Tuesday, 12 January 2016

How to Fly Carry-On With Baby PLUS Packing Checklist

"Can I check that? I'll pay extra."
 Just kidding. The toddler, on the other hand... 

Here in Canada, we've just had some pretty exciting news of discount, no-frills airlines launching. However, there's a catch: cheap flights often don't include checked luggage. 

Is it even possible to fly carry-on with a baby AND a toddler?

Yes, if you're willing to plan ahead and juggle some bags. If you're not QUITE ready to carry-on only, you can still reduce your checked baggage to one bag or one baby item (playpen/bassinet) without running out of necessities.

5 Steps to Flying Carry-On with Baby

1. Define "carry-on".

Look carefully at the airlines policies for carry-on for everybody. Most airlines allow one 'standard item' and one 'personal item' per person.

To maximize space and allow me to be hands-free, I usually bring a carry-on bag with a cross-body strap and a backpack. 

TIP: Find a backpack, bag, or travel suitcase with standard rectangular dimensions. My backpack fits under the seat with room left over, even in small planes.

Here are other items airlines generally allow on board in addition to your carry-on allowance:
  • Coat
  • Small purse 
  • Snacks or food to eat on board

Now I have:

1. my personal item (backpack)
2. my standard item (carry-on bag)
3. a purse
4. a coat
5. snacks in a bag

My toddler is two and needs her own seat, so double that. I can also check a carseat for free for all kids aged 0-11. Again, double check with your airline to avoid unhappy surprises.

2. Babies are exceptional exceptions.

IN ADDITION to all of MY carry-on,  because I have an infant travelling on my lap, I can gate check a stroller and bring an additional (diaper) bag, milk, water, formula, and baby snacks.

TIP:  Leave yourself a few extra minutes to get through security if you have infant liquids.

TIP 2: Leave the bucket seat for infants attached to the stroller. I have never had a problem gate-checking them together, KNOCK ON WOOD.

Because babies are so exceptional, sometimes airlines will allow one free checked 'baby item' in addition to the carseat, like a bassinet, a play-pen, or an extra bag. We used Phil and Ted's Nest portable baby bassinet with both our girls until they learned to roll (4-5 months old). 

Since it was their regular bed until they moved to the crib, their sleeping situation remained constant even while traveling. Routine = win. The carrying case left PLENTY of room to pack all baby's clothes, blankets, and toiletries (and some of my stuff too). 

TIP 3: If you are checking a baby item like a playpen or a bassinet, a larger case with room to pack other items is worth finding.

Am I telling you to bring fourteen assorted bags, two strollers, six carseats and a playpen? No.

Do your research on the limits and restrictions and how to make them work for you. 

3. What can you buy/borrow when you arrive?

Are you traveling within CIVILIZATION?

Bring only enough diapers and wipes for the plane ride (x 3 because you never know). You can buy more at your destination and this is a huge space saver. Often, you can even rent or borrow a car seat, play pen, etc. upon arrival. One less thing to pack.

TIP: If you have access to a Walmart (or the like), some items worth buying when you get there might be a cheap umbrella stroller, diapers, towels, and toiletries. Budget as you see fit. 

4. Ziploc bags.

When we travel, I stock up on large and medium sized clear plastic ziploc freezer bags. To this day, I haven't found a better, cheaper way to organize and compress clothes, snacks, and travel sundry. 

Plus, your liquids are already in a see-through plastic bag. Bonus.

5. Layer up. 
"HELP ME." Ready for two weeks anywhere or five minutes outside in Saskatchewan.
Why not put baby or toddler in a couple of layers? If you live in Canada in January, your child will appreciate it. If you aren't comfortable dressing your child like the abominable snowman, still plan ahead to make everyone wears their coats and bulky shoes onto the plane.

TIP: For baby, why not bring a few onesies or pajamas you are ready to part with (the stained one, the one with the snap missing, the one that's almost too small)? If you are traveling for under two weeks, it's a good idea to have a few outfits that you won't grieve leaving behind in a trashcan in case of a diaper blowout. For the ones you want to salvage, you brought all those ziploc bags...

/ / / / / / / / / /

I recently traveled to Vancouver with my two littles to meet my husband at a conference. He was traveling from Chicago and we were coming from Saskatoon. Since I drove to the airport on my own with a two-year old and a two-month-old, I focused on minimalist packing. 

Sidenote: I'm an eternal optimist who values going places over sanity. It was a direct flight and hubs met me at the airport at the other end.  If you're not comfortable flying with your kid(s) alone, get someone to accompany you to the airport or travel with another adult. Ask other passengers to help you lift your bags. You have a right to be there too. 

Research shows that all adults were actually kids once (even if they've forgotten).

Toutes les grandes personnes ont d’abord été des enfants (mais peu d’entre elles s’en souviennent). -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Here's my Carry-On Travel Checklist for a One Week Trip with Baby & Toddler
·      Bassinet & case
·      Backpack
·      Toddler’s backpack with LEASH!
·      Large Carry-on Bag
·      Purse (for when we're there)
·      Ziplocs
·      Empty cloth tote bag in case we buy stuff (for the way home)
·      Kitchen size garbage bags x3
·      Regular Garbage bags x 2
·      Roll of diaper disposal plastic bags

·      Diapers x 5 (we'll buy more there)
·      Swim Diaper x 3
·      Diaper cream & lotion
·      Baby wash/shampoo, washcloth
·      Wipes
·      Infant Tylenol & Vitamin D
·      Pacifier x 3
·      Medela Steam Clean bag
·      Blanket x 4
·      Warm Blanket
·      Baby Carrier
·      Stroller
·      Onesie PJS x 9
·      Onesie Fleece Snowsuit & Hat
·      Bathing Suit
·      Sweater x 2

·      Water Bottle
·      Toothbrush/ toothpaste
·      Headphones
·      Kids Advil & Tylenol
·      Pull ups x 3 (we'll buy more there)
·      Paw Patrol figurines in ziploc bag
·      Softcover Books x 5
·      Busy Book
·      Small Stuffie x 2
·      Stickers
·      Potty Seat (travel one)
·      Swim diapers x 3
·      Swimsuit
·      PJS x 2
·      T-Shirt x5
·      Pants x5
·      Socks x7
·      Sweater x 3
·      Onesie Fleece Snowsuit
·      Jacket
·      Onesie Rain Suit
·      Hat & Mittens
·      Rubber Boots
·      Shoes

·      Earbuds
·      Phone
·      Charger x 2
·      Camera
·      IPad (load with books for me, toddler shows & games)
·      Nightlight
·      Wallet
·      Kids’ Health Cards
·      Kids IDs
·      Gum
·      Trail Mix in Ziploc x 3
·      Fruit Snacks x 3
·      Granola Bar x 4
·      Cereal in Ziploc x 3
·      Water Bottle
·      Advil, Tylenol
·      Toothbrush/paste
·      Makeup Bag
·      Glasses, contacts
·      Shampoo & Conditioner
·      Facewipes & Bodywash
·      Deodorant
·      Curling Iron & Straightener
·      Hair ties
·      Hat & Mitts
·      Hand Sanitizer
·      Rain Coat
·      Black Coat
·      Boots
·      Shoes
·      Sweater x 2
·      Leggings  x2
·      Jeans
·      Shirt x 4, tanks x 2
·      PJs (pants & tee)
·      Socks x7, underwear x 7, bras x3
    NOTE: We stayed in an airbnb in downtown Vancouver. There was a bed with sheets for my toddler (no need for a playpen), a washer and dryer, and towels provided. We bought diapers, pull-ups, and groceries upon arrival and we used public transit so didn't require carseats.
    And here's the real life evidence (repacked just for you. Too bad I didn't think of this post in October. Ah well. We're headed to Cuba in a week, so throw in a few beach outfits, a playpen, a pop-up tent, sunhats and sunscreen and we're ready to roll!).

    All the bags. Please note that the bottom right backpack is being used as the equivalent of the bassinet & case. The bassinet is now out exploring the world with its much cooler new family.
    All the stuff from the checklist. Bags, stroller, clothes for all three of us, diapers, snacks, stuffies, toiletries, blankets, everything.
    Stuff organized into ziploc bags minus the clothing we wore to the airport.
    What we wore to the airport.
    Sneaky. Because I gate-check the stroller and our stroller snaps shut tight, I placed the following in the basket underneath: a large fleece blanket, my raincoat, a toddler rain suit & a toddler fleece snow suit. 
    Everything packed. One backpack. One bag. One toddler backpack. One stroller. One travel Ergo (baby carrier)
    I forgot the backpack to simulate the Phil and Ted's Nest Bassinet & Case. There it is (on the right) completely empty. I have fresh clothes for just about every day, swim stuff, toys, snacks, a nightlight, and 2 hair appliances, 5 blankets, 2 jackets and 2 pairs of footwear. Don't tell me you can't travel light, for goodness sakes! *Kitchen sink not included.
    Ready to Roll! (Gabs in Ergo, Ems in stroller (holding toddler backpack), blankets and extra outerwear in basket of stroller, backpack on, bag slung across)
    When we went to Vancouver, I did have (and checked) the bassinet. I put the sunshade of the stroller down and laid it across to walk into the airport. Two hands free = able to push the stroller and room for a coffee. 

    Note that we are still within the requirements of only MY carry-on (although I did check the bassinet for convenience sake). 

    Emily's little backpack could count as a purse (since mine is empty and packed), the backpack as a diaper bag, and we could have taken the bassinet carry-on as standard luggage, with my cross-body bag as a personal item.

    If there'd been any dispute, we still had Emily's two pieces of carry-on available. 

    Completely possible without sacrificing any stuff... and I packed for three of us for a week.

    Emily is disgusted to find we aren't ACTUALLY going anywhere interesting today. Whoops... Also, those pants were a LOT longer in October.

    So there you have it! 

    Adapt as you see fit for your family and circumstances and get exploring.

    Was it worth it? I'd say so...

    Got any awesome tips or tricks for flying with littles?

    I'd love to hear them! Comment below!


    1. Ah, le petit prince...that's my favourite story of all time. Also- I don't miss this stage of kid handling...all the prep and stuff! Flying gets much easier, as does sleep, as they grow! I wish we would have been more adventurous when they were little. We drove to BC a couple times, that was an adventure!

      1. I love it too. I see it in my head during most of life. Not weird at all. Nope. Yes, as much as I'm trying to "cherish the moments," I'm excited for them to get a little bigger! BC roadtrips would have been quite the adventure! Now that my parents are in BC, we might wimp out and fly.

    2. oh my gosh, you're a rock star!! I still find it challenging going grocery shopping with my two and I probably pack the same amount as you just for that!

      Confessions of a Frumpy Mommy

      1. Haha. Oh goodness. Thanks! Honestly, it probably is the same amount of stuff, but I am more motivated to go traveling than to get milk and bananas. Shoot. I need milk and bananas. Bah.

    3. Very helpful post! I am gonna have my first flight with my little one next week. I am trying to make my packing list and as soon as I am done to start packing the stuff. Thanks for the suggestions, I will have them in mind!!

      1. Oh awesome! I hope it goes so smoothly for you! Have such a great trip and thank you for the sweet comment!


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