Flying with my kids: inside a child's carry-on

What to bring in your own carry-on is one challenge when flying with kids. Another challenge when flying with kids that are old enough to bring their own carry-ons, is supervising what exactly is going into those bags.

What not to bring & what to definitely bring
My kids are now 5 and 9, and each brings a wheeled backpack as hand-luggage. They're old enough now that I can allow them to bring pick out some favorite toys and books to bring, but I still have absolute mommy veto-power. I will remove any items that are:
  • messy
  • noisy
  • have tiny parts that can go missing
  • too big or heavy
  • pointy or sharp
I always make sure any can't-live-without comfort items come along as well. For my son, this means any hand-puppet that can help him overcome any anxiety and boredom on board. In my daughter's case this means her blue blanket: she still can't sleep without it. When she was younger it also included her soother and her soother-strap.

Carry-on challenges
It is wise to pay attention to what they pack. My kids once managed to sneak a very large plastic triceratops with very sharp horns into my son's carry-on. The security screener manning the x-ray machine did remove it to inspect it, but he allowed them to keep it. Since then, I do a thorough check of the backpacks before we go to the airport!

Another challenge I face with my daughter is limiting how many toys she brings. She loves stuffed animals, and would like to bring about 30 or 40 on each trip. I usually tell her 5 is the limit, and then we end up carting along 10 or so...

One thing I did find helpful to control this over-zealous packing, was to read Too Much Stuff! by Robert Munsch. The main character does pack so many toys she can barely carry her backpack, and I can now reference that story when I joke around with my daughter about bringing too many toys on board.

Mommy's picks
For long flights, I also pack some things into their carry-ons myself, to lighten my own hand-luggage load. These items usually include:
  • snack foods
  • a change of clothes for each child
  • litterless juice boxes
  • some parent-chosen books and activities that the kids might not think they want, but that I know from experience they'll miss if they're not there
Right now, I'm putting together some activity bags for the kids for our next trip. Here are a few things I will definitely be including:

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