What To Pack/Carry On When Flying With a Toddler

When we first started planning our home exchange and our trip to Copenhagen, our exchange partners suggested leaving strollers at home because what would be the sense of each of us taking a stroller to our destination, when we could just use each others’ strollers when we arrived. It sounded like an okay idea to us, and it was kind of a relief at first, to think we wouldn’t have to worry about pushing a stroller, juggling bags, or having it get ruined after we checked it at the gate.

Our exchange partners weren’t going to mess with a car seat either, and we decided that since we weren’t really going to be going anywhere by car in Copenhagen, we didn’t need to. We planned to rent a car for one day for a trip to Sweden and figured we could just rent a seat with the car. We ended up purchasing a (used) CARES harness for #ToddlerGoodwin to use on the airplane and again, we were glad we would have one less thing to worry about carrying through the airport or getting messed up after it was checked.

However… as we shared last-minute information about our homes with each other, our exchange partners sent us pictures and explanations where things could be found in their home/storage area. They took a picture of their stroller in the building’s stroller garage, tied with a ribbon so we could easily identify it.

stroller

We were a little baffled when we saw it. It looked kind of big. And it looked like it reclined. And… it faced backwards. (Side note: a lot of the strollers in Denmark looked like this. Some of them were MASSIVE. We learned something interesting about strollers in Denmark, too…)

The day we stopped using it as a car seat carrier and switched #ToddlerGoodwin’s stroller around to forward facing was a life-changing day for the kid… There was no way in heck that he would be happy facing backwards.

It was the night before our trip and Tommy and I didn’t know what to do. I contemplated running out and buying a cheap umbrella stroller. Someone had once told me that they bought a little stroller for like $30 or $40 before a trip because they figured if anything happened to it en route, they weren’t losing much money. In the end, we decided to just take #ToddlerGoodwin’s stroller with us. It was something familiar to us, and since we’d just found out about Air Canada’s laptop/luggage policy, we were going to be carrying more stuff with us. The storage underneath the stroller would be super helpful.

So what did we end up taking? What would I suggest? Let’s see…

The Essentials
Bring: Snacks, drinks, diaper stuff, activities, things for your kid to do. I’ve posted about what we brought on the plane to keep #ToddlerGoodwin entertained. I also wouldn’t forget things like Tylenol, hand sanitizer, wipes for sticky hands, and grocery bags for tossing out garbage.

Don’t bring: Things for you to do. I figured we’d be so busy with the kid that we wouldn’t have time to read anything or do anything. Or we’d be attempting to sleep. If we needed it, there would be in-flight entertainment.

Car seat vs. CARES harness?
Bring car seat if: You bought a seat for your kid, you plan on using a car a lot at your destination, and/or your kid is under two years of age. Depending on where you’re flying/what airline, some carriers will have bassinets that you can request for smaller babies. I’ve heard that you can bring your car seat to the gate in hopes of using it in a seat if there’s a vacant seat, but good luck with that one.

Bring CARES harness if: You don’t want to carry a car seat around, you bought a seat for your kid, you’re not going to need a car seat at your destination.

IMG_0585

Take a stroller or no? 
Think about leaving the stroller at home if: Your kid is old enough to walk quite a bit and you have plenty of time during layovers, maybe you can do without the stroller.

Think about bringing the stroller if: Your kid isn’t great about walking long distances and you don’t want to have to carry them – along with all of your stuff. In fact, if your stroller has storage underneath, you can stow some of your smaller carry-on items in it. Or if your kid is happy walking for awhile, you can just pile some of your stuff in the stroller and push it.

Yes, there’s a chance it could get trashed when you check it. We got lucky and our stroller actually came back to us unscathed.

Another thing about strollers: We were fine with the stroller when we flew into CPH. It was waiting on the jetway for us. However, when we flew home from CPH, we were forced to check the stroller with our luggage, as the airport (for some reason) doesn’t allow strollers. We were told that we could borrow a luggage trolley/stroller near the gate. It looked like a metal shopping cart with a seat in the front for kids to sit in. We weren’t happy about it because we wouldn’t have the stroller during our layover in Toronto, but we did okay without it.

Consider Computers
This one caught us off guard a little bit. We found out that Air Canada does not allow laptops in checked bags. We were planning on packing both of our laptops in between layers of clothing in our luggage since it’s not like we were going to need them on the plane. But there we were at the last minute, struggling to make room in our carry-on bags for the laptops, snacks and drinks, activities, and diaper supplies. Always check your airlines (and airports!) for any restrictions for checked/carry-on items before you start packing!

Want more kid-friendly travel tips? Check out my Toddler Travel Pinterest Board!

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