When my son was born, I knew travel would never be the same. I thought travel would be more difficult (trust me, it can be), but it has also become more fulfilling. I beam with pride when he gazes out the window at 30,000 feet or smiles at the strangers seated behind us. People constantly ask me about my favorite travel products, so I’m here to share what works for us when we fly.
If you have additional recommendations from your own experiences, leave a comment below! And if you have a product that you’d like us to test out or review, send me a message!
1. I use the diaper bag as my personal item. (TIP: Double check with your airline, as diaper bags and breast pumps are often exception items that don’t count against your carry-on allotment).
The Hap-Tim Multifunction Large Diaper Bag is our “everyday use” diaper bag for Gavin, and it’s a perfect bag for traveling. The bag is spacious enough to fit everything he needs in flight plus extra toys, snacks, and clothes, yet compact enough to fit underneath the seat in front of us. My favorite feature is the plethora of pockets and storage to keep everything organized. We use the two exterior side pockets for snacks and a sippy cup and our boarding passes and my wallet fit with plenty of extra room in the anti-theft pocket. This bag appears small, but it is mighty!
2. This backpack is my carry-on and a total powerhouse!
You would not believe how much crap I can stuff in the eBags Motherlode Weekender Convertible Backpack! I am able to pack everything for myself, including my camera gear and everything for Gavin in this bag with room to spare. Plenty of pockets to keep you organized, an interior mesh pocket perfect for dirty clothes or undergarments, cinching straps to pack it all in securely, and a 19” pocket for your laptop. On top of that, the backpack straps unclip and store away in a special pocket so you don’t have to worry about your straps getting snagged on baggage belt loaders at the airport.
Strollers, Carseats, and Baby Wearing
3. This stroller is so compact it fits underneath the seat!
If you travel by air once per month or more, I highly recommend the GB Pockit Lightweight Stroller. GB makes a few compact strollers like this one, each with a variety of different features. The one we have is the basic model and we get comments on this stroller every time we use it. The stroller folds into a small square and weighs just over 9 pounds, compact enough to fit underneath the seat in front of me. I don’t have to worry about my stroller getting damaged in the cargo hold, and I don’t have to wait in the jet bridge for the stroller on layovers. The basket underneath is small compared to others and this model doesn’t have a cup/snack holder, but I don’t need those bells and whistles for breezing through the airport.
4. Try this stroller instead if you need something with a little more “oomph!”
We also use this stroller, the Summer Infant 3D Lite Stroller. If you are looking for a lightweight stroller that has ample storage space, reclines easily, is easy to fold and has a cupholder, this is the one to get. If we’re traveling for the specific purpose of checking out a zoo or aquarium, or sightseeing throughout a city, I prefer this stroller simply because it’s more sturdy than the Pockit and has reclining capabilities when we hit nap time.
I recommend purchasing a gate check stroller bag (we have this one) to help keep the stroller clean and prevent damage.
5. What type of carseat is best? The one that works for you!
Carseats are such a giant headache, amiright? I promise though, packing the carseat sounds more annoying than it actually is. You can’t choose wrong, it’s simply a matter of preference and lifestyle. Here’s some thoughts to consider:
How often you’ll be traveling. If you’re a frequent flyer, splurge and buy an extra carseat just for traveling. The most popular travel carseat for infants I’ve seen so far is the Cosco Scenera Next. The seat is lightweight, FAA approved, and very affordable at $50. **I purchased this carseat when Gavin turned 3 and he was too tall for it despite the sizing recommendations on the website, so we returned ours. I wish I would’ve bought it sooner because it is definitely way lighter than any other carseat we’ve used.
How old is your baby? Is your baby sitting up, or does the baby still need a steep recline position? When it comes to carseats, there are so many options and you want what will work best for you and be the safest for your baby.
Do you already have a base-system carseat? You could leave your base installed in your personal vehicle and purchase an extra base for traveling, which are usually less than $50. If you go this route, I recommend checking the carseat base to your final destination so you aren’t carrying any clunky extras.
Convertible carseats are heavier, but last longer because they “grow”. We travel with the Grace Extend2Fit because it’s easy to install, has two cupholders, and can grow as my baby does. Sure it’s heavier than a traditional travel carseat, but I feel like I’m getting a larger return on my investment throughout the years and it gives me some peace of mind when driving in an unfamiliar place.
6. Protect the investment of your carseat
I never leave for a trip without the Padded Carseat Bag. This carseat pack has straps so I can wear it like a backpack from the parking lot to the terminal and vice versa, complete with a waste belt so my hips can help support the weight. (Also pictured below is the Pockit stroller, the Baby Tula carrier, and the Hap Tim diaper bag.)
7. Baby-wearing through TSA and the airport is a huge time saver!
We use the Baby Tula Carrier (in a different pattern that has since been discontinued called “Aviator”) for hiking and traveling with my son. Tula carriers are my family’s favorite because they are secure and comfortable for both baby and parent with easy to adjust straps. Wearing your baby through security makes TSA a breeze, so we never leave home without it. This carrier also has a pocket that’s perfect for your phone, boarding passes, and ID when traveling.
NOTE: If your baby weighs between 7 and 15 pounds, you’ll need to use a newborn insert until your baby exceeds 15 pounds in weight to help support his body.
Snacks, Teethers, and Diaper Disposal
8. Our favorite snacks for traveling: Gerber puffs, veggie straws, goldfish, and puree/fruit pouches
My baby loves Gerber Puffs Cereal Snack. They’re easy for him to grip, he loves the flavor, and they are decently cheap. Bonus points that the container fits in the side pocket of our diaper bag. His favorite flavor is blueberry.
Veggie Straws take my baby *forever* to eat. He only has two bottom teeth, so he has to take his time gnawing on these snacks.
Goldfish Snack Crackers come in handy for both me and my son. I never leave home without them. Ever.
We like to fly with a few Puree/Fruit Pouches too. They make for a wonderful and filling snack while traveling and they’re resealable. If you baby is still working on dexterity skills, don’t forget to bring a small plastic spoon from home (or grab one from a restaurant in the terminal). We liked the GoGo Squeeze and Costco brands best because I enjoyed the flavors too. FYI: In my experience, if you run out, I’ve seen puree pouches at Starbucks in just about every airport we’ve traveled through!
I usually don’t bring more than four pouches when we travel, especially now that Gavin can eat “real” food in small bites. Baby purees are exempt from the 3.4 ounce liquid rule at TSA in “reasonable quantities” so pack with enough to feel confident based on how long you’ll be traveling. I recommend packing these in your bag last or keeping them in an easily accessible pocket so they’re easy to remove during the TSA screening process.
9. Managing the mess!
These Munchkin Snack Catcher cups are magic to help manage the mess of babies learning how to feed themselves. Babies move fast and turbulence is a thing, so you definitely want something like this to prevent any cracker spills. Say goodbye to your worries about dumped and ruined snacks! This also doubles as a toy, because what baby doesn’t enjoy the sound of shaking snacks?
10. I choose books that can do more than just be a page-turner
I have a handful of these Touch and Feel Books and we take them everywhere. My son enjoys turning the pages exploring the different textures. This keeps him occupied and distracted, which is a win for mama!
11. Teething devices your baby will actually use
I always bring a pack of teethers or pacifiers so he has something to play with and chew on to help alleviate the cabin air pressure for takeoff and landing. He prefers teething toys to his pacifier most days, so pack whatever is best for your baby. His favorite teether of all time is the Nuby Banana Toothbrush Teether.
Tip: I use the small front-pocket of the diaper back strictly for pacifiers and teether toys so they’re always easy to get access in a hurry.
12. Oh poo!
Never thought I’d ever talk about poop so much with strangers, but here we are. Experiencing a fresh poop while airborne at 30,000 feet in a metal tube the size of a small house that circulates the stench is a special encounter. I carry Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Bags to help dispose of a diaper and its stench. While these bags don’t always eliminate the smell completely, they definitely help ease the nose woes. They’re also great to use as laundry bags for clothing that spit-up or diaper leak leftovers. The container easily clips to any strap on your existing diaper bag and is slim enough to slip in a small pouch if you prefer that storage method.
I believe in you!
My biggest secret to traveling with a baby? Less is more! Babies are simple creatures who don’t really need that much when traveling. By all means, pack whatever makes you feel more comfortable or confident. but ditch everything else that doesn’t bring you comfort and isn’t a necessity. Say it with me: less is more.