Carrying On

What’s the perfect carry-on for people traveling with infants and toddlers?

We thought having a child will slow us down, and it has in some ways (goodbye to late night parties), but we still travel a lot. Since James was born we’ve moved from Pakistan to Nigeria, traveled around the Philippines (2x), Thailand (3x), and the US (3x), and he’s only two!

This Slate article http://www.slate.com/id/2101605/ tested and picked an upright wheeled suitcase. I would certainly pick that suitcase if I’m a business traveler in the US or Europe, you know places with elevators, escalators, ramps and paved streets. That won’t work for us though. In the places we travel to, including Lagos where we live, ramps are almost non-existent.  We also occasionally find the need to travel by bus and ship.

No, there is no one perfect carry-on for us, but a combination proved to be useful in all our international travels: the backpack, gym bag, and diaper bag. So check out my travel gear in this photo.

I will start with the obvious. We like the diaper bag, bought on sale for $30 at Target, because it’s got several pockets and compartments. We stuff it with a dozen disposable diapers, pack of wipes, water bottle, milk bottle, straw cup (for juice), Band-aid strips, wash cloth, spoon, fork, etc. The compartments make these items easy to find.

Our little black bag serves as an extension of the diaper bag. I’ve had it for 12 years and have used it for short business trips in my single days without needing to check in any luggage. I also love the fact that I can rest my feet on it, especially when I need extra leg support while the baby snuggles in my arms. During our last trip to the US this Christmas it was packed with toys, snack, and extra milk to entertain our toddler for those long hours in airports and during the flight. The roomy compartment at each end can fit 3 milk bottles each. So what we do is put milk powder in all 6 bottles to have enough for a 36-hour trip (counting the 12-hour layovers), needing only to add water when the time comes. But we also carry a can of additional milk in case we’re stranded somewhere. We know people have missed their connections and needed to stay an extra night or day somewhere.

Lastly is the red backpack, a knock-off bought in Bangkok’s Chatuchak market. Here I put kitchen towels plus a change of clothes for myself and the baby, a lesson learned when he threw up a couple of times. I also put a paperback, in case I get a chance to read during the flight (ha-ha-ha), and board books for the little one. It’s expandable so I can even stuff the neck pillow and my fanny pack/handbag in it. I try to leave plenty of room in it though. Since we made a stopover in London’s Heathrow airport and they had this stupid rule that passengers are only allowed one carry-on and so we had to put my husband’s laptop case in my bag while he carried his laptop under his arm through security check.

My husband has three pieces: the stroller or car seat, laptop, a Jansport backpack with his change of clothes, our travel documents, and more toys. Frankly we’re both sick and tired of lugging all these around from airport to airport but can’t think of any other travel gear that are more practical than what we’re using now.

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