Friday Favorites- Gretchen’s Necessities for Traveling with Small Children

mom traveling with small child
mom traveling with small child

Welcome to our newest series. In “Friday Favorites,” our team will share a handful of favorite items. These can range from clothes to beauty products to recipes to books and anything in between.

We just flew cross country to visit family over the holidays, so I’m sharing my favorite things for traveling with young children. Neither of our two young girls can carry their own weight (or bags) on the day of travel, so it’s up to my husband and myself to schlep these freeloaders and all of their belongings through the airport.

This is how we do it. 

Disney backpack


The roomier the better. I was gifted this beautiful Vera Bradley/Disney backpack, and it’s amazing because it is HUGE. I typically swear by my JuJuBe BRB, as I have only used that diaper bag since my six year old was born. But this one is a bit bigger, which is key when you’re traveling with small children. Backpacks allow you to be hands free, especially if you opt to baby wear, which I have always done when my girls were little. 

Baby Carrier

When we were stationed in Germany, we traveled to eight countries without a stroller. Getting through the airport (and most places, in general) is much easier with a baby carrier. There are also times that young children don’t want to be in strollers. So even now that we typically bring two travel strollers, I shove the baby carrier in somewhere in case we need it in a pinch. You never know if you might need it while traveling with small children.

mom traveling with small child
travel stroller for traveling with small children

Travel Stroller

We have two! The better (pricier) one is shown here: the GB Pockit. I got it on Amazon Prime day a few years back, and it’s awesome. It folds up so small we can carry it on and stow it under the seat in front of us, eliminating the need to wait for your gate checked storller. We bought a less expensive one second-hand, since we now need two.

There are a lot of travel strollers out there these days, so do your research. I have found it to be a worthy investment. We also don’t have to worry about having space in our rental car (always smaller than our SUVs at home) to fit large suitcases plus strollers since these strollers are so small. 

Travel Car Seats

We carry our car seats onto the plane, as it is safer for both children and the car seats. Turbulence alone can result in serious injury or death if a child is not properly restrained. According to the FAA and American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 40 pounds should not be restrained in an airplane seat belt. However, our daily car seats at home weigh approximately 87 pounds, and dragging them through the airport is not happening.

We have two Cosco car seats: a Scenera Next (convertible, weighs 8 lbs.,) and a Finale (forward facing, weighs 9 lbs.) They each cost $50 and are the best travel investments to date. I also know there is the CARES harness, which is approved for kids 22-44 pounds, but I haven’t done enough research to have an opinion on it. While it would save carrying the car seat, it doesn’t solve the risk of damage or loss during transit.

I’ll be honest: even when my kids reach 40 pounds, I may still opt to carry them. Car seats can get damaged being thrown around with baggage, and I’m not certain a lap belt is going to be safest in the case of an aborted takeoff, damaged landing gear, or other serious event.  And I have heard enough stories of car seats not making it to their destination, and that’s the last thing you want to deal with when traveling with small children!

little girl in car seat
traveling with small child in car seat with iPad

iPad (or other tablet)

Do I really need to elaborate here? Special shout out to Disney+, which allows you to download movies and episodes, such as Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so that they are accessible even when you don’t have WiFi. When you are stuck in an airplane or car for hours, a tablet is a welcome distraction for kids.

Stretchy Pants With Pockets

This originated with the baby wearing. I needed pants I could easily pull up and down while wearing a baby and not have to worry about buttons and zippers. Then you need pockets for your boarding pass and ID through security, so you don’t have to keep digging through your bag. It’s still my preference. I’m way more comfortable while sitting for hours on end, and I have access to my Chapstick every second of the day.

I have worn some North Face Hiking Tights (I don’t hike), but my workout leggings worked perfectly on another flight as well. The key is POCKETS.  I don’t think I’ll ever wear jeans on a plane again.

women's hiking tights
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