Before I had kids, I put little thought into what I threw into my airplane carry-on. Some gum, a trashy magazine, a novel, maybe an eye mask so I could catch some zzzzs. Now, I write a list five days before the trip, go shopping three days before, pack the bag the night before, and double check it the morning of. I’m sure you’ve been burned by the "oops, I wish I packed some more wipes" syndrome. So, I’ve put together a handy reference list for moms to consider next time they are packing:
1. DO NOT pack anything for yourself other than your wallet and cell phone. You have no room for Cosmo, and your entertainment will be trying to keep your child happy.
2. DO pack lots of healthy snacks for the little ones. Some favorites: Gerber Graduates Fruit & Veggie Puffs, Gerber Graduates Mini Fruit (100% dried fruit), and Kashi Heart to Heart cereal. Try them in a snack trap, so the kids can eat at their own pace without littering the aisles too much. Other big hits include Earth’s Best Sunny Days Snack Bars(apple or strawberry, mmm), deli turkey for protein, and string cheese (throw these last two into your insulated bottle bag).
3. DO NOT pack messy/stinky foods like bananas, and try to avoid fast food like McDonald’s at the airport.
4. DO pack a bottle/sippy cup (or two) with milk, breast milk, formula, or juice (note: according to TSA, baby formula and food, milk, breast milk, and juice are allowed in "reasonable quantities" exceeding three ounces, and are not required to be in a zip-lock bag) - sucking especially helps ease ear pain on take off and landing. Similarly, if your child is into a pacifier, pack it.
5. DO NOT pack enough diapers for the whole trip - you need to conserve space and go easy on your back! Depending on the length of your flight, only pack 2-3 max. You can buy the jumbo pack of diapers once you reach your destination. Also, a travel changing pad is a good idea - most airplanes do not have a changing station. One flight, my son would have been changed directly on the toilet seat lid were it not for my handy pad.
6. DO pack a change of clothes for your child. No matter how well those Huggies work at home, the airplane is bound to be the one time there is a blowout.
7. DO NOT pack toys with too many little parts (like puzzles) or toys that make noise. Most of your neighbors will be annoyed the second they see you head for the seat in front of them - don’t give them anything more to work with.
8. DO pack something old, something new. Something old: pack a favorite blanket, lovie, or small stuffed animal for your child to sleep with and a favorite book with peekaboo flaps. Something new: check out the $1 section at the front of most Targets for cheap flash cards (we love the animal ones), coloring books, or pick up a new book at Barnes & Noble.
9. DO NOT pack a bulky pack of wipes. Rather, pack one of the smaller bundles that often come free with the jumbo box of diapers. Throw in extra wet ones (to swipe down the arm rests and tray table) and a travel size of hand sanitizer.
10. DO pack a DVD player, battery pack, and a few DVDs. Although we generally do not let our son watch TV at home, all rules go out the window when we are trapped in a confined space for a few hours with fliers who may not have the same patience level for fussy children. Our son is particularly addicted to Sesame Street Elmo’s World collections - we highly recommend Babies, Dogs and More.
Remember, the trick is to conserve space and weight, but pack the essentials to keep your child nourished and entertained. Happy travels!