On my recent trip from Florida to Chicago, I redeemed a travel voucher and was limited in my choice of flights. I actually had to fly south from Tallahassee to Orlando to pick up a connecting flight to Chicago. Fun times.
As always, my goal was to bring everything I needed for my six day trip in a backpack and a messenger bag. It was tough, due to the fact that warm clothing is so space-filling. Let's break it down and see how it went. If you are interested in traveling with a small child, you can see what I brought and didn't bring and make changes in your luggage as needed.
First, in my backpack I packed clothing. Silas got a pair of warm pajamas, several undershirts, a couple long sleeved onesies, three warm coveralls, a jacket, a sweatshirt, a hat, and socks. I got a pair of jeans and a pair of pajama pants, two long sleeved shirts, two camisoles, a skirt, leggings, leg warmers, socks and underwear, and two sweaters. Somehow, when I wasn't using my baby carrier, I managed to shove it into the backpack too.
In terms of amount of clothing - it was possibly a little bit too much. I can't help that; I always, always overpack clothing. For one thing, I had access to laundry at my parent's house, so I just ended up washing clothes every day. I never ran out of clean options for Silas or me and I never wished I had different options.
I probably could have gotten by with two pairs of coveralls for Silas, but in the end, baby clothing doesn't take up THAT much space. Plus babies look so cute in different outfits; I'd rather he have some variety than me.
In my messenger bag, I packed diapers and wipes, a few toys and books. I brought too many books. I was very worried about Silas being bored on the plane and acting out, so I brought about six different paper books (standard size) and six or seven little board books (like two inch by two inch). Silas ended up picking three favorites that he wanted to hear over and over, and I ended up with a backache from carrying around all the extras.
I packed enough diapers for two days of the trip and bought some extras at my parent's house. That works out nicely. I brought two toys that he liked to chew on - also worked out very nicely. Once he was at my parent's house, he didn't want his own toys anyhow; he wanted to explore! I brought a baby blanket in case it was cold on the plane - that blanket never got used.
The messenger bag also carried my wallet and phone.
Because babies only fly free in an adult's lap until two, it's very likely this was my last flight with Silas for awhile. If I could change anything, I would have brought a few less clothes and a few less books. I think that it is easy to overprepare, worrying about a delayed flight or something, but keep in mind the airport and airplane itself also provide some entertainment; Silas loved looking at the safety cards because they were full of pictures.
Finally, economy plus seating is probably worth the extra money, kind of. I lucked out and ended up in there on my flight up, but on my flight back I was near the back of the plane in between two guys. Thankfully, the one on my left fell asleep and the one on my right told me he had four kids and to not worry if Silas accidentally kicked him. (Trust me, I still did my absolute best to make sure Silas kept the squirming down to a minimum. It was just nice to know I didn't have to apologize profusely each and every time a squirm happened.)
Oh, and there is probably no better workout than letting a baby walk down the terminal (try to find a section with mostly empty gates) - I would let Silas walk up and down, but the true workout came from trudging after him with all our stuff on my back and squatting down to pick him up and "reset" him when he started heading towards the crowded parts of the terminal.
Safe travels, all!