Traveling with kids: How to travel with baby gear
Parenting & Family,  Traveling

Traveling with Kids: How to Travel with Baby Gear


How to manage the airport with car seats, strollers, and more.

Less is more. Always. There are so many logistics that go into traveling with kids. Do you need a car seat when you reach your final destination? What about a stroller? If you’re traveling with a baby, you’ve got diapers to worry about, too! My constant reminder of “less is more” has taken us from being overrun with baby gear, to just the essentials: how to travel with baby gear.

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How to travel with baby gear

I’m going to break down this guide by type of gear and compare the pros, cons, and additional options for each!

If you need more packing tips, check out my posts on minimalist travel!

Car seats

Why you need a car seat for air travel

There are a few situations that may require you to travel with a car seat.

One, you need a car seat at your destination. If you plan on renting a car or borrowing from friends or family when you reach your destination, you will need a car seat for each child.

Two, you purchased a seat on the airplane for your baby or child and would prefer if they were as safe as possible in a car seat. In the U.S., lap children fly for free under 2 years old, but if you prefer to purchase a ticket for your baby to have more space, then bringing a car seat is a necessity.

Pros

Flying with a car seat for your child can offer several benefits. You have flexibility with car arrangements when you bring your own car seat. You can rent a car, drive with friends or family, or even put your car seat in an Uber or shuttle.

One of the biggest logistical nightmares of traveling with a baby or toddler is planning transportation around car seats. By bringing your own, you take the guesswork out of your travel plans.

Another big, big (BIG) pro is using the car seat on the flight- especially for babies and toddlers. It’s hard to hold babies for a long flight. Trust me…we flew back from the UK to Chicago on a red-eye with a 4-month-old and no bassinet or car seat. 0 stars, I do not recommend it.

Yes, car seats are the safest option, but they are also incredibly convenient. You have a comfortable and familiar place to put your baby or toddler that allows you to be hands-free.

Also, have you flown with a squirmy toddler? Having our car seats for our 2-year-old twins was a literal lifesaver. You can buckle them in, give them their snacks or activities, and not have to worry about them wiggling out of their seat belts or standing up and jumping in their seats (both of which I have also experienced).

Flying with car seats

Cons

With most of the baby gear, the biggest con is maneuvering through the airport, security, and getting on the airplane. Here are a few tips to make it slightly easier.

Car Seat Tips

Bungee cord your car seat to your carry-on roller bag. You free up your arms and don’t have to figure out a super-awkward car seat carry while you’re dealing with everything else.

Traveling with car seats

Let your kid play in the car seat while you’re killing time at your gate. Car seats that are not buckled into a car or plane were always my kids’ favorite things to play with. They would tip them over, practice buckling and unbuckling the belts, put their babies and blankets in there, and just sit and chill while we waited for boarding to start.

Ask to board the plane first. Normally, I would never do this. I hate being the first one on the plane just to sit there and wait for another 25 minutes while everyone else boards. But when it comes to installing a car seat on a plane, you definitely want to do it with very few people around you.

If you have access to multiple car seats in your household, bring the lightest, most compact one. It will just make everything easier to transport and install. We use these when we travel.

Other options

If you don’t want to travel with a car seat, I totally understand. We’ve done plenty of trips without car seats, even with young children. The best option if you find yourself in need of a car seat when you get to your destination is to rent one.

If you’re renting a car, rental car companies will usually have the option to rent you a car seat for an extra $10 or $15 a day. If you’re using Turo to rent a car, there is also an option to request a car seat for an extra fee.

As a last resort, call a taxi company. You can request a taxi with a car seat at no additional fee, but check the installation when the taxi arrives. Also, in all of these situations, you will have to specify if you need an infant car seat.

Strollers

Why you would need a stroller

To be honest, most parents don’t even give it a second thought. If you’re traveling with young children, you’re bringing a stroller.

Pros

Convenience is the biggest pro. A stroller is like a home base when you’re traveling. Not only is your child probably sitting in it, but you’ve got bags draped over it, extra diapers stashed in the basket underneath, snacks for later, and everyone’s drinks in the cup holders.

When you’re rushing through the airport at 5 AM, you don’t have to worry about your toddler keeping up pace with you because he’s probably passed out from the constant motion and white noise of the airport.

Airport with triple stroller

Wherever you’re traveling to, there’s probably walking, shopping, or sightseeing involved and for all of those instances, a stroller will come in handy.

Cons

The cons to strollers come down to the logistics of your stroller at the airport. Check-in with luggage or gate-check? Do you have to fold it down when you go through security and stuff it through the belt? How do I even gate-check something?

Stroller Tips

In my opinion, what’s the point of bringing a stroller to the airport if you’re not going to take full advantage of it until you’re on the plane?

A stroller is a way to corral all your things and contain your toddler during those iffy wait times. So skip the luggage check and opt for gate check.

Security
Going through security is usually any person’s nightmare. Add baby gear to the mix, stressed-out parents, and whiny kids and you’ve got the perfect storm.

I will always 100% recommend TSA pre-check. Yes, it costs money for the adults and you have to plan ahead with a background check and paperwork, but it is so worth it when you’re traveling with kids.

You don’t have to remove shoes, sweaters/hoodies, take electronics out of your bag, or toiletries. The lines are much shorter and generally, people are in a much better mood.

Do strollers have to be collapsed? Maybe. We’ve seen it both ways. When we travel with our triple stroller, they usually just take it to the side and wipe it down and do their tests on it. When we travel with anything that looks like it’s easily collapsible, it goes through the belt just like our bags.

Either way, everything must be removed from the stroller before going through security so we have a rule that we don’t use it to store anything until after the security point. Nothing goes in the cup holders, pockets, or basket! This rule makes things so much simpler.

At the gate
Once your boarding time is getting closer, you’ll need to go to the person working the desk and let them know you have a gate-check item. They’ll ask for your boarding pass and they’ll put a tag on your stroller and give you the corresponding number or barcode.

I highly recommend a gate-check bag for your stroller because I’ve seen how roughly they’re handled and I’ve had friends with multiple broken stroller parts! We have these two and use both regularly.

Once you’re in line to board, pack up your stroller. They may take it right after they scan your boarding pass or you may have to carry it down toward where you enter the plane.

When you arrive at your destination and get off the plane, wait right at the exit of the plane for your stroller. Don’t get into the airport and realize you have to go back and get it while all the other passengers are walking directly at you.

Other options

If for whatever reason you decide not to travel with a stroller, there are ways to rent or borrow.

If you’re visiting a major tourist attraction like Universal or Disney, they have stroller rentals at the parks.

If you’re visiting friends or family, ask if they can arrange to lend you one or borrow from someone they know during your trip.

You can also check Facebook marketplace or Craigslist before your trip and plan to purchase something used and inexpensive when you arrive. I’ve had someone from out of state purchase a Pack-N-Play from me on the first day of her trip and then leave it with her family for the next time they visit. Get creative!

Baby carrier

Baby carriers can be essential during travel. Don’t overlook these while you’re planning your next trip!

Why you need a baby carrier

To me, baby carriers are in the same boat as strollers. If you have one and use one at home, why wouldn’t you bring one when you travel?

Pros

Baby carriers are often very lightweight and can be packed up easily, unlike other baby gear. They offer a safe place for your baby to sleep or hang out while keeping your hands free on your flight, while traveling through the airport, or during your stay.

Cons

The biggest con to baby-wearing on a flight is finding the right fit in a cramped space. If it takes some maneuvering to get your baby comfortable in a carrier, perfecting this in your tiny airplane seat may be a little frustrating.

Other options

Baby slings are a great option for those that are not sure if they need to travel with their baby carrier. They are much more compact but offer the same benefit of being hands-free while cuddling, comforting, feeding, or just walking around with your baby.

Hiking in Hawaii with my one year old in his baby sling

When we traveled to Hawaii with our one-year-old, this sling took us to the beach, dinner, and walking around Honolulu without the need for a stroller.

I used this sling, but there are lots of options

Multi-function child gear

As anyone that travels with babies or kids knows, there is always something that could be made even more convenient for parents. That’s where these come in!

Doona

We got a Doona for my son when he was 3 months old and he used that thing until he was 2! I still think it is the greatest invention, especially if you are a family that travels frequently.

The Doona is a car seat that has wheels. Or a stroller that turns into a car seat… however you want to say it, it is so damn convenient. When you’re using it in your everyday car, you can install a base for easy snap-in-place placement, but while traveling you can just as safely use it without the base in any vehicle.

Car seat pulley

This is basically a dolly that you can attach the car seat to and then let your child sit in the car seat while you lug them around the airport. It folds up so it can be stored under your airplane seat or in the overhead compartment.

I’m not sure how I feel about these but that’s probably because I’ve never used them. We have three kids and not enough arms to pull them through the airport in these! The reviews are pretty good as long as your car seat model fits the pulley.

Kids Ride-On Suitcase

If you’re not bringing a car seat or a stroller and instead want to chase your kid down through the airport, I imagine this is what you will want. I think the novelty of it is really cute, but I try to imagine dealing with this at the airport and I think my head would explode.

What do you think? Could your kids manage that? Do you have any tips for traveling with baby or toddler gear that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

For more travel posts, check out these:

Minimalist Packing Tips: How to Travel Like A Minimalist
Traveling with Kids: How to Pack Your Child’s Travel Bag in 5 Steps
How to Pack: Mom’s Minimalist Travel Backpack

How to travel with baby gear

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