Tips for the Babywearing Traveler

By Autumn Hunter, ABE

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Traveling, particularly by air, can be a challenge when traveling by yourself, let alone when traveling with a child or children.  We took our first road trip when my son – now just over 2 – was only 8 weeks old and our first flight when he was 4.5 months.  It was a steep learning curve for sure, but thankfully we’ve been fine tuning (re: trialing and erroring) our travel protocols enough over the last two years to be able to share some tips that will hopefully make your trips a little less stressful.

The Airport

First up is navigating the airport.  We found that by far the best method is to do a Front Wrap Cross Carry (“FWCC”) and carry a diaper bag backpack on the back (a short video demonstration here), although the same idea could be used with a Soft Structured Carrier (“SSC”) or Meh Dai.  Even though my toddler is now over 30 pounds, the weight of the backpack has served as a balance and not placed too much weight on my lower back to make the trip uncomfortable.  I tend to pre-tie the FWCC as much as possible on the front end, so I’m not doing as much in an airport parking lot, while running late, or curbside if I’m being dropped off.  It really helps to take some extra time to tighten up the carry on the front end, so that you don’t have to fidget or experience sagging while rushing (no?  We’re the only ones that run through the airport every time? Carry on!).

I have never had to untie through a security checkpoint.  Instead, I have been permitted to leave him wrapped, and they have pulled me aside to do a special screening that involves swabbing my hands and running it through a machine.  My bags have gone through the scanner like normal.  I have heard that carriers with metal (such as ring slings) may pose issues at the checkpoint, so I would suggest choosing a carrier carefully or allowing extra time if you have to take baby down for security.

It’s really important to keep the diaper bag as organized as possible for ease of the security check.  If you are carrying two bags, I recommend keeping only baby stuff in the diaper bag, so you don’t have to dig through the bag if you need quick access at security, during the flight, or if you have to change a diaper (most planes I have been on have a (very) small changing table in at least one bathroom).

As for boarding the plane, I try to keep him wrapped until we get to the seat.  I have let him down before while waiting for a delay or time to boarding, which then lead to chasing a very fast toddler through the terminal.  At least it helped him sleep on the plane, right?  At the seat, I try to leave the wrap pre-tied as much as possible and either tie up the ends, wrap the ends around me (like a FWCC with no baby), or just leave it as is and use the tails for a nursing cover or pillow.  On the other side upon landing, I step into the aisle and drop him back into the pocket and tighten up.

Not babywearing related, but I recommend taking lots of snacks and plenty of entertainment for your baby.  A roll of duct tape, stickers, trains to drive on the snack table, fun headphones to plug into a phone for videos are all things we’ve used on flights that have been helpful.  For snacks, we like to do dry cheerios, pretzels, veggie sticks, crackers, fruit/veggie sauce pouches.  Helpful tip: do not try to use a straw cup on the plane!  The change in air pressure turns the straw into a spout, and you may or may not shoot water at your son when you open up the straw.  Oops.


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Beach Vacation

It’s hard – really hard – to refrain from taking every carrier you own on vacation with you.  I try hard to narrow down to 2-3 carriers to avoid making luggage too heavy.[1]  For a beach vacation, I would take one ring sling or traditional sling carry (TSC) sized wrap, for quick ups to go from the room to the pool or beach.  If you have a smaller baby, using a mesh water ring sling is even better, because then you can wear your baby right into the pool (this picture was actually my very first time using a ring sling!  Normally I would recommend having the rings up higher, in corsage position.  But both of us were very happy and comfortable anyway!).

If you opt to go with a TSC, you can take a longer shorty (like a size 3 or even a 4) and use it for some other carries, such as a Ruck if you will not be wearing for a long time or if you have a lighter baby and single-layer carries are comfortable long term.


You could also take one or two sling rings and turn a shorty into a ring sling or Robins with a ring, like I did here.  Versatility is key!

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Personally, my favorite has been using a size 3 or 4 for a semi-FWCC for things like long walks on the beach.  There is something about having a baby snuggling into you, maybe taking a wrap nap, while you walk along a nice, calm beach.  I like this video for a semi-FWCC, and have comfortably carried a sleeping toddler for several miles.It may help to be strategic about the carrier you choose if you are going to a warm weather destination.  While I do generally take a long wrap “just in case” there is occasion for a double hammock (“DH”), I do not tend to wear them on beach vacations because we have a lot of ups and downs rather than long excursions, and because multi-layer carries can get warm on a hot day.  I have done it though, and went with a Ruck tied Tibetan with a size 6, to keep it single layer.


[1] Not to worry if you have one carrier, or if you prefer SSCs to wraps!  See the note at the end.

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Site-seeing Vacations

I’ll be honest here, I’m not the site-seeing vacation typa girl.  I much prefer my beach vacations.  I did have a work trip, however, where I was fortunately able to take my family along and we ended up doing more site-seeing, walking, long days out than we would normally do. Here is a video demonstration for how we chose to navigate a museum and site-seeing day out, on a chilly day.  I am a DH lover, straight to the point. It is a multi-layer carry, ties at the waist (a traditional DH) which I prefer over shoulder-bearing carries, spreads the weight out evenly, my son will often times let me wrap him arms in and he settles in calmly, and I am comfortable doing it in a parking lot, in a bathroom, in a restaurant next to the table, in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on the train, it is my green eggs and ham.

If you are going to be babywearing for an entire day of site-seeing, walking, crowds, etc., you want to do it with your green eggs and ham carry.  But, don’t be afraid to switch it up if needed.  If you are comfortable doing a DH at the hotel room in front of the mirror but not in public, then by all means switch to a FWCC or another carry that you’re comfortable doing in public, after you untie for lunch or any other reason.  Make sure to wear comfortable clothes that aren’t too slippery (learned the hard way with a football jersey), and take layers if needed, such as an oversized cardigan or fleece that will go over both of you.


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Public Transit

If you are traveling via taxi or bus and will have to remove your baby a few times, or if you have a frequently nursing baby/toddler, I would suggest doing a poppable carry such as a Front Cross Carry so that you can easily pop baby in and out, or drop down to nurse and move back up without much fanfare.

For metro/subways, I preferred to do a front carry to decrease the chances of my son getting overstimulated or overwhelmed in the crowded train, and to minimize the amount that people could bump into him.


End Notes

It is probably quite clear by this point that I prefer wraps to anything else.  Please don’t let that deter you from applying any of these tips to your trips!  If you have one carrier, or if you prefer SSCs to wraps, no fear.  One carrier can be very versatile enough to use on any kind of vacation. If you have one short wrap and need a multi-layer carry for long outings, try a Reinforced Rear Ruck or Half Jordan’s Back Carry.  If you have one long wrap, you can get creative with long tails such as tying Tibetan or knotless, or going around your waist an extra time.  SSCs or meh dais would be perfect in either scenario, as they are airy enough to withstand a beachy warm day, allow for layers in cold weather, and are fairly easy to get on and off when in a hurry.

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