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How to Travel Carry-on Only With a Baby

I figured that once the baby arrived OF COURSE we would start checking bags. On our first trip, my husband insisted “just try” to pack carry-on only. Our little one is now 13 months old and we’ve flown 7 round trips and still have not checked bags (with the exception of skis). Wondering how we have done it? Here’s the rundown….

If you often check a bag for your own stuff on trips under 10 days, this post is not for you. This is not a remedial class in traveling light, you need to at least have some basic skills on making good packing choices. This also assumes that your baby is in an infant car seat (I haven’t figured out how to do this with a convertible car seat yet, so if you have, let me know).


Luggage Items

  • Backpack for the baby - Most airlines allow one additional carry-on item for a baby, even a lap infant without a ticket, if TSA or an airline agent stops you to ask, this is the baby’s bag. We have the Quicksilver Daddy Day bag and it's big enough to fit everything your baby will need (you wear this through the airport)

  • Laptop or shoulder bag for you - I recommend a Longchamps bag, especially if you find you don’t need it for the way there, it folds up very small and fits inside another bag (You throw this on your shoulder or under the stroller through the airport)

  • 1 rolling suitcase for you (Your partner rolls this through the airport for you)

  • 1 rolling suitcase for your adult travel partner (Your partner also rolls this one)

  • Optional laptop or shoulder bag for your partner - My husband can’t travel without his laptop, so this is not optional for us (your partner carries this)

  • Optional stroller and carseat combination - When our baby was really little, we would travel with our uppababy cruz and only the stroller chassis and pop the car seat on top, then we would use that as the stroller for the trip. Once she got a bit older, there was zero chance she would sit in that as a stroller, so we bought the mountain buggy nano, which is a ultra light stroller that holds an infant car seat (you push this through the airport and gate check both items)

I strongly recommend bringing the stroller and car seat right up to the gate, since it’s very easy to gate check both. Always ask the gate agent if there’s an empty seat available. You might luck out and be able to bring your car seat onto the plane for your baby.


Strategy Tips:

  • All the baby’s stuff goes into the backpack. I promise, if you have the same bag we use, you can fit everything in there.

  • Only bring as many diapers as you’ll need to get there (+50% in case of emergency), order the rest to be delivered to your destination or pick up from the grocery store

  • Use the crib or pack n play at the hotel or order one in advance. We have bought this one for $49.99 on amazon. Cheaper than renting. Bring a sheet from home if you’re worried that your baby won’t sleep well in a strange crib.

  • If you’re nursing and need to pump, I recommend bringing only a hand pump. It’s annoying as hell, but the regular pump is heavy and enormous

  • Also, if your nursing, forgo the nursing cover and just tie a muslin blanket around your neck

  • If your baby is mobile and overly active (I’d put our daughter at a 9/10 on the squirmy scale) do yourself a big favor and BUY THEM A SEAT. You will not regret it.


Sample packing lists

Baby packing list (12 month old, 7 day trip, summer):

Baby Backpack:

  • ☐7 onesies/jumpers

  • ☐4 pairs pants

  • ☐2 pairs shorts

  • ☐2 sweaters

  • ☐3 pajamas

  • ☐2 pairs shoes

  • ☐2 sun hats

  • ☐1 bathing suit

  • ☐Sunscreen

  • ☐Bug repellent

  • ☐20 diapers

  • ☐Lots of extra wipes packs

  • ☐1 sleep sack

  • ☐Lovey

  • ☐4 pacifiers

  • ☐Monitor

  • ☐Tylenol

  • ☐Nosefrida snot sucker

  • ☐Travel thermometer

  • ☐Nail clippers

  • ☐Laptop

  • ☐Laptop charger

  • ☐Bib

  • ☐2 spoons

  • ☐2 bottles

Carry-on shoulder bag:

  • ☐2 books

  • ☐3 small toys

  • ☐2 pacifiers + clip

  • ☐Snacks (blueberries, 4 pouches, crackers, cheese)

  • ☐Cup with milk

  • ☐Kindle fire (for me to read when she falls asleep, also loaded with videos)

  • ☐iPhone charger

  • ☐Medications bag

Baby packing list (3 month old, 5 day trip, fall)

Baby Backpack:

  • ☐5 onesies

  • ☐3 pairs pants

  • ☐2 sweaters

  • ☐3 pairs socks

  • ☐2 sleep sacks

  • ☐3 footie pajamas

  • ☐3 burp cloths

  • ☐20 diapers

  • ☐Wipes packages

  • ☐Diaper cream

  • ☐2 pacifiers

  • ☐Monitor

  • ☐Milk storage bags

  • ☐1 flannel blanket

  • ☐1 muslin blanket

  • ☐Nosefrida snotsucker

  • ☐Tylenol

  • ☐Travel thermometer

  • ☐2 milk bottles with caps

  • ☐2 bottles with nipples

  • ☐Laptop

  • ☐Laptop charger

Shoulder bag:

  • ☐2 burp cloths

  • ☐2 pacifiers with pacifier clip

  • ☐Hand pump

  • ☐2 Bottles with caps

  • ☐2 Dr. Browns nipples

  • ☐1 muslin blanket

  • ☐Kindle fire

  • ☐iPhone charger

  • ☐Medications bag

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