This is Part II of all the tips for flying with baby that I learned over the past year of traveling. My first post covered planning, logistics, and mindset, so be sure to start there if you haven’t already. Below is everything I recommend for packing, including what to have in your carry-on and and what gear I now swear by. I hope this makes you feel prepared to hit the road (or sky!) with confidence!
Accept that you’re checking bags. It’s time to come to terms with the fact that your days of packing in a small carry-on are over for the foreseeable future. As someone who takes pride in her minimal packing, this was a tough one to swallow. On our first trip we made the mistake of having a carry-on suitcase each, backpack each, the stroller base, car seat that snapped onto the stroller, the baby himself, and not nearly enough hands to manage it all (even with my parents with us, plus their luggage!). An extra hand to hold a cup of coffee? Hilarious!!
We found the easiest thing to do is check as much as possible including all luggage with clothes and gear (even if you use a bag that is small enough to carry on- still check it), a pack and play (if needed), and the car seat. Then, we each carry a backpack on the plane (one serving as a diaper bag, one for everything else), and bring one small foldable stroller so our hands are as free as possible for holding JJ, snacks, and maneuvering onto the plane.
Check if there’s laundry. If you can do laundry where you’re staying, packing just got way easier and you only need to pack a few days worth of clothes for everyone in your family. If not, I’d bring three baby outfits per day.
If you have extra room in your luggage, some things that can be helpful to have depending on where you’re staying:
- a baby monitor (we love this one)
- a roll of paper towels
- small container of dish soap to wash baby bowl/high chair tray/pumping parts
- extra baby food (especially if you’re dealing with allergies)
- Tide pods to do laundry
In our “diaper bag” carry-on backpack, I pack:
- Diapers, wipes, and changing pad (love this one) in a gallon zip loc bag so we can easily grab the whole thing for diaper changes
- Another gallon zip loc with plastic grocery bags (for soggy clothes/trash/whatever messes) and doggy poop bags (for containing stinky diapers)
- Small blanket
- 3 outfits for JJ (at least one footie style for if the plane is cold)
- 1 spare shirt for me/Patrick
- New toys he’s never seen and a couple old favorites (stickers and sticky notes were a huge hit at 9 months old)
- Food and snacks (pack anything crushable like puffs in a hard container)
- JJ’s birth certificate + our COVID vaccination cards
Pack n Play with cover. If baby is sleeping in your room, this thing is great! We put it in the corner of our hotel room in Oahu with his sound machine and he slept really well (until he started getting two new teeth.. that’s another story).
Small, light compact stroller. Easy to pop open and closed at gate check, throw in rental cars, fits the diaper bag underneath, has a big sun shade, and not so expensive you’re too worried about it.
Car seat check bag. Not sure if these are required, but based on the amount of dirt on the bag after checking our car seat, I’d recommend it just to help keep it clean. Some people say not to rent car seats from your rental car company. We did for one trip and though it was definitely a less comfortable, very basic car seat, it was nice for the convenience. Since car seats check for free, I’ll probably just bring ours from now on.
Travel foldable high chair. We love this thing! I pack it in our luggage and it doesn’t take up much room. You can stick a bowl, spoon, and bib in the bag it comes in to stay organized. It’s really stable and the tray pops off to easily wash (and it’s small enough to wash in a hotel sink). We have used it on the floor, on tables, strapped to chairs, outside, and on the desk in a hotel room as a makeshift meal spot.
Rent anything bulky you need! When we stayed in Vail, we rented a hiking backpack for $13/day that showed up to our rental the day we arrived. Google where you’re going plus “rental baby gear” to find services.
I hope this makes you feel more prepared to take a long or short trip away from home with your baby. Let me know if you have any questions and as a reminder, be sure to read Part I!