If you are flying with kids to your next vacation destination, please give serious thought to what you pack into your carry on bags. This is where you will pack the most important items that will never leave your side through out your time in the air.
Each airline varies with their baggage rules. Most airlines have restricted sizes when it comes to carry on bags. A few airlines have even started charging for them. Technically any passenger that has paid for an airline seat has the same baggage allowances. So for example, if you paid for a seat for your 5 year old then that child is allowed a carry on bag. If your 18 month old is traveling "free" as a lap child and will be seated in your lap for the duration of the flight, only the parent is allowed one carry on bag for themselves and all the baby gear.
Airlines change their baggage rules often so always be sure that you check size and weight rules for carry ons along any possible fees associated with them prior to arriving at the airport to prevent any last minute surprises.
Here are the 5 items parents should pack in their family's carry on bags for any flight...
1. MEDICATION - Pack all prescription and any over the counter medications that your child may need during the flight in one of the adult's carry on bags. Remember the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has their 3-1-1 rules for the amount of liquids travelers can take on board an aircraft. If you are flying with a baby or infant, there are special rules for child care items like breast milk or formula. There is also special considerations for medications and medical devices.
2. Clothing - If your child is still in diapers, it is recommended that you bring at least a day's supply with you in case of delays. Diapers are not stocked on airplanes.
It's always a great idea to pack at least one change of clothes for EVERYONE in your carry on bags. This way if somebody happens to get sick or if your bags get delayed at least you're not totally stranded. (My daughter got sick once during a flight. I had packed a change of clothes for her but not for me. I am forever grateful to a fellow passenger who offered me a clean tshirt from their bag.)
You may also want to pack beachwear in your carry on. Most resorts do not allow guests to check into their rooms until well after lunch. (They need time for previous guests to check out and clean the rooms). If you arrive early you are allow to enjoy the facilities right away by changing either in a rest room or spa locker. The Bellman will check and watch over your bags while you enjoy the pool or beach. Be prepared, pack bathing suits, sun glasses and sun protection withing quick easy reach for your arrival.
3. Entertainment - This is generally easy with hand held electronics but remember, if your plane gets delayed for any period of time on the tarmac, you may not be allowed to use your electronic devices because they interfere with tower communications. For this reason, have a plan B packed like playing cards, coloring, books or magazines just in case.
4. Food - Unless you're in for a very long flight, most airlines do not offer meals. If they do offer food, chances are it won't be anything too appetizing, especially if your kids are picky eaters. Onboard food and snacks are expensive and most require credit or debit cards to purchase it (most airlines do not accept cash payment for these items).
It's best to bring snacks from home or buy pre-packaged food that you like in the terminal. Be prepared and pack enough food just in case your flight is delayed or diverted to avoid hungry cranky kids. Bear in mind, if you are flying outside of the US, most countries have rules that will not allow you to take fresh fruits and nuts thru customs. Stick with commercially packages foods or dispose of any fresh fruit while on board the plane to avoid delays at customs.
Remember, if you're flying with an infant or baby, you must bring your own baby food or formula as these items are not stocked on the air craft.
5. Comfort - Airlines do not offer pillows and blankets unless you are on a very long flight. If you or the kids would like to rest or nap, bring along items that will make you comfortable. Think about packing items that can do double-duty and save valuable packing space. For Example, the wrap that I use as my beach cover up doubles as my airplane blanket. I always pack a thin shell jacket in case of rain. I roll this up and it doubles as the perfect neck pillow.