Traveling to the East Coast with a 1yo and a 2.5 yo

Hi BPN folks, just wondering how people travel to far-flung places with little ones. We are about to embark on a cross-continental trip when baby is 1 yr and brother is 2.5 yrs and down the line, we'd like to do international trips too. In all these scenarios, we would be flying and plan on staying with family and friends, who may not necessarily have baby equipment on hand. I've been googling a lot on travel hacks but wanted to know what worked for you! I have also heard of and while that may work for the East Coast trip, not sure if I will have much luck with international, so it might just be that I could invest now in some equipment anyway.

  • Sleep - Both are accustomed to sleeping in their own space and sleep better that way. Buying two travel cribs (like the Lotus/Guava pack-and-play) gets really $$ and might be overkill, also too much to carry. I am thinking of investing in one. Anyone with success with packing some kind of kid's tent and just putting bedding in there (I'm thinking for the toddler)?
  • Strollers -  Bring our double stroller (I already have the lightest one - the Zoe), or just travel with one umbrella stroller? I know we can check strollers in at the gate, but if we are sightseeing and such, I am not sure if the double stroller will be more of a pain to lug around. Yet, I don't know what else to do if both kids get tired (and we are tired of holding them...)
  • Car seats - I have no idea what to do here. We will still need an infant car seat, and my toddler will still need a forward-facing car seat. We likely won't need to rent a car because we are always going to be with family/friends, but their cars aren't equipped either.
  • Anything else I need to think of? Tips for entertaining kids on long plane flights are always welcome too. Unfortunately we still have to have our little one be a lap baby because tickets get so expensive... I remember when I was very young, my mom just asked for extra bedding from the attendants and would make a makeshift bed for me on the floor at her feet (not the aisle, lol). Probably would get raised eyebrows now, but heck I was able to sleep!

Thanks in advance!

[Moderator note: Lots of advice here from past discussions: Advice about Traveling with Kids ]

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

We traveled to Toronto and had the same dilemma with our three and four year old. We had my brother purchase used car seats on craigslist for less than twenty bucks a piece. Our youngest slept on a lululemon yoga mat that we placed on the floor next to our bed and our oldest shared a bunk with her cousin. The flight attendants on Air Canada were very accommodating- they gave us blankets, headphones and pillows which are usually only used in first class. They also had these goodie bags with crayons and a small coloring book. Definitely pack lots of snacks, keep offering food, drinks etc. and try to keep them entertained with a few walks up and down the isle. 

Hi! I have a 14 month old and in this past year we have traveled 4x to New York, as well as to India, the Maldives, Singapore, and Argentina with our baby, and several of these trips I did alone with the baby.

For me, what matters is to keep the gear as minimal as possible since you already have a lot to lug around/keep track of in terms of babies and baggage. This is what I do:

  • stroller -- we travel with a Contours Bitsy stroller (umbrella/travel stroller), into which we can fit the Nuna Pipa car seat (and many other infant car seats) as well as the Cosco Scenera convertible car seat (the only convertible car seat that will fit into the stroller). Contours Bitsy is an awesome underrated stroller, collapses and opens super simply with one hand, very light, and has held up to some serious throwing around, offroad use, in and out of airplanes with no stroller bag. It's pretty cheap, maybe you could get two. I would definitely not want to travel with a double stroller, that is super unwieldy. You will have difficulty fitting this along with your luggage into any normal car trunk.
  • car seat -- since my baby turned 6 months old I always travel with a car seat on the plane, though I'm generally desperate to keep the gear minimal. This is because it makes the long haul flight so much easier/safer if you can put the baby down, safely strapped into a car seat. Alternately, for long haul flights with lap infants, you should call and request a bassinet seat -- generally the first row of the economy section with fold down bassinets. Times have changed -- you will certainly not be able to put the baby down to sleep on the floor. If you carry the baby they will ask you to wear a second seat belt to loop in your baby. It won't be comfortable and neither you nor your baby will be able to sleep much. 

    As to what kind of car seat to bring for your toddler, consider buying a new car seat specifically for travel; we use the Cosco Scenera convertible car seat. It is super light and slim, and only around $50 from walmart. It fits well into an airplane seat. My baby can sleep pretty well in this car seat, especially if we upgrade to economy plus and it's possible to do the full recline position while rear-facing.

    Google the laws for using car seats in international destinations. For example, in Singapore, babies must be in car seats in private cars, but not in taxis. We were able to go sightseeing using taxis without lugging the car seat which made a big difference. Public transport is also a good option for leaving the car seat at home.

  • sleep -- If you're staying with friends, that's tough -- either they provide the cribs or you have to bring them. I've traveled with the Guava Lotus a couple times but much prefer not to, and it usually works pretty well. Stay at a hotel and request that they provide cribs, almost all nice hotels will do this for you. Hotels are great with this kind of stuff. They also make life much easier with concierge to get you taxis, room service to bring warm milk in the middle of the night, blackout shades for jetlagged babies, daily cleaning service that actually makes you feel like you're on vacation, etc. Alternately, you can use an airbnb type service like Kid and Coe to get an apartment with all the kids gear you need including cribs. 

Good luck!

I love Lucie's List for these types of recommendations - she's truly done all the work for you, in terms of research, and you can take it from there:

Since you're staying with family/friends, see what they can arrange for you on their end - like if they have friends they can borrow gear from, or I've even seen lots of requests on NextDoor from people looking to borrow baby equipment for their family members coming to town. You'd be surprised what people have and are willing to lend out - car seats, high chairs, travel cribs, even books and toys. 

My daughter is 4 right now (turning 5 in October) and my wife and I have traveled internationally since she was 2 months old (7 different countries to date). Just so you know jet lag with kids is no joke and is probably the hardest thing to overcome. When my daughter was young we bought a portable crib and kept it at the grandparent's place and pulled it out every time we visited so if there's a location you plan to visit a lot that would help. Another option we've used is a blow-up kid size mattress but it can be pretty heavy and we only used it for extended trips. When we aren't visiting family/friends we just all share a bed which works for us now. For the stroller I'd recommend an umbrella stroller. Having a larger one is nice but a pain to lug around. Plus a lot of larger cities (particularly European cities) weren't built with strollers in mind. Case in point, a lot of metro stations in Paris have no elevators/escalators to get down to the train level. I don't know how many times I've seen people having to carry strollers down the stairs. For the carseat we use the RideSafer travel vest which we like as it's small, light and easy to get on/off. It's also tested to the same standards as regular carseats so we feel comfortable using it on our travels. It also comes in handy when our daughter has field trips for school and needs a carseat for the carpool. It's only for a toddler and you'll still need an infant seat as you noted. The long plane rides aren't fun. Bring lots of toys, coloring books etc and be prepared to walk up/down the aisles. When the kids are older then ipads etc are helpful. Sleeping on the floor might have worked for you when seats were more comfortable and had more leg room but these days it's super cramped so I'm not sure if that'll work. I've seen kid sized carry-ons that double as seat extension so they can sleep but not sure how effective they are. 

Congrats and hooray for you! 

  • Sleep - the Bjorn travel crib is lightweight, and we stuffed extra things in it (like diapers). For non-babies, Shrunks inflatable bed rails pack small and are easy to blow up. We even ended up using them at home later. TBH, though, a lot of the time parents and kids end up co-sleeping - there's less stuff to carry, and they do better with a parent when they're in an unfamiliar space.
  • Strollers -  If you have to take a car seat, I suggest a stroller where your car seat can clip in (like AND, an umbrella stroller if you'll need it for the older child, which does make moving through the airport a lot easier. We also used the Ergo in back-riding mode until the kids were about 2...the kids can be heavy but the backpack-style makes it pretty do-able and it's better than lugging around a double stroller.
  • Car seats - The Immi Go fold-up carseat is great for travel and is a breeze to install. We now have one for both kids (ages 3 and 5). It's fairly lightweight and fits inside a large tote bag for carrying. (We always meant to get a sturdy suitcase or bag so we could check it, but never did...we just carry. It's not ideal, but it's fine.
  • Plane rides - don't be shy or puritan with Benadryl! Use it! Amazon sells cheap Kindles for kids that we pre-load with some long movies. Melissa & Doug's Water Wow art boards are great and easy to carry. I always meant to make necklaces out of Cheerios...they take a long time to eat, and it keeps them contained. Take 1-2 of their favorite small books. Ergo's are great for wearing on the plane because it can help the kids sleep (and save your arms from holding holding holding).
  • Don't stress if you forget something. We had fun shopping at a baby store in Stockholm when our umbrella stroller missed the connection and ended up in Finland. And we bought a sit-on scooter in Spain that then doubled as a second "stroller" for the older kiddo.

Have fun!

We fly to the east coast 1-2 times a year. It is no fun. Although it is a long flight, we feel that a direct flight ends up being better than lugging kids and car seats and the all the stuff to try to make the connecting flight is hard. And if there is a delay with the connecting flight, the travel is that much longer. 

If you can ask friends and families to borrow car seats at the destination, please do it! Within their communities, someone usually can borrow car seats. For your 2.5 year old, you will probably need a seat on the flight, so bring a car seat for the older one but get a travel car seat roller like go go babyz. That makes navigating the airport with a car seat much easier. Alternatively get a back pack style car seat bag, so your hands are free. We have tried both options. Our kid doesn’t for stroller, so back pack was it for us. It’s easier to strap the 1 year old in a baby carrier. 

You can also gate check stroller but again, our kid hated stroller and insisted on walking from age 1, so we strapped the kid onto us in airports. We also had a leash when the kid liked to toddle and dart away.

If you have to bring both seats with you, check one but note that checked bag can be lost. Our checked seat didn’t come with us one time so southwest loaned one for us. Yucky but better than nothing. Also, you need a proper cover for your seat.

Bring lots of everything - food, drinks, 2 or more changes of clothes for kids and at least one change of clothes for adults. Lots of wipes, sanitizer. Blow outs and throw ups can and do happen. We have experienced both in mid flight and at airports.

try to walk up and down aisle. We let our kid watch Disney movies, Sesame Street and stuff. Naps happen at weird times. Make sure they drink and suck on things during take off and landing. Have a stash of toys and new books for the older one. If you can manage,  let the older one stay outside the airplane as long as possible. We like boarding late but if it’s Southwest one adult goes in to get seats and the other one stays behind with the toddler as long as possible. Bring your empty cups at one so that you can transport drinks. Good luck. My youngest is 4 now so I am so happy that travel has gotten much easier.

I have a 3yo and a <1yo. We traveled a lot with our oldest before #2 came around, and only a little with 2 now. My 2 cents based on that experience:


We have traveled with and without our own car seats and found that unless you have a clear plan for acquiring one on the other side, it's best to just bring yours. We got a lightweight convertible car seat to use for travel (11 lbs) and it's served us well - just check it in when you get to the airport.


Definitely opt for the lightest/smallest stroller if you'll be doing international travel. The big strollers really only work in North America. If your little one is still willing to go an a carrier (Ergo, Lilebaby), then bring a single stroller. The older can mostly walk, and if s/he needs a break, the younger one can go in the carrier for shorter stretches. Way less work than a double stroller!


Pack & plays are heavy and a pain to travel with. They're also pretty cheap, so you could buy one to leave on the east coast with your family (we've done that twice). Can your toddler sleep in a regular bed? We've done that with a blanket rolled up along the edge and placed under the fitted sheet to keep her from rolling out. Also love the idea of "camping" on the floor with a mat and pillows for the older one.

Take a look at Rick Steeves' Europe traveling forums for traveling with kids...  Especially to Europe.  It can be done and there is no reason you should not go.  We've traveled with 9 month old and a 3 year old to London for 10 days.  (Nine month old was still breast feeding.)  We just returned from a vacation to Paris, Zurich, Venice, Zagreb, Zadar, Dubrovnik, and Montenegro.  And was very surprised by the number of foreign travelers who were pushing around baby carriages with infants.  Some had to be just 4 months old.  What's funny is we don't see or maybe notice very many kids in the 3-8 year range.

Anyway, guess what I'm saying is there's no reason not to go.  In our travels we found the most the most traveling with young kids countries were Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Montenegro, Croatia, and Greece.  I can't tell you how many memories and pictures we have with our kids from these countries and many more.  While traveling with our kids in Austria and Germany we met up with my brother-in-law and his 2 kids which were 5 and 3 at the time.  We have pictures of them running around castles, acting like the kids in the Sound of Music/dancing in Mirabell Gardens, sliding down the salt mine slides and playing in parks with the local kids from Germany, Austria, England and Greece.  You should be doing the same if you like to travel.

 Hope this gives you the encouragement to go. No need to lug along a lot of baby items.  There are babies in Europe and they sell all of the same times you can by in the states.  What we did was by prams/strollers or what ever we needed in Europe including clothing.  Make sure you kids are vaccinated especially for measles.  Cases of measles are at an all time high do to the anti-vaxxers.  Last thing you want on a vacation is a sick child or have a child who is quarantined.

Make those memories now before your kids get any older.  You know, the Christmas holidays are coming up soon.  You could make some incredible memories spending the holidays in Europe.  We did, and so should you.