Packing tips for traveling with a toddler


Recently, I flew cross-country with my three-year-old. She’s at the age where she can carry a small backpack, but not strong (or fast) enough to use a roller bag. I have to buy a ticket for her, which means we get her carry-on and suitcase allowance, but that’s not very helpful when I travel alone.

Therefore, the (additional) baggage allowance for my kid’s ticket doesn’t help me unless I have more arms.

This is how we packed for our recent trip to Washington, D.C., flying on United:

Expandable Roller Bag that fits in overhead compartment


I own the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere 2 Softside 21 Inch Spinner, which was a wedding gift from my parents. Even though it’s plain (basic) black, I trust the Samsonite Brand because it’s durable, reliable, and served us well. This bag has an expandable zipper, which gives a little bit of wiggle room when packing. It’s my go-to for traveling. I used it as a carry-on for the flight there, but it was heavier on the way back so I checked it in. 

What to look for in carry-on luggage:

  • Expandable zipper
  • Multi-directional wheels – “Spinner”
  • Lightweight
  • A good warranty – most reputable luggage companies (such as Samsonite) have a 3 – 10 year warranty on their products and also have repair centers

Make sure it is the right size

What qualifies as carry-on luggage for one airline may not be suitable for another. Be sure to check your airline’s size and weight restrictions (most international flights have weight restrictions for carry-ons) before traveling. Most airlines have a baggage sizer to fit your bag into before boarding the flight. The information below is current (from the published date of this post), so please double check your airline’s website for up-to-date information.

Here are links to a few major airlines’ carry-on policies and current maximum carry-on dimensions:

  • Alaska Airlines 
    • Length – 24″ (61cm) including wheels and handles
    • Height – 17″ (43cm)
    • Width – 10″ (25cm)
  • American Airlines
    • Shouldn’t exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 23 x 36 x 56 centimeters (including handles and wheels)
  • Delta Airlines
    • Baggage must fit easily in the Carry-on Baggage Check (approximately 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or 56 x 35 x  23 cm), which is located near the check-in counters
  • Hawaiian Airlines
    • 22″ length x 14″ width x 9″ height (45 linear inches)
    • Maximum weight: 25 pounds (11.5 kg)
  • JetBlue
    • All carry-on bags must not exceed 22″ L (55.88 cm) x 14″ W (35.56 cm) x 9″ H (22.86 cm), including wheels/handles, on all of our aircraft types.
  • Southwest
    • Southwest Airlines limits carryon bag dimensions to 10x16x24 inches
  • United
    • The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.

Kid’s backpack, filled with toys


We got this really cute backpack from my niece. We used it on the flight back and inside it fit the smaller backpack we used on the way there. This bag is super roomy. We stuffed a lot of toys in it, and the side pocket fit her Sesame Street toy phone perfectly. There are plenty of cute backpack options for little kids and bigger kids.

Here are some cute ones I found online:


ArcEnCiel Kid’s Backpack


Skip Hop Zoo Pack Little Kid Backpack, Dog

NOHOO Toddler Kids Cute Cartoon Backpack Shoulder Bag-Cute Dinosaur Backpacks

NOHOO Toddler Kids Cute Cartoon Backpack Shoulder Bag-Cute Dinosaur Backpacks

Laptop Backpack

I never travel without my laptop, so a backpack is essential. The Columbia brand backpacking/laptop backpack I use is not available online, but I love it’s features, which include:

  • Insulated laptop area
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Side mesh pockets (for easy smartphone access)
  • Criss-cross cords in front to easily store my daughter’s toy when she gets tired of carrying it
  • Several pockets inside to stash things like pens, cords, and other random stuff

Here backpacks with similar features:
(links open to Amazon product page)


The North Face Recon Backpack


SwissGear Travel Gear ScanSmart Backpack


OGIO International Bandit Laptop Backpack

Insulated Bag for snacks and Travel Mug

I like to bring an insulated bag for snacks and a travel mug of milk. I’ve never had trouble going through security with a thermos of milk (or when my daughter was younger, pre-mixed formula) and a few small juice boxes for my kid. A small, reusable ice pack also helps keep fruits cool.

Easy fruits to pack:

  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Small apples

TSA rules and procedures for traveling with infants and children can be found here.


Fit & Fresh Signature Collection Ladies’ Brisbane Insulated Tote


Zojirushi Stainless Steel Travel Mug


Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes by Bentology

Efficient Packing

Packing Cubes

Recently, I discovered packing cubes. I received a complimentary Mumi Design travel cube in my swag bag from the Parasol diaper launch party and it fit all of my daughter’s clothes!

packing cube

Packing cubes come in different sizes, and make packing so easy!

Compression Bags


I used a Ziploc space bags for the first time – for my flight back. I did a little shopping for myself during my trip, and my mom sent me home with a bunch of new clothes she bought for my daughter. I intentionally packed light for the flight there, knowing I would come back with more. However, I didn’t realize how much more! The Ziploc space bags helped fit everything in my suitcase. All you do is stuff your clothes in it, then press all the air out by rolling the bag. Nothing extra is needed, and clothes stay dry and protected. The only thing to keep in mind is when you unpack, the clothes will be pretty wrinkly, so hang everything as soon as you can!


Easily Identifiable Luggage Tags


I use Hello Kitty luggage tags I bought at Hello Kitty Con two years ago. I like them a lot because they are cute, and unique. It’s a good idea to use brightly colored tags, ribbons, or anything else to set your luggage apart. My mom likes wrapping raffia ribbon on her bag.

Alaska Airlines recommends filling out a baggage I.D. tag form (which also includes your confirmation code and destination phone number) and placing it inside your carry-on. Not a bad idea for traveling on airline!

Hopefully after my next trip, I will have more tips to share. Happy Travels!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. All opinions and experiences are 100% my own!