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I have done a fair amount of traveling with my preschooler. It started when she was 10 months old, on her very first trip to Walt Disney World. When flying with a preschooler, you have many times where you’ll need to find something for them to do. Making sure that you have enough in a preschooler’s carry-on bags to keep them occupied can be a challenge. There is the time you’re waiting for a flight, time in between flights, and time that you’re on a flight. Lots of “down” time.
I’d like to think that my experience traveling with a preschooler has made me somewhat of an expert in packing a carry-on/personal bag for children. I know that every child is different, so you can take my list as a kind of guideline. I know what Emily likes … so I’m an expert there.
Take a look at my list of go-to items to pack for Emily when we are traveling. Afterwards, you’ll have a better idea of what you might need to travel with your preschooler.
My list of go-to items …
Coloring Books … every preschooler LOVES coloring books … I know that Emily does. She colors in her coloring books at home at least once a day. She loves them. We have a drawer in her art center FILLED with coloring books. So of course we bring coloring books with us when we travel. You can’t go wrong with buying a few coloring books to help keep your kids occupied on trips.
Crayons … if you’re bringing coloring books, then you obviously need to bring something to color with. I wouldn’t bring EVERY color your child owns, but definitely bring a good handful or two. Or you can always grab a quick 8 pack or the little bigger 24 pack. Nothing too crazy. Since Emily already has a LARGE bag full of crayons, I usually will take a quart sized bag and grab a few handfuls of crayons for it. I do make sure that I don’t have too many of one color, though.
Color Wonder … if your child loves to color with markers, like Emily does, but you don’t want them marking up everything … there is a solution for you … Crayola Color Wonder. You can get markers, coloring books, and even blank paper. Emily loves these products. [We even have the stamps and paints.] They’re perfect for children who love to color and parents who don’t want to worry about the mess. There are even packs of coloring books/sheets and a few markers to go with it. Perfect for when you’re traveling.
Toys … I’ll bring a few little toys for Emily to play with while she’s traveling. These will also be the only toys that she brings to whatever location we are going to. Whether it is Disney or to my parents’ house in South Carolina, just a few toys come with us. I’ll usually let her bring a couple of Barbies (no small parts) or a few small handheld toys … My Little Ponies or something to that extent.
Cuddly Stuffed Animals … besides the other toys, I will also let Emily bring a couple of stuffed animals with her. These are some of her snuggly, cuddly stuffed animals that she usually sleeps with at night. Whether it is Magic Bunny, Little Bunny, Penguin, or her new little Skye stuffed animal … something cuddly for her to snuggle with.
Tablet/iPad … if your child has a tablet/iPad, I would also bring that along. I know some parents don’t like their children to have any screen time. I think that some in moderation is okay. Emily has a LeapFrog Epic tablet. She has some games downloaded to it (if there is no wifi). I also have an old iPad that has some movies on it that she likes to watch (My Little Pony, Pirate Fairy, Frozen, Tangled, and Princess and the Frog to be specific) so I will bring that can keep her occupied as well.
Children’s Headphones … you might be thinking, what distinguishes children’s headphones from regular headphones? Emily has a pair of Frozen themed headphones that are made specifically for children. The volume that goes to them is lower than regular volume. So if the volume was turned all the way up on her tablet, there wouldn’t be any damage to her ears. If you’re bringing a tablet/iPad or a handheld gaming system, then bring headphones is a must.
Books … Emily loves to be read to. She loves looking at books and “reading” them herself. I also love reading her at night before she goes to sleep too. It’s wonderful to see her curl up and listen to me when I read her a story. So I will either bring a couple of books with me, or one of her big 5-minute story compilations.
Change of Clothes … As you would pack in any carry-on, a change of clothes for a preschooler is a must. If they have an accident, you’ll need new clothes. Or if their clothes get REALLY dirty/wet, you’ll need a change of clothes. And of course, if something happens to your checked bags, you’ll need a change of clothes. Packing a change of clothes is a MUST.
Wipes … I know that Emily is 3 and doesn’t need wipes anymore, in the diaper sense, but I’m pretty sure that I am going to be buying wipes until Emily is 10. They’re wonderful for every cleaning purpose. Are her hands are dirty/sticky/grimy? I can use a wipe to clean that. Did she get something dirty? I can use a wipe to clean it up. You name it, I think I can use a wipe to help me out there. Throwing a pack of wipes into a carry-on is always a good idea when there is a preschooler in tow.
Snacks … I will usually forget to pack any snacks for Emily when I am heading to the airport. Then I am buying snacks for her at the airport. Usually I end up paying 3x the amount that I would normally pay. So lesson learned … pack some snacks! I would probably pack some small packs of goldfish crackers, peanut butter crackers, chips, fruit snacks, and/or cookies. Anything that isn’t liquid … since that is not allowed through security.
Water Bottle … Since you can’t take any liquids through security, I like to bring a water bottle with us. Emily usually likes to have juice or lemonade, but I can sometimes get her to fill her bottle with water. Just something that will be easy for her to drink out of during the trip. Also something that can shut when she’s done drinking it, so it doesn’t spill. I have purchased Contigo water bottles in the past (I like the Ashland bottle … they’re a good size without being too bulky), and I love their smaller bottles for children. I think they work perfectly.
There’s my list of go-to items to pack in a carry-on when traveling with a preschooler. It can be challenging, making sure you’re prepared is a must. Some might think that packing all I do is a bit much … well I would rather be over-prepared than under-prepared. I ‘d rather have a little too much stuff, than not enough. I would bring anything and everything I can to make traveling with a child that much easier.
Hopefully my list helps you out, whether you go word for word or just use it as a general guideline. Good luck in your adventures with packing for a preschooler.