable for your children. Blankets provided in the aircraft are usually synthetic and carry a lot of static in the dry airplane air.

The U-travel pillow

As kids are getting older I find they are too tall to curl up comfortably in a single seat but too little to lean on the seat “ears”. That’s when the u-pillow is an excellent option. When you’re buying though think of packing, it should be comfortably squishy yet supportive, and organic washable covers will help.

Baby wipes

Yes, even if your kids have outgrown diapers. Mine have years ago, but I still find these useful for spit, throw-up, spills, you name it. And if you have a tween like mine who likes to wipe down all surfaces (just one of the reasons I love her!) she can use them on grimy seat arms and the seat belt buckle.

Plastic bags

To carry the mess, dirty clothes and other trash because you know there will be some.


Pain relievers and anti-histamines to relieve congestion (blocked ears are PAINFUL in the air, especially during takeoff and landing). Take bottles that are 60 ml or less so you don’t get hassled at security.

Pack the ability to say yes

Part of the reason my older one loves air travel is because there is unlimited access to TV, she carries her stash of candy with her, the air hostess walks by regularly with the juice cart, and of course her mama doesn’t say No! Or at least not as often as she does on the ground.

And guess what? I say yes to myself too, it’s the only way to survive a tin can 35,000 ft in the air.

“Would you like some wine with your meal?”

“Yes I sure would, lovely lady with the wine. Thank you for asking!”

10 Items parents should take in carry on bags