Not really a baby, not quite a toddler: from 14-22 months is about the toughest time to be traveling with a little one (or at least so I’ve read).
And from our experience so far, I can definitely agree. So much has changed since the days of flying with Evelyn as an infant, sleeping soundly through an entire flight.
Flying with a 1 year old is tricky. Evelyn’s become increasingly curious and wanting to explore all of her surroundings (that includes every seat at the gate, under the seat on the plane, in the aisles, etc…). Throw in a desire for independence and being all-around less easily entertained, and sitting quietly in an airplane seat for 3 hours can be pure torture.
So after a couple of disastrous plane rides trying to apply the same routine we’d used when Evelyn was a baby, we realized it was time to change our game plan. And that almost exclusively meant repacking our carry on.
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First up, pick a trusty travel bag.
Before you even think about what to pack, you’ll want to make sure you have a good quality bag to put it in. I made the official switch from baby bag to backpack just after Evelyn’s first birthday. And while I miss having my crossbody bag at my side, it’s so much easier to carry the backpack and Evelyn in the ErgoBaby at the same time, leaving my hands free to move around our other luggage. You can find some great options for stylish, yet affordable, backpacks here!
If you’re not into the whole backpack thing, this roomy weekender bag would also do the trick.
Alright, so now to the fun stuff, what to actually put inside the bag.
Here’s a few of our favorite items that go in on every trip!
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Starting out with essentials, you’ll pack mostly the same stuff as for a baby, but slightly adapted if there’s no more bottles needed (woohoo!). I still always pack:
- Diapers | I pack about 8-9 for a travel day (ours tend to be pretty long), and that includes plenty extra to be on the safe side.
- Wipes & Travel Case | I’ve switched over to this case from Huggies and really like it’s expandable/refillable design.
- WetOnes | These babies still get used all the time. Especially for cleaning up airplane tray tables or spills.
- Dirty Diaper Bags | Like these from Munchkin.
- Extra Set of Clothes | I haven’t needed a spare change of clothes for Evelyn in a long time, but I’m not jinxing it now.
- Sippy Cup | After trying a few different brands, we’ve stuck with these from Munchkin. They’re pretty good about not leaking, as long as they don’t get flipped upside down in your bag. Anyone have a leak-proof sippy cup recommendation you swear by?
- Dropper Stopper | For holding that sippy cup close (or whatever else Evelyn feels like playing with/dropping at the moment). I never leave home without my Dropper Stopper.
- Cooler Bag & Whole Milk | This is where we had to change things up since Evelyn’s off the formula and onto big kid milk now. We will usually fill up a sippy with milk, and bring another one of those mini bottles of whole milk with us in a cooler bag lined with these slim ice packs. It gets us through the day, and if we need more, we can usually (though not always) find whole milk for sale in the airport.
Side note: I tried bringing these milk cartons on our last trip (since I’d read they work great for traveling – no refrigeration needed!). But the TSA flagged us and said we couldn’t bring them through since their sealed opaque carton makes them impossible to be tested. I think I may try them again the next time we fly, since they are so darn convenient. It wouldn’t be the first time the TSA has lacked consistency in how they handle baby items. Anyone have a different experience with these?
The one downside to using a backpack is that everything tends to kind of get stuffed on top of each other. That’s where good organization comes in handy! After searching for a nice, slim lunchbox for Evelyn’s snacks, I finally settled on a plain old craft organizer like this one. Now I get why these “toddler snack boxes” are all over Pinterest! It may seem lame, but with its slim size, customizable dividers, and snap on lid, it’s perfect for toting a variety of snacks on the plane! Here’s what usually goes inside:
- Squeeze Pouches | It’s a struggle to get Evelyn good, nutritional food when we’re traveling, so having a few of these is always a blessing (plus she loves to squeeze them herself, so less work for us)!
- Bananas | Because it’s one of the few natural foods that is super travel friendly! We always have nanas.
- Cereal | We store it in a snack size baggie so it will fit in the snack box, but Evelyn could entertain herself for hours picking one Cheerio at a time out of this snack cup (even if half of said Cheerios end up on the floor of the plane).
- Granola Bars | We’re big fans of these from Ella’s Kitchen.
- Real Fruit Gummies | Also a great little bribe…I mean…treat…
Finding entertainment is the toughest part of flying with kids at this age. All of our tried and true baby toys basically became useless after Evelyn’s first birthday! There are a couple staples we have kept:
- Books | Always a favorite. Either this First Words book with lots of pictures, or these mini Sesame Street books.
- Music Toy | Why this thing continues to amaze and stop a tantrum on sight, I’ll never know, but I’m not questioning it!
And instead of other toys, we’ve moved over to loading the iPad (protected by this super indestructable case) with children’s shows and (semi-educational) games. I’m not ashamed to say it – nothing makes Evelyn a better traveler than some Bubble Guppies. For TV shows we use Amazon Prime because you can download episodes ahead of time to watch later on the plane (a feature not available on a lot of other streaming services). You can try it out for yourself with a free Amazon Prime 30-day trial.
Side Note: Did you know you can put your iPad into a “childproof mode” so that they can’t use any of the buttons or the touchscreen? Ok, maybe you knew that already, but I was just amazed and it has changed our lives! Here’s a full tutorial.
Of course, there are a still little things I have to have on hand at all times (I am a mom, after all). We use travel-size versions of all of these and keep them stored away in a quart size bag. They fit neatly into the front pocket of my backpack so they can be easily removed at security.
- Diaper Rash Cream
- Nail Clipper
- A few Bandaids
- Infant Tylenol
- Adult Pain Reliever
- Hand Sanitizer
And finally, I have a nice outside pocket for all of my stuff. Not much, but it makes it easy to grab what we need when checking into our flights.
- Small Wallet with ID | I really love this cell phone wallet; it fits much easier into the bag than my oversized everyday one, and at the same time forces me to downsize to only what I absolutely need when traveling (i.e. not a million store rewards cards).
- Baby’s Birth Certificate | It may or may not be needed depending on the airline and if you are buying a seat for baby – but I like to always have it on hand anyway.
- Pen | My husband is always appreciative when it comes time to fill out those customs forms.
- Earbuds | On the off chance that your little one might actually fall asleep, take in some music or an audiobook.
- Cell Phone | (obvi)
And that’s it!
Did I forget anything? What do you always pack in your carry on for your ‘toddler baby’?
Read next: 50+ Ways to Occupy a Toddler on an Airplane
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