Tom and I recently took Baby A on his first cross-country trip, and we sure learned a lot from the experience! We were once the types to only bring carry-ons, regardless of the length of the trip – needless to say, traveling with baby was quite the adjustment! As we live across the country from our families in Boston, I knew we’d have to have the right products to travel well (and often) with our new friend. These are my top recommendations (note: he is just 3 months so not all will be applicable depending on the age of your child) – I promise to update as he grows!
- Label everything! We (read: Tom) made the sad mistake of picking up someone else’s travel crib from our ferry (PSA: you aren’t the only yuppy out there with a BabyBjorn). Sad face. I subsequently purchased these luggage tags from Etsy for all of our bags (travel crib, stroller, car seat) to avoid this mistake in the future.
- Create a checklist in your phone of what you pack that you can consult during the trip (to ensure you still have it all!)
- Order/mail what you can to your destination (e.g., diapers, wipes – these take up quite a bit of space, especially for long trips!)
Stroller and car seat bags: As you probably know, you can gate check most large baby items such as strollers and car seats (we have gotten away with gate-checking our travel crib too on 5/5 flights!), which are essential to navigating the airport. What I didn’t realize was how much abuse these items took even with gate checking – our bags came back looking worse for the wear (I may have demanded retribution from United on this account, and been awarded a $150 travel voucher…), and I am very glad we opted to purchase these protective travel bags (suitable for the Uppababy Vista stroller and UppaBaby Mesa car seat, but most stroller manufacturers make their own travel bags). If you also have an UppaBaby stroller, be sure to register your product in advance to take advantage of their “TravelSafe” program, which protects your products during air travel.
Travel crib: As Baby A was so young (10 weeks) at the start of our trip, I wanted to be sure he had a familiar place to sleep each night to try to minimize any disruption. I went through 3 products before discovering the holy grail of travel cribs. There are many out there, but the vast majority weigh a TON and are simply not appropriate for long-distance travel. I was very, very sad to find this was the case for the Nuna line, as their Aire and Mini models are so attractive and easy to use – however, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around carrying something ~25 lbs in addition to our other luggage. The two lightweight options (11-13 lbs) which were highly recommended were the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light and the Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib. After purchasing and testing both, I can say with confidence that the Guava Family is the superior product. It basically combines 2 of Baby Bjorn’s best-selling products – the bassinet and the travel crib) into one (I love double-duty products!!!). In addition, it comes in a compact backpack that is easy to carry handsfree. I’m very petite and I had no problem with this – see pics below.
Baby carrier. It was very handy to have a baby carrier to help with carrying baby and luggage after our stroller/car seat were gate checked. Wyatt enjoyed all the sites and sounds the airport have to offer! We originally purchased the BabyBjorn, but I must say this is not particularly comfortable for the wearer. I am now using the Baby Tula Ergonomic Carrier, which is both more ergonomic for the wearer and intended to be better for the baby as well. I have also heard excellent things about the Ergobaby 360 Baby Carrier, which also offers the option to wear the baby facing out as well as in. I don’t think you can go wrong with either, though I would opt for the Ergobaby 360 if I did it again, given our little one loves to face out and it would be great to have this option.
This packing list was a very helpful reference for a comprehensive look at what you might need. At a minimum, I recommend you have the following in your carry-on (preferably in a bag that fits under your seat for easy access):
- Diapers, wipes and changing pad
- Extra outfit for baby in case of accidents (warm clothing recommended as the airplanes tend to be chilly)
- Pacifier (if you use one)
- Bottles/snacks for baby (nursing or a bottle at takeoff was recommended by most to remedy air pressure)
- Snacks for you (so you aren’t eating sodium-laden airplane food)
- Nursing cover (if you are planning to nurse or pump in flight)
- Breast pump for long-haul flights (I admit to pumping in my window seat, with a nursing cover and my husband in the middle seat as cover! I thought this was less rude than hogging the bathroom for 10-15 min.)
Some extras you might consider:
Cooler: I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that (in the yuppiest of all moves) we purchased a Yeti Cooler (Hopper Two 20 Portable Cooler) to carry breastmilk on our latest trip. Of course, we felt we could justify this extravagant purchase given it’s also the perfect way to tote rosé and other libations to the beach or park. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the milk was still frozen after ~10 hours of travel. If you are also able to talk yourself into this, and the Yeti Ice that goes with it (much lighter and colder than regular ice), be sure the ice is completely frozen before entering security – otherwise you’ll be leaving the ice behind like we did ours in JFK 🙁
Beach tent: If you’re traveling to a beach destination, you’ll probably want a tent to protect your little one. This inexpensive tent was recommended by a friend, and I was so impressed with how compact and easy to use it was. It would easily fit inside a suitcase, and then transferred to my beach bag. It was simple to setup (<1 min) when at the beach, and large enough for mom and baby to sit inside.