Traveling with a baby doesn’t have to be complicated. Sure, you’ll need to bring more than you ever did in your pre-child days, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful or involve pounds upon pounds extra gear.

I’ve always preferred a minimalist approach to packing for travel. I even managed to travel carry-on only for a full year, so that’s the energy I brought to packing carry on for my baby.

Here’s your ultimate packing list:

Diaper Bag Backpack

First and foremost your diaper bag matters – like really matters. I spent way too much time researching so that you don’t have to, and ended up picking the Jeep Ultimate Freedom Diaper Bag backpack.

Although it’s not as cute as some of the other bags out there, we cared about comfort, size, and convenience. This bag has 10 pockets, including a wipes pouch on the side that we love the convenience of. It comes with its own changing mat and buckles at the top that easily attach to a stroller.

There’s also an insulated bottle pocket on the other side that fits two of our bottles easily, as well as a hard pocket at the top that works well for a phone. Here’s what we bring:

This all fits well into the backpack. If you’re lucky enough to be able to exclusively breastfeed, you’ll have even more space to work with.

My Favorite Baby Carriers

I have been on a mission since day one to find the best baby carrier for our little guy. I find it much easier to wear him down to push him in a stroller, plus I love the cuddles. He also sleeps very well on the flight when worn. Here’s what we have:

Solly Baby Wrap (10% off!): Especially for younger babies, I love this wrap for the softness, comfort, and the way it distributes the weight so well on my body. I have a 16 lb 3-month old, so this is essential. They are not as quick to put on as the other carriers on this list, though, so I don’t always use it.

ErgoBaby Omni 360: This carrier is comfortable and easy to use, though I didn’t like it with the infant insert we had to use until Felix got a bit older. Now that he fits well without it, it’s much more comfortable. This is Garrett’s preferred carrier.

Artipoppe Zeitgeist: Yes, it’s bougie, but since I didn’t initially love the ErgoBaby and wanted an alternative to the Solly Wrap, I wanted to try this to see if it’s worth the hype. I can vouch it is quite comfortable, and I love the prints (I can send you a discount code via email as well).

How to Handle the Stroller and Carseat

How much to bring through the airport with you is the great debate.

Your options are:

  • Bring a carseat and stroller with you all the way to the gate and check them there.
  • Bring the carseat onboard and buckle it in (requires buying baby their own seat).
  • Check the carseat and stroller, or just check the carseat and gate check the stroller.

What will maintain your sanity, and how much do you trust that a checked stroller or carseat won’t get trashed? Personally I would rather wear my baby through the airport (recommended baby carriers in the next section) than push him in a stroller.

I also prefer to check the carseat since we don’t buy Felix his own seat (yet).

At home we have the Nuna Pipa Lite, which I chose due to the light weight, the ease of snapping it into the stroller, the safety ratings, their focus on nontoxic materials, and the matching stroller. UPPAbaby is very similar, and we use a hand-me-down UPPAbaby Mesa carseat when we travel to keep our at-home carseat in good working condition.

Our matching Nuna stroller we bought used, and can use an adapter for when we travel with the UPPAbaby carseat, so I’m more willing to take my chances on checking it as well. I would feel differently if we traveled with our at-home carseat and paid full price for the stroller.

If you possibly can, ask a friend for a carseat that’s still in great working condition and buy a secondhand stroller, store them in travel bags, which you can also buy secondhand on Mercari or eBay (or buy new here), and check them as luggage. They will not count against your checked baggage allowance on most airlines.

If you don’t have a travel bag, they can also wrap them in plastic bags, if they have them. That said this is not ideal, as but they often rip, provide no actual protection, and we do all we can to reduce using single-use plastic.

Dealing with TSA

Plan on it taking a bit more time to get through TSA pre-check when you have baby gear with you, especially if you’re bringing liquids with you to feed your little one. They will almost always need you to take it out so that they can perform extra checks. Keep in mind they are not allowed to insert anything into the sterile liquid, though they might need some reminding of this fact.

You can wear your baby through the metal detector, though you’ll have to remove them from the stroller.

I hope this packing list helped simplify your carry-on situation when traveling with your baby. It takes a little bit of extra effort and gear, but it’s totally doable!

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