carry-on-essentials
My crew is on the move during the summer. Our extended family lives all over the United States, so we have to travel for hours to see everyone. This year, we’ll be traveling from Minnesota to St. Louis, Ohio, Mississippi, and Canada for a wedding, a family reunion, and some leisurely time with our loved ones. Since it’s not often that we all get together, we always try to spend as much time with the entire group as possible. But, in addition to staying with family, our adventures this year will require a hotel stay — and I’m already knee-deep in planning that portion of our travels.

When it comes to staying in a hotel with kids, Embassy Suites by Hilton is a great option for us because in addition to a large living space, each suite has a separate bedroom, so we don’t have to reserve multiple rooms. (We’ve gone that route in the past and it’s been a total fail: the kids run back and forth from room to room — slamming doors and annoying neighboring hotel guests). We can also enjoy time together after the kids are asleep, without worrying about waking them up. I also love that the suites come with a wet bar and small fridge, which is a total win. We need our morning coffee, and my kids seem to need snacks 24-7. Speaking of snacks, we always enjoy the complimentary Evening Reception, where we can enjoy a glass of wine, while the kids are busy enjoying free nibbles.

With all of our hotel ducks in a row, it’s time to figure out our travel plans. My husband loves scenic, meandering road trips, but I’m always anxious to get to our destination quickly so we can enjoy as much time with family as possible. That means braving the airports. Baggage claim can be a nightmare, so I try to carry on as much of our travel belongings as possible. I’ve become somewhat of an expert at packing smartly with kids (and my husband) in tow.

Below, I’ve come up with an Essential Carry-On Items for Moms so you can pack smart and get to your destination as quickly as possible. No waiting at baggage claim for you. Just jet directly to your rental car, and get your vacation started.

Mom's Essential Carry-On Checklist

Basics

1. Diapers and wipes
No matter how long or short your flight is, your baby (or toddler) will probably need at least one diaper change. Keep several diapers and wipes in your carry-on so she can be dry and comfy. You can also use the wipes to clean up your toddler’s sticky hands.

2. Blanket, pacifier, and stuffed animal
You know, all the sleeping essentials so your kid can snooze during the flight. Having a familiar item from home can put kiddos at ease.

3. Extra set of clothing for each kid
You never know when your baby will have a blowout, your toddler will have an accident, or your big kid will spill their drink.

4. Passport/driver’s license
Bring each family member’s passports (or driver’s licenses) on the plane with you. You don’t want to risk losing these valuable documents in a botched baggage incident.

Food

1. Snacks — for you and your kids
Don’t rely on the airline’s paltry goodies. You know what snacks your kids like best, so bring along healthy treats that will keep everyone from getting angry between meals. If you have a baby, bring whatever you need to nurse him comfortably, or enough formula for the entire flight.

2. Water
You can’t bring big bottles of water through security, but you can bring empty, refillable bottles through the checkpoint. Fill them up (or buy bottled water) as you head toward your gate.

3. Bottles/Sippy Cups
If there’s liquid in them, make sure they’re in a separate bag to be inspected by the TSA agent. Find more information here.

Health

1. Medication (& Medical Supplies)
If you regularly take meds, bring them on the plane with you. An unexpected delay can leave you without your next dosage if you pack the meds in your checked luggage (and you risk being without them all together if your bag gets lost). If you need syringes, pumps, or other medical devices to take care of yourself or your child, make sure you bring those onboard, too. You may need to go through special screening, so check the TSA website before you go to the airport.

2. Teether
Even if you think your baby is beyond the teething stage, you never know when sore gums will flare up. Bring a soothing teething toy to help keep him comfortable.

3. Breast pump
If you’re expressing milk, make sure you pack your pump. These airports have nursing lounges, in case you have a long layover and want to pump in privacy.

4. First aid kit
Stock it with a thermometer, band-aids, antibiotic cream, calamine lotion (for bug bites), sunscreen, an OTC pain reliever, and gauze, so you can rest assured that you’re prepared for every ouch and boo- boo.

Entertainment

1. Books (for you and your kids)
Go old school and bring paperbacks. Or, lighten your luggage load by bringing books that you’ve downloaded to your devices.

2. Deck of cards
Card games are perfect for easy-to-carry entertainment. Go Fish for the littles and solitaire for the angsty teen are essential. If a trip abroad is on the horizon, a longer game like Phase 10 can help pass the hours until you finally crash at your hotel.

3. Art supplies
Crayons, markers, and activity books can keep your toddlers and young kids occupied, while a rattle will keep your littlest kid’s arms a-waving.

4. Movies and music
lf all other options fail, and the boredom monster rears its ugly head, let the kids pass time by listening to music or watching movies that you’ve downloaded and can stream on your devices.
I’m planning to pack really economically and only bring the items I need. But, I love knowing that once we get to our Embassy Suites room, we can spread out, enjoy our family reunion, and not get on each other’s nerves.