Going anywhere with a baby or toddler requires a certain level of planning, forethought and, dare I say it, courage. It isn’t always easy, particularly as the smallest person in your travelling band invariably has the most stuff. Putting together the perfect carry on ‘survival kit’ is crucial. There’s no room for any superfluous objects. Every item must serve at least one important function (and it’s even better if they multitask!).
We’ve been flying with our bub since she was about 3 months’ old. In that time I have road-tested and refined our survival kit and come up with this list of 11 “must-haves” that make flying with our daughter so much easier and enjoyable. This is my list, but I’d love to hear yours! Please comment below about those magic items you simply can’t fly without!
1. An amazing ‘nappy’ bag
My everyday nappy bag is great for throwing in the back of the car and hanging off the pram, but isn’t the easiest to wear or carry when also lugging a baby around with me. Instead I’ve taken to using my Lowepro sling camera bag, which is comfy and durable with an expandable main compartment that fits all of our ‘survival kit’ items along with my SLR camera. Go for a similar cross-body bag or small backpack with plenty of internal and external pockets. That way you’ll know exactly where everything is and won’t end up rummaging around in frustration for that one thing you need (which somehow always ends up in the very bottom of the bag!).
2. Baby carrier
Strap bub into a baby carrier for check-in, immigration and getting on and off the plane. Hands remain free to juggle passports, while curious crawlers and toddlers won’t be able to do a runner while you’re not looking. A carrier also comes in handy when trying to get bub to sleep on the flight, keeping them tucked in nice and snug against you. When our babe was younger we used the the Hugabub fabric carrier (though most of my mum friends are totally in love with the stylish Chekoh wraps, which are definitely on my lust list for baby number 2!). These days we use our Ergobaby carrier which is lightweight, comfortable and folds up easily after use.
3. Wipes, nappies and nappy cream
It’s pretty darn obvious, but pack plenty of nappies, wipes and cream. Take more than you think you need – there’s every chance your flight could be delayed or re-routed and the last thing you want is to run out. It wouldn’t be pretty…
If you want to make your life a bit easier you can pre-pack a few ziplock bags each with a nappy and a few wipes inside, so you can simply grab one each time baby needs a change.
4. Snacks and water bottle (or sterilised bottles and formula if baby isn’t eating solids yet. Or if you’re still breastfeeding, lucky you, that’s one less thing to pack!)
Pack a range of tasty snacks and, for the same reasons outlined above definitely take more than you think you will need. If your trip involves multiple flights and layovers, pre-pack snacks into ziplock bags so you can whip them out one at a time whenever your little person starts getting hangry. My recommendations? Rice crackers, plain popcorn, sultanas, a couple of squeezy pouches per flight (we like Bellamy’s and Only Organics), and Bellamy’s freeze-dried apple snacks (these are awesome! They sort of dissolve in baby’s mouth and aren’t chewy like regular dried apple).
5. An iPhone /iPad or similar
This is a bit of a controversial one, particularly if you subscribe to the school of thought which believes that screen time before 2 years of age is a big no-no. We don’t typically let our daughter watch TV but my mantra for flying with a baby is “whatever works!” So load up your iPhone or an iPad with educational videos and songs (for us it’s The Wiggles, Playschool and Peppa Pig) and pull it out whenever baby starts to lose it or if you need a five minute break to eat your meal or regather your mental strength. It doesn’t have to be all about the baby either – I upload a heap of ebooks and magazines so I can catch up on my reading while bub is asleep.
5. A favourite toy and/or book
Take your babe’s favourite book – preferably one that’s light/thin and won’t drive you crazy if you have to read it five thousand times. Depending on their age and preference, you might also pack one favourite doll or fluffy toy, a ball, toy cars or crayons and a notepad. No need to go crazy though as your little one is just as likely to be fascinated by the inflight safety card, seatbelt and other plane paraphernalia. Ours spends ages playing with all of that stuff. We’ve also taken to packing a small wallet or purse filled with all of our old shopping loyalty cards, business cards and other bits and bobs – she will happily sit there for (what seems like) hours pulling everything out piece by piece, throwing it on the floor and then attempting to put it all back in again!
6. Stretchy cotton or muslin wrap
It’s a feeding cover; a blanket; a makeshift blockout curtain for when bub is sleeping. Don’t even think about it – take one in your carry on.
7. Spare clothes
No one likes getting pooped or peed on at the best of times. When it happens at 36,000 ft in front of a room full of strangers, it’s way worse. Pack at least one spare set of clothes for you and for baby just in case disaster strikes.
8. A couple of plastic bags
Very handy for storing any soiled clothing, rubbish and nappies.
9. Sleeping bag and PJs
If it’s a longer flight or due to coincide with your baby or toddler’s regular sleep time, help send them off to sleep by tucking them into their sleeping bag and/or pajamas. The sense of familiarity will help them settle and stay warm while they snooze.
10. Hand sanitiser or antibacterial wipes
Useful for maintaining germ-free hands after nappy changes as well as cleaning arm rests, tray tables and any other hard surfaces that your little one’s mouth or hands will inevitably come into contact with.
11. A small, thin pillow
OK so this one probably isn’t a “must-have” but it will make your flight much easier to bear. If you suspect pillows and blankets won’t be supplied onboard, consider taking a small cushion (or blanket or jumper that you can fold into shape) and use it to support baby’s weight while they sleep on you. We take a little pillow my grandma gave me when I was a baby – our baby sleeps comfortably on top it, while I don’t end up suffering from fatigued arms and a sore back from holding onto her. It’s so much more comfortable, meaning this mama can get some sleep too!
So now I’ve told you my list of “must-have” items for flying with a baby or toddler, tell me yours! What are some of the things you can’t live without when flying with your little ones? What essential items make up your carry on survival kit?