How to Pack Light when Traveling with a Baby

September 29, 2015

Last spring, Theo and I made a five day trip to San Francisco. It was a really intense trip for a college friend's memorial service and to meet a childhood friend's newborn baby. We were all over the Bay Area, from the hot sun to fog, plus I had to bring my laptop so I could work every morning. It's never been my forte, but I totally nailed packing light! All the essentials - and what to leave at home - straight ahead.

I took four pieces. My Longchamp travel bag, my purse, our Fjällräven backpack and our Maclaren stroller. Instead of packing a blanket, I let a cardigan or scarf double as a blanket during the trip. While we were in motion, I hooked the Longchamp bag over the handles of the stroller and stood the backpack in the carry basket underneath. The carry basket is only designed to carry 5 pounds, but if the backpack stands vertically on the frame beneath the basket, it's very secure. My purse went over my shoulder. After doing that over some of San Francisco's famous hills, I felt very fit!

Here is what I packed in each bag:

In the backpack, I had our laptop and battery cords. I also had a ziploc with some of Theo's favorite baby food and snacks, two bibs, Wet Ones for wiping off tray tables, restaurant tables and highchairs, a couple feeding spoons, our favorite head to toe baby wipes and a few teething toys. Naturally, there were also diapers, the world's best spill proof sippy cup for Mr. T and my beloved bkr bottle for myself. Finally, I always bring along an expandable reusable bag in case we run out of space due to shopping. ;) At a sidewalk sale in Zurich, I got a really chic Oilily one that I absolutely love. It zips into a flat square, but has leather handles and feels like a real tote bag. During travel, we kept this backpack accessible along with my purse underneath the seat in front of us and put the Longchamp in the overhead bin.

In my purse, I brought a book to read while Theo slept on me, sunglasses, my zippered pouch with lip glosses, hand lotions, eye drops, and Epi-Pen (very important!), my wallet, more Wet Ones, a pack of travel wipes and my phone. Whenever traveling, I always take a purse that has a hook to clip my keys onto. Keys are so easy to lose when you're not actually using them!

Finally, in the Longchamp, we had to cram five days' worth of clothing for two people in two very different climates. Driving into San Francisco from the East Bay is always a shocker. "Welcome to winter!," the fog seems to call out. I brought one pair of jeans, one pair of chinos, a dress, a couple cardigans and scarves (which doubled as baby blankets when they weren't being worn) and tops for each day. Obviously a baby isn't going to wear clothes more than once, but luckily his clothes folded up nicely and didn't hog much room. It's kind of dorky, but I always plan out my outfits on the back of an envelope or other scratch paper. That way, I pack enough, but don't overpack. It's foolproof!

It all worked out great. Every morning, Theo and I got up and hiked our way toward my friend Kate's neighborhood. Here we are going up...

And down the other side! Thankfully, a friend of Kate and her husband Ryan allowed us to house sit. It was the most beautiful Victorian and we had it all to ourselves. Embarrassingly, I was super afraid to be there alone at night. I found myself wishing we could just crash on my friend's couch instead! Silly.

I found a cozy little cafe to work from and Theo slept outside. The seemingly unattended stroller caused many an alarmed head jerk.

I adore San Francisco! After working for the morning, Theo and I would head up to Kate's house and we'd hang out for a while and then all go out to lunch together.

Getting out of the house with two babies and two strollers was ridiculous! City living. Sheesh!

One day, we had lunch at Tacolicious. Have you been? It was so fantastic. So delicious and pretty and dreamy! Theo napped under my scarf for the beginning of the meal.

Then he joined right in on the action and had some beans and rice and pulled pork for himself. As you can see, he also sampled the table. Good thing for those Wet Ones wipes!

With a baby Theo's age (8 1/2 months here) it's just so much easier to let them eat off of the table. But I do feel good knowing I've disinfected it first!

He slept most of the plane ride back to Minnesota all snuggled up with my sweatshirt and scarf. It helps babies sleep when they have something that smells like their mama to cuddle up with.

When he woke up, the flight attendant stole him and took him on tour. Theo absolutely loved it! Really, he was smiling and laughing at everyone - and trying to grab their hats off their heads!

The only thing I forgot, that I will definitely remember on our trip to Zurich, was the Ergo baby carrier. It makes collapsing the stroller and putting it in a gate check bag so much easier when you don't have a crawling baby to chase after. Other than that, it was a really easy trip and I wasn't overburdened by a bunch of stuff to haul around. That's always the worst and ruins a trip for me! I'll always pack light from now on.

How do you pack for travel? Have you learned to pack light? Or do you bring it all?

Join the conversation!

  1. Such a smart idea about using cardigans and scarves for baby blankets!
    I LOVE that you left Theo outside the cafe in view to nap, while you worked inside. I read somewhere that it is very common to do that in Norway (I think?) even in cold temperatures.
    I find North America sometimes lacks in the common sense area...thinking a bit outside the box too.
    We are slowly getting better and better at packing less for each trip. I use to pack more when it was just me when I was younger! Definitely learned a lot over the years :)
    Have an amazing time in Zurich <3

    1. He slept so well and for so long in that cool San Francisco air! It was awesome. My Norwegian friend in Zurich taught me all the wool layers a baby should have on to sleep outside. Good stuff!! I should remember that here. Thanks for the reminder. Theo's been a fussy napper lately. And...I'm so excited for Zurich, I can hardly believe it! xoxoxo

  2. Great tips! I have just flown home to Australia after a month away in Europe mostly with our 10month old & 4 year old. Your list is pretty good! I would second the Ergo- I wore a Manduca carrier (very similar) most days with my littlest in it, and my 4yo got the pram (we bought one that would fit in carry on- the Mountain Buggy Nano). Whenever we went to a restaurant I would ask for a spoon, which was Tate's favourite toy! Finger puppets from ikea were a great toy that if one got lost/dirty I didn't mind and they're small!

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