Our first trip with two kids went well. We didn’t forget anything or have any major issues. We read as many articles and social posts to find tips that made sense to help. Everything from, “show up 3 hours earlier to the airport” (what?) to the more practical advice of considering where to pack things based on what will be needed before getting your luggage on the other side. If your luggage doesn’t make it, it helps to be confident you can survive overnight until the luggage is found or you can regroup at Walmart.
Travelling with a Stroller
The first thing we considered was if we needed to bring our Bugaboo Buffalo stroller from home or if we could get away with an umbrella travel stroller. We opted to bring the Buffalo since we were comfortable using it and could bring it everywhere (parks & trails included). This brought up a packing opportunity – the stroller travel bag had lots of extra storage space!
Here’s where we had our first dividing of items, as the things that could stay packed until we got to the hotel filled up the stroller bag first.
Here’s what fit inside the Bugaboo travel bag:
- Bugaboo Travel Bag
- Bugaboo Buffalo
- Skip Hop Stroller Organizer
- Skip Hop Stroller Activity Bar
Extra things Packed into the Stroller Bag too:
- enough diapers for the trip (or we thought) so that we could avoid any extra travel time spent going on a trip to Target.
- Potty Seat is too big for having in the diaper bag anyway, so it can wait until we reached our final destination. This one is great because you can use it on any size toilet seat.
- Formula containers that are new and sealed up. We were told flying with these open, especially across the border, could be an issue and we could have them confiscated.
- Bath set up, which was in here for the same reason as the potty seat, there wasn’t a need while in transit. Bath Time was so far into the future (the other side of a 3-hour flight). See the more detailed bath time kit here.
- Stacking Water Cups
- Sophie the Giraffe Bath Toy
- Floating boats
- Bath Time Alphabet
- Face cloths
- Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo
- Aveeno Baby Excema Care Lotion
- Hooded Robes
- Extra bottles (too many) packed for the trip, we could have brought only 3 or 4 but brought them all in case we were totally exhausted and didn’t have the energy to wash each night.
- A travel bottle wash kit was such a big help. It was simple to open and be ready to use and had a great brush! Held just enough bottles and kept our routines in order.
Finally, books and toys filled up the extra gaps for a fully-packed travel stroller bag. You might be thinking at this point, “you’ve got to be kidding me!”
We thought the exact same thing. It seems like a complete waste to pack just your stroller in the travel bag and here’s why.
The airlines we’ve flown with (WestJet, United, American, and Air Canada) automatically tag any stroller bag as oversized, overweight, and fragile. We asked if there was a restriction on the size/weight and they told us over 100lbs would then have a surcharge. That’s right! The stroller bag was a free checked bag when traveling with babies.
Travelling with Car Seats?
There are a number of questions that you’ll want to have answers to before you make any final decisions about what to take with you in terms of car seats for your trip. Below, we’ll cover a lot of them and hopefully, this helps clear things up for you and also helps make sense of our choice:
- What are the car seat laws where you are travelling to?
- What will be your main type of travel (and maybe you won’t need them at all)?
- Will having the car seats on the plane make the flight way easier?
- How mobile are your current car seats? Easy to move or bigger and bulky?
- If you know you’ll need car seats during your trip, then what is the cost of a travel car seat to buy or rent?
- Would you be able to keep the car seats for another trip in the future?
Our trip was from Vancouver to California and we would be renting an SUV for the duration of the trip. It didn’t benefit us to have the car seats on the plane or be travelling with our main car seats (both of our kiddos have a Clek). Our kiddos were excited to be on the plane and only one was going to have her own seat. The laws in California require kids to be in car seats and we didn’t plan on getting around by anything other than the rental SUV.
Our situation meant that we only needed the car seats while we were there, so we looked at our options for lightweight travel seats.
- Add on the per-day surcharge from the rental car company: all were $10 – $35 per car seat per day. This started to add up quickly AND the cheapest car seat rental was with the most expensive SUV rate, effectively making the surcharge $50 per day, per car seat!
- Buy the car seat online and ship it to the hotel/pickup in-store. This was the cheapest option, however, it meant that when we landed, I would have to go pick up the car seat while my wife stayed at the airport with the kiddos until I got back. After a flight, in the arrivals section of the airport, that wasn’t the way we wanted to start our trip.
- Buy the light-weight travel car seats at home (they are CSA-certified too) and fly with them. This was our best option because we could use the car seats at home after the trip for either the grandparents’ car or my car, as a backup. Having the CSA-certified sticker makes sure there are no problems if there happens to be an accident. Flying with these is no cost and the airlines have all wrapped or bagged them for us. A car seat is considered ‘safety equipment’ and are free to fly with.
We chose to get the best-rated and lightest car seat we could find. This also helped when we were going to and from the airport since we could use them then, too. This option has been well worth the money spent as we don’t have to coordinate with the grandparents if they are going out with the kiddos to ensure they have car seats.
The Checked Bag & The Carry-On
I can honestly say that my wife and I are notorious over-packers. This trip was the first time we packed light. Well, we packed light for ourselves, but over-packed for the kids. We were nervous about forgetting something and really wanted to keep all of their routines intact during the trip and when we got home (to the best of our ability).
Since we had one kiddo with her own seat on the airplane, she also had a checked bag included. This turned out to not really be necessary as the airlines were very accommodating for a family travelling (note: in a future story, I’ll share the horrors we had on another trip).
The rules that we established for checked bags versus carry-ons were about convenience and what we needed for the kids without the checked luggage. Think about the time that you’ll be without that bag once it is checked, and if it’s lost, could you manage for 24 hours (or until you can get shopping) if your bag doesn’t show up.
The glass half-full, you’ll need to be prepared for:
- time in the airport until boarding
- tarmac and flight time in the plane seat
- getting off the place, customs and waiting for baggage
The glass half-empty, add to the list above:
- the first day, night-time routine, morning routine
- getting to the mall or store (we’ve learned the hard way to leave the first 24 hours with a more flexible itinerary)
Baggage is rarely lost, regardless of the stories you’ve heard, and there’s only a very small chance your bags won’t arrive. That being said, trying to get the bags back if they are misplaced can ruin your trip. Make sure you can survive without your checked luggage and that you have a back-up plan.
With this trip being to California, there wasn’t much of an issue because finding a Walmart or Target could be done at almost any time of day or night. Finding a shopping mall the next day wouldn’t be a challenge. In a more remote location, understand how difficult it can be to find diapers or baby wipes. That’s why having enough of those in a carry-on to last as long as possible can be very handy.
Fun Fact: when I used to travel for team sports, every extra inch in my luggage would be filled with snacks. Now that bonus space holds diapers!
Start Travelling With Your Kid(s) Now
Sure, we’re on a travel site and the goal is for you to get travelling soon. I’m glad we travelled with our kids when they were so young and got to experience it. It can be a stressful time on planes with young children, but the destination was worth it. The memories are worth it. It’s only taken one trip for us to be confident to travel as a family, something that my wife and I put on hold for way too long.