The irony is that packing is a talent of mine. I have developed templates and checklists that keep me (somewhat) sane before venturing out and about.
If you’re a parent, you understand that traveling with a baby or toddler means packing everything you own, whether your trip will last one night or one month. They just need so much STUFF, these babies. And woe to the parent who forgets the paci or favorite baby blanket…I don’t wish that on anyone.
Thus, this edition of the baby/toddler travel guide series features my packing tips for babies and toddlers. I’ll start first with the general tips, and then you’ll gaze in wonder at my actual packing list templates. Try to contain your excitement as you download your own copies of my cheat sheets. :)
Don’t forget to check out last week’s blog on the essentials of keeping your baby fed and happy while traveling.
Megan’s tried and true packing tips
- Diapers, flushable wipes and/or regular wipes, clothes, milk/food, comfort. Pretty much everything you need for your baby falls into one of these categories. Make it your new mantra.
- Pack what you can fit, and buy the rest at your destination. This works well for diapers and wipes, especially. You can also ship ahead if you’re visiting a friend or relative’s home (thank you, Amazon Prime!).
- In your carry on, bring extra clothes for your baby, and throw in an extra t-shirt or sweater for yourself. If you have an infant, you don’t want to spend your entire flight covered in spit up, or worse (been there, it's soooo not fun). The extra shirt is your insurance policy.
- Consider buying a smaller/lighter car seat just for travel if your everyday car seat is large and heavy. Bonus: the second car seat can go in your partner’s car or the grandparents' car when you’re not traveling. We use these car seats: lightweight but super safe by Graco, and everyday extremely safe but heavy by Chicco. You can compare safety and convenience features on Consumer Reports or via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). I personally would not use any car seat that doesn’t have side impact protection. For super detailed reviews based on child safety expert knowledge, federal ease-of-use ratings, and surveys with hundreds of parents, check out these recommendations for infant car seats and for convertible car seats.
- If you're flying mid-week or another less busy time and your flight is not full, you may consider carrying on your car seat, as you may be able to use it in an empty seat next to you. Ask the airline service representative when you check in how the flight is looking. If the flight is totally booked, go ahead and check the car seat before you go through security, or plan to check it at the gate. If there's room on the flight, carry it on, and you can always gate check it if you need to.
- Try a roller for your car seat like this one by Britax to save your back.
- Get a car seat cover and stroller cover in case it rains. This helped us in Ireland and Seattle A TON, as well as other cities.
- Purchase a solid and functional umbrella style stroller and carry it on. We use this one. It has a decent size storage basket, is small and light, and can be carried over your shoulder with a strap. We use it every day, in fact. Forget a bulky BOB.
- Invest in a baby carrier like a Baby K’Tan or an Ergo if you have a young infant. Note that some flight attendants will ask you to take the baby out of the carrier during takeoff, taxi and landing for "safety. Although I believe this to be total BS and it is applied randomly on every flight, you are legally required to follow crew member instructions, so don't press your luck.
- Captain Obvious here: have favorite toys, books and snacks at hand. I like to carry at least one favorite snack and a few new ones.
- Since babies don't wear eye masks but still need to sleep even in the middle of the day, have them sleep in the carrier (Ergo or Baby K'Tan) with a cover or get a floppy hat with a wide brim that will cover their eyes (we swear by the hat method!). Sunglasses are also worth a shot.
- Make sure you have a paci (binky, whatever you call it), bottle, or sippy cup—something for the baby to suck on at takeoff and landing, to help with ear pain. You can also plan to nurse your infant for the same result.
- For toddlers, create a "busy bag" with interesting things to touch/play with in plastic sandwich bags. The items don’t even have to come out of the bags to be interesting. The Target dollar section is a gold mine for this stuff. Just make sure you don't buy anything that would be too noisy/annoying for your fellow passengers. Reveal each new item one at a time, to hold your child's attention.
- Pack a lightweight travel crib like the one by Guava Family (SO worth the money. Learn more about Guava Family here), which can also be carried on as a backpack or duffel bag, or arrange ahead of time for a crib at your hotel or Airbnb. Note that you never know what you're going to get when relying on others for a crib--some are old and do not meet current safety standards. Also, be sure to take an extra crib sheet in case there is an accident. Hint: you may also want to ask your host or hotel if they have a high chair available for meal time.
- SUPER FAMILY TRAVELER TIPS: On most U.S. airlines you may check baby essentials (car seat and stroller) for FREE. In past years, some airlines would also allow you to check a baby travel crib for free, but this no longer seems to be the case, at least with United Airlines. It's worth asking the airline attendant when you check in, but plan to pay a checked baggage fee for a travel crib. You will also have to pay for the car seat roller (don’t worry, it’s easy to carry on and store in an overhead bin--note that it will count as a carry-on item, and plan your other carry-ons accordingly).
- Paci clips help prevent lost pacis! We only use them while we’re flying and never in the car. It never hurts to have a few extra pacis on hand in case some go missing (as they inevitably roll to the back of the plane, never to be seen again).
- A baby timer like this one is super helpful to track sleep, diapers, food and medication. We have used it daily since our daughter was born.
- Don’t forget sleep essentials like a sound machine or sleep sack. We use the Sleep Sheep and just take the sound box on our trips.
- Bring the child’s birth certificate with you. Some airlines ask to verify it if the child is under two years of age (American Airlines usually does).
And now, without further ado, here are my packing lists for infants and toddlers. Scroll to the bottom of this blog to download your own templates for personal use. Enjoy and happy trails to you!
Infant packing list
Toddler packing list
Stay tuned next week for part three of the baby/toddler travel guide series: Going international. Please feel free to post your baby/toddler travel questions and experiences in the comments section! I would love to hear from you.
*Author’s note: these opinions are my own based on my many travel experiences. I have not been paid to endorse any products or services in this blog
Download the packing lists for your own use here: