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7 things to pack in hand luggage when flying with young children

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Having recently flown abroad with our two young children, a boy age 3 and girl age 5, and having flown abroad five times previously since having children to visit family overseas, we are quite used to the whole airport and flight with kids that many dread.  That doesn’t mean we don’t necessarily dread it each time, even as somewhat experienced flyers, children are very unpredictable and each age can bring a new set of challenges!  Thankfully the recent flight went well and so I want to share my tips of what to take in your hand luggage to ensure the smoothest flight.

Before diving into packing tips, the first important thing to consider is your choice of hand luggage. Choosing the right size, like a 55x40x23 cm hand luggage, can make a significant difference, because this size is generally accepted by most airlines as a carry-on, ensuring you won't face any last-minute issues at the boarding gate. Packing hand luggage of this size allows you to carry all the essentials - from snacks and entertainment to spare clothes and travel documents - while still being compact enough to fit in overhead compartments or under the seat. This way, everything you might need during the flight is easily accessible, helping to keep the journey smooth and stress-free for both you and your children.

7 things to pack in hand luggage when flying with young children

7 things to pack in hand luggage when flying with young children:

1. Snacks

Probably the most important!  A range of healthy snacks.  We love Organix and Ella’s Kitchen so stocked up on some of our faves before heading off to the airport.  These will keep little tummies filled in peckish times and also distract them from any ear popping that may happen on take-off and landing, as well as any scary turbulence!  Swallowing, mouth stretching or yawning is a great way to combat the ear popping and muffledness that can happen.

2. Money

You may have all your foreign exchange at the ready, but don’t forget to take some of your home currency for your home airport.  All liquids will have to be disposed of or drank before going through the security check.  You can take milk or formula for a baby, but you’ll need to drink it in front of the guards to prove it’s nothing dodgy.  We always take cash to buy some fresh bottles of water as soon as we’re through security.  Depending on the time of our flight we’ll usually need to get breakfast, lunch or dinner for the kids.  In holiday mode we use the opportunity to treat ourselves to a meal at the airport, but you could save money and pack your own food too.  You also never know if your flight will be delayed or diverted, so it’s a good idea to have funds available to cover all eventualities.

3. iPads

My five year old was entertained for nearly the whole flight with just an iPad, until the battery ran out!  We got the kids some headphones at the airport too as they’ve not had any before.  This was a great investment so they could listen to their game sounds without annoying nearby passengers.  My daughter was happy playing games, reading books, listening to music and even taking videos and photos of herself and the view as we flew.  Once the iPad ran out she drew pictures and coloured in for the rest of the journey.  My three year old was not so amused with an iPad for so long, but enjoyed it in short bursts mixed with other activities and lots of seat/lap swapping!

4. Books

Both my children, and all children I know, love to read books or look at picture books if young.  The children chose some books to take each and these were a pleasant distraction for my three year old when he got super wriggly and frustrated.  We let the children take a backpack each on board and pack with their entertainment, books and toys.  These were placed under the seats in front of them so they were always to hand.

5. Toys

I wouldn’t recommend taking too many little bits and pieces as you’ll not want the kids dropping them all over the plane and having to scramble under seats and down aisles to find everything, but a few figurine type toys are perfect.  Reuben loves dinosaurs so took a few 6 inch sort of sized dinos to keep him company.  Bella’s choice was My Little Pony.  These, along with the books, colouring and iPads were plenty to amuse them for four hours.

6. Spare clothes

Like I said, kids are unpredictable, so always take spare clothes!  We’ve not had to use any yet when flying, but you never know when a child might decide to projectile vomit or have an accident!  Better to be safe than sorry and pack spares just in case.

7. Wipes

In case of the above you’ll also want some wipes to hand!  But these are also great to wipe sticky fingers, messy faces and snotty noses!  You might want to pack some tissues for this too, but a pack of wipes usually covers all bases.

Hopefully this list will keep the kids entertained, ensure they don’t go hungry and cover any emergency situations!