Kids are horrible at packing their own suitcases. They want to take all kinds of junk.
We recently left the house with more than a dozen essential soft toys, a cardboard box for them to sit in, plus a collection of rocks collected from a flower pot. They might seem like unnecessary things to take on holiday, but when there is the risk of facing a monumental delay, it’s really no bother to take the damn rocks.
There are a few things you can do as a parent to ensure packing and travel is a stress-free experience for all. Letting your kid help pack their own bag can be a fun activity – for about five minutes. So once you’ve swapped out the collection of Lego for crucial pieces of clothing, it pays not to let your child even touch the suitcase.
When flying with children you need a proper arsenal of stuff to get through the experience, from essential medicines to nappies, clothing and food. Here are some failsafe items to pack in your kid’s carry-on.
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Things to do
It’s a good idea to bring activities and toys your child has never seen before so there’s some element of surprise and interest, beyond fiddling with the tray table, on the plane.
It could be a new colouring or sticker book, activity pad, travel card games or a new toy car, all depending on the age, interests and attention span of your child. Wrap them up individually like presents to waste more time and then make a big deal about each new item. Then sit back in peace before you have to answer the next question.
Avoid glitter and messy activities at all costs as well as items with too many small parts, or you’ll spend the flight rummaging around under the seat trying to pick them up. Always have a back-up plan if things go awry.
Things to eat
Don’t count on in-flight snacks like beetroot chips and cookies for sustenance. Growing bodies need food and lots of it.
Variation is key. Bento lunch boxes are a great way to make food look attractive and separate items in one handy container. Aim for something healthy, something delicious and something substantial. Snacks in prepackaged pouches or boxes will also make your life easier onboard.
Packaged fruit and yoghurt are a brilliant option for younger children. Just be aware that the build up of cabin pressure can see the liquid burst like a fountain of dairy all over your child’s lap – or the stranger’s next door.
The same goes when opening baby bottles and water bottles mid-air. Find yourself a good lightweight, leak-proof bottle and make sure you fill it up before boarding. If feeding your baby with formula, purchase a portable powder dispenser so you have pre-measured scoops for easy use.
Not every airline hands out lollies like Air New Zealand, but hard-boiled sweets and lollipops are a brilliant way to avoid and relieve the build-up of pressure in your child’s ears. Or simply get your child to sip water during take-off and landing.
Also be prepared for unexpected delays. You don’t want to run out of essential items on the flight so bring extra things to eat and maybe a special treat hidden in your bag as a last resort.
Thing to clean
If you’re bringing the above, you’ll need some wipes. Bring extra.
Things to wear
Kids, food and clothing unfortunately do not work in harmony.
You’ll want to bring at least one spare change of clothing in your carry-on in case of any accidents in the airport, on the plane, or on the way to your next destination. It also pays to bring your own change of clothing onboard.
Also be prepared for changes in temperature, from dry and warm in the airport terminal to cold and humid in the cabin. If it’s a long-haul flight, or you have scheduled the trip with nap time, consider bringing something familiar like a small blanket or soft toy.
It is a legal requirement for passengers aged 12 and older to wear face coverings on domestic flights. Make sure you road test masks before departure to ensure your child finds it comfortable.
Things to watch
The beauty of streaming services is that you can download your favourite series for later.
Load up your phone or tablet with plenty of kid-friendly options that you can play once the novelty of air travel and the new activities wear thin. If you’re concerned about too much screen time, how about a learning app on your tablet?
Child-friendly headphones are made to fit around little heads and usually come with built-in limiters to reduce the volume. They can also help to drown out loud engine noise which some children might find scary.
If you have time to watch something too, and have been left to share one device between two, consider picking up a cheap headphone splitter so you can listen in through a set of cans each –rather than one measly earbud.
Don’t talk about the suitcase.
You’ve probably seen kids walking through airports dragging their own multicoloured bag. So cute. In the lead up to travel the key is to not even mention the word ‘suitcase’ until you get to the airport so the novelty is still alive when you walk through the doors.
They’ll love dragging their bag to the check-in counter and watching it disappear down the conveyor belt. Rideable bags are another great option to save you the hassle of lugging another piece of carry-on.
Do you have any tips for travelling with kids? Let us know in the comments.