I published an ultimate toddler packing list back in the early days of this blog, but I realize that the list doesn’t totally reflect the little logistics of preparing a useful and creatively engaging carryon for your little ones. When my list says “snacks,” that doesn’t really tell you what I actually pack, does it? So, I took a photo of the contents of my daughter’s carryon bag on our last trip so you can really see where the rubber meets the road.
As you can probably tell from the photo, the keys to packing well are 1) novelty and 2) variety. I always make sure to have several new items, as things that are new often hold a young child’s attention for longer (hopefully buying you a little down time onboard). The “play pack” coloring books that you can find in Target’s dollar section (or also in many Michael’s stores) are a must-have. I stock up and have a half dozen or so at my house, so I can always grab a new one for a flight. I also usually download a single new TV show to my iPad. At 99 cents on iTunes, it is a very cheap way to entertain your child on a flight. Since we travel so much, we now have at least on episode of Dora, Caillou, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, SuperWhy, Doc McStuffins, and Bubble Guppies on our iPad, and my daughter watches them over and over. Even though toddlers and preschoolers are big on repetition, their tastes in shows do evolve. It is good to have an episode of whatever they are watching at the moment back at home too.
Now the other key — variety. Airline travel is fraught with delays and you never know what kind of mood your child may be in on a given travel day. So the key is to have all sorts of options at your fingertips if you child isn’t interested in his or her usual snack, show, or toy. As you can see in the photo, I pack a lot of different snacks. On this past trip, my bag included: Trader Joe’s fruit bars, goldfish crackers, lollipops, bubble gum, Skittles, Fruit Loops, a Luna bar, and popcorn. Also in my regular rotation are small bags of pretzels (extras from a previous Southwest flight!), gummy snacks, and Wheat Thins. I also pack a sack lunch for every member of my family so we can have something resembling a meal. My daughter often gets a bento box packed with mac and cheese (stays cold for awhile and she’ll eat it cold), fruit (grapes or strawberries), and turkey rolls. Many of the other snacks I pack obviously aren’t the most healthy, but I don’t worry too much about nutrition on plane travel days. We often don’t eat many of the goodies, as I hide them from my daughter and only save them for emergencies such as meltdowns or big delays. Trust me… hiding a bag of M&Ms in your purse may be the best travel decision you ever make.
What have you found helpful to pack in your child’s carryon? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments.