December 13, 2017

Flying with Kids: Packing the Carry-On Backpacks


In just a few days we’ll be on a plane to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’m excited to get there, but not so excited about the journey. There’s no longer a direct flight out of my preferred airport, so we actually have to fly from DC up to Boston, and then down to San Juan, which means more than five hours on two planes with four kids. Should be fun.

We fly on Saturday and right now I’m thinking about entertainment, as in how do I keep my kids entertained and quiet without actively entertaining for the duration of the flights and potentially losing my mind. Plus, I need my own quiet time to finish reading Mockingjay!

We’re flying JetBlue, which means TVs on the back of every seat, so that’s a good start. I’m also getting ready to hit Target tomorrow to fill three or four backpacks for the flight, and here’s what I’m thinking:

Coloring Books & Crayons: These are a must. I just bought a bunch of coloring books at AC Moore for $1 each, and I’m using the crayon boxes I picked up at Target during the back-to-school sales last year for a quarter each (I always buy enough crayons for the entire year then).

Activity Books: Beyond coloring books, my older girls like travel activity books that have word searches and mazes, that kind of thing. They also like the I Spy and Where’s Waldo books, which make for good entertainment for a little while, and I throw in some educational workbooks too (hey, why not?).

Snacks: JetBlue has free snacks (which we love), but we’ll also bring along our own, like cracker packets, granola bars and goldfish. When we fly, I almost don’t care about the nutritional value of anything my kids put in their mouth. I just want don’t want them to complain and get wacky on the flight.

Juice Boxes or Milk Boxes: A few years ago, the flight attendant served my then four-year-old a cup of apple juice, which she proceeded to spill all over herself before the flight had even taken off. We had no change of clothes, so now it’s juice or milk boxes for us. Even if they tip over, it never makes a big mess.

A Change of Clothes:  Of course, the next item on the list is a change of clothes. You really never know what can happen, and it’s better safe than sorry. In fact, if you bring spare clothes, you’re pretty much guaranteed nothing will happen. May as well stave off Murphy’s Law.

Lollipops: My kids don’t usually get lollipops unless they’ve just gotten a haircut, but the last couple of flights my older girls have complained about ear pain, and I can’t relive that again. They won’t chew gum (well, maybe I’ll buy fruit flavor this time), so I’ll bring along some lollipops to suck on to help relieve the pressure changes.

Electronic Devices: You know what I’m talking about – iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone. Since my husband got an iPhone two weeks ago we now have enough to go around if worse comes to worse and they’re all clamoring to play some type of electronic game at the same time. We also have a LeapFrog (somewhere), so we’ll probably bring that along too.

Baby Wipes or Wet Ones: There’s no question my son is going to hold onto that chocolate chip granola bar for too long and have melted chocolate on his fingers, and it’s not like my four-year-old can finish a snack without having something left behind on her mouth. So bringing along some kind of wet wipes is key. Since we’ll take up two rows, we’ll have a pack for both rows.

Now I’ll tell you a few things that I don’t pack to bring along with us.

Books: Well, not too many. The backpacks get heavy fast, and to be honest, as much as my kids enjoy reading, the coloring books, snacks and iPad keep them more entertained. I probably bring one small book per child, and add a few extras to the Kindle.

Playing Cards: These have always been a disaster for us. The cards fall between the seats, under the seats, in the aisle. Ugh, it’s just a nightmare. The same goes for any other small toys, like dominos, or travel games with small pieces.

School Supplies: My kids will take to Puerto Rico the same backpacks they take to school every day, so I’ll make sure to take out all the extra notebooks and school supplies. It seems obvious, but it’s not always, and those backpacks can get very heavy very quickly.

So what do you like to bring with you when you travel with your kids to keep them busy and entertained? Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: ONE by one

Disclaimer: This post contains a link to an affiliate. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are purely mine. 


  1. Amanda S says:

    Tootsie roll midgies are great to relieve ear pressure problems for older kids that can chew them.

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Amanda — Love this, though my daughter’s orthodontist may not love it so much. Ha! I’ll bring some along though for the younger kids not in braces!

      -Erin 🙂

  2. I was thinking of travelling from Beziers to Barcelona to Budapest for 2 weeks with just a carry-on bag. I am trying to see if it is at all possible.
    Oh, and I almost forgot, we are a family of four, two kids, 8 and 6.
    What do you think?
    Imagine no waits for luggage. Oh I am dreaming!
    eva 🙂

  3. refillable water bottle (empty until you get past security), new ipod/nook games and books, audiobooks great for quiet time. i’ll also second the notion of lollipops. once in guatemala, when my daughter was about 2 1/2, we had a flight delay and got switched onto this TINY TINY plane that was extremely hot and miserable (got better once airborne with a total of maybe 15 passengers crammed in). A stranger gave her a lollipop, and how could i refuse? i’m sure it helped with the ears, and the sheer novelty of it kept her occupied for a while. (ok it was well wrapped and I tasted it first.)

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