What to pack in case of delays (with kids!)

My family and I recently returned to South Korea from an action-packed six-week summer break. We had a fantastic trip, taking in plenty of sights throughout Mexico and the US (and eating ALL THE FOOD). 

While the trip was pretty smooth sailing (well as much as it can be with three kids in tow), the flight to Mexico City from our home base of Jeju Island was eventful for all the wrong reasons. 

On arrival to Seoul, the first leg of our epic journey, my husband told me he was ‘pretty sure’ someone had just grabbed our suitcase and left the baggage hall. Leaving the kids munching away on some crackers, I ran like a woman possessed. Given I scared the life out of the guy when I finally tracked him down I was pretty relieved it was our bag.

It was at Incheon airport where the real fun began. After multiple delays, we realised we wouldn’t make our connecting flight in Toronto. Instead of a blissfully brief two-hour stopover we got slugged with 12 hours. While the airline did put us up in a hotel and give us some food vouchers, given we were running on no sleep it didn’t make for a great start on a LONG summer holiday. Due to transfers to/from the hotel and being advised to arrive super early because of security it felt like we spent more time trying to get the kids to sleep and then trying to wake them up than actual rest. But at least we weren’t stuck at the airport for 12 hours.

I hope our next international adventure goes a lot smoother, but at least I learned some things to help prepare for future delays (and was pleased with some of my carry-on choices!).

1. Pack more pull-ups

Our four-year-old is still in pull-ups overnight. I packed two thinking it would be enough to get us to Mexico, given we technically only planned one overnight flight. Thankfully it was, though it was a reminder it’s always handy to have a few extras just in case!

2. Bring extra clothes for everyone

I’d heard horror stories about lost luggage since Covid, so thankfully, I’d packed everyone a spare set to keep in their backpack. I also took light jackets, so the kids had an extra layer to keep warm on the plane.

3. Always carry a toothbrush

Although airport security can sometimes confiscate your toothpaste (we got through Mexico City with our brand new tube only to lose it in Vancouver), it’s always wise to pack your toothpaste and toothbrush in your carry-on. A quick brush of your teeth can help to make you feel semi-human when you finally arrive and make you a much better travel companion!

4. Keep your chargers handy

When travel delays hit and you’re stuck in an airport with three kids, all bets are off regarding screen time. Our kids spent a LOT of time on screens and thankfully we secured spots close to charging stations so we could keep their tablets fully charged for most of the trip.

5. Have other entertainment options

While I let the kids watch their screens, they also had books, colouring, and notepads in their bags. The girls had packed Top Trumps, which was a good distraction, though I wish we had included the Uno cards or some Spot It for some other options to kill the time.

6. Baby wipes for the win

Until I had kids, I didn’t have a clue how amazing baby wipes were to keep in your bag. Great for cleaning up after your kid’s crumbs or for sticky hands I never leave home without them – even with the kids getting older.

7. Take deep breaths

Travelling with kids is HARD work at the best of times, but with multiple delays and not enough sleep it becomes insanely difficult. I always find it hard to sleep on planes, and with two kids lying on me asleep it’s nigh on impossible! While I didn’t keep my cool the entire time, I did aim to take a deep breath now and then. And I definitely enjoyed a wine mid-flight once the kids all finally fell asleep!