Just because you have children, doesn’t mean your traveling days are over. It does require a bit more planning and packing, however. Try to keep it as simple as possible, but remember, there are a few things you really don’t want to be without.
The Necessities – Easily Accessible
These items you will most likely want packed in your personal carry-on. Instead of my usual diaper bag, when traveling I use a backpack. It keeps items better organized, it can hold more, and it’s easier for getting around hands-free.
- pacifier with clip
- bottle and any needed formula or pumped milk (liquids over 3oz will need to be declared at security)
- sippy cup (grab a bottle of water/juice/milk once through security to fill it up, keep it handy during takeoff and landing to help relieve pressure in child’s ears)
- nursing cover or item such as large scarf or pashmina that can be multifunctional
- burp cloths
- receiving blanket
- extra clothes for you and child
- hand sanitizer (this has to be packed with the other liquids but once through security I move it to the backpack)
- plastic zip top bags
- wet wipes for seats and surrounding areas
- toy/books (plastic links are a great asset too if your child is younger)
- travel ID, boarding passes, contact info, etc
And anything else you can’t live without (for me this includes lip balm, cell phone with charger, gum, prescription meds, sunglasses)
We also pack some dry oatmeal in a plastic baby food container that we can just add water to if flights get delayed and she needs a quick meal. Our tablet, pre-loaded with kid games and movies, also makes the trip. I recommend a portable changing station, as well. The one we use from Skip Hop is great. It holds diapers, wipes, cream and has the waterproof mat attached. It makes it easy to just grab this and find a place to change our daughter rather than bringing along the entire backpack. I have a Munchkin Arm and Hammer bag dispenser clipped on for soiled diapers too.
In our second carry-on, which is placed in the overhead compartment, we pack the other items we wouldn’t want to be without for a few days if our checked luggage happens to get lost. But these are also items that we don’t readily need during the flight.
- more diapers and wipes
- clothes for me including undergarments and pajamas
- most of our daughter’s clothing for the entire trip
Since most of the major stuff is able to fit in our carry-on bags, our checked luggage is mainly comprised of our clothes and any bulky items. I throw in a blanket or special toy if room allows, but we also try to leave extra space for any goodies we may get on the trip.
Ship to site or Buy when you get there
- Diapers and Wipes – Make sure you have plenty while traveling and enough to get you through the night till you can get to a store the next day or have a box shipped ahead to your destination.
- Food – There is no great way to pack lots of baby food, so the same thing applies here. Take just the necessary amount and pick up the rest upon arrival or have it sent ahead.
- Crib – If staying in a hotel, call ahead to see what they have available and make sure it is reserved for your use. There is no guarantee that what they can provide is up to your standards, so I would recommend taking one along if in doubt. We use the Lotus Everywhere Crib from Guava Family. It is easy to set up/take down and very lightweight for traveling. This does count for one of our checked items on the plane. We put the entire thing inside a large duffel bag so we can pack other items along and provide extra protection for the crib. If you are staying with family, however, you may want to see about borrowing a crib or investing in one that stays there for future use.
- Car Seat – Shipping a second seat ahead is only practical when friends/family are picking you up from the airport. Clearly you will need the car seat installed and ready to go before you can leave. If you do have it with you during the flight you should be able to gate check the seat and most airlines will do it for free. However, I must say, not having to drag one through the airport was worth the cost of buying a second convertible car seat to leave with my family.
- Dress child in bottoms with feet or pajamas so you don’t have to worry about lost socks and shoes.
- Dress in layers, it’s easier to take off a jacket than try to change tops.
- Double check yourself and your child for anything that might set off the metal detector. We clip the pacificier on our daughter’s jacket and take both off when going through security. I leave all of my jewelry and belt in an easy access pocket inside my backpack and put it back on once we are through. Some people don’t like to hassle with all of this, but for us it’s worth taking 30 seconds to do it beforehand rather than get pulled out of line.
- Take a lightweight,easy folding stroller and get a gate check bag for it. The stroller is great to have to get through the airport fast, but it will also have to go through security (ideally in the bag scanner). I wouldn’t want to contend with a big bulky one or risk having my nice jogging stroller demolished when checked at the plane.
- Bring along a brand new toy and extra pacifiers. You may even want to bring along a couple of new toys and save them for different legs of the trip.
- Wear things you don’t mind getting dirty
- Use the Baby Connect app as mentioned previously in the Top 5 for New Parents post. This will help keep track of feedings, changings, and so much more despite time zones and busy schedules.
- Keep it simple, downsize the accessories. You can most likely get away with just one hat, one pair of shoes, one pair of sunglasses, and just one or 2 bows.
- If your trip will keep you away longer than a week, see about finding a place to do laundry. This will substantially cut down on packing needs.
- Plan a day (or at least a partial day) of rest after the first 2 or 3 days there. Traveling is stressful and taking some time to relax will make everyone happier and the trip more enjoyable.
- Babies don’t require much soap and lotion. The travel size bottles should be more than enough even if you are gone for a few weeks.
- If you do forget something, in most cases you’ll be able to buy it once you get there; it’s not the end of the world.
- Check out the Flight Track app (part of my Top 5 Picks for Summer) for the latest on your flight status, departures, arrivals, and any delays.
- If you have the option, sit towards the back of the plane. This offers a little more privacy and if your child does freak out you won’t have rows of people staring at you; plus you won’t see the condescending glares of people filing past while you wait to pick up your checked stroller. Trust me on this one, once you finally reach your destination the last thing you need is some grumpy old man saying, “Geeze, that kid can scream!” as he stomps past.
There is nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child. This time with your family won’t be around forever, and the experiences will be well worth the effort. Don’t let fear or frustration get in the way of creating new memories and enjoying your vacation.
Is there anything else you would recommend people take along, or something you think should be left at home? Feel free to add your ideas and suggestions in the comments below. Happy Travels!
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