People are quite often taken aback when I tell them we often travel with our 18-month-old. We fly coach, and we don’t bring a nanny. It is actually possible to fly with a toddler and get through it.
We live in New York, and our family lives all over the place so we’ve travelled quite a bit! Zoë, our 18-month-old daughter, has traveled by plane, boat, train, high-speed train, and car. She has been to:
- France three times
- England twice
- Netherlands four times
- Belgium once
- Vancouver, BC, Canada twice
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 5-6 times
- Washington, DC once
- Guilford, Connecticut four times
- Great Barrington, Massachusetts once
- Lake George, NY Once
- AND we drive 2 hours to the country every weekend in the summer.
Of course we are lucky enough to have relatives in most if not all of these places. This means we are able to save on hotels and restaurants quite a bit. We always fly coach and many of these trips were just the two of us. If we can do it, so can you!
I’m happy to share what’s worked for me so far.
For starters, here is a handy little packing list:
Diapers, wipes, cream, and diaper disposal bags
You should always pack enough of these to last through airport time, flight time, arrival, and check in at hotel or hugs at Grandma’s. Now, add a day’s worth in case your luggage doesn’t turn up. You DO NOT want to run out of diapers while you are on the phone tracking down your stuff. The diaper disposal bags are hygienic (and considerate) when you have a stinky diaper to dispose of.
A folding diaper changer
I have this one, which attaches to my diaper bag or stroller, and holds a few diapers, cream, and wipes. It unfolds to become a changing pad, which means that I can change a diaper anywhere in a pinch. This changer is the number one most useful bit of baby gear I have. I have been using it since Zoë was born and it’s my favorite gift to give to new Moms.
Milk, formula, bottles, food, and healthy snacks
Formula, breast milk, and baby food are usually exempt from the 3oz liquid and gel limit. You must remove these items and present them separately for inspection by TSA agents. Many airlines have cut down on meals and snacks are not always kid friendly so it’s a good idea to prepare a small stash of healthy food. If you do not wish to purchase water after security, bring empty canteens* as well.
Warm sweater, multiple outfits, socks, hat, and extra blanket
The plane is generally quite warm while at the gate, but the cabin temperature generally goes down quite a bit after takeoff. Warm layers that are easy to put on and remove are great! I usually bring 3-4 sets of PJs as well. I dress Zoë in pajamas as they are simple for diaper changes in a small bathroom and don’t take up much room in carryon. You will be ever so glad to have those extra PJs when in flight diaper blowouts or spitup happen. No one has ever explained this to me properly, but for some reason babies and toddlers seem to get diaper blowouts in flight a bunch.
The extra blanket comes into play when your precious baby inevitably drops their blankie on the floor, and you remember that airplane floors are FILTHY.
You should always carry any prescription medicines in your carryon. Also bring a small stash of any necessary OTC remedies like allergy meds, teething remedies, and any products mummy or daddy use. Remember to pack all liquids in a separate plastic Ziploc bag.
4-5 Large Plastic zip lock bags
These have so many uses- the most important one is storing PJs and clothes should they become irredeemably soiled.
Pacifiers and other soothing devices (favorite stuffed animal, blankie, etc…)
If your baby uses a pacifier you should plan on having multiples with you for when they get dirty or if you lose one.
Toys, books, and headphones
At a minimum, I carry special kid’s headphones (they have volume restriction to protect little ears) washable crayons, a coloring book, and a few favorite stuffed animals and books. I usually add a few small toys, books, and games Zoë has never seen and bring them out one at a time during the flight as a surprise when she gets restless. It’s best to avoid any games/toys with small or multiple pieces that can fall and have to be retrieved multiple times.
Baby carrier or wrap
I like the Ergo now that Zoë is bigger because I can carry her easily on my back if need be. Some airlines do not permit you to check your stroller at the gate so this can be very helpful to have. A carrier can also be great to have on hand when travelling so you are not restricted to visiting stroller friendly locales.
Dishes, eating utensils, leak-proof sippy cup, and a bib
Not all of the dishes available on board are appropriate, for toddlers, so it’s best to carry the kind you use at home. I carry mine in a Ziploc bag to keep them clean until needed.
Foldable tote bags
Ever notice how your possessions seem to breed once you get through security?
See the rest of Stephanie’s tips and her rules for Airline Etiquette here.