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Being an airline employee means that I travel frequently. Whether that’s taking a quick day trip to Los Angeles for In ’n Out Burger, or a weekend getaway to Hawaii for a sunburn, you can usually find me sitting on an airplane going anywhere. 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!
This is our “everyday use” diaper bag for Gavin, but is also 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. If you are flying on a regional jet with smaller overhead bins, this bag fits perfectly in those bins as well. 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!
You would not believe how much crap I can stuff in this bag, and I’m not sure where to start when singing my praises about it. Plenty of pockets to keep you organized, an interior mesh pocket perfect for dirty clothes or undergarments, cinching straps to pack it all in, and a 19” pocket for your laptop. On top of that, if you end up needing to check your bag for any reason, 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 loaders at the airport. I am able to pack everything for myself, including my camera gear, and everything for Gavin (that doesn’t fit in his diaper bag) in this bag with room to spare. Be aware that this backpack will fit in overhead bins on mainline aircraft, but not on ERJ-145 or CRJ-200 regional jets (don’t worry – airlines offer a complimentary valet check for any bags that are too large to fit overhead on regional jets). If carrying a backpack isn’t really your thing, they do make this bag in a “roller-board” style as well.
Strollers, Carseats, and Baby Wearing
If you travel by air once per month or more, I highly recommend this 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, but read about the others and decide which one would work best for you and your family. We get comments on this stroller every time we use it. Every. Single. Time. The stroller folds into a small square and weighs just over 9 pounds, compact enough to fit underneath the seat in front of me on an airplane. I don’t have to worry about potential damage to the stroller because it doesn’t ride in the cargo bin like a traditional stroller would. The basket underneath the stroller is small compared to others, but is just the right size to fit our Tula baby carrier and a couple toys when we dash between gates.
We also have this stroller, which I usually keep in the car for errands around town. To be honest, I haven’t traveled with this stroller yet because I love my Pockit so much. But if you are looking for a lightweight stroller that has ample storage space and is easy to fold without the bells and whistles of more complex strollers, this is the one to get. I recommend purchasing a gate check stroller bag (we have this one) to help keep the stroller clean and prevent damage from the cargo area.
I absolutely loved traveling with this carseat, namely because the seat itself was FAA approved for use on airplanes. We had three bases, one for each of our vehicles at home, plus one that we could travel with. I would check the extra base to our final destination so I didn’t have to worry about carrying the extra weight around. If the base happened to get lost in transit (which never happened, by the way), you can install this carseat in your vehicle without the base by using the vehicle’s restraints. I would then travel with the carseat itself in hand, setting the handle of the carseat over the handle of my rolling bag to make transportation between gates easier. If the plane had an extra open seat, I was able to use the carseat for Gavin in that open seat. If the flight didn’t have the space, we just gate checked it, which is complimentary even for non-employees, to our connecting city.
I was devastated when Gavin outgrew his infant carseat because traveling with a convertible carseat has proven to be a little more difficult. Why? Because there is no handle to help stabilize the carseat on a rolling bag and these carseats are bigger and bulkier. We chose this seat though because installation is easy, it fits in our padded carseat bag, and is lightweight. While this carseat is FAA approved for use in-flight, we haven’t done so yet.
*Note that there are carseats designed specifically for traveling families that are lightweight and FAA approved for use in-flight, I am just yet to try them out for myself to be able to offer a formal recommendation. The most popular one I’ve seen based on my research is the Cosco Scenera Next. I’ve seen them in various stores and they are very lightweight and affordable. My hesitation in making a purchase is their bulky, awkward size for my little teeny baby. But, if you have a convertible-style carseat with a high back and wide frame, you might also consider buying a caddy system to roll your carseat through the airport with ease.
I never leave home without this one. This carseat pack has straps so I can wear it like a backpack from the parking lot to the terminal and vice versa. (Also pictured below is the Pockit stroller, the Baby Tula carrier, and the Hap Tim diaper bag.)
We use this carrier (in a different pattern that has since been discontinued called “Aviator”) for hiking and traveling with Gavin. Tula carriers are my family’s favorite because they are secure and comfortable for both baby and parent. Wearing your baby through security makes TSA a breeze, so we never leave home without our Tula. This carrier also has a pocket that’s perfect for your phone, boarding passes, and ID when traveling. The straps are super easy to adjust, so it’s easy to trade-off between my husband and I when we travel.
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.
Snacks, Toys, and Diaper Disposal
Gavin loves these things. He’s turning one next month and we’ve been using these snacks for over half his life. 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.
I love these snacks because they take Gavin *forever* to eat. He only has two bottom teeth, so he has to take his time gnawing on these snacks. For us, these are the baby equivalent of a dog’s rawhide bone, which is great because it keeps his curious hands occupied when we’re in-flight! Are they the healthiest thing out there? Definitely not, but they make for a fun treat when traveling.
Listen, I used to clean airplanes, and cleaning up Goldfish crackers continues to be my most haunting memories from that time in my life. I understand it’s hard to corral the flinging snacks from a raging baby, but try your best! This snack comes in handy for both me and Gavin. I never leave home without them, like, ever.
We like to fly with a few of these bad boys too. While I don’t recommend feeding from a pouch while in-flight (we’re still working on dexterity), these make for a wonderful and filling snack while waiting in the gate area or airport restaurant. 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. I recommend keeping them in an easily accessible pocket so they’re easy to find and remove during the TSA screening process.
My son doesn’t understand that he needs to tip a sippy-cup upwards to get any liquid out, so I was relieved to find these cups by Nuk. I love pretty much anything Nuk makes anyways, and this product was no exception. The lid twists to cover the straw from germs and prevent leaking when not in use, Gavin’s little hands can hold it perfectly without any help from me, and the cup itself fits in the side pocket of our diaper bag for easy access on-the-go.
Tip: any liquids for baby’s consumption are exempt from the 3.4 ounce liquid rule at TSA. I like to travel with a mini apple juice or two to maximize space within my carry-on bag, then I water it down to make it last longer.
Remember the nightmares I was referring to with those Goldfish crackers onboard airplanes? Use these cups to help manage the mess. Gavin needs help getting his snacks out of these cups still, but that’s fine by me. I’m able to give him one cracker at a time, whereas before I had these cups, I was always worrying about dropping the whole bag of snacks all over the floor of the plane. Babies move fast and turbulence is a thing, so you definitely want something like this to prevent any cracker spills. This also doubles as a toy, because what baby doesn’t enjoy the sound of shaking snacks?
I have a handful of these books and we take them everywhere. Gavin doesn’t really like reading so much as he likes turning the pages of books. He’s recently started “petting” the pages because he’s becoming aware of the varieties of textures on the pages. This keeps him occupied and distracted in boarding areas and when in-flight.
I always bring a pack of teethers and pacifiers so he has something to play with and chew on that isn’t my cellphone (but of course when all else fails, yeah, my kid plays on my cellphone). Of all the teething-style toys we’ve purchased, these Nuby teethers have definitely been his favorites. I recommend buying a few “pacifier leashes” so you don’t lose them while en route.
Tip: I use the small front-pocket of the diaper back strictly for pacifiers and teether toys so they’re always easy to get to.
If you’ve never gotten a waft of fresh-baby-poop-diaper while airborne at 30,000 feet, consider yourself lucky. What starts as a strong stench in the galley area or the four-square-foot lavatory quickly envelopes the entire aircraft. I have experienced some gnarly stenches in my day. For the sakes of cabin crews and passengers across the globe, carry some of these bags with you to dispose of a diaper and its stench.
Here’s the biggest secret to traveling with a baby: less is more. Trust me. Don’t bring the jungle gym, the bottle warmer, or crazy contraptions that will cost you your sanity in addition to a checked baggage fee. Babies are simple creatures who don’t really need that much when traveling. I see a lot of parents with strollers the size of luggage carts, chock-full to the brim with blankets, giant toys, and other baby supplies. Frankly, lugging all that stuff around is too dang stressful and it’s too dang easy to misplace or leave something behind. Ditch everything that isn’t a necessity and say it with me: less is more. When packing, ask yourself if the item is truly necessary.
Happy trails and travels, friends!