how to pack for a 12 day trip with a baby (using only carry on)
Taking advantage of my
mini-retirement maternity leave, we recently went on a trip to Los Angeles, San Diego, and Mexico. Initially, the plan was to drive down from Vancouver to Tijuana but after calculating the drive time, it was a 20-hour trip. 20 hours back and forth in the span of two weeks is probably a very bad idea for baby. We decided two take two return flights instead (so four flights in total, I know, ambitious with a baby right?).
The itinerary was Vancouver to LA then LA to Mazatlan, then Mazatlan back to LA, and LA back to Vancouver. Since most North American airlines started charging $25 for checked baggage on North American flights, this would cost us $100. On our last trip to Hawaii for 5 weeks, we did checked luggage and it was great. Even though we minimally packed, I did pack a lot of things that were unnecessary though (too many onesies, too many swimsuits for baby)… I even packed baby GYM’s play gym!
Since this trip is not very travel hacked compared to Hawaii’s trip, I wanted to decrease the costs if at all possible. I know $100 doesn’t seem like much but it feels like such a luxury when you have to pay full fare for flights!! (Do I sound like a spoiled travel hacker or what?).
My sister in law who is the queen of frugality (I think more so than me) said she never checks in luggage on her trips. She has two kids under 5! Mind you, her trips are usually 7-10 days long but still, that’s amazing!
My husband didn’t think that we would be able to do a 12-day trip without checking in luggage. The stakes were high. It would be $50 CAD and another $50 USD for checked luggage fees.
In addition to a monetary impetus to forego luggage check-in, there is the motivation of time. It’s nice not to have to wait for baggage claim.
Being the keener personal finance blogger that I am, I decided to accept this challenge and publicly declared it on Twitter. He must not remember that I hiked for 7 days in the Canadian wilderness on the West Coast Trail with some girlfriends and carried all our own gear on our backs. So I know how to pack (light).
Then I started researching.
There were THREE elements that allowed this carry-on experiment to succeed. These are as follows:
the game changer- The diaper bag
You might think that a 12-day trip using only carry on is nearly impossible. I know I kind of did. I definitely had my doubts.
As you probably know, you are allowed a carry-on and a personal item on flights. Usually, the carry-on dimensions are as follows for Air Canada:
The personal item can be the size of a purse, briefcase, backpack, or laptop bag. I brought a backpack and put my laptop in it.
We were traveling with a lap infant (just have to pay taxes for the baby, children under age 2 who are sitting in the parent’s lap don’t need to be charged full adult fare), and infant travel allows you a lot of luxuries.
These lap infant luxuries include:
- Diaper bag
- Car seat/ child restraint device
These are all not counted towards carry-on items. You can roll up your stroller/ car seat combo right up to the gate and they will take it on the plane for you.
Again, I will reiterate that the diaper bag (which I use as a purse as well) does not count towards carry-on items.
This is game changer information. With that, the amount of luggage allowed was enough for twelve days. See below for my chic hand-me-down Marc Jacobs diaper bag.
the other problem: baby food
Our baby recently started on solids. It’s been fun but messy! Since we were going to Mexico, I was a little concerned about the potential for Hepatitis A or traveler’s diarrhea so thought it is best we bring our packaged fruit and vegetable purees from Canada. The problem is that most of the baby food in jars or squeeze packs are 130mL, or over 3.4 fluid oz which is over the 100mL limit for liquids allowed on an airplane.
Then another game changer came about. Baby food (sufficient amounts enough for the plane ride) are exempt from the 100mL or 3.4oz limit, as long as you don’t bring too much. We packed 5 packages with us, each lasts 24 hours in the fridge, and as long as it is a reasonable amount they will let you go through with it. But be prepared for some extra screening. In exchange for LAX security NOT opening up the pouches, I had to receive a thorough patdown. On our last few days, we gave the baby some banana puree when we were back in the United States. We also had rice cereal packed.
the second game changer- accommodation amenities
The second game changer that allowed this to happen, is access to LAUNDRY. So important. We have two points of access to laundry and the first access point is about 6 days into the trip. So we packed for 6 days and then plan to spend some time doing laundry to prepare for the remainder of the trip. If we did not have access to laundry, carrying more clothes would be necessary and likely would prompt us to use check-in luggage.
Also, most of the places have a Pack N’ Play or portable crib, with the exception of the Airbnb we are staying at for two nights (in which we will cosleep with baby) so we didn’t have to pack our travel bassinet (baby barely fits in it now though!).
the packing list for a carry-on only trip with a 6-month-old baby
The essentials (in the diaper bag):
- Nexus (Nexus is free for children under 18)
- Copy of birth certificate
- Emergency medical insurance info
- Diapers (1 for each hour at airport and on plane)
- Extra outfit
- Nursing cover
- Plastic bags (in case of poopy accidents)
- Portable diaper changer
- Tylenol (for the ascent and descent on the plane)
- Baby food
- Baby carrier (Ergo for us, last trip we brought two baby carriers and this was a bit excessive)
In the Carry-On
- 7 diapers per day away (yes I counted out diapers)
- Breast pump (I would not normally bring it, but the rice cereal is mixed with formula or pumped milk)
- Packing cubes (bought at Miniso, so worth it, they were under $8 for the set)
- 1 sippy cup
- 2 spoons
- 1 bowl for mixing
- 1 spoon that attaches to squeeze pouch- Munchkin Click Lock Food Pouch Spoon
- Baby dish detergent
- Bottle and lid
- Rice cereal
- 3 cloth bibs and 2 polyester bibs (for easy wipe down)- this is probably overkill and I could probably just bring 2 wipedown bibs
- 10 washcloths
- Clothes (10 outfits- 7 days worth plus enough for poopy messes)
- 2 sleep sacks
- More wipes
- Swimsuit (one for baby)
- Baby washing detergent (decanted into an 80mL container bought from Miniso)
- Citronella spray (for mosquitoes, decanted into an 80mL spray pump)
- 2 Toys
- 3 Books
- Vitamin D drops
- Baby wash and oil and moisturizer (three small trial bottles I got for free)
- Crib sheet
- Small baby nail file, thermometer
- Sun hat for baby
- Baby sunglasses
Did you know about the additional diaper bag allowance and baby food allowance or was I just clueless about this secret parenting-travel hack?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.