Planning to fly your family on a cross-country vacation? Packing for air travel – and security – is daunting when it’s just grownups. Add kids to the mix and you might feel the start of a small panic attack.
There’s no need to stress. Simply keep these six tips in mind when packing and preparing:
1. Do Your Research First
Don’t assume you know the current rules for luggage and carry-ons. Before you start packing, research what you are or aren’t allowed to wear or carry so you can skip the last-minute switches between carry-ons and checked baggage.
This will also help you skip meltdowns with the kids if they know ahead of time that something can’t be brought on board with them.
2. Plan for Easy Access
You know the security line is coming, and if you’ve done your research you know what to expect. Don’t hold up the line by fumbling with clothes, liquids or other items. Instead, plan ahead.
Liquids will need to be taken out during security, so put them all in a gallon Ziploc bag and leave it at the top of your carry-on. That way, when the time comes, you can simply pull it out and place it on the belt. If you don’t want to mess with unpacking your electronics, pick a bag that is made to be checkpoint friendly. This will eliminate the need to remove your laptop from your bag.
Keep all travel documents, tickets and important papers in one folder. Make sure either mom or dad has this folder on them and ready to go at all times.
3. Dress with Care
Some of your kids’ favorite clothes or vacation necessities may need to be checked instead of worn on the plane. Shoes need to be easy to remove at security, so multi-buckle sandals or tightly laced hiking boots should go in checked luggage and flip-flops or slip-ons should go on your feet.
Wait to put on jewelry or belts with metal buckles until after you’ve passed security. Keep them in their own bag in your carry-on so they’re easy to take out during security. Once you’re through you can accessorize to your heart’s content.
Don’t look suspicious. Wear clothes that fit and are seasonally appropriate, as bulky or ill-fitting items look like you’re trying to hide something and may result in more thorough – and time-consuming – security checks.
4. Expect the Unexpected
Kids and travel are unpredictable enough on their own. Combine the two and you never know what might happen.
You want to be economical and savvy with your luggage, but avoid only packing the bare minimum of underwear, clothes, diapers, etc. for kids. Make sure their checked luggage is stocked with a few extras, just in case.
One experience with lost luggage is all it takes to make a lasting impression. Consider slipping a pair or two of underwear into carry-on luggage to tide you over in the event your bags are lost or delayed.
Kids are unavoidably messy, so make sure to have wet wipes and a small towel in your carry-on. For young kids that are potty-training or in diapers, consider a change of clothes and a wet bag for soiled items.
5. Don’t Forget the Entertainment
The younger your kids, the more trouble they will have entertaining themselves on a flight – no matter the length. Encourage older kids to pack their own books and handheld entertainment devices and take it upon yourself to pack enough to keep younger kids distracted. Not only will this keep your kids happy, but it will also cut down on dirty looks from fellow travelers.
You know best what will entertain your kids, but here are a few suggestions to kickstart your packing list.
6. Explore During Long Layovers
If the kiddos are restless from sitting through a long flight, take advantage of seemingly inconvenient layovers by exploring the area near the airport. If you know you’re going to be in an interesting town or city for a few hours, check out local attractions before you land and plan your layover time (and luggage) accordingly.
If actually leaving the airport is too much of a hassle, take your kids for a walk around the different shops and restaurants in the airport itself. If you’re lucky, your layover airport might even have a play area with children in mind. If this is the case, make sure to pack comfortable play shoes so your kids can get some quality exercise in between flights.
If all else fails, you can also grab dinner at one of the interior restaurants or head over to those big, glass windows to watch planes take off and land. However you choose to explore, try to make the most out of long layovers, rather than bemoaning how annoying they are.
Investing in a security precheck package is helpful for anyone who wants to cut down on time spent in security lines. If you have kids, any time saved and hassle avoided is invaluable. There are several precheck plans available, but CLEAR appeals to families as it is free for kids under 18.
Being prepared when traveling with kids is half the battle. Make sure you pack correctly so your vacation is as smooth and enjoyable as you deserve.