(This post may contain affiliate links, for which we earn a small commission at no additional expense to you. You can read our affiliate policy here.)
Our rule when we travel is that everyone carries their own stuff. We’ve had this rule since the girls were about 4 years old and it’s my favourite travel rule! Of course we WILL take a few heavier items like running shoes, and some other peripherals such as swim suits and rain jackets. But, for the most part, our kids carry their own stuff.
When we were planning and furiously prepping for our family gap year, I searched and searched for a small cross-body bag for the girl’s to carry their toys and distractions. It was more difficult than I thought it should be!
It took three tries on Amazon.
The first one was just a bit bigger than I was hoping for, and the straps were too long. The second one was supposed to be smaller, but that was only when it was packed up. It was still too big.
The last one was perfect!! Third time’s a charm 🙂
I love this little bag for a couple of reasons, but mainly because it’s small.
By the time kids are 5 or 6 years old, they don’t really need a ton of stuff to entertain them on the plane. My girls, Calais especially, is a bit of a hoarder and will fill every last inch of available space. The compact size of this bag helps prevent that!
It’s also nice to have a separate bag to use on the plane. We can put the “big” pack in the overhead bin, or shoved way under the seat, and this one is easily accessible. It fits nicely into the seat back pocket so they have everything they need right in front of them.
We have our kid-distractors down to a couple of well-loved items.
This is what to pack in a kids carry-on:
- Pencil Crayon and colouring book. I love these double sided pencil crayons. The little metal tin is perfect for traveling, and because they’re double sided there’s more colours per coloured pencil! You can buy them on Amazon, or find them at World Market (sadly only in the USA, I stock up every time we visit)!
- Boogie Board Jot 4.5 – we absolutely LOVE these…and often carry an extra when we travel since they’re small and seem to easily misplace themselves. These are great for drawing, hangman, X’s and O’s, etc, and provide great entertainment while waiting for dinner at a restaurant. Just be cautious. Many of the new ones don’t come with a cover, and the screen gets wrecked quickly if it’s not protected.
- Ety-Kids Earbuds – These are amazing! They are easy to pack. They are incredibly comfortable, and they have great sound control so little eardrums don’t get damaged. I also love the little carry-case so they won’t get lost!
- Lego-kit. This is a home-made version with a cut-to-fit Lego baseplate stuck to the top of a tupperware container with a cell-phone sticky pad. This provides us hours of entertainment on any form of transportation.
- Play pack. You can find them at Target, Michaels, Dollar store, etc. They have a little colouring book, some stickers and 4 crayons. They don’t last long, but the stickers are always a hit!
- Notebook. We have one with lined pages and one with blank pages. The girls like to “journal” in the lined book and draw pictures on the blank pages.
And that’s it!!
You might also want to pack a few of these kid’s travel journal pages for them to document their trip!
We’ll each pack a phone and iPad Mini, so there’s always a device loaded up with games and movies. We pack those in our own packs so the girls don’t think they’re a free-for-all at any time.
This, plus in-flight movies, will keep them entertained for an almost unlimited amount of time! When we arrive at our destination one or two things can come out, the water bottle can clip on, and they’ve got a day-bag ready to go.
I’ve been warned it will accumulate rocks along the way.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we end up with a world-wide rock collection from Calais! (edit – this definitely happened. She got pulled aside at a security checkpoint in India because of all her rocks, most of which I didn’t even know where in her bag!! The poor security guy didn’t know what to do with this cute little 7 year old and her pile of rocks. Finally he just took out the 2 biggest ones and let her keep the rest. It still didn’t stop her from collecting more rocks along the way!)
Here’s everything each girl carried at 5, 6 & 7 years old; their pack on their back and the little cross-body bag on the front.
Am I missing anything? Is there something you’d add to the plane-bag?
Pin this for when you need it later!