Packing Tips From Me for Flying With Kids

I know there are dozens of blogs out there about travel, and that’s not what this blog is about, but travel is on my mind, so I decided to share my own travel tips. Well, partly because I couldn’t find any blogs about traveling with a bunch of children. A few, posts here and there, so here’s another one like that. This is my official kids pack and don’t pack list.

I’m not going to debate whether to go carry on or to check your luggage. I’ve done both when traveling with my whole family and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I will say that one of the disadvantages is that sometimes I have to carry everybody’s luggage at once, because little backs get tired (and my husband always has his computer bag) and no matter how light each bag is, light x 6 = heavy. One of the disadvantages to checking the luggage is that checked luggage x 6 = expensive. On the last trip that we went on, we had intended to go carry on, and then my husband and I were just tired thinking of carrying everybody’s stuff through the airport, so we put most of the duffels into two large duffels, and then manipulated them to exactly 50 pounds each and then checked two bags. Perhaps if we all had rollers, it wouldn’t be so daunting to all go carry-on, but then you have the hassle of finding space for six rollers in the overhead bins. We haven’t tried that yet, but we may someday. We don’t own six rollers right now though. Not sure if there is room in our trunk for six rollers either. That’s partly why we have taken the duffel bag route.

What I’m going to share is a few things I’ve learned to take and a few things I’ve learned to leave home for the kids. This list is assuming they are traveling with a parent, so some obvious things are not on the list (like toothpaste.) If you’re trying to figure out what to pack for yourself, check out or This is just a list of things for my kids. Most of our experience has been within the United States. Some alterations might be necessary for international travel with kids. Even our international travel hasn’t involved a flight longer than four and a half hours.

Things to take

  1. Swimsuits (Lots of hotels have swimming pools and the kids will want to swim. Remember your own too.)
  2. Inflatable floaties for the younger kids
  3. Drawing pad and pencils and a dozen crayons or colored pencils. (No more. I promise it will be enough, besides half of them will fall through the cracks in some seat in your journey.)
  4. One book to read for the older children. (Only one book. They won’t read on the plane, unless you’re flying across the ocean. They won’t read at your destination, because there is so much new to see. So they definitely don’t need two. If you have an ereader for your child, then I guess, you can have different rules.)
  5. iPods. (Take time to load some new audio books on before trip. And consider some lullaby music even for the big kids.)
  6. Clothes (Duh! Not going to define what kind of clothes to take or how much. It really depends on the trip. Just don’t take more than you need. Quick dry clothes are very nice and light though, sweaters are super bulky.)
  7. Baby shampoo in a tsa approved bottle
  8. Toothbrush
  9. Bug spray & sunscreen (That might be in the parents’ bags, but don’t forget it. Sunburned or bug bitten kids can ruin a vacation.)

Things to leave home

  1. Toys (They’re probably going to want to buy some souvenirs anyway.)
  2. Toys (They’re really heavy.)
  3. Did I mention toys? Okay maybe one Matchbox car would be acceptable for both boys and girls. Dolls are just a headache.
  4. Extra changes of clothes for anybody over three, but have enough underwear. (I have learned from some of these packing blogs that it’s not too bad to have to wash a few clothes out in the sink and hang them over the shower rod to dry. It works out quite fine, and saves money if your checking or saves your back if your carrying.)
  5. Diapers (Take enough for the plane trip. It’s easiest to purchase the rest at your destination, because diapers are very bulky. Now if you’re traveling to a place that charges three times the price on everything in their little tiny corner store, then maybe you should take diapers, but if you are flying, then the town you land in is large enough to have an airport and therefore should be large enough to have a grocery store.)
  6. School work (Well if you must, you must, but none of it will get done. If it’s due the day after your trip, they’ll do it in the middle of the night after you get home. I once hauled an entire suitcase of school work. It was way too heavy, and gave me an unforgettable backache. Next to nothing got done, and I promised myself—never again! Besides, the whole point of travel is to create memories, if all your kids remember from making a trip to Yellowstone is working on their math, you failed.)