Ever heard the saying, “I need a vacation from the vacation?” This is kinda like that 🙂 Our first trip with Nora was a big success, but it didn’t come without its challenges. No longer can we sleep well into the morning, have zero responsibilities by the pool or bar hop into the wee hours of the night. (That last one cracks me up…can’t even tell you the last time I did that even before having a kid ha!).
I get it. Packing for your baby, especially the first few times, can be daunting. You’ll want to bring the entire house (don’t), but babies don’t need much! I promise. You’ll be tempted to pack the baby bouncer, the play mat, all the books…it’s just not necessary. I did a complete packing list for bringing a baby to the beach here, so check it out for summer ease!
Diaper Bag: We don’t leave home without our beloved diaper bag. I feel like Mary Poppins with this thing in the best way. I can pack everything we need in here, and somehow it still never feels super heavy! I love that it comes with an attached changing pad, too. P.S. Don’t forget a change of clothes for baby AND you inside. See my diaper bag packing list here.
Carry-Ons: I’ve traded my AWAY carry-on for a baby, a diaper bag and the Doona ha! Sometimes I feel like moms deserve 3 hands…and yet somehow I still have a shoulder to carry my handbag…my one allotted personal item.
Doona: Gosh we love this thing. I get asked about it all the time, and YES. It’s worth it! Doesn’t get more convenient than a carseat transforming into a stroller in a matter of seconds. What’s also amazing is that we don’t need to travel with the base, either. It can easily be installed in ubers/ride shares/rental cars using the seatbelt. I’ve become quite the pro! Also know that you can almost always check a stroller and a car seat for free (most airlines) up to a certain amount of weight. We like to gate-check the Doona (in a travel bag) because we love using it during connections and right off the plane at our destination. I’d recommend traveling with a light muslin swaddle blanket to throw over the top to act as a sun or privacy shade.
Medium AWAY suitcase//extended trips: I used my medium Away suitcase for Nora while in Hawaii/LA for 13 days. It was the perfect size for all her clothes, extra formula, burp clothes, carriers, sun shade, travel bassinet, etc. I used these packing cubes for organization ease. A key takeaway from that trip – if you have access to a washer/dryer, you’ll need way less clothes, sleepers, burp clothes, etc. Also know that you can source bulky items when you get to where you’re going (hi, diapers).
Large AWAY suitcase//weekend trips: When we traveled to NYC and LA (separate trips), I packed Nora in one side of my large AWAY suitcase and myself in the other side. It works out perfectly for space. If we’re away for 2-3 nights, trying to wheel multiple suitcases for baby, myself and partner PLUS any carry-ons and a stroller/car seat can be A LOT. While I used to pack in an easy carry-on for weekend trips by myself, I don’t mind having to check one suitcase between the two of us now. It frees up space so that I can focus on Nora, the diaper bag and the Doona.
Ticketing: Children under 2 can fly for free, but they’ll definitely need to be added to your ticket as a lap infant. This can be done when booking online or by calling the airline ahead of time. If you get into a situation where for some reason they disappear from your reservation (like Nora did for our LA trip), they can be added at the counter at check-in. Her name was added to my boarding pass on most occasions, and she was printed her own boarding pass for one particular flight. So mad I didn’t keep that for the memory book…but alas, traveling with a baby can get hectic. Papers go missing. You get it.
TSA: I had no idea what to expect on our first journey through security. If you’re taking a stroller/car seat through, the agents will have you take the baby out and carry them through the metal detector after placing all your items on the belt. Again, moms need 3 hands 🙂 I was thankful to have Alex or my mom with me during these trips! To the solo traveling parent: I bow down. Know that you can also wear your baby through security as well (I love the Solly Baby Wrap) if they like being wrapped. Nora is a very active participant and wants to see ALL the action. Until she can be forward facing in a wrap, it’s the Doona or our arms for that little one! As for formula, water (bottled or in a canister) and breast milk, TSA is usually pretty great about all of these. You can take them through security no problem – but they might get flagged and need to be tested real quick.
Helpful reminder: Get to the airport early. I’ve always been that person who strolls onto the plane right before the boarding door closes. It will do lots to calms your nerves and anxiety if you have extra time at the airport with a baby.
Boarding: Most airlines (hi to everyone except American Airlines ugh) allow families to board early. I’m grateful for that because WE NEED IT! First we have to transform the stroller to the car seat before putting it in the travel bag. Gate checking it always requires a gate-checked tag, too, which the gate agents do before we drop it off in the jet bridge. Getting situated on the plane takes a hot second, and if for some reason we have to be without the diaper bag (bulkhead seats usually have to have all items in the overhead bin) then we’ll need the imperative items with us in the seat. Otherwise I always feel most comfortable when it’s within reach. Nora seems extra thirsty on planes, so we’re always needing to make sure we have some formula made and ready to go for take-off in case her ears bother her. Sucking on a bottle gives a bit of relief. Same goes for landing, too! Then there are times when she’s fast asleep because the airplane mimics her favorite white noise machine…and you really can’t ask for more than that 🙂
Diaper changes: Almost every plane we’ve been on has had changing tables that fold down over the toilets. They aren’t great, but they’ll do in a pinch. Our very first plane was so small that it actually didn’t have a changing table in the restroom. It just wasn’t possible, and the size of that bathroom should be illegal anyways. In those situations, I would have just changed her in our seat because what else can ya do?! I know some people have used the floor before…and to each their own. Because the diaper bag is a little too big for airplane bathrooms, I either have a small clutch ready to go or quickly grab a diaper, wipes and portable changing pad (we use this thing *everywhere*) and head to the bathroom. I may throw in a change of clothes next time because on our last plane ride, we could’ve used one 😉 Which leads me to suggest packing doggie bags for moments like these! They work like a charm for anything from a blowout onesie to wet bathing suits.
Helpful tips: Pack a few items in the diaper bag to stimulate baby on the flight. Nora loved this book and this teether toy. If you need to get up from your seat to bounce/walk the baby up and down the aisle, don’t be afraid to do it. Babies cry, and everyone knows that. Most passengers will be super kind, ooing and ahhing over baby, ready to give unsolicited advice at any given moment. Don’t forget to be ready to feed or nurse on take-off and landing…if baby isn’t sleeping, of course! And if you really want to go the extra mile, pack some goodie bags for the passengers (and flight attendants!) around you with things like a cute note, ear plugs, mints, chocolates, etc. Then order yourself a drink 🙂
Baggage claim: We wheeled Nora in the Doona straight to baggage claim where, again, I was grateful to have another travel buddy! Between the 3 of us in Hawaii, we had 3 big suitcases, a baby in a stroller/car seat, a diaper bag, my purse and Alex’s backpack with all his gear. I think we did well, and all of those things are typically packed to the brim 🙂 Sometimes it felt like we had everything under control while other times, we were running to catch a flight/shuttle/tram. I’m glad we came organized and ready for whatever came our way. If you’re traveling solo, don’t be afraid to grab one of those trolleys to give you a helping hand.
Rental car: Once we landed in Maui, we made our way towards the rental car pick-up. They only had bigger SUVs available which ended up costing us more, but in the end, a bigger car was a GODSEND. More space meant more room for the car seat, for diaper changes and for spreading out. After 10 days traveling around the island, I was SO glad to have it. The extra money spent was worth it with a baby in my opinion. We also enjoyed not having to travel with the Doona base because the car seat can easily be installed with the seatbelt in the rental!
The hotel: Many hotels will have cribs for your baby to sleep in, but just be sure to ask ahead of time so you know the situation. We traveled to Hawaii with this travel bassinet, and it was perfect for the nights after we checked out of the hotel and into an Airbnb. It seems like a lot of people rent gear at their destination in order to cut down on travel items (SO smart), and I’ve heard amazing things about this provider! It will let you know how many people are renting gear and exactly what kind of gear at your destination. I’ve seen everything from the Snoo bassinet to beach gear to cribs to toys to baby bouncers and beyond.
Coming back from Hawaii, we missed our last flight home due to bad weather in Denver. We had to check into a hotel late at night and couldn’t receive our bags. While it was overwhelming to be without any luggage for Nora, we survived. I was grateful that we had enough formula (I will never not pack a full can on the plane) and that I packed a change of clothes for her in the diaper bag. The hotel provided a crib, and we washed bottles in the sink that night. We did the best we could with what we had, and it was enough.
I was nervous heading into our first travel day with Nora. It was, after all, a 12 hour day! My best friend told me beforehand that the hardest part is all the lead-up. The packing, the anxiety, the worrying, etc. She was right. The travel day(s) itself was great. If you’re organized, relaxed and go without any expectations, you’ll not only survive but also have a lot of fun, hopefully! I’m a firm believer that our children feed off of our energy. If you’re cool, calm and collected, they’ll feel that. If you’re a ball of sweaty nerves, they’ll know. Give yourself some grace, put on your big girl panties, and off you go! Don’t let fear hold you back.
Remember…one day your baby won’t be a baby anymore. How incredible is it to get this opportunity to travel with them when they’re so little?! Now go make some memories!