When we go out for the day with our child, my wife brings along a backpack that contains a solution to every eventuality. It weighs more than our four year old boy. But she likes to be prepared and she takes no chances, even though I can’t remember the last time we opened it.
We have the same levels of obsessive planning when we fly, although the bag is lighter and it gets used more often. Here’s what we pack in the bag every time we fly.
The practical stuff
We think that it’s important that the bag we pack for our boy is one that he can take ownership of and identify as his own. This means that the bag we pack with his stuff in, is his bag and for him to own it, he has to love it. In our case, we’ve got him a Trunki.
If you don’t know of these, you’ve probably seen one wheeled through an airport. They’re a true genius invention and one that we take on every trip. If you’ve not heard of a Trunki, they’re a mini suitcase with four wheels, that kids can sit on and which parents can drag along behind them. Their size complies with carry-on baggage rules, so no need to check them in.
You can also purchase an accompanying insert ‘purse’, which we take out and use as our go-to bag when we’ve sat down on the plane, avoiding having to get the Trunki down from the overhead compartment.
Toys – that he chooses
We get our son involved in packing his bag, and in preparation for the holiday, he can choose some small toys to take. He generally chooses a random collection, and this gives him some familiarity when he’s in new environments.
A change of clothes
We always carry a spare change of clothes, and not always because of an accident or in preparation for lost luggage. If we’re travelling on a night flight, we will take his pyjamas with us, in order to settle him in to his night time routine.
Empty collapsible water bottle
Something like this is a brilliant bottle to take away as when it’s empty (like, before you go through security) it takes up no space at all. When you’re on the plane, just ask the cabin crew to fill it up with fresh water and they’ll be more than happy to oblige.
Where would we be without that flexible little packet of wipes? Before eating, after eating, cleaning up spillages etc. We take loads of these away with us.
While most airlines provide excellent food options, having familiar snacks available for those times in between meals is a good idea. We tend to bring dried fruit bars, raisins, and other longer-life snacks that don’t take up too much room.
Although our kids are growing up in a digital generation, an iPad or in-flight entertainment system won’t hold their attention for the duration of a plane journey. Certainly not ours anyway. And with new rules preventing large devices being taken on board certain flights into the UK and US, parents have to get creative. So what do we do?
We wrap and pack some prizes for the plane, to reward the little man for good behaviour. These are an incredibly manipulative but hugely successful method for managing children on long journeys!
Okay so it’s inevitable that they’ll want to watch something on a screen, so instead of using the in-flight earphones, which aren’t always suitable for little ears, we’ve bought our own. The first time we used these Batman headphones, we surprised him on the plane with them and he was delighted. Make sure that you also get some earphone adapters for the seat sockets too.
Playdough (or Play-doh for our non British friends)
They’re cheap, they come in transportable little pots, and kids can spend hours mashing around with these on a flight.
Good old fashioned pens and paper
When we’re on the way home, we get our little boy to draw pictures of his favourite memories from the holiday; making his own postcards for Grandma.