Smart packing tips to avoid the cabin crush

If you’ve packed smart, it takes a lot of the stress out of boarding when you’re travelling with kids. Get organised and get it right with these top tips.

A young lady putting bag in overhead locker
  • Janine Eberle
  • September 2018

What to carry on

Plan carefully and think about what you’ll need during the flight. Priority number one: have you considered how the kids are going to amuse themselves? Check out our article on keeping them entertained, and carry on everything you’ll need, including snacks.

Here are our other top tips:

  • Make sure you pack all your travel documentation, keys and vital items in your carry-on – don’t check them in.
  • Pack layers of clothing, or light blankets to keep everyone warm and snug during the flight. If younger kids have a favourite stuffed toy they can’t sleep without, don’t leave him/her/it behind!
  • Stash a small first aid kit with any prescribed medications, bandages and emergency supplies. Gum or lollies are handy for relieving ear pressure at take-off and landing.
  • If you’re carrying lots of cables for the family’s vital in-flight devices, keep them neat by stashing them in a ziplock bag or other organiser.
  • Antibacterial wipes are a lifesaver for keeping everyone’s hands clean, especially at mealtime.
  • If you can, try to keep your carry-on bags to one per person. Our carry-on baggage limits allow one main item and one small item, but when you’re travelling as a family it’s easier to keep track of everything if you have just one bag each.

Mother and children walking through airport

Kids carry their own

If they’re old enough, it’s a great idea to let the kids pack their own carry-on backpack – with supervision, of course. They should carry on all they’ll need to keep them amused for the flight, and a change of clothes (just in case). It’s probably a good idea to keep the snacks in your carry-on, so you can be in charge of doling them out.

Make sure their little personal backpack is small enough to stash under the seat in front, so that you don’t need to worry about finding room for it in the overhead lockers.

Woman holding his bag inside the airplane

Travelling with carry-on baggage only

If you’re going on a short trip and planning to take only carry-on baggage, you’ll really need to hone those packing skills. Make sure every member of the family has a backpack or small rollie suitcase that closely fits the size limits: 56cm (height) x 36cm (width) x 23cm (depth).

Pack each person’s bag with the clothes they’ll need for the trip. If you’re only going for a long weekend you should be able to get by with just one full change of clothes, but make sure you pack layers (eg, tee-shirts and long-sleeved sweaters). If it’s winter, wear the warmest, bulkiest clothes, boots and jackets on the plane.

You’ll need to fit everything you need for the flight into your carry-on as well, like the kids’ activity books, devices, snacks etc. You may be able to fit these things into the small additional piece of baggage that each passenger is allowed to bring onboard and stow under the seat in front – but remember, both pieces of baggage together must weigh less than 7kg (if you’re travelling on an Economy Starter fare).

And remember:

  • There are some items you can’t carry on board; for eg, tweezers, nail scissors, corkscrews. Make sure you’re well aware of the prohibited items list opens in new window, and that you can do without these things on your trip.
  • Liquids, aerosols or gels over 100ml aren’t allowed on international flights (or domestic flights that depart from an international terminal). Buy travel-sized toiletries, or invest in reusable travel containers and decant shampoo, sunscreen etc into them. Or buy the necessities when you get there (and throw them away before you fly home!)

Top packing tips

Whether you’re packing checked baggage or carry-on, your own bags or the kids’, the key is being prepared, organised and neat. Follow the golden rules of packing:

  • Make a list.
  • Check your booking opens in new window to see the baggage allowance for your flight, and if you think you’ll need more, add it before you fly – it’s much cheaper than you’ll pay at the airport.
  • Roll, don’t fold your clothes – it saves space and reduces creasing.
  • Use packing cubes to make the best use of space.
  • Use ziplock bags to organise toiletries, cables and other bits and pieces.
  • Roll up socks, underwear etc and stash them in shoes.
  • Invest in luggage scales so you can check that you haven’t packed too much (these are often light enough that you can take them with you and check for the flight back, too).