Monday, July 16, 2012

Traveling & Baby Gear: What Do You Really Need?

Yesterday we talked about flying with small children
 But what about all the Baby Gear that you’ll need?
Any expecting parent can tell you that the shear amount of STUFF ‘required’ to raise a child is insane. It’s bad enough trying to figure out how all this new gear will fit in your home, but when you consider that you will still need the majority of these items while on vacation, the shrinking weight requirements of checked luggage can make the idea of traveling with a baby seem nearly impossible. Have no fear. SOME airlines get it (they must be parents themselves) and will work with your on some of the big items like a Pack n Play, Stroller, and Car Seat. But do you even need any of these items?

Portable Crib
Is co-sleeping an option for the duration of the vacation? If you answered yes, will you also feel comfortable having them nap on the adult bed? Do you know anyone near your destination that has a pack n play you can borrow? Most new parents have one, and in our case, we were able to borrow it for the duration of our trip and could leave ours at home. (THANK YOU DAVE & KELLY!) Remember to bring your own sheets, just in case, and pack any bedding that your child MUST have to fall asleep – a favorite blanket or stuffed animal (or even a nightlight!) can make bedtime in a new room easier for little ones to handle.

The same gut check goes for the stroller. Are you going to do touristy stuff? Walking, touring the city, using public transportation, visiting amusement parks or zoos, waiting for nearly an hour outside the car rental office while they straighten out your online reservation that went haywire with a hungry toddler and a pile of 7 bags? (Not that that seems to happen EVERY time we travel…) Think of your plans for the vacation and decide if you need the stroller.
If you DO decide to bring it (I usually do) make sure the car picking you up at the airport, or your rental car, will be able to accommodate the stroller along with all of the luggage. (SUV rentals are your friend.)
Hannah patiently sat in the stroller while we waited at the gate (Total lie. She actually ran on the moving sidewalk), and then right before boarding the plane we simply gate checked the stroller. It was waiting for us when we disembarked at our destination and was probably the easiest piece of ‘luggage’ we dealt with our entire trip. Make sure you attach a luggage tag complete with Name, Cell Phone, and Airports (Including layovers!) just in case there is a mix up.

Car Seat
If you’re going to be driving or riding in a car/taxi AT ALL during your vacation, then you need to have a car seat for your child. If someone is willing to let you borrow one at your destination, then that’s one less thing to worry about, but if they’ll be installing it for you as well, make sure they know if your child is rear or front facing. Each state has different requirements, so check these out when planning any vacation. Also verify the make/model/year of the car seat you’ll be using. Car seats have expiration dates! As always, before strapping your child in, verify that the seat has been installed properly and is secure. If you’re bringing your own car seat (we always do), check your airlines policy on checking baby gear. In the past we’ve been able to check the car seat at the ticket counter for free and gate check the stroller for free. The one time we brought a pack n play as well, they agreed to check it also, but I think we just ran across a sympathetic ticket agent. Re-read the car seat’s manual before your trip so that the different installation methods are fresh in your mind. Most cars have latch systems, but not always in the middle seat. Reminding yourself of the tips and tricks that are unique to your car seat will make it easier to install in a new car. Safety First!

An important tip about checking Car Seats:
Bring your own clear plastic trash bags and zip ties. Not all ticket counters have bags available, so you run the risk of ruining your car seat cover and straps if you can’t bag it up yourself. Just keep enough bags and ties in the front zipper pocket of a suitcase for each leg of your flight. (Assume the worst – the bag gets ripped each leg and you have to repackage it each time you board a flight. The likelihood of this happening is small, but these items take up minimal space, and can double as dirty laundry bags if you have plenty.) Wait to zip tie the bag shut until the ticket agent says it’s okay in case they need to examine it, and use zip ties thin enough that you could saw through it with a car key in a pinch.

High Chair
This is probably the easiest piece to leave at home. Most restaurants have high chairs or boosters available, and if you’re visiting family they can easily pick up something on craigslist or borrow from a friend. If all else fails, have a picnic! Towels laid out on the floor wash up easily and your child will probably think it’s a special treat! There are some smaller items that you can pack to make eating out easier for everyone. Check out the Restaurant Kit we never leave home without.

Bath Tubs
Finding a substitute for an infant bathtub can be difficult if you don’t plan ahead. Bath time in the kitchen sink and sponge baths are always an option, but consider taking a bath or shower with your baby for a real bonding moment. Plus, if the baby poops in the tub, You’ll be completely prepared after reading THIS.

Some babies just love their swings – I get it – and the thought of leaving home without it can scare some parents. If you’re not willing to either (1) buy a swing at your destination – new or used (2) Borrow from a friend or (3) Rock the baby yourself, then you can always look into a Baby Supply Rental Company. (Google “Rent Baby Equipment {nearest major city}”) If you’re going to go this route, they often have packages available that include toys (which is great if you’re near the beach), feeding , or sleeping gear, and might be more cost effective than paying baggage fees on the plane.

I’ve purposely avoided mentioning this service sooner because usually the prices are high for short term rentals, and free and low cost alternatives are usually available. But in the case of a baby that will only fall asleep to the gentle rocking of their comfy swing, everyone's sanity is worth blowing the budget a little. Better to be well rested and Enjoy vacation than to save a few bucks and be miserable.


  1. Definitely a stroller is the must-have thing. You can leave the others..

  2. Hi Carla, Ihave been following your videos on Youtube and it gives a lot of hope to a PCOS girl. I have just begun clomid+IUI and am wondering what I can do to ensure healthy eggs. Did you follow a diet program during the fertility treatment? Hope you get to see this message..... Sree

  3. Hi Carla,

    Is everything OK?
    You've been incommunicado for a while now - looking forward to an update soon!


  4. A good tip about the car seat... 2 ikea bags (the big blue things) with duct tape to check in in plane and... for inside the plane, but a big comfy pillow in one of your carry on (for smaller babies).

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