8 Tips for Travelling Carry-on Only with a Baby

I recently took a five-day trip to Chicago with my sister and my 10 month old son. We had a peachy time visiting our sister and brother-in-law. I had been excited for the trip weeks in advance, but the idea of flying with the baby was less than appealing. Now that we’re home, decompressed and our suitcases are at least 50% unpacked, I feel I’ve gained some wisdom about the whole thing. On the way to Chicago, my son was calmer and better behaved than most of the adults on the flight. The way home was kind of like having to restrain a giant sea bass trying to get back to water, BUT, I was prepared for that!

I had set a goal for myself to travel carry-on only for this trip. It was definitely a challenge, but totally doable! The perks are obvious – you save money by not checking a bag, and it’s one less bag you have to drag behind you while trying to push a stroller.

Here are my 8 best tips for travelling carry-on only with your baby:

1. Use packing cubes

Not only are these dollar store packing cubes great for organizing stuff within your suitcase, they force you to cram as much as you can in a small space. I used one for the baby’s clothes and one for a portable diaper changing kit.


2. Pack a capsule wardrobe

The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is that it includes only essential items, and everything is in coordinating colours. This makes it simple to swap items out and cuts down on the amount of clothing you need to bring. I went for a blue/orange/grey theme for my son’s travel clothes. Everything pretty well matches with everything else.

Can you do laundry at your destination? If so, you can pack much lighter. Also, keep in mind the weather forecast, and what clothing you and baby will need for any planned activities.


3. Create a portable changing kit

A grab-and-go diaper changing kit will make your life SO much easier while flying and schlepping through airports. You’ll want to include diapers and wipes (more than you think you’ll need), a full change of clothes,  a wet bag, small plastic bags and a change pad. Some airplane washrooms don’t have a changing station (!!!) so you’ll want to have these items handy for when you need to change a diaper at the flight attendants’ station or on a random seat.


Not pictured: wipes, because I forgot them until the end. #realtalk

4. Buy what you can when you arrive

This will depend on your travel destination. If you’re visiting a city or town, consider purchasing items like diapers, wipes, formula and food when you get there. My sister had very graciously stocked the house with all these things, so I knew I just needed to bring what was required for a day of travelling. If you’re travelling to a resort, hygiene and grocery items tend to be massively overpriced, if they are available at all. In that case, you may want to bring your own.

5. Share toiletries with baby

Why pack your own separate body wash if the Johnson & Johnson variety will get you just as clean? Does the baby need his own hairbrush, or can he share yours for the week? You can use baby’s sunscreen, too. This strategy will definitely save you some space in that liquids and aerosols bag.

6. Choose your toys carefully

Toys can be the difference between a giggle or a meltdown during long flights and waiting times. Pack toys that your baby will enjoy, and that take up minimal space in the bag. I tried to have a mix between familiar toys from home, and some new things that he hadn’t seen yet. Some great ideas for packable toys include:

  • Teething rings
  • Small tube of bubbles
  • Inflatable ball (to blow up when you get there)
  • Stuffed animals that squish down very small
  • Softcover picture books
  • Finger puppets
  • Measuring spoons
  • Toy cars



7. Triple-check baggage size and weight

When you’re travelling with an infant, most airlines allow a “small” diaper bag as an additional carry-on item. Great news – the size and weight restrictions for this diaper bag are often the same as a standard carry-on. Grab a tape measure and luggage scale because you can stuff that diaper bag to the gills. Which brings me to my next tip…

8. Bring a huge purse

One with a zipper and great big compartments. Pack what you normally would in your purse, and leave room for last minute stuff. You’ll be glad you did. Bonus tip: keep all your travel documents in a clear, zippered bag in your purse. It’s hard enough to keep track of your own, let alone baby’s, too.

🙂 Jessica


One thought on “8 Tips for Travelling Carry-on Only with a Baby

  1. You have inspired me to try packing carry-on only! Hopefully I can do it sometime, but I usually end up packing way more stuff than I’ll ever use.

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