packing for long flights with kids and teens

Have I mentioned yet that we are going to India for two weeks this summer?!? I haven’t been since I was 20 years old and of course, my kids have never been. It’s one of those trips that I have been planning with my family for probably 15 years now. Between my sister and I, it always seemed like the kids were too young and now that the youngest is six, it seems like the perfect time. So, we are going. My parents, brother and his wife, my sister and her family, me and two of the kids. That’s a grand total of 13 of us. Unfortunately, Sean and the boys aren’t joining us, it makes me sad that they won’t be sharing this experience with us, but it is what it is and we’ll miss them, but I’ll have the rest of my family to keep me company.

This trip of a lifetime is going to be chaotic, tiring, and so so memorable. I’m really excited and even though we aren’t leaving till the end of July, I’ve already started getting things ready. Getting all our travel documents was the first thing we had to tackle. Now, it’s just the packing.

Packing for long flights with kids and teens is something I haven’t had to do yet, our longest flight so far having been about five hours. Five hours seems like nothing compared to 29 (you read that right), twenty. nine. hours.  It’s actually 25 hours flying time, but there is a 4 hour layover in Abu Dhabi where we will be meeting up with my family who are stopping in Africa for a week before heading to India. Packing a carry-on that the kids can access anything that might be needed is a daunting task, but one that I’m willing to tackle and hopefully be able to pass on some helpful tips to all of you.

First of all, because this is a long flight I will actually carry a small carry-on for the three of us that will be used to bring the essentials that we need on a long flight, but don’t necessarily need at our fingertips at any moment. By packing all of these items in a bag that can be put overhead allows a smaller bag that we can keep at our feet. Because we don’t have the luxury of flying first or business class, we need all the space at our feet that we can get so having as small a bag as possible makes our trip more comfortable. So, the bag in our overhead bin will contain…

  • Change of clothes from head to toe for each of us (including underwear!). If for some reason our luggage gets lost or delayed, it will be nice to have the extra set of clothes on hand. Also, accidents (like a spilled coffee) could possibly happen, so having something clean to change into will ease your mind.
  • Toiletries. Items like toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipes, hair brush, first-aid, contact solution, glasses (I wear contacts most of the time) and moisturizer. These are all the things that you will need at some point either on your flight or on a layover, so having a small packed bag at your fingertips will make you feel refreshed and clean.

To help with the kids packing list I’ve made a free downloadable checklist for you to give your kids so they can pack themselves. Just print and have them go down the list and check things off, if they can read, they can help with the packing! I would actually have them lay everything out so you know that they aren’t bringing anything unnecessary or banned into their suitcase. I remember the first trip I had my kids pack for themselves my son packed a full-size bottle of shampoo and body wash. I didn’t look through his bag before-hand and we were pulled aside at security so they could throw it away. Yikes, don’t let that happen to you!

packing for long flights with kids and teens

Kids backpack checklist:

  1. MP3 player or iPod – I don’t know about you, but my teens can’t live without their electronic devices. They will listen endlessly to music, play games or watch movies. I’ll also give them an iTunes gift card before the trip so they can load up on some apps or movies that are new to them to keep them occupied for at least part of the flight.
  2. Over-the-Ear Headphones – Usually, my kids use the in-ear buds to listen to music. But, on these long flights, those can be uncomfortable and if they end up falling asleep, they can fall out of their ears easily. These headphones are really inexpensive and will be more comfortable for the extended time. Usually when traveling you can be a target of theft, so using less expensive items can protect you from losing expensive gear.
  3. Portable Chargers & Cables -And, with all that electronic gear, we can’t forget the portable charger and cables. This charger that I show has enough juice to charge an iPhone/iPod 3 1/2 times. One charger can work for us all to charge once, or if we each carry one, we can charge our electronics for the whole day.
  4. Travel journal – All kids need a spot to write things that they have seen down. This can also be used to save souvenirs like entrance tickets or postcards. Packing this in their carry-on allows them to start their journaling at the airport heading over to their adventure.
  5. Teen/Children’s magazines & books – Having a good selection of new reading material can help make the time go quicker. Magazines are easy to pack and pass on but books can take them longer to get through and hopefully entertain them unplugged.
  6. Activity Books – Hallelujah! Adult coloring books are popular! I thought the days were over when my kids would be entertained by coloring. But these stress relieving coloring books can easily distract a bored teen and also give them something else to do while they are watching their 3rd movie on the flight.
  7. Washable markers – Like their two year old toddler self, even teens need some washable markers. I know when my kids start getting bored, they start mini play fights, and when that happens, drawing on their siblings faces can seem so funny. Having the ability to wash it off with a flick of the face wipe means your teen doesn’t have to de-board the plane covering his face. These pens in particular come with a handy carrying case and are thin pens which make them more sophisticated then their Crayola counterpart.
  8. Lip Balm – A must for that dry circulated airplane air.
  9. Deck of Cards – First of all, isn’t this pack of puppy cards awesome?! A pack of cards is a perfect small game that can keep kids entertained for awhile. Download some games and print them out and they can play many games with one set. If each person has their own set they can play even more complicated games.
  10. Small bag – This is the perfect container to put smaller items in that they might want to keep corralled – like makeup for that mid-afternoon pick me up
  11. Cozy Socks –
  12. Travel pillow – Having a comfortable microbead pillow not only packs easily and can be stuff in a backpack, but it’s easy to move around. Unlike some of those neck pillows, this can be easily used to lean your head on your brothers shoulder when you are sleeping 😉 or on the tray table. Our international flight will have blankets and sleep masks available, but if yours won’t, that’s something else to add to the list.
  13. Light Sweatshirt – Even if the weather outside is hot inside a planes temperature can be cool. But, especially for our trip where we will want to take it off as soon as we land, having it be lightweight means it will pack easily.
  14. Face Wipes – Face and hand wipes are almost the
  15. Snacks – Of course, having their favorite treats on hand will make them stay happy when they get a little bored of their third meal on the plane. Stay away from chocolate which can melt and create a mess. Also, balance the candy and sweets with more filling nutritious items like nuts. When we were flying home from Boston a few years ago we were actually stuck on the runway for 5 hours before taking off. By the time the snack cart got back to us it was empty. Thankfully we had snacks with us otherwise the kids would have been dying.
  16. Gum for takeoff and landing to relieve ear pressure

There you have it. My ultimate carry-on packing list for long flights with kids and teens. Don’t forget to download your free packing list so the kids can pack themselves without a problem! Have fun and travel on!

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