My air travel posse usually consists of my husband, me and our five year old son.  We have taken him on several domestic flights in his short life and one international trip (so far) to Ireland.  I have learned a few things from our travels that I want to share with you in hopes of making your future trips a bit easier too.

Most people who know me, know that I am a planner.  This is very true when it comes to taking trips. I start prepping several days before the trip with to do lists and packing lists.  Then, I start laying out clothes and items to pack at least 3 days beforehand. Whenever I pack in a rush, I forget important things and end up at the beach with only sports bras to wear with my strapless sun dress.


My husband and I are pretty risk adverse when it comes to carseats.  Yes, they can be a pain to travel with and having them beat up by baggage carriers is a risk.  However, the idea of getting into a car accident at your destination and not having your child in a secure seat is very scary.  

When we flew to Ireland, we had planned to let our son ride in his carseat on the plane. BUT, the flight company said it was against company policy to let children OVER the age of 4 use a car seat.  Our son turned four TEN days before the trip. Thankfully, we had a carseat bag with us so we were able to gate check the carseat. As he has gotten older, we have switched to the Safe Rider vest. We are big fans of it.  It keeps him safe, is easy to attach to a carry on and is easy to install in cars.

Packing Tips

In general, I like to keep like things together.  Huh?  I’ll say it another way… similar items should be packed together.  

Checked Bags

For me, everyone having their own checked bag is the best practice.  I pack clothes, shoes, toiletries, hair supplies, hats, swim suits, blankets/pillows, and jewelry* in this suitcase.  I have tried to pack all of us in one large suitcase but found it unsuccessful. It was hard to keep organized and to find what was needed.  Plus, if we all sleep in different places than where the bag is, I inevitably end up creeping into a sleeping room armed with my iphone as a flashlight to dig out clean pajamas.  I also think traveling with three smaller bags is easier than one large bag.

*I do not pack my rubies, diamonds, and large sapphires in checked bag- I carry those on.

Carry On Bags

My favorite type is a good, ole fashioned book bag.  It’s easy to wear, keeps your hands free and easy to organize.  I do not like tote bags as they tend to get too heavy and hurt my shoulder from extended use.  

Everyone’s carry on bag needs a set of underwear, t-shirt and athletic shorts/pants. This is for your worst case scenario: your luggage doesn’t arrive.  If we are headed somewhere tropical, then I toss in a bathing suit too. If we are headed somewhere wet (like Seattle or Ireland), then I make sure our light weight rain jackets are inside the carry on bags.  All of the “emergency” items get packed first (ie: at the bottom) of the bag.

Entertainment items are packed next- books, tablets, headphones, games, stickers, etc.  Finally, I pack snacks, eye masks, neck pillows and electronics’ chargers so they are easily accessible on top.  

Bring Your Own Water Bottle

I am a big fan of everyone having a reusable water bottle.  Keep it empty until after you go through security at the airport.  Then, I fill them up at a water fountain before the flight.  This is helpful as full glasses of water can easily spill during turbulence on a flight and it’s also to have a lot of water in case of delays.  Yes, you can also buy bottled water but I’d rather save my money for beer.

Also, be sure one of your carry on bags has medicine packed in it (more on this below).  If you don’t feel well during the flight, your medicine being packed under the plane doesn’t help much.

Day Packs

I love using a back pack (aka our carry on) as our day pack.  You can easily wear it around or stick it in the trunk of your rental car when not needed.

Be Prepared

Even though my son is five, he still gets dirty or wet and needs a change of clothing when we are out and about.  I keep a change of clothes (pants, top, undies, socks) in a grocery bag tucked into the bag.  Many times, this is the same bag from his carry on.  When we are out exploring and he decides to run in the ocean or start jumping into rain puddles, I don’t freak out nearly as much.  No biggie. Just change the clothes and restock the bag as soon as we get back to the hotel.  The grocery bag also doubles as a great place to store wet, nasty clothes before they make it back to the laundry room.


We have a bag of meds that we carry with us on trips.  Advil, immodium, cough drops, cough syrup, and basic child meds.  I also keep sunscreen and a first kit in this bag. You never know when you may need something, so keep it with you.  


We keep 6-8 snacks in a gallon sized ziplock. It makes seeing the options easy and prevents Hangry meltdowns- for both kids and adults.  Depending on the length of the trip, I add snacks to it over the trip- a few freebies from the flight, an orange from a hotel, etc. If I need to buy some, I can easily do that at a convenient store.  We also fill our water bottles each morning before we head out.  Much easier/cheaper than buying bottled water.


Keep lots of snacks around, a charged tablet, and clean clothes and you will keep most folks happy on your trip 🙂

What tips do you have to share when traveling with a kiddo?

learn,  brooke

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