Traveling with kids is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a parent. The experience benefits everyone, no matter their age, and you’ll never regret the adventures you take together. However, there’s a reason many people don’t travel with children. It’s intimidating! Even though I’ve gone on dozens of trips with Willow and Caden, I still get a little anxious when planning a trip, especially when it involves air travel.
Usually, I shake that little bit of anxiety off pretty quickly, though, because I now know all the tips and tricks for flying with kids! You can find some of my best advice for air travel with kids here, but actually, one of your best tools to get through the flight is a smartly packed kids carry-on. Having a carry-on bag stocked with essentials, things to do, and plenty of snacks can help keep the trip to your destination as relaxing as your vacation.
To help you assemble the perfect kid carry-on bag, I’m sharing my packing list with you! Here’s everything you need to have in your child’s carry-on:
30+ Kids Carry-On Packing List
Travel Diaper Bag
A good travel diaper bag is larger than your typical day-to-day diaper bag to fit all the extra stuff you may need for your trip. It’s organized with different pockets, zippers and sections to properly stow away all the essentials for entertainment, food and sleep on the flight. Even if your child is out of diapers, you’ll benefit from this type of bag to keep things handy. I highly recommend the No Reception Club Getaway Bag. Use code NMM20 for $20 off your purchase.
Before you pack your carry-on, you need some quality luggage! As tempting as it might be to go with cheap luggage with your child’s favorite Disney character on it, I really recommend getting something that can take a beating and will last them for years to come. Our favorite carry-ons are The Carry-On Roller by Beis and The Carry-On Pro by July.
30+ items may seem like a lot, and it is! Though I don’t advocate for overpacking, I’ll admit there are a lot of small things that need to be in your child’s carry-on. You need all of these things for easy access, so use labeled plastic zipper pouches to categorize everything.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
If your luggage gets lost, you still want to practice good hygiene. Pack your child’s toothbrush and toothpaste in their carry-on.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I am adding it to your list so you don’t forget. Your child’s passport (if traveling internationally) needs to be handy. I would actually not advise it be in their carry-on, but in your personal bag instead . . . but that’s up to you! If you are traveling domestically, be sure you have a copy of your child’s birth certificate. I’ve only been asked for this once in 25+ flights, but be sure to include this just in case.
Helping your children sleep comfortably on a plane is a must, especially if your flight is more than a few hours long. Ensuring their favorite stuffed animal is along for the ride helps soothe them to sleep in a new environment.
A blanket is another item to keep in your child’s carry-on for airplane snoozing. You don’t want anything too bulky, so I recommend a thin bamboo blanket from Kyte. It’s soft and warm without taking up too much space in your carry-on.
Extra Underwear, Diapers or Pull-Ups
No matter the age of your child, pack extra pairs of underwear, diapers or pull-ups in their carry-on. If there’s any chance your son or daughter could have an accident (like if they’re prone to bed wetting), I recommend putting them in a pull-up to avoid potential mess and hassle. Coterie just came out with training pants, and I think they are the best diaper brand! You can get 20% off with NEWMODERNMOM23 at checkout.
Again, depending on how old your child is, this may or may not be necessary. However, a compact potty seat for smaller children will be a lifesaver when using public bathrooms and airport facilities. Plus, you can use it at your rental or hotel. I like the one from One Proud Toddler. And, yes, it fits perfectly in a carry-on!
Bring a wet bag even if you don’t have to worry about soiled pull-ups. Your child could spill something on themselves or you may need a handy place to throw wipes until you’re near a trash can. This wet/dry bag set takes up very little space in the carry-on but it can save you a lot of hassle.
Extra Set of Clothes
Depending on your child’s age, you should have at least one set of clothes for your kid in their carry-on. This isn’t only for potential messes, but it’ll also come in handy if the airline loses your luggage. We’ve never had this happen yet, thankfully, but it’s something you want to prepare for! With one set of clothes, your child will at least have something fresh to change into the next morning when you can go out and get more clothes.
The temperature of airplanes and the climate of various connecting destinations can be unpredictable. Layers are key. Ensure you pack a sweatshirt or jacket for your young traveler.
Eating & Drinking
Water Bottle/Sippy Cup
Staying hydrated is important when traveling, no matter your age. A BPA-free plastic water bottle like this Simple Modern works well for younger kids who are prone to dropping or throwing their water, or a stainless steel water bottle like this Owala one works well for older kids. Just be mindful of opening it after the cabin is pressurized! Always unscrew the lid before popping open the straw.
Snacks and Fun Containers
Your liquids are limited when air traveling, but you can bring as many snacks as you want. Leave room in your carry-on for a fun snack container like the GoBe, Yumbox, or Match UP, and fill it with your kids’ favorite treats. Goldfish, pretzels, granola bars, cheese sticks, apples, carrots, cereal, and mini muffins are all good choices.
Wipes (Face, Surface, and Bottom)
Kids are messy. Airplanes/airports are dirty. Wipes will help you keep everything clean and safe. Wet Ones are good for hands, Clorox Disinfectant wipes are good for surfaces, and Coterie wipes are good for bottoms. If you’re using the July Carry On Pro (linked above), you can slide these right into the front pocket for easy access.
Basic First Aid Kit
I say a “basic” first aid kit because you’re limited in what you can take through TSA security. Having a few bandaids, antibiotic cream, a couple children’s tylenol and a couple children’s benadryl will allow you to treat minor ailments or emergencies on-the-go. As tempting as it may be, I don’t recommend you prepare for every worst-case scenario–you’ll way overpack! However, a few bandaids won’t take up much space and you’ll be glad you have them!
Important Medications or Safety Devices
All important medications and safety devices need to stay with you at all times, including on the flight. Because of this, pack necessary medical supplies into your child’s carry-on, not in their checked bag.
Bonus: Motion Sickness Remedies
iPad and Headphones
There’s no shame in some extra screen time while flying. Keep headphones and an iPad in a high-quality, kid-friendly case in your carry-on. Before you leave for your trip, download plenty of your child’s favorite shows, since there will likely be times you don’t have wifi access.
If you’re really looking to avoid the screen, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the Yoto Mini. It’s an audio player for kids that plays audiobooks, music, podcasts, games, and more. I’ve heard it is not good for toddlers, but it’s worth checking out for older children!
A portable charger will keep everyone’s electronics going even if you have one or two connecting flights. If you have older kids with multiple pieces of tech, it might be wise to even grab two of these!
Fidget toys are great for all ages. Traveling involves a lot of sitting, which no kids are great at. Hopefully, a few small fidget toys will help provide enough stimulation to keep your child calm and comfortable in their seat. Try toys like play putty, monkey noodles, or these magnetic bead boards.
Coloring or Craft Supplies
Coloring is another quiet activity suitable for planes, airports, and car rides. You can pack plenty of art supplies and activity books in the front pocket of your carry-on. I like watercolor-by-number books, Color Wonder kits, puffy sticker books, and WikkiStix.
Games have been the perfect way to pass the time for centuries. Get your child this Magnetic Matching Memory Game or the World’s Smallest Hungry Hippos Game. There are also plenty of card games you could play if your family likes those!
Building sets offer open-ended play that can last for hours. If your kid loves to build, consider bringing some supplies along. These flexible magnet toys and Squigz both work for building in tight quarters.
Your child will have a blast with their very own digital camera! (Just like we did in high school.) They make durable, kid-centered ones like this Kids Digital Camera. Instead of getting antsy on the plane or at the airport, your child will be snapping pictures of the clouds and capturing special moments.
If your child is a reader, let them pick 1-3 books to read along the way. Of course, they’ll need to be mindful of the space they have left in their carry-on… it’s probably not time to bring The Big Book of Silly Jokes.
Travel Journal and Pens
Travel journals are the perfect way for your child to preserve their family vacation memories. Bring along a dedicated travel journal and some pens, so your kid can capture every moment.
Tray tables on airplanes are comically small. It can be tough to fit a tray table into your carry-on, but I some parents speak highly of this nice convenience! A tray table will keep all of your child’s toys contained and give them a much more comfortable play space.
Carry-On Packing List for Kids
Ensure your child’s carry-on is stocked with essentials!
A carry-on serves dual purposes. It’s the luggage that will act as a big-kid diaper bag during the flight, allowing you to keep your child entertained, comfortable, and well-fed during long flights. However, it also is a sort of emergency bag in case there’s a problem with your checked bags. Those two functions mean planning what goes in your carry-on is really important.
I hope this list helped you narrow down your packing list! If you’re packing specifically for a toddler, make sure you check out my toddler travel essentials list. And, if you’re taking an international trip, you need to check my guide for family international travel. Both are on the travel section of my blog and will help you get the most out of your trip!