When we went travelling for the first time with our toddler, and hubby said he wanted to do it carry-on only. With our airline Qantas, under two-year-olds travel free without a separate seat, have no luggage allowance, but you can check-in three special baby items (carseat, portacot, stroller). This meant having to give up some of my luggage space for bub’s things. I’m not afraid to say that I was somewhat daunted by this prospect given how long I spent curating my carry-on travel capsule which already filled my suitcase to capacity.
Our destination was Melbourne, and late-winter/early-spring Melbourne means layers. With a little more help from the infinitely useful Travel Fashion Girl, I cut down my capsule even further.
The following two packing lists for myself and bub include items we wore (marked with an *), and the remainder fit into my carry-on suitcase. Where more than one item is listed and asterisked, one set was worn.
Carry-On for Mum
Aside from the jeans and the trench, all the items listed here can be hand-washed, though the Chrysalis cardi, MORF t-shirt, and medium sweater may take a little longer to dry. We had access to a washing machine and, as it was cold enough to warrant running a heater, most items dried overnight, or at worst, by the following evening.
I know this looks like a lot. But if you exclude the items worn, with packing cubes, my items only took up half a carry-on case, leaving half for bub’s clothes.
The MORF shirt was a curiosity buy. For the price it was worth a try, and I certainly got good use out of it, though it could easily have been replaced with another good long-sleeve t-shirt in your favourite cut.
I was pretty happy with a button-down, but any other layering weight long-sleeve would have worked here as well.
A second pair of jeans would have been preferred, but that added quite a bit of bulk, so the skirt worked well as an alternate piece while the jeans were in the wash. Otherwise, you may be able to find another pair of packable pants or jeggings that may work. I’ve read great things about the Anatomie Skyler, and would love to give these a go myself.
If you have pants a little lighter weight or less fitted, it may also be possible to wear them over tights or knee-high socks for extra warmth.
- 1 dress, Ripe Maternity long sleeve in black
Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s by Ripe Maternity. It’s suitable for pregnancy and breastfeeding, but it’s got a lovely fit even if you’re not in either of those life chapters, and the zip details add a bit of interest to a black dress. I wore the dress out for a bub-free evening with friends, and it can easily be dressed up or down.
If you’re a dress kind of person, pack something versatile like this, otherwise omit or sub in something else to your taste.
- 1 light sweater, Uniqlo Extra Fine Merino Crew Neck Sweater in pink (similar)
- 1 medium pullover, Witchery Zip Shoulder Knit in grey marle* (similar)
- 1 trench, AllSaints Dido Mac* (alternative)
Both the sweater and pullover had enough ease to be comfortably layered with the other tops, and the medium pullover fit under the trench as well. Combined with thermal layers, I was comfortably warm the whole trip.
I’m always on the fence about whether to bring a trench on trips. It’s pretty bulky, but it’s classic. Depending on the weather and intended transportation, it could be replaced with a mid-length coat/jacket with some sort of hood and water-resistance. If you’re carrying a bub or pushing a pram, that would likely be a better choice so that you don’t have to hold an umbrella.
- 2 pairs underwear*
- 2 bras*
- 2 pairs ankle socks
- 1 pair knee high socks*
- 1 pair fleece tights
- thermal long sleeve top*
- thermal tank top
The knee-high socks and tights could be worn with the dress or skirt. Or as extra warmth layers. Could be omitted if you’re not bringing those items. But I have also used the knee-high socks under my jeans on extra cold days. Two pairs of socks (whatever sort) is enough, though.
If you don’t get that cold, the thermal layers could also be omitted, but IMO that’s crazy talk.
I love these two pairs of shoes, and they’re still going strong after 6 and almost 20 years respectively. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a good pair of shoes is worth the money.
When the knee-high boots finally call it quits (I expect possibly in the next couple of years), I’m planning to replace them with an ankle boot for a bit more versatility and to reduce travel bulk.
- 1 convertible scarf, DIY Encircled: Chrysalis Cardi in black (written about here)*
- 1 lighter scarf, H&M
- 1 beanie*
Honestly, I could have gone without the Chrysalis Cardi this trip as I opted to bring a second scarf, but it also doubled as a pram blanket so having it gave me options. Both got about equal use as a result, so not terribly fussed about having brought it.
- 1 pair flannel pyjamas
Carry-On for Bub
While I could go with a couple tops for the trip, the rationale behind more items for bub is to accommodate the potential need for two changes a day for a few days between washes. If you’ll need to go longer between washes then you’ll likely need more items, or hand-wash more frequently.
A good mix for the weather. Depending on the fit, you can also layer the short and long sleeve t-shirts.
The leggings could also fit under the pants as an extra layer on particularly cold days.
I’m really loving Maxaloones/Grow-With-Me pants as well. These pants fit over a wide age bracket which is great considering you end up changing sizes every few months for the first couple of years. The most common sizings are the 0-12m and the 6m-3y. You read that right. One pair of pants that can first the whole first year, and another that can go from 6-months to 3-years. I picked up the pattern and made a couple pairs myself in the 6m-3y size, but I bought our first pairs of these in the 0-12m size from Coton Vanille.
- 1 tunic dress (similar)
It was a bit more convenient to use pants than the dress so I could have comfortably not packed it. But that’s going to be more of a personal style preference.
All three of together could be layered and made bub look a bit marshmallowy. I’m quite happy with these choices, but the pullover could potentially be substituted with a cardigan depending again on personal preference. If you want to be able to layer them like we did, make sure there’s enough ease to allow for whatever is going underneath each layer.
- 3 singlets* (similar)
- 2 pairs socks
Shoes & Accessories
- 1 beanie
- 2 pairs shoes (similar)
You could just go with the one pair of shoes, but we’re using Attipas. Although we use socks with them, having a spare pair meant we could wash one and wear one to avoid smell issues.
Bub uses a sleep sack, otherwise you may have to pack a blanket instead. If bub is younger or chucky, you may need two just in case.
And instead of two-piece sets, we love Bonds Zippies for sleepwear. There’s a two-way zip which makes for easy nappy changes in the middle of the night, and is generally really easy to get bub in and out of. They also look pretty cute so you can wear them out if you wanted to.
These fit in the other half of the carry-on suitcase, with room for a pack of disposable nappies. There was no way we would be able to do carry-on with cloth nappies.
I also had our nappy backpack which held entertainment and snacks for bub.
Hubby carried bub’s monitor and sleep toy. We were able to bring our Mountain Buggy Nano as our final carry-on item, and also had room to tuck in a Cozi-Go and Snazzy-Baby travel baby chair (similar) with the pram.
All in all, totally manageable. Provided I (read: bub) didn’t grub up my clothes, I could get a couple wears between washes (half loads). And the soil was light enough that you could do a light wash cycle with spot treatment.
If hubby wasn’t along, we’d have had to use the special luggage allowance for the pram. And I’d probably just use a mobile phone app for the monitor if I needed it. The sleep toy could have been stuffed into another pocket somewhere. So we would still have been able to manage whether it was one or two parents travelling.
 Who am I kidding, year-round Melbourne means layers.
 There are apps for this, so you could always bring a spare phone which would be less bulky than a monitor set. Or, just not bring one…
 Sadly, hard to find fully eco or compostable options in general for travel, will write up my notes on this later, but it’s a compromise we had to make.