I wish we had taken the time to ask a stranger to capture a picture of us in the airport the first time we traveled with our toddler. It had to be a comical sight. We were embarking upon 4 days away from home, but by looking at us, one would have thought we were relocating permanently to some exotic location on the other side of Earth. We apparently thought we wouldn’t survive the four days away unless we were thoroughly prepared by brining everything we MIGHT need while traveling. I was carrying two bags, with a one year old strapped to my back, while Mister was also carrying two bags and pushing a stroller with another bag resting where the baby should have been. Nothing was organized, but frantically stuffed into bags during last minute ‘what if’’ scenarios before rushing out the door. This, of course, led to unnecessary sweating (and swearing) every time I had to search through four different bags to find a fruit snack or pacifier.
Major lesson learned that day: traveling with that much stuff is too stressful, and not worth it! Of course we didn’t NEED all of it! If time-travel were a thing, Now Me would definitely go back and tell Then Me to relax, pack a diaper bag, and whatever doesn’t fit in the diaper bag doesn’t need to come on board the plane; no matter how long the trip!
Fast-forward to 3 years and one more baby later: Now Me only crushes airport travel with the necessities, and the necessities can all fit in my diaper bag. I’ve managed to accomplish this by having the RIGHT kind of diaper bag that meets ALL of my requirements for airport travel; AKA, the Kalea Diaper Bag Backpack. The criteria is as follows:
- Back-pack straps for hands-free carrying convenience
- Luggage Sleeve to slide on Luggage Handle
- Stroller straps
- Security Pocket to put, cell phone, credit cards, DL, Boarding Pass
- Multiple and separated compartments for organization
- A place for a tablet, books, or even laptop
- Changing pad
- Drawstring bag
- Accessible bottle or sippy-cup pocket
- Stylish. I mean, I’m a mom, but do I have to carry a mom-looking bag? The answer is a Big. Fat. No.
Thus begs the question WHAT do I pack in my diaper bag when traveling with a toddler and a baby? I’m so glad you asked!
1. Change of clothes (for both kids)
Obviously you already know to pack diapers and wipes; moms don’t go anywhere without diapers and wipes; your wipes are probably already installed in their wipe compartment as we speak, because that is absolutely the coolest feature of any bag out there! But while we’re on the topic of diapers, I have to tell you that I always stash a diaper in the folded changing pad that’s included so it’s always ready to go when on the move. One grab of the changing pad, unfold it, and voila, everything you need. It’s the small victories I tell you. Side rant over.
Back to clothes…I always put a change of clothes as first on my packing list. Why? ACCIDENTS HAPPEN, and they always happen in the car on the way to the airport, mid-flight, or waiting to exit the aircraft. You will be so thankful you hooked your baby up with a back-up pair of pants because, one word, blowouts. A great place for these is in the drawstring bag. Roll extra clothing items individually instead of folding flat or just stuffing them in; this way they are easy to grab. I always make sure to bring some extra disposable plastic bags to quarantine the dirty clothes from the rest of the bag and for easy clean up. Don’t forget to stash an extra tank or t-shirt for yourself in case of a mile-high spit up. If you don’t use these extra clothes due to an accident, then they’ll come in handy if your checked bags arrive late to your final destination. Double preparation if you ask me!
2. Empty Bottle and/or Sippy Cup
Another no-brainer, but the strategy here is worth mentioning. Having something for the kiddos to drink on at take off can help alleviate ear-pressure, which in-turn, can help alleviate a little one screaming in a small space full of grumpy strangers that have never been around children. Since liquids containing more that three ounces aren’t allowed through security, pack a clean, empty sippy or bottle, and then purchase a large bottle of water once you get through security. This way, you can easily make up a bottle of formula or sippy cup of water as needed. If baby is formula-fed, single serving packs are the only way to go while traveling, so add these to your shopping list!
Handle-less sippy cups and bottles fit perfectly in the side pouches of the Kalea bag, and the adjustable closure keeps them nice and secure; they are literally always within an arm’s reach (and they aren’t taking up precious space on the inside of the bag).
I always bring my favorite stainless steel water bottle as well because Mama can’t get dehydrated either!
Snacks, snacks, snack. Pack a variety and store them where they are easily accessible, such as the medium or large storage cube. These cubes are brilliant for snack storage and mess consolidation; raise your hand if you’ve tossed an open pack of baby mum-mums back in your diaper bag, then had mum-mum crumbs in and on everything in said bag for next 100 years? Me too. Avoid this hassle of a mess and use a storage cube for snacks! So what snack items travel best? Dried fruit, trail mix, graham crackers, and fruit and veggie pouches have all worked great for us. Don’t forget to pack something you enjoy munching on; Mama needs to keep her blood sugar up too!
4. Small Personal Care items
Hand. Sanitizer. Traveling can be gross and germs are everywhere. Utilize the outside zipper compartment for all of your personal care items. Remember, for liquids anything 3oz or less will clear airport security in your carry-on luggage. Sandwich size plastic bags work great for any small bottles of liquid, and can be stored perfectly in the outer zipper of the Kalea. Easy to snag when removing, and the plastic bag will catch any mess in case of pressure explosion! Useful personal care items to pack besides hand sanitizer include: chap stick and face spritz/tinted moisturizer (because air travel can dry things out), face/hand wipes, surface wipes, and a small bottle of lavender essential oil for calming nerves and freshening body. This space is perfect too for those extra pacifiers you may need in a pinch!
This will look different for everyone depending on the age and interests of your kids but some pretty fail-proof activity items that are easy to pack are thin, paper-back books, coloring books, smaller toys such as race-cars or trains, etc. The main body of the bag will hold a host of activities and toys to keep your kiddos happy during your flight. One of our favorite travel activity items is the Melissa&Doug Paint with Water Pads. No mess, and re-usable. Can easily occupy a toddler long enough to feed a baby (and then some) if needed! Pro Hack: pack at least one NEW small and one FAVORITE toy or book; your little ones will be extra excited and happy to explore a new toy but will also have the comfort of their Thomas Train that they never leave home without. The inner mesh pocket will prevent small loose toys falling to the bottom of the bag, and thin books tuck perfectly behind our electronics in the laptop storage pocket.
6. Tablet and Headphones
Let’s all take a moment here and thank the Universe for the invention of tablets and onboard wireless Internet. If you’re lucky, this can be for you to catch up on some pre-downloaded Netflix while your toddler is busy painting with water and your baby is sleeping peacefully. If not, you have pre-downloaded Daniel Tiger and Paw Patrol episodes just in case; many toddlers don’t like wearing ear buds, so it’s usually okay to play the volume low; but do beware of that ONE passenger that may complain that the sound is too loud. Might be worth investing in a comfy pair of toddler headphones. The medium size storage cube is our ‘electronic’ cube for headphones, ear buds, and phone chargers. No more tangled wires everywhere, and thankfully the Kalea has an easy-to-access pouch within the main body of the bag specifically for an I-pad or laptop, which makes removing it for security a breeze.
With the Kalea bag, there’s typically always room for some last minute, thoughtful, miscellaneous items. Consider heavily any things you’ll absolutely, possibly need. Perhaps a hand-held breast pump, small first aid kit, any medication, extra swaddle blanket or special stuffed animal; there’s always something that you’ll come up with that you will find peace of mind in having with you ‘just in case’.
Any traveling adventure with a toddler and a baby can be daunting. The best piece of advice is to plan ahead, and pack (and re-pack) ahead of time. It never hurts to do a practice run and organize intentionally based on your family’s needs and any true foreseen ‘emergencies’. One mantra that always helps me when I pack, is ‘if I end up really needing, it, I can probably buy it’. This would be in a situation in which I’m about to pack the entire medicine cabinet to go on our beach vacation because our little one ‘might’ get a head cold. Don’t get caught up in the ‘what if’s’!
Lastly, enjoy your adventure! It’s very easy to become lost in the stress of it all, but do take the time to notice how your toddler gets excited about the luggage cart beeping through the terminal, or capture that picture of your family’s first airplane trip together. Trust me, you won’t remember that you forgot to pack diaper rash cream, but instead, hopefully will look back on a family adventure that was slightly less anxiety-ridden because you appropriately packed your diaper bag. Happy Trails!