Packing light while traveling with baby. Is that a thing? Before Olivia was born and while I was pregnant, many people told us to “get our traveling in now because we won’t be able to later”. In her first 9 months, she’s been on something like 30 flight segments (Yes, we counted. Yes, Nick made a spreadsheet to keep track of all the stats. No, we’re not proud of this), so I think it’s safe to say we didn’t listen. Of course, the reason we’ve been able to travel at the drop of a dime is by getting efficient with our packing – and we don’t even check bags!
Only Pack the Essentials
Seems simple enough, but is more challenging in practice. Believe it or not, fifty sets of clothes for every potential climate you could possibly encounter is not essential. Neither are the thirty toys that take up a whole bag on their own. We know because we’ve been there. The key here is pack smart and only take what you need. Unless you’re traveling to some remote location, most places have laundromats, or the hotel will likely have a cleaning service. If something happens, you can get the clothes cleaned. You don’t really need to plan for 3 sets of clothes per day (even though they may all be adorable, try your hardest to cut down). Also, try not to stress about bringing enough diapers. You’ll always be able to run to the store and grab more. Maybe just do it before you’re on your last diaper.
The Grey Area: Packing Too Many Toys
Or Having A Bored, Cranky Child
In terms of toys, pack small toys and books. Think about which toys will be the most compact and entertaining without distracting to other passengers, or to you if traveling via car. Protip: pack a couple new toys so your little one will be enamored longer at a toy they’ve never seen before. Think less easily dropped and roll all over the place toys, and more stay-put and engaging toys. We just bought this compact activity center for an upcoming trip. It suctions in place, it’s inexpensive, and it’s small enough to not take up much room.
Protip: pack a couple new toys so your little one will be enamored longer at a toy they’ve never seen before.
Ziploc Bags are your Friend
We learned this one early on. Even though you can buy more diapers if needed, you still need enough to get you by. If you use ziploc bags to store diapers, you can compress all the diapers to save on space. We also bring extra ziplocs in case of a dirty diaper that can’t be easily disposed of right away or wet items that you don’t want to put with everything else in your suitcase. Traveling with baby is messy. Plastic bags take up practically no space and you’ll be happy you packed them.
Use your Diaper Bag as a Purse
I’ve been using our diaper bag as a purse since the day Olivia was born. It really showed me how little I actually need the things I was storing in my purse. Like, I found a huge stack of used gift cards, about 5 tubes of chapstick, and probably close to 10 pens. So yeah, needless to say it wasn’t the biggest deal to downsize. Now I only carry my wallet, phone, and a pair of sunglasses. It’s pretty refreshing actually. And did you know airlines are required to let you carry on a diaper bag without it counting as a carry on? So if you’re traveling by plane not only do you get a freebie, but if you give up your purse you still get a personal item. So I carry on the diaper bag and a backpack as my personal item where I store more baby related items like bottles and a few snacks, plus an iPad and an extra change of clothes.
Think Ahead for Upcoming Travel
When we search for new toys, we look for things that also work for travel. For instance, the toy we listed above is great for keeping her entertained in the high chair, as well as a plane or the car. Two bird, one stone. When we got the DockATot, we knew we would be traveling and it would be a much easier to take that along rather than a pack n play. It turned out to be one of the best baby gear decisions we’ve ever made. And when we buy or make food – we buy the easy squeeze kind. We received the Infantino Squeeze Station for a gift and love it! It allows you to make your own food and package it up nicely in convenient food pouches.
Items to Keep on your Travel Checklist
- Medicine – you only need to pack the bare essentials, but make sure you pack things like children’s tylenol, teething remedies, vitamins, band-aids, etc. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a plane with a teething baby and no way to console her. We don’t wish that kind of stress on anyone. Note on meds: when traveling internationally, keep in mind medicines and their ingredients change quite a bit. So if you need something for yourself regularly, you many consider bringing some as well.
- Spare Outfit – you don’t need twenty, but you should probably have one or two that are easily accessible. We have absolutely needed two during the course of a single plane ride. Plus, it might not be a bad idea to have a spare shirt for you and your partner.
- Wet Wipes and Burp Cloths – for whatever reason, we always forget burp cloths. It results in us digging around in the diaper bag to find a wipe. Do yourself a favor and keep these in easy reach.
- Snacks and Extra Milk – for older kids, you can bring a sippy cup and the flight attendant can get water for you. For younger ones, bring a little extra milk or formula in case you need it. For snacks, good options include things that are compact like string cheese, crackers, and the squeezable food pouches.
If there is anything that would cause your baby to have a meltdown without, pack it. Blanket, pacifier, stuffed bear. Whatever it is, it’s first to go in the travel bag. And for the love of Pete, don’t you dare leave without checking the seat-back pocket when deplaning.
Traveling with Baby as Often as you Can!
This isn’t so much packing advice as it is travel advice. If people tell you that you can’t/won’t be traveling with baby, prove them wrong. Whatever your mode of transport: car, plane, boat, train – it’s not only possible, but it’s also doable without too much stress. Travel as often as you can because this will get your little one used to the experience. If they grow up traveling, they will become adjusted to the experience and trips down the road will be less of a hassle (in addition to the benefits of being well adjusted to seeing life outside of their safe bubble we create as parents). Practice makes perfect, as they say. It’s never too late to start!