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What to Bring on the Airplane

- Liquids, Medications, Bags, etc. that Passengers Can Bring on Airplanes

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Especially when traveling with small kids, families need to plan carefully about what to bring on the airplane.

What Liquids Can I Bring on the Airplane?

Due to security reasons, air travel passengers are allowed to bring only small amounts of liquid onto an airplane. Generally in the U.S., the amount of allowed liquids follows a 3-1-1- rule:
  • Toiletries (and other liquids, gels, lotions, etc.) must each be in a 3-ounce container or smaller;
  • These items must be grouped in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, Zip-top bag;
  • 1 such Zip-top bag per passenger is allowed, and must be removed from your carry-on bag and placed in a bin to go through the screening machine.
Keep in mind that "liquids" includes jams, sauces, and other non-solid foodstuffs. Parents should know that nourishment for babies is exempt from these rules: this includes breast milk, formula, and baby food. Also, there are exemptions for medications. Read more about What Liquids Can you Bring on the Airplane?

What Carry-On Bags Can I Bring on the Airplane?

Generally every ticketed passenger is allowed to bring onto the plane one item of carry-on luggage, such as a rolling suitcase, plus one "personal item" such as a purse or small backpack or laptop case. Policies vary and size and restrictions apply, so check with your individual airline if you have questions. Also, some items can be taken onto the airplane without counting as a "personal item": United Airlines, for instance, exempts "assistive devices" such as canes or crutches, child safety seats for ticketed children, infant seats, coats, hats, and outer garments, reading material, umbrellas, and food and beverages to be consumed onboard.* In practice, people often board with extra bags, such as purchases made in duty-free or other shops once the passenger has passed through the security gate.

One issue related to carry-on bags is: how much over head storage is available on the plane? On small aircraft, passengers may need to leave items on a luggage rack just before boarding the plane. The items are tagged, and can be picked up on a similar rack once the plane lands at its destination.

More complicated is the question of how much overheard storage will be available on a regular-sized aircraft. Some airlines charge as much as $25 for a passenger's first checked piece of luggage, so customers may be motivated to carry all their luggage on the plane. If the overhead bins get filled with large bags, late-boarding passengers may not be able to bring their bag onto the airplane, They may need to leave luggage outside the door of the airplane, where it will be taken and stored elsewhere on the plane during the trip. (See Airline Policies on Checked Luggage, and Free Checked Luggage Policies, at About.com's Air Travel site.)

Can I Bring a Stroller on the Airplane?

Generally, with collapsible strollers, the answer to this question is "yes": a family can keep their child's stroller until they are near the door of the airplane, at which point the stroller is given a tag and is taken by crew to storage in the cargo hold. After the flight, the stroller is brought to the door of the aircraft for pickup.

Read more about Air Travel with Strollers. If your stroller is large, or doesn't fold up, it may need to be handled as checked luggage.

Can I Bring a Car Seat on the Airplane?

Families with infants and toddlers under the age of two have a choice when flying: the baby can travel as a "lap baby" without a purchased seat, or parents can buy a seat for the child and bring a car seat for the baby to travel in. Often, airlines will offer a discounted rate for the baby's ticket. Note that your car seat (referred to as a CRS, a Child Restraint System) needs to have a label stating that it's certified for use in aircraft. Read more about Bringing Car Seats on Airplanes at About.com's Air Travel site.

What to Bring on the Airplane to Amuse Young Kids

Finally, parents should always bring along some amusements for kids. And while the world is full of commercial products including the latest iPad apps and other electronics, you might want to check out some simpler, inexpensive ideas for what to bring on the airplane for young kids.

*Always check for updates!

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