I’m going to convince you to travel with your kids. That it’s worth it. That it’s special. That you can do this. I’m going to try anyway.
It’s not going to be the trip you had before you had kids. It’s going to demand a lot of you. You’ve got to be ON all the time. You’ve got to plan. You’ve got to Go when you want to Stop and Stop when you want to Go. You’ve got to have stores of patience to rival a monk.
We recently took our first flight with my baby at 11 months old. I stressed endlessly about packing everything we’d need to survive our first flight and out-of-town travel. It turns out that it was good to be prepared – our 9:30 AM flight to Denver got canceled due to weather in Dallas, so not only did we have our first flight experience, we also got an extra 9 hours in DFW airport. (By the time we got all that crap from the remote parking, through security, we were not going to turn around and go home for a few hours before our rebooked flight that evening).
Anyway, long story short, traveling with an 11-month-old took a lot of planning and multiple purchases! Here’s what worked well for us:
Here are the things that were must-haves for us for the trip with my baby(especially the flight):
1. Travel car seat
Since we were going to be renting a car at our destination (Denver) and driving to Vail, we needed a car seat. (Note: if you’re still using an infant car seat, you can just bring that. This is for a convertible car seat since my baby is too tall for the infant seat).
After doing some research, we ended up buying an Evenflo SureRide DLX. It only weighs about 10 pounds, was easy to install, and is relatively compact so it fits in most vehicles. It fits rear-facing to 40 lbs and forward-facing to 65 lbs, but it only goes to 40 lbs rear and forward-facing, so it wouldn’t last us as long and we’d end up having to buy another travel car seat in a couple of years). Anyway, the Evenflo Sureride ended up working out great and would be a great, budget-friendly option for a 2nd car seat for a spouse’s or grandparent’s car.
2. Traveling Toddler Car Seat Accessory
The Traveling Toddler Car Seat Accessory is a strap which hooks up to a car seat’s latch connectors and allows you to strap the car seat to a normal carry-on size rolling suitcase. We didn’t try it, but they say that you can even strap your child into the car seat while you’re wheeling it around the airport (it was definitely very secure in the suitcase). We used this to wheel the car seat to security and around the airport, right until it was time to board the plane.
3. Car Seat Gate Check Bag
This seems redundant of the strap, and, in theory, you could go without the strap mentioned above and use this bag the whole time. It has a shoulder strap, which is nice, although only if your car seat is as light as ours was (I can’t imagine trying to carry our 25 lb Britax seat in this bag). They make more expensive backpack-style car seat bags but this one worked fine for our purposes so I’m glad I didn’t get the more expensive, brand-specific bag. We put the car seat in this bag after we got to the gate (we kept it strapped to the suitcase the whole time we were walking around the airport because that meant it was one less bag to carry/keep track of).
4. Umbrella Stroller
Unless you have a really good reason, I wouldn’t bring a big or nice stroller, like a jogging stroller; most airlines will require you to check it at the ticket counter and can’t guarantee that it won’t get damaged in transit. If you bring an umbrella stroller, you can take it to the gate and, if it’s small enough, maybe even on the plane (we gate checked ours). We have a Summer Infant DLite umbrella stroller which is lightweight, easy to use and has a sun canopy. I haven’t tried out any other umbrella strollers, and a friend gave us this one, so I haven’t really researched other options to know how this one compares.
5. Stroller Gate Check Bag
Since umbrella strollers are kind of flimsy, you’ll probably want it in a bag when you gate check it to keep it clean, dry, and less likely to get caught on something and broken. This Angel Baby bag (same brand as the car seat bag) worked great; it doesn’t have a shoulder strap, while the stroller itself does, so we carried the stroller through the airport (not in the bag) and put it in the bag when we got to our gate.
6. Ergobaby Carrier
As mentioned above, it was super convenient to carry my baby in the Erbobaby carrier through security and throughout the airport, up until the point I sat down in my seat on the airplane. Then, we just stuffed it in one of our carry-on bags. (As a side note, we also hiked with C in the Ergobaby using the back carry and it worked out great! He snoozed the whole hike with the sleeping hood on to support his head from flopping). I can’t get over how comfortable it is to carry my heavy (20+lb) baby in this carrier; it really
does support his body weight on my hips, rather than my shoulders/back, such that I carried him all around the airport AND several hours hiking without any discomfort.
7. Sippy Cup
my baby sippy cup was easy to fill up at water fountains in the airport or from the flight attendants on the plane and provided both hydration and activity to occupy him 🙂 We like the Playtex Training Time Straw Cups.
8. Small cooler + all of the snacks
Snacking was my baby main entertainment on the flight. Think about how many snacks you think you need, then double or triple it, just to be safe (remember the 9 hours we got stuck in the airport?!) I used a small cooler (2-bottle size) and brought a few Tupperware containers with chopped up mozzarella cheese, turkey, and steamed vegetables, the ever-present Puffs and Cheerios, and several pouches of baby food (even if your kiddo is mostly past the baby food stage, these are great for travel since they are not messy and do not require refrigeration!) If you’re bottle-feeding, you’d want to bring bottles and breastmilk/formula, too.
9. Antibacterial wipes
I found packages of antibacterial Wet Ones in the travel size section at Target, and they were great for wiping down hands, armrests, airplane tray tables, high chairs, etc.
10. Stick-on disposable placemats
I do not leave the house without these Table Topper disposable placemats, and they were great on the trip as well! They stick securely to a tabletop with 4 peel-off adhesive strips, making it easy for a little one to eat a meal in a restaurant (without having a plate to fling across the floor). I like to wrap the bottom edge of mine under the table so my baby can’t put his hands all over the grimy underside of the table.
11. Pocket bib
These Baby Hiccups pocket bibs are a lifesaver; we use them for every single meal at home, and it was great having one on the trip as well! The pocket on these catches pretty much every bite that falls out of my baby mouth, saving us from having to pick up food from the plane/restaurant floor. I also love that the material is easily wipe-able with a baby wipe for easy cleanup while traveling.
12. Nursing cover
Nursing during takeoff and landing, like everyone suggests, seemed to prevent my baby from having any ear pain from the change in pressure. I love the 360-degree-coverage of the Covered Goods nursing covers for discreet nursing in public, whether on a plane, in a mall, at a restaurant. etc.
13. Changing pad, diapers, wipes
I love this JJ Cole travel changing pad with a pocket for a wipes case and diapers. Bring way, way more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need – you never know when your flight will get delayed and all of a sudden you’re spending 9 hours in DFW airport (not that I know from experience….) If there is ever a time NOT to be caught short on diapers or wipes, it is while traveling! You can buy more when you arrive at your destination for the remainder of the trip, but do not skimp for the travel days!
Bring a few small toys/books for entertainment. I didn’t find that these entertained my baby for very long, so I’m glad I didn’t use much room for packing toys and books. He was more entertained by snacking, people-watching, looking out the plane window, playing with the magazines in the seatback pocket, and more snacking. Some people bring an iPad with games/shows/movies loaded on it, but we chose not to; my baby doesn’t watch TV or movies at home, so it’s not something he’s used to and it doesn’t hold his attention span.
15. Pacifier with clip
A pacifier helps with ear pressure (and keeps your plane neighbors happy), and a clip is a must to keep it from getting lost or dropped on the gross airport/plane floor.