15 Important Must Have Items for Your Carry-On when Flying with Kids

Are you packing for your first flight with your kids? And are you wondering what you should take? Buddy and I are here to help! After 13 years of flying with Buddy, I am sharing my Top 10 Important Must Have Items for Your Carry-On when Flying with Kids.

And Buddy, who flew many times as a kid, including a few solo trips, is also sharing his Top 5 Must Have Items for Kids who Fly!

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Please note that these recommendations are in addition to all the other carry-on IDs and passports, chargers for electronic devices, power banks, a pen, medications, hard copies of itineraries, local currency, and the like. Here we go!

Mom’s Top 10 Items for Your Carry-On when Flying with Kids

1. A TSA friendly first aid kit

You never know when your kiddo will need a band aid!

For this reason, I recommend packing a small first aid kit when flying with kids. Make sure your kit is complete with the basics like various size bandages, antiseptic cleaning wipes, and tape.

I did swap some items in my first aid kit. For example, I took the scissors and tweezers out of the first aid kit. (I do have a pair of tweezers that I keep in my makeup bag). And added in solid sunscreen, a UV protective lip balm, a thermometer, and a simple sewing kit.

When Buddy was younger, I would also take children’s liquid Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol, and Ibuprofen in TSA approved bottles in my 3-1-1 liquid bag in my carry-on, just in case he got sick in route. Luckily, he only needed the Tylenol once. Now that he is older, he can use our adult travel size versions of these medicines, which are also tucked in to our first aid kit.

Buddy with his Carry-On luggage ready for his flight. Carry-On when Flying with Kids. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy as a child with his carry-on luggage ready for his flight.

2. Wipes, wipes, and more wipes!

When flying with kids, you never know when an accident might happen! Wipes, such as Wet Ones or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are great for a quick clean up at 30,000 feet.

Wet Ones are great for cleaning sticky things from hands. And you can use the Clorox wipes to clean off frequently touched areas, like tray tables, seat belts, and airplane windows, or any other areas the kiddos will touch over and over on an hours long flight.

Whether traveling solo or with Buddy, I pack a travel size pack of Wet Ones AND Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. I am a germaphobe and even before the pandemic, I was the mom wiping down the seat and its surroundings for Buddy. Now as a teen, I hand Buddy a Clorox wipe when we fly, and he wipes down his area. He also wipes down door handles, remote controls, and light switches at hotels and Airbnbs for me as well.

3. Vitamins

If your child takes a daily vitamin, make sure to pack that in your carry on.

Even now that he is a teen, I always pack Buddy’s vitamins in my carry-on. I make sure he takes them daily so that he can get as many nutrients as possible. Traveling through different time zones can take a toll on the body.

Buddy reading at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris while waiting for his flight. Packing books in a carry-on is one of his tips for flying with kids. Carry-On when Flying with Kids. MPA Project Travels.
A younger Buddy reading at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris while waiting for his flight.

4. Snacks

With short lay overs or unexpected flight delays, planning mealtime while traveling can be challenging. Having some healthy-ish kid friendly snacks at the ready when flying with kids is helpful if the kiddos get hungry on the plane.

To this day, I pack snacks like goldfish, trail mix, granola bars, Chomps for Buddy to munch on. If we are flying in the continental U.S., I also pack easy-to-carry fruit like apples, oranges, and bananas. But no fruit on international flights, of course!  (And just to be extra safe, flights to Hawaii too). Also, some countries might give you a hard time about having whole nuts in trail mix. So opt for trail mix with pieces of nuts rather than whole nuts if you are traveling internationally. Or you can just eat all of your trail mix on the plane!

5. A set of utensils and napkins

If you do have the time to grab a snack during your lay over, or if you are on a flight that includes meal service, you may want to consider packing a few extra sets of utensils and napkins.

Sometimes your child’s utensils end up on the floor. It is always nice to have an extra spoon or fork on hand in case that does happen. It is much easier on your child if you can produce a new clean fork from your bag, rather than the having to wait for the flight attendant to bring a new utensil. Which could take a while if a utensil is dropped during meal service.

Also, occasionally your child might spill a drink. Extra napkins will come in handy if this does happen. Plus, the Wet Ones you packed can help get rid of some of the sticky mess as well.

To this day, I pack two sets of utensils in my carry on when traveling with Buddy. I usually save the ones that come with take out and stick them in my bag before a trip. The downside to this, disposable utensils are not environmentally friendly.

6. Carabiner clips

Going from a warm to a cold destination and the jacket doesn’t fit in your child’s backpack? Rather than having the child carry it, attach it to their backpack or carry-on using a carabiner clip.

I always travel with carabiner clips attached to my backpack or purse. I use them to attach jackets, shoes, hats, and water bottles to our carry-on items. They help go hands free when you need them.

7. A set of (inexpensive) headphones

Just in case your kiddo loses, forgets, or drops their headphones somewhere down into the abyss of the space between the tiny airplane seats. You may want to have an extra set of inexpensive headphones in your carryon when flying with kids.

For our past travels, I found inexpensive kid size wired headphones at Ross. During one trip to Europe, Buddy went through 3 sets of headphones. Some reappeared at the end of the flight, and others were lost forever. Now as a teen, Buddy uses his dad’s old Sony WH-1000XM3s, which are a lot harder to lose, but also take up much more space in the carry-on!

8. Extra socks

Planes can get very cold. And little feet can get extra cold too. For this reason, I recommend packing an extra set of socks when flying with kids. Especially if it is a red eye. Your kiddo will sleep much better with warm feet.

9. Plastic bags

In case your child has an accident at 30,000 feet, you will want a plastic bag to store soiled clothes. Plastic bags are also great to have when you travel in case you need to store dirty shoes or wet clothes. Having a few zip lock bags of various sizes ready to go is helpful when flying with kids.

I usually carry a gallon, a quart, and a sandwich size zip lock bag. And, I always have an extra plastic bag for our liquid items in case one rips or breaks over the course of a trip. I also carry 1-2 plastic grocery bags. Recently, I began bringing a cloth bag on domestic trips.

10. A reusable water bottle

Staying hydrated on a plane is so important. It helps overcome jet lag, dehydration and all the other things that come along with travel. But buying bottled water at the airports is expensive. Taking an empty water bottle through security and filling it up at the airport is much more cost efficient, and better for the environment! If you child gets thirsty after the beverage services is complete, you can offer them water to keep them hydrated!

On domestic trips we take large water bottles attached to our backpacks. We fill them up the water fountain after passing through security.

On international trips I take a smaller water bottle that easily fits into my purse. We usually buy a jug of water and use it to fill up the smaller bottle over the course of the trip, depending on where we are.

Buddy on a plane holding a stuffed animal. Bringing a stuffed animal is one of his tips for flying with kids. Carry-On when Flying with Kids. MPA Project Travels.

Buddy’s Top 5 Items

  1. Headphones – You can use headphones to o block out airplane noise and listen to music on your electronic device.
  2. Electronic device like a phone or iPad – This is so that you can watch TV shows or movies during your flight. You can download your favorite or watch the ones on the plane.
  3. A Book – A book will keep you entertained if you do not have an electronic device, or if your electronic device loses power.
  4. Paper and pens or crayons – This is if you want to journal about your trip and write about what you did or what you saw. You can also use it to draw on the flight.
  5. A stuffed animal – Your favorite stuffed animal will help you feel comfortable. Just don’t lose it or forget it on the plane!

Mom’s Bonus Tip: Extra clothes!

If you are traveling with littles, or if you are checking a large bag with luggage to your destination, you might also want to consider packing an extra set of clothing. This is so your child might have a change of clothes in case an accident happens. Or in the unfortunate case your luggage gets lost. Buddy and I travel with carry-ons only, we do not check bags. But, when he travels with the boys chorus this summer and needs to check his bag, I will make sure he has an extra set of clothes in his carry-on, just in case.

Are you flying with kids soon? If so, where are you going? Parents and kids, what would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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MPA Project Travels

Hello! We are Yvonne & Buddy and we create family travel blogs based on firsthand knowledge and experiences of a destination. Our goal is to inspire teens, parents, and families to share time together engaging in new experiences whether the destination is near or far from home. Come join us on our travels!

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14 thoughts on “15 Important Must Have Items for Your Carry-On when Flying with Kids

  1. I feel like there are a lot of similarities here between how you travel with your kids and how I travel with my boyfriend: I bring snacks, wet wipes and things to keep him occupied on a flight so I can read my book and watch a movie, lol! Great tip with the carabiner clip too, I’m going to have to use that one

  2. I don’t have kids, but I imagine flying with them can be a chaotic experience! This seems like a great packing list to make life easier!

  3. Those were all great tips and ideas and not just for kids but for anyone traveling no matter what age! Thanks for sharing!

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