The art of traveling well with a baby

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I’m writing this as my husband Matt and I flip through pictures of Ollie crawling all over us on our last flight, the flight from Hell. The flight went so well. 🙄 He must have bit me twenty times (first time ever!), I had baby fingernail slashes on my face, and I was force fed baby snacks like salty air fried peas the entire way.

And then I did what I have sworn never to do—even on travel posts. I took my squiggly wiggly son out of the baby carrier and let him loose in our row. Ugh! I’ll spare you the details. If you find yourself in this situation, let’s just say you don’t forget how painful it is. Which is why I’m here to save you with this post, hopefully.

Here I am getting pounded in the face. Such a pleasant flight.

As minimalist as I like to be, because let’s be honest it makes things so much easier (usually) to have a few great things, traveling well with a child is not a gig for minimalists. With over 16 flights in my son’s 13 month life, I have found what works well (for now). I have notes next to my items on the checklist, which should help answer any questions you have. If you have any more questions, feel free to write me on IG (@iamemilynolan or e-mail hello@emilynolan.com). I’m happy to get back to you.


It’s a schlep but one person can manage the car seat. Remember to ask for help when you need it!

Demonstrating that one person can carry the car seat, diaper bag and baby!

Car seat (we use a convertible Nuna Rava). Forward facing is the only option we’ve found for a convertible seat, which is fine for us, even if Ollie is below the normal weight to be forward facing (I don’t believe there is a rule for this on a plane). In rear facing, the chair in front of him couldn’t recline. I think flying with a car seat, especially for a toddler, is the only sane thing to do, especially if you have a wiggly baby like Oliver. Also, the car seat gives children a sense of comfort because it’s theirs, and…it’s MUCH safer than holding a lap baby who is crawling all over you. I’m a minimalist traveler but I am also practical. This is DEFINITELY worth schlepping to the gate and hooking up on the plane. If you’re flying alone, try to find a car seat bag on wheels to lighten the load. Wear your baby on front, back pack on back, and wheel the car seat. TSA will help you with the car seat (it goes through a separate screening). Drag, wheel, lug, carry, pay people off… (whatever it takes!) to get your car seat to the gate. Leave it at the gate until boarding! I know this requires an extra seat on the plane, but it’s worth it, especially when your child starts to move around a lot, usually around 8 months or so. We didn’t get him his own seat until about one year old. Before one, I would fly with Ollie in my baby carrier as a lap baby.

Baby carrier. This is a no brainer. We have an Ergo Baby that works well in hot weather (we live in Miami). I believe any carrier you and your baby prefer will work. So long as you can be hands free in the airport.

iPad or iPhone. You never know if your plane will have a screen or not. As Montessori of a parent as I aspire to be, babies (about 8 months and older) and kids just need movies or tv shows on a plane for everyone’s sanity, including theirs.

Pacifier on a clip. I’m usually pretty regimented when it comes to the no pacifier rule during wake hours. I try and limit it to emergencies only because the pediatrician said it can raise my sons palate…Yadda yadda yadda. But on a plane…it’s a must! Sucking the paci also helps with the pressure in Ollie’s ears on takeoff and landing, and comforts him in case he (in the very random and wonderful occasion) falls asleep on the plane.

Lovey. Or anything your baby or child uses to comfort them when they sleep. If possible, put this on a pacifier clip, so it doesn’t get thrown on the floor fifteen times during one trip.

Snacks. Keep a bag in your diaper bag full of nutritious, yummy, non-stinky snacks! Please don’t pack hard boiled eggs or broccoli on a plane. Also, I keep a small ice pack in my snack bag and wedge it between travel pouches full of yogurt or avocado. If you’re interested in nutritious and creative travel snack ideas, I have an entire post dedicated to that.

Small bag of small toys. Ollie loves to dig through a soft bag and discover toys. Most of the toys are things from the dollar store or random things from around the house like a lock, small motorcycle toy or old car key (the kind with buttons).

Diaper bag. This one seems obvious but I’m including it for my own sake, since I use this checklist when I pack. In the diaper bag I keep a bag of diapers and wipes, a bag of snacks, and a small bag of toys. I also keep an outfit change, an epipen, toddler size water bottle, eye drops, saline nose spray, and the standard travel stuff like my wallet and phone. My diaper bag (I have the largest option) by One Duo has a thin changing pad in it, making it really easy to travel with.