Flying with kids of any age isnít exactly a relaxing proposition. But a well stocked carry-on bag can help ensure your child stays entertained and (relatively) content during flights. When choosing your childís carry-on bag, look for a kid-sized rolling suitcase or sturdy backpack with lots of compartments to organize items. Enlist your childís help in choosing the right bag, but make sure to choose a size heíll be able to handle comfortably by himself. Here are some suggestions to fill the bag up.
A Magna Doodle or Etch-a-Sketch: These come in travel sizes and are neater than other art supplies. A Magna Doodle can also be used to play games of hangman and tic-tac-toe.
Coloring supplies: Crayons and a new coloring book can go a long way towards keeping a child busy. Older kids may enjoy an intricate coloring book, such as the Dover Stained Glass series. Or try Crayola Color Wonder Markers, designed to write only on the special paper they come with.
Activity books: You can get books of mazes, dot-to-dots, word searches, or crossword puzzles, depending on your childís interest. Donít forget a couple of pencils to fill them in.
Sticker books: These are available in many different themes and are great for kids who are too young for activity books. Try to find re-useable sticker books; the kids will be able to reposition the stickers, increasing the bookís entertainment value.
Magnet books: These are a good alternative for kids who have trouble with stickers. They are also available in many themes, such as farms or dollhouses, and can be used many times over.
Paperback childrenís books: Purchase several new ones if you can, they will hold the kids interest for far longer. Heavily illustrated books on a favorite topic, such as dinosaurs or trucks, are a great choice for younger kids. Older kids will enjoy books from a favorite series or a new magazine. When we have a trip coming up, I start saving the childrenís magazines we receive in the mail to give to my kids during travel time. Donít forget to pack extra reading material for the trip home (or buy new books there).
Pipe cleaners or Wikki Stix: These manipulative craft items will give a fidgety child something to do with his hands, without creating a mess. They can be used to make animals, geometric shapes, even quick jewelry. Plus they take up very little space in a bag.
Favorite stuffed animals: Deciding whether to bring along a favorite stuffed toy is tricky. On the one hand thereís the risk of losing it. On the other hand, it may help your child sleep better away from home. If you bring it, pack it in your childís carry-on bag and monitor its location constantly.
Small toys: Depending on the age of your child, consider puppets, action figures, small dolls with clothes to dress them up in, miniature puzzles, travel games, little cars, or small handheld video games.
A no-spill cup: Youíll have to pack it empty due to new carry-on regulations, but if your child is prone to spilling bring it along to contain his in-flight beverage. Buy older kids a water bottle once you get inside the gate.
Snacks: Since you canít depend on the airline providing you with much, bring your own snacks. Try granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, string cheese, grapes, and wheat crackers. Then throw in a bag of favorite candy for when times get desperate.
Childrenís music or a video: If your flight is long, youíll probably want to consider bringing along some type of entertainment for when all else fails. Kid music and books on CD are good, as is a favorite or new video. Buy a good set of headphones for younger kids who may have trouble with the little ear bud headphones that come with everything nowadays.
Change of clothes & bathing suit: Even if your kids are past the age of spitting up all over themselves, a change of clothes is useful in the event your baggage gets delayed or someone spills a drink. Also pack a sweater; it can double as a blanket if your child decides to take a nap. Hey, you can hope.