In general, I aim to travel light, but I’ve learned over the years that this generally isn't a good strategy as a parent. If anything teaches you the happiness value of preparation, it’s parenthood. The right supplies can mean the difference between misery and good cheer.
If you’re traveling with a baby, of course you need a whole different set of supplies. My children are out of that stage now, and now I never go on a trip without at least most of these items:
1. A bag of almonds. These are for me as much as for my children.
2. A bottle of water. (Usually I’m violently opposed to bottled water, but I now concede that it’s good to have a bottle when you travel.)
3. Novelty candy. By this, I mean a candy that’s odd (e.g., Pop Rocks, candy spray) or takes a long time to eat (candy necklace) or fun in some way (Pez). I save this to whip out if my kids get crabby. Chocolate or anything that can melt is a risky choice.
4. Coloring book and markers, but REMEMBER to make sure that the markers aren’t all dried out. Just learned this the hard way. (Spend out! Don’t put a dud marker back in the box. A metaphor for life.)
6. Wipes. Not just for babies anymore.
7. Camera. Remember to charge it. Learned that the hard way, too.
8. We finally caved and bought a portable DVD player. This is a great invention. I actually finished Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth on the plane while my daughters were transfixed by My Neighbor Totoro.
What would you add that's helpful to carry when you travel with kids?