What to pack in a baby's hand luggage

So you've booked your flights, you've got a fabulous holiday ahead... now what do you pack in your baby's carry-on luggage? By the time my son was 15 months old he'd been on 16 flights, from short 1-hr hops to 13-hr long-haul journeys, so here's my tried and tested list of what to take in your baby's hand luggage.


Before we start: always check exactly what hand luggage you and your infant traveller are allowed: most airlines allow the baby to have his/her own hand luggage and you can then have your own bag too, but do check. Sometimes I try to put my own things and baby's things in the one bag to save having to manage two separate pieces (in addition to the baby!), but for the purpose of this article I'm including only those things I would need to take specifically for the purposes of travelling with a baby.

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1. A zippable nappy / diaper bag

I'm on my third nappy bag now (or diaper bag as it's known in the US): the first one (paid link) was pretty bashed and battered by the time baby number two came along; the second one (paid link) was stolen when our hire car was broken into in Vancouver, and the third one I'm pleased to say is still with us! Everyone will have their own preferences when it comes to nappy bags, but the one thing that's vital is that it zips shut. You will end up with it at your feet at some point, and if it rolls over and everything spills out you'll spend ages scrambling over the aircraft floor trying to retrieve all the contents so a main zip is, in my opinion, a must.

I also think you need one with:
- a few different pockets to help organise where everything goes, and
- a good shoulder strap so you can sling it over your shoulder or across your body and have both hands free to carry baby.

The first nappy bag I had was by Melobaby. The shape has been changed ever so slightly now from the one I had, but it was essentially this Melotote Baby Changing Bag (paid link). (Please note: that text link goes to Amazon UK whereas the image below goes to the Amazon US site. If you're ordering in the UK use the UK site as it's a lot cheaper!)

By the time our second baby was born I had become a big fan of the Skip Hop brand, so my second bag was their Messenger Diaper Bag (paid link).

We're currently still using our third bag, which was purchased based on:
- what I could buy quickly in Vancouver and
- one which has buggy straps. By now we were using our double buggy (paid link) much more which could support a bag being strapped to the handlebars (our single buggy (paid link) wasn't weighted to allow this).

Anyway, these additional factors led me to buying a JJ Cole Satchel Diaper Bag (paid link). The style has changed a fair bit since I purchased mine last year, but this one is pretty close in terms of size and layout.

So, you've got your zippable bag: what's next?

2. Twice as many nappies / diapers as you think you'll need

If you're lucky you'll not even use half of what you bring, but for peace of mind it's worth it to know you have loads spare. It also means if you're delayed at any point, or, heaven forbid, your main luggage is lost, you don't have to panic buy a new pack of nappies somewhere. So, plan out how many you would normally need for the time you'll be in transit, then double it.

3. Portable change mat

Many nappy bags come with these included, but personally I bought a separate change mat because it includes a small pocket which I find is big enough to contain four nappies plus a handful of nappy sacks. Mine was a basic one from a baby supplies store in Sydney, but the Skip Hop Pronto Portable Changing Mat (paid link) looks like a nicer version of my one, ha ha! 

They are often referred to as "nappy / diaper wallets", and some of them, like this one, even include a handy box for wipes (I have a separate one which came in a promotional pack of wipes one day). 

And as a side note: I also like the cushioned area for the head. Often you have to lie baby on a pretty hard surface, so it's nice to give their delicate heads a bit of softness.

4. Plenty of wipes

I can cram about 15 or 20 I reckon in my little wipes box as mentioned above, plus I tear them in half if it's just a little wipe that's required, so I find one full box is enough for any flight. But if your baby is likely to need hands or clothes wiped frequently - or your clothes for that matter! - then make sure you have enough to last you for your trip. Personally I like Huggies wipes, and you can buy multi-packs with flip-top packets (paid link) that I use if I need to carry more than I can fit into my little travel box.

5. Nappy sacks

Now this is a funny one, because when we were travelling in the US recently I found these really difficult to buy - mostly due to the different terminology I think. In Australia I was used to calling them "nappy bags", which clearly isn't the term used in the US. But even when amongst all the nappy-related items in the regular shops I still couldn't find them easily, as they tend to only be sold in stores with big baby departments such as Target or Toys 'R' Us, whereas I was used to them being readily available in any supermarket. Indeed, the first time we bought some in California I had to look in the pet section for doggy poop bags!

Anyway, they are super handy for aeroplane toilets which have bins that are so tiny you really don't want any bad smells to emanate, so take a handful in your hand luggage even if you don't normally use them. They are also handy for collecting little bits of rubbish, banana skins etc., or wet / dirty clothing. I don't have a particular favourite brand: so long as they're scented and have tie handles you'll be set. And if you're concerned about the environment then there are some biodegradable ones (paid link) on the market such as these ones by MOM EASY (I haven't personally used these but they look like a great idea):

6. Travel-sized nappy rash prevention creams or powders

We carry both Johnson's Baby Powder (paid link) and Sudocrem (paid link) (nappy rash cream) for our little ones in small containers so they can go through security no problem. They sometimes test the baby powder but that's usually just because I've forgotten to declare the cream in the liquids see-through bag - oops! Anyway, we rarely need them on the flights but the last thing you want is an infant with a sore bottom on a long journey so we pack them just in case. So whatever you use at home, try to get it in a small container and have that with you.


7. Anti-bacterial hand gel

Babies don't respect that you need to be near nice facilities to complete a perfect nappy change, so we've had our fair share of changes in less than ideal places. Anti-bacterial hand gel is therefore always good to have on hand, so to speak. (I just pick up whatever one is by the tills in the pharmacy.)

8. Spare outfits

Depending on your baby's age and stage you'll know how often a change of clothing is typically required, but as a rule I always liked to carry two spare complete outfits for baby and one spare top for myself. And maybe also a thin set of leggings too for myself just in case - not the most fashionable way to exit the plane but at least I'd be dry if your lap infant has a nappy leak mid-flight!

9. Entertainment

I've written a separate post about how to entertain toddlers on planes, but for babies I'd simply recommend:
- things they can chew (teething toys)
- things they can touch (tactile books, stacking cups)
- things they can look at (board books, colourful toys)

And of course, keep noisy toys to a minimum. My little ones always liked those crinkly books (paid link) and we found they weren't too loud so they were good for travelling, and the clattering of the stacking cups (paid link) is usually worth it for the rest of the fun they provide, but I'd avoid taking toys with tunes - for the sake of your own sanity as much as that of your fellow passengers!


10. Comforters

If your baby has something which comforts them, be it a dummy / pacifier, a blanket, or a favourite teddy bear, then obviously you'll want to pack this. And it might be worth buying a second one if it's something you can duplicate just in case it falls between the seats or gets spilt on during the journey.

11. Snacks

If your baby is into finger food then this can make a long flight WAY more interesting, so be sure to bring lots of different flavours and textures for baby to snack on. Some of our regular winners include:
- Bananas
- Little oranges (satsumas or tangerines - whatever is easy-peel and seedless!)
- Fruity / flapjack bars
- Veggie straws (paid link)
- Biscotti biscuits (paid link)


We would also then take quite a few baby food pouches - some savoury and some fruity - as well as a couple of baby spoons and wipeable bibs (paid link).

Not that much of it ever seems to make it as far as the bib when it comes to my daughter, I might add...


If you're breastfeeding make sure you bring a few extra muslins or whatever cloths or bibs you normally use as you'll want to try to keep your outfits as clean as is humanly possible for as long as you can manage!

And if you use formula I found the Philips Avent Formula Dispenser (paid link) was always a super easy way to carry three separate pre-measured amounts with me. It's nicely secure, and is more compact than some of the other dispensers out there.

PS Don't forget bottles too! (I won't link to anything here as by now I'm sure you've found the brand and teat size that work best for you.)

12. Baby's passport

Now I don't actually pack this in the baby bag, but don't forget to pack it somewhere if you're flying internationally!


And there we have my guide to what to pack in a baby's hand luggage. I've written a few other travel tips articles on this blog but if there's a topic I haven't covered that you'd like to read about then please just comment below or write to me on fiona@globetoddles.com and I'll try to include it in a future post.

Happy travelling!


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