Although airlines may offer the most convenient way to travel long distances, they’re certainly not without their own share of frustrations. Not only can ticket and luggage fees be outrageous at times, but long trips can mean a lot of sitting around with nothing to do. When you’re travelling with children, keeping them busy can mean the difference between a smooth, enjoyable trip and a miserable one.
Fortunately, optimizing your carry-on baggage can save you money on checked bag fees in addition to providing you and your family with distractions on the more boring parts of the trip. By thinking ahead and following these helpful packing guidelines, you can save money and ensure that your next family trip is headache-free.
Mom and Dad’s Carry On
On any family trip, it’s up to the parents or guardian to maintain control of the situation, and this means keeping the children from getting too restless, but it also means being ready for anything. Keep these key items in your carry-on baggage to avoid sticky situations.
Itinerary information and key documents – this one is kind of obvious, but keeping good track of all boarding passes, travel itineraries, and any other relevant papers (e.g. passports, baggage claim receipts) can help the trip run much more smoothly.
Entertainment – The kids will have their own entertainment, but you need something to occupy yourself as well. A book is fine, but some may prefer their iPod, laptop, or portable DVD/BluRay player.
Medications & First-Aid kit – If you or your child requires daily medication, you will definitely want to bring it with you on the plane in case there is a mix-up with your checked bag.
Back-ups – The kids may have their own stuff to keep them satisfied and occupied, but it can never hurt to keep some back-up waters, snacks, batteries, and anything else that might need replacing during a long trip. Unfortunately, you may not be able to take some liquids and foods through security and may need to buy some things in-terminal. Be sure to review the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for carry on to find out what you can and can’t bring with you on the plane.
Clothes – Fill up some extra space in your carry-ons with clothes and other items you may not need right away to save money on checked baggage.
Kid’s Carry On
It’s important that children travel light in order to ease the stress of travel, but that doesn’t mean they can’t handle a carry-on bag of their own.
Luggage (two to a bag)
The kids can share this load, taking turns rolling the suitcase through the airports. It contains things that won’t necessarily be needed during flights and in the terminal but can be useful to have around, and it can help save money on checked bags. This bag can include extra clothes (in case someone makes a mess), some sweaters/jackets for colder flights, and whatever else might prove useful but doesn’t have to be at arm’s length.
A backpack works best here. Let your kids make the decision on what to bring. This can give them a good taste of responsibility while also ensuring they have what they need as far as entertainment goes.
Entertainment – Unfortunately for parents, kids can become restless when bored, and this usually spells out trouble. By keeping them occupied, you can enjoy your trip while also keeping your kids under control. The contents of this pack can include books (crossword, puzzle, coloring), Gameboys, portable DVD players, or anything else that will keep the child entertained for a long period of time.
Snacks – Although you may be able to go several hours with little more than a bag of airplane pretzels, your kids may have a harder time doing so. Pack some light snacks and drinks for in between meals to keep them from getting too grumpy. Once again, you will have to plan ahead and follow the 3-1-1 rule for carry on to avoid having to throw out food at the security checkpoint.
Homework – Though they may not like it, it provides a constructive way for them to spend their time.
Family travel can be a wonderful, enriching experience for both children and parents, but a lack of planning can spell disaster for even the most agreeable family (not to mention higher baggage fees). By following these simple guidelines, however, you can save money while also making sure that everyone has the best time possible during the travelling process.