If the thought of traveling with your baby makes you nervous, you’re not alone. I’ve had the pre-trip jitters every single time we traveled with Baby A during her first year, from her very first cross-country road trip at 2 months old to her first international flight at 6 months old. But here’s the good news: every single trip went much more smoothly than my panic-induced, sleep-deprived anxiety spirals imagined they would!
It turns out that traveling with a baby is just like having a baby at home: both terrifying and exhausting and also a LOT of fun and completely, totally worth the effort!
After traveling a bunch with our little one all through her first year, we’ve got a ton of tips for traveling with babies – and we’ve made plenty of mistakes so you won’t have to! This post covers all of the essentials for traveling with a baby, plus a few things to leave at home (but not the baby – it’s very important to bring the baby, no matter how sleep deprived you might be).
Psst: Need some packing advice for yourself? We’ve got LOADS of packing guides for people who aren’t babies! (And I wrote them before baby brain destroyed my ability to think clearly!) Start here or take a look at these:
Tips for Traveling with a Baby
After taking a few international trips, road trips, and domestic trip, we managed to dial in our baby travel strategy … just in time for her to walk her way right into toddlerhood, which is whole new set of challenges (sigh). But now we can hand down our tried and tested baby travel tips to you!
Here’s the thing about traveling with a baby, though: there’s a lot of prep work. Like, things you’ll want to do at home WELL before a trip. If you incorporate some of these into your daily life, it’ll make travel SO much easier.
In a nutshell, you’ll want to get baby as used to new environments as possible by exposing them to new places often. Take them to restaurants, to museums, to friend’s houses, to lakes and pools and on various forms of transit. It will help them cope with new situations and environments when you travel!
We also recommend that you get used to the idea that what’s most exciting and entertaining for your baby is rarely the thing you WANT them to be interested in. Like, they’ll be more excited by the emergency landing booklet on an airplane than they will by the 53 toys you brought with you to keep them occupied on the plane. They’ve already seen those toys, but the emergency landing thingy is new AND it’s in a pocket – WOAH.
Once you embrace the fact that whatever’s off limits or new is always going to be the most interesting thing in the world, you might not even bother bringing toys anywhere anymore, because you won’t need them! Straws, cups, forks, plates, door handles, plants, other people – those will all be extremely exciting and entertaining to your baby. Toys are great and all, but we find ourselves not really needing them as much as we think we will on trips.
Finally, you’ll want to minimize stuff that you have to bring as much as you possibly can. That might mean, for instance, taking showers with baby instead of baths – because every hotel room will have a shower, but they won’t all have bathtubs that will work with a baby, and schlepping around a baby tub (even an inflatable/foldable/portable one) is extremely annoying and not really necessary.
- Bring toys that baby has never seen before, or hasn’t played with in a while. Otherwise, your toys will always be fighting a losing battle with all the other fun stuff your baby will want to touch and play with out in the world, which you may or may not want them to touch or play with.
- Maintain your bedtime routine as much as possible while traveling. Set a really great routine and do it every night no matter where you are in the world! Our bedtime routine includes putting on her PJs and sleep sack, nursing, reading a book together, drinking a bottle, and rain sounds playing as white noise. She can go to sleep on a bed, on a floor mattress, in a pack-n-play, or even with a sitter so long as the routine is the same!
- Naps are SO much easier if you can manage them on the go. Try to sneak in an on-the-go nap every once in a while instead of laying your baby down for a nap. Stroller naps, car seat naps, carrier naps and even boob snoozes are all good ways to practice nap flexibility!
- For longer trips: plan to stay somewhere with a laundry machine and dishwasher every week or two. A trip that’s shorter than a week is no big – just pack extra baby clothes and hand wash everything, it’ll be fine. But for longer trips, it’s really helpful to sneak in a load of laundry and get a good dishwasher wash for bottles after about a week or so.
- Practice using the carrier at home before your trip. If you’re not used to wearing baby in a carrier, schlepping one along on a trip might actually end up being really annoying and unnecessary – not all carriers work for all people, and some people really hate carriers. Jeremy and I have each found a carrier we love, and we bring both of them on trips so we can share the load (and save our backs – a full day of carrying around our sweet little 20-pound bowling ball is brutal! Like, we actually work out just so we can do that sh*t now). Take your baby on some walks, grocery store runs, errands, etc in the carrier to make sure you both like it BEFORE traveling with it!
- Strollers aren’t always great to travel with. At home, Baby A is fine with her stroller. She does a cut little leg kick thing, chews on a strap, and hums happily to herself while looking at all the trees and flowers and things in our neighborhood. But in a new, foreign place? She HATES strollers. At least, she hates front-facing strollers – when she was small enough to be able to face us in the stroller, it was fine. But then she got too big and we started doing front-facing, and now she’s just facing out into the unfamiliarity of a place she’s never seen, and it freaks her out. Plus, we keep going places with stairs and elevators and cobblestones and other things that make strollers really irritating. So frankly, we use the stroller a lot less often than we baby wear on trips!
- If your baby hates the car, try to stick to places with great transit. Baby A hates the car. She liked it fine until when she was about 3 months old. We were doing a cross-country road trip in our camper van and it was about a week in, somewhere around Utah, when she decided she f***ing HATES the car. We’ve tabled the camper van for a while and we’re currently sticking to destinations where we don’t need a car – it’s so much easier for us, especially for naps (no transferring a sleeping baby to/from a car seat!) Plus, Baby A LOVES transit. She loves trains (people! windows! Rhythmic sounds!) and buses and plans and anything where she can make friends and smile at people and crawl all over us and explore stuff. She hates being contained in a car, bored out of her mind in the backseat while I frantically throw toys at her.
- Eating solid foods complicates the whole thing. Babies are so much easier to travel with when you can feed them anywhere by whipping out a boob or mixing up some formula (pro tip: try serving your baby cold bottles. They might be totally fine with it, like ours.) But once they need 3 whole meals and 2 snacks? oh my god. Now we have to travel with a small armada of shelf-stable snacks, a tiny cooler, bibs/a shotglass/baby-sized utensils, etc etc. And when she gets hungry, she’s STARVING and we have to stop and find a place to eat IMMEDIATELY or she freaks out. And it takes her like an hour to eat. And then she’s a total mess afterwards. Ohhh it’s just a whole thing. The younger your baby, the easier it is to travel with them in general, but solids are a huge part of that.
- The younger baby is, the easier they are to travel with. If you still have a potato baby who will sleep anywhere, isn’t crawling or walking yet, and doesn’t eat much solid food, you’re in the sweet spot!! So if you’re thinking like “oh let’s wait to plan a trip until they’re a little older,” NO! The time to do it is as SOON as you feel ready, because it only gets more complicated the older they get and the closer they get to toddlerhood. Sweet little tiny potato babies are soooo easy to travel with! For us, we didn’t feel comfortable doing much travel until she’d had all of her vaccines, so we just did road trips until she turned 6 months and we felt that she had enough immunizations to hop on a plane. She took her first international trip at 6 months and it was amazing!
- Try to time flights to coincide with naptimes and bedtime. Your baby sleeping on a plane means you can enjoy a few precious hours to watch movies, drink free Ginger Ale and eat snacks to your heart’s content. An awake baby on the plane isn’t the worst thing in the world – Baby A actually loves planes, because they are full of people and have pockets with stuff in them that she is content to play with for hours on end – but it’s certainly more stressful than a sleepy baby. So timing a quick-ish flight to overlap with naptime is perfect. For long-haul flights, take the redeye. Baby goes down at the beginning of the flight and wakes up in a new place feeling all refreshed and happy – and can even skip jetlag thanks to the magical effects of sunlight! The sweet spot for this is basically the length of baby’s evening sleep, so it works well for 8-12 hour flights. Maybe even longer if you want to do dinner and some awake plane time before they go down.
Baby Travel Essentials: Sleep
Ahhh, sleep: the difference between enjoying your vacation and being absolutely f***king miserable and cranky. While we can’t guarantee you a good night’s sleep on the road, what I CAN offer you is some reassurance: Baby A actually sleeps BETTER at night while traveling than at home! The stimulation of being in a new place just wears her out, I think (plus, once she outgrew her pack-n-play around 8 months we just started cosleeping on trips, which she loves.)
That said, she’s not really a bad sleeper at home, either – she averages about 1-2 wakeups per night at home, but that goes down to 0-1 when we travel. I think all the new stimulation and activity (and shorter naps, and thrown-off bedtimes…) tuckers her out and just makes it that much more likely that she’ll sleep straight through the night!
One thing that helps is that we keep our bedtime routine the same as at home: we put on her PJs and sleep sack, nurse, read a book together, drink a bottle, and have rain sounds playing as white noise.
Naps are also something you can work on BEFORE you travel. You’ll want to try to get them to be able to sleep anywhere – ideally, that means even being able to nap while out and about. A baby that will nap in a carrier, stroller, and/or car seat is a baby that is easy AF to travel with, y’all. Imagine not having to plan your day around your baby because they can just sleep whenever, wherever. A Shakira Baby. Yes, it is possible, and yes, it is worth it.
That said not every baby will tolerate it – some babies just need to be at home in a dark quiet room at a very specific time for naps. BUT if you can manage it, it’s HUGE for easing the stress of travel logistics!
In our case, we go off of baby’s cues, and roughly off of wake windows, to figure out when baby needs a nap. When she’s giving us the eye rub/ear tug/yawn cues, we pop her in the carrier on one of us to sleep. She passes out while we continue about our day, and often wakes up in a totally different place than she fell asleep.
The tradeoff? We went 11 months straight exclusively contact napping. Until she was almost 1 years old, she ONLY napped on us – meaning nobody else could put her down for a nap (except my mom, who has Grandma Energy and can do anything, apparently). It’s a huge tradeoff that we’re only able to do because we’re both home with her all the time. But we love the snuggles of contact naps, and the convenience of on-the-go naps is just too good for us to give up. For a more balanced approach, try to sneak in an on-the-go nap every once in a while instead of laying your baby down for a nap. Stroller naps, carseat naps, carrier naps and even boob snoozes are all good ways to practice nap flexibility!
But from jump, a few things that helped us were to have Baby A sleep in her pack n’ play at home, so when we brought it with us, she was in the exact same sleep environment. We also play rain sounds on a noise machine for her both at home and wherever we travel to, and we try to make the room as dark as possible at night. We also do the exact same bedtime routine wherever we go.
Here’s what helps us get enough sleep to function:
- Wool Sleep Sack: Traveling means you don’t always have control of the temperature of your room. But Baby A’s merino wool sleep sack is naturally temperature regulating, keeping her warm when the room is chilly and cooling her down when it’s hot! She’s been using this nightly at home too, so we know she’s always at the perfect temperature at night.
- Portable White Noise Machine: We have a Hatch at home and were skeptical at first, but that thing is fantastic – not sure if it helps her sleep, but it DOES cover up street noise, us watching TV, the dog barking, etc. And it creates a strong association that comes in handy during trips and even when taking a nap on the go! Our go-to white noise is rain sounds. We got away with playing it. onour phones in hotel rooms for a while, but the occasional surprise Instagram video blaring and waking her up was so stressful (and we wanted to be able to us our phones) that we ended up getting a portable white noise machine. It’s little and lightweight and rechargeable, and when we need an on-the-go stroller nap, it hands in the stroller, too.
- Travel-Friendly Pack n Play: The portable Guava Lotus Pack n Play has been Baby A’s “crib” at home, so we were excited to fold it up with us and take it along, thinking it would be good for her to have a familiar place to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings. It folds down into a lightweight carry-on friendly backpack that fits in the overhead compartment. One thing to note is that a lot of hotels and even vacation rentals will provide a baby crib free of charge, so if yours does, you won’t need to bring this along!
Travel Essentials with Baby: Nursing & Eating
Feeding a baby can be simple or it can be really freakin’ hard. There are so many variables at play! If you’re fortunate enough to be breastfeeding with no complications and your baby is not yet on solids, you can probably skip this section.
But for many of us, myself included, it’s not quite as simple. Maybe your baby needs pumped milk. Maybe your baby needs formula. Maybe your baby is already eating solids, or has crossed the tipping point into needing a constant supply of snacks in addition to full meals, bottles, and/or breast milk (for those of you with infants younger than 9 months, you’ve got that to look forward to). If you are on solids, you’ll be eating pretty much all of your meals at restaurants, which is daunting if you’re not used to taking baby out to eat – so start at home before your trip to practice!
So I’ve tried to make the below section as inclusive as possible. A few suggestions before we begin:
- Do you need to bring formula? If your baby needs a specific formula, bring enough with you to last for your entire trip. Otherwise, you’ll have no trouble finding formula wherever you are (unless you’re going to somewhere where babies and mothers don’t typically go, like Antarctica, I guess, but pretty much everywhere else has ’em). European formula is, in many ways, even better than what you can get in the US as their guidelines are very strict! That said, do bring SOME formula of your own to mix with the new formula rather than starting all at once to avoid an upset tummy.
- Do you need to bring snacks or baby food? If your baby is on solids or needs the occasional (or frequent) snack, you might be tempted to load your bag up with pouches, puffs, and heavy jars of baby food. Don’t! This is another item you’ll be able to find absolutely everywhere. Add it to your shopping list. And again, you might be surprised by how much better the options are in other countries. We found so many organic, nothing-added pouches and jars of baby food in Germany at regular, ordinary pharmacies! And don’t forget, you can always just feed baby fresh, ordinary soft fruits – there’s will be something they can eat at the grocery store, trust me. Just pack enough snacks and food to get them through your first day or two until you can get to a grocery store.
- Do you need to bring baby utensils or cups? Personally, this wasn’t something we found we needed to bring on trips. Baby A does just fine with full-sized utensils (which is to say, most of the time she uses her hands and also lets us feed her with full-sized utensils) and was able to drink from open cups and straws pretty early on. We did bring a small shot glass with us for a while because she was able to pick it up and drink from it on her own, but later on we got lazy and just handed her our reusable water bottle or a regular-sized glass to drink from. We just asked for empty plates to use at restaurants so we didn’t need to bring special baby plates/bowls, too.
- What to bring to keep baby entertained while waiting for food? The most stressful part of eating at a restaurant with a baby is trying to keep them patient and happy while you wait for food to arrive. The younger they are, the easier this is. Our go-to move is typically to let them explore what’s on the table (safely) – you can kill plenty of time just letting them tink-tink a fork against a glass or wave a menu around. We also do lots of picking the baby up and walking them all around the restaurant to look at things. There’s usually some art to look at, some fun new wall textures to explore, and a waiter or two who might wave at your baby. As baby gets older, having a snack on hand is great (if you don’t, just ask your server to bring you out a little plate of fresh fruit ASAP). And yes, bringing a couple of toys can help, but frankly, our baby is almost never interested in familiar toys when she’s out somewhere exciting and new – she is always more interested to explore the things she’s never seen or things she’s not supposed to mess with (how do they ALWAYS reach for the most dangerous thing FIRST??)
Now, let’s jump into the specifics:
- Bottles/nipples, soap, and a bottle brush: If your baby drinks formula or pumped milk, you’ll want to bring along at least a couple of bottles. Resist packing too many though, because they’ll take up way too much space and you’ll rarely need more than 2. You’ll just need to wash each bottle right after you use it! You can buy a little portable bottle brush and soap kit but honestly we just wash ours with a little container of unscented Dr. Bronners and a bottle brush, or in a pinch we’ve also even used washcloths and regular hand soap. A travel drying rack is handy, but it’s really a luxury, not a necessity – you can just lay down a towel in the bathroom or hand-dry everything. And try not to worry too much about keeping things totally sterile. Just do the best you can. Your baby will be OK.
- Ceres Chill: This insulated portable steel cooler keeps breast milk and pre-mixed formula refrigerated on to go. You fill the outer chamber of the water bottle with ice from a hotel or a local coffee shop, and it keeps the inner steel chamber at a safe temperature! I used this on a trip without Baby A to store pumped milk until I could get it to the freezer, but it would also work to keep up to 24oz of breast milk or pre-mixed formula safely chilled while you’re out exploring or on a long haul flight – it stays refrigerated for 20+ hours!
- Inflatable nursing pillow: I was one of those moms who could not nurse without a nursing pillow. Something about the shape of my boobs and the shape of my child and the way my body is designed (maybe because I’m really tall?) I don’t know, but whatever it is, I needed a pillow to nurse until Baby A was like 10 months old. At home I used the Brest Friend pillow, but this inflatable version had a permanent space in my diaper bag and was all I needed on trips.
- Silicone Bibs: If your baby is on solids, these travel-friendly, easy-to-wash silicone bibs/food-catchers will be your best friend. We keep one permanently in the diaper bag for spontaneous restaurant trips at home, too.
- Travel high chair: Many restaurants will have high chairs available, but we often find ourselves needing to hold Baby A on our laps while we eat, which is both irritating and messy. There are portable high chairs that attach to a full-sized chair like this one, but then your baby is like, a foot below the table and can’t reach anything to feed themselves. So we prefer a whole chair with a built-in tray, like this. You can use it stand-alone in your hotel room for breakfast, or you can strap it to a chair when you’re out and about. That said, it’s large and takes up quite a bit of luggage/stroller space. We have certainly gone on trips with no high chair situation to speak of and just made do whenever a high chair wasn’t available. It’s just a little more inconvenient.
Baby Travel Essentials: Clothing
Our rule of thumb for clothing is to pack a week’s worth, and then do everyone’s laundry. After a week, you might book a vacation rental with a laundry machine, ask your hotel front desk to do your laundry, or just stop by a laundromat.
If none of those are an option, you can always just wash clothing in the sink using a little Dr. Bronner’s soap and a travel clothesline to hang dry, but with a baby, you’re probably going to want to take the extra steps to find an actual machine to use.
Leave at home anything that will need to be laundered more often, like all-white clothing or cloth diapers. And remember to wear a silicone bib (and maybe a cute little drool bib, too) during meals to keep messy clothes to a minimum!
Other than laundry, your biggest challenge when packing clothing for baby is the weather. We’ve got some tips below.
- Hot weather: Stick to 100% cotton or linen clothes. Avoid polyester or nylon because it’s not breathable and can give your baby a rash. Rayon/bamboo is also good for hot weather as it’s temperature regulating. and lightweight.
- Cold Weather: We rely on layering wool, down and fleece in cold weather for the best thermal insulation and temperature regulation. Bundle your baby up in wool as a base layer – we love the Iksplor Wool Baby Onesie and use it constantly on trips. Wool is temperature-regulating and resists bacteria, so you can wear it over and over without needing to wash it. We also keep baby’s feet toasty with lightweight wool socks. Next, layer on a fleece bunting – sure, it doesn’t have to have little bear ears, but like …. LOOK HOW CUTE. When its really cold (say, under freezing) we use this down bunting that comes with down mittens and booties, too. Top it all off with a cozy, soft wool hat that covers baby’s ears.
Travel Essentials with Baby: Diapers & Stuff
Here’s the good news: changing baby’s diaper while traveling is a lot easier than you’d think! You just need to find a nice spot of ground, whip out a changing mat, and change away. Many bathrooms have changing tables with straps, making your life even easier.
And when it comes to what to bring, pretty much everything will fit right in your diaper bag (hence the name)! As Baby A got older and we needed fewer diapers and changes of clothes and toys with us at all times, we sized down to a cuter, smaller diaper bag.
Here’s what to bring for changing baby while traveling:
- Travel Changing Mat: This is so essential in our house that we keep it on hand for changing baby when we’re too lazy to go all the way upstairs to her actual changing station! With a little bit of padding to protect Baby’s head from the ground and an easy-to-clean surface, it’s the perfect on-the-go changing station. We like an all-in-one version that comes with a little pocket for the other essentials on this list, too.
- Travel butt cream & butt spatula: Y’all, I know I verge on minimalism. But the butt paste spatula IS ESSENTIAL. Ever gotten butt paste on your fingers? It’s the worst! Just use the travel spatula – it even comes with a little case to store it in so you don’t really have to wash it, just wipe it off and go.
- Diapers & Wipes: It’s tempting to throw a bunch of packs of diapers and wipes into your suitcase, but resist the urge. Honestly, just bring enough to get you through your travel day and maybe a day or two until you can get to a grocery store. You can find diapers and baby wipes anywhere. (And listen: while we cloth diaper at home, when we’re traveling? Disposable diapers all the way. The convenience can’t be beat!) That said, if you need really specific stuff, go ahead and bring it along, but it’s worth googling to see if there’s an equivalent abroad first – that’s how we figured out which organic, chemical-free brand of diapers we could buy in Germany, for instance.
- Extra clothing & a doggy bag: Blowouts happen, y’all. Always have a backup outfit in your diaper bag (make sure it still fits!) and a doggy bag to bag up gross stuff while you’re out and about. Frankly, you might just want to only pack clothing that you’re OK losing forever, because you can carry poopy clothing around all day just fine, but you might not have access to laundry for a while (we typically recommend finding a laundry machine to use after a week of travel, whether that’s in a vacation rental, a hotel concierge, or stopping by a laundromat).
Baby Travel Essentials: Entertainment
Here’s the good news: everything new and different is entertaining to a baby, which means EVERYTHING when you’re traveling! Airplane? Full of new and exciting things, like laminated cards in pockets!!! Hotel room? There’s a bit plastic thing with buttons to press, OMG! Public transportation? People and poles to touch!! Everything is so exciting!
What’s great is that you won’t have to pack many toys to keep baby entertained – just people watching, looking at new stuff, and exploring new textures and objects will be entertainment enough.
But what about when you don’t want baby to explore new and exciting things? Say, the candle on your table? Or the poor stranger sitting next to you in your tiny airplane row because you were too cheap to spring for a seat for baby (hi, it’s us, we’re those cheapskates)? That’s when your backup entertainment comes into play.
Here are a few travel-friendly toys and baby essentials that have a permanent place in our diaper bag:
- Silicone Toy Catchers: If you only buy one item on this packing list, this is the one. These nifty little silicone straps are SO handy. Sick of picking up tossed toys, forks, pacifiers, cups? This is your first line of defense! Use them to attach toys to baby’s stroller or car seat, attach forks and spoons to their high chair, attach anything to anything else – and they make a great teether on their own, too! They’re machine washable, too. We basically keep one of these on hand at all time, plus on the stroller and car seat, too.
- Suction Spinners: Toys with suction cups on them are PERFECT for sticking onto an airplane, car, or train window and keeping baby occupied in transit. This set of 3 silicone spinners in bright colors was a hit with Baby A for MONTHS. They’re great for teething, too! There are lots of different varieties you can get, like this, but we liked the originals.
- Bubble Pop Toy: I don’t really know how to describe this, but like … ok, you know how it’s really satisfying to pop bubble wrap? This is like that but big and brightly colored. I don’t know the science behind it but babies LOVE this thing. I just wish it had a hole so it could be tied onto stuff, but otherwise it’s great.
- Sophie the Giraffe: Classic, science-backed, silicone, a cult favorite for over 50 years – Sophie is a hit. We love running into other families with Sophie’s sticking out of their diaper bag. They are GREAT for teething and Baby A has been into hers since she could hold stuff. Sophie is usually tied onto our stroller via a little silicone noose around her neck (grim, but it works) and Baby A will happily chew while we push her around sightseeing.
- Tiny board books: We’ve been reading Baby A a book at bedtime since about 4 months, and around 8 months, she started to explore books on her own and practice turning the pages. She really loves these tiny board books, which are the perfect size for little baby hands and full of brightly colored pictures (not illustrations, which is a plus – it’s easier for babies to recognize pictures.) These are her favorite go-to car seat toy, and it’s really freakin’ cute to see her concentrating SO hard on turning the pages of a book all by herself with her little baby hands!
Baby Travel Essentials: Health & First Aid
You know what’s worse than dealing with a sick baby? Dealing with a sick baby in a foreign country. It’s scary, but even when it’s not scary, it’s stressful and vacation-ruining.
So, we have a few first aid and health essentials to mitigate that (and knock on wood, Baby A has yet to get sick on a trip!):
- Infant Tylenol: Bring this with you, and know your baby’s dosage (ask your pediatrician right before you leave based on your baby’s current weight). There was an infant Tylenol shortage this last year and it was really scary. If baby has a fever, this is a must-have. But frankly, we also use it to help soothe teething pains and all kinds of stuff. Make sure you bring some with you!
- Sanitizing Wipes: Preventing baby from getting sick means preventing germs from getting in their mouth. We use these on all high-touch areas, including anything at our airplane seat that baby will have touch access to, poles on public transit, railings or handles at theme parks, etc. We also use them anywhere baby will be sitting and eating, especially at airports. We don’t use them on baby, though, because they have alcohol in them! So instead, we use …
- Sanitizing Hand Wipes: These are like a step up from regular baby wipes (which clean, but don’t sanitize – like water without soap) and a step below hand sanitizer for grownups, with no alcohol in them. If baby touches something they shouldn’t, or you can’t sanitize the stuff they’re touching, swoop in with this before baby puts their hand in their mouth or eyes.
- Sunscreen: A sunburnt baby is a miserable baby – AND if you’re not careful, a baby. inneed of a trip to the doctor! Be sure to pack baby-safe and earth-safe mineral sunscreen, like Thinkbaby. If your baby isn’t super tolerant of gooey stuff on their skin, we also love this powder sunscreen built into a fluffy brush, which makes applying sunscreen on baby’s face and (in our case) bald head really fun!
- Travel Insurance: If baby DOES get sick on the road, the last thing you want to be dealing with is figuring out how another country’s medical system works. Buy travel insurance before your trip and you’ll not only be financially covered in case of an emergency, but you’ll have someone to call and ask where to go. I’ve filed several claims with World Nomads, including a healthcare claim for a gnarly ear infection in Costa rica which involved multiple doctors, a hospital, and a shot of steriods in my butt – and their 24/7 help line was essential in finding me local doctors and talking me through each step, including pushing back my travels so I didn’t have to fly with an ear infection! Not sure how travel insurance works? We’ve got a whole detailed guide to travel insurance.
Baby Travel Essentials: Carrying Baby & Baby Stuff
After you’ve triumphantly crammed all your baby supplies into your suitcase (psst: our favorite suitcases have a little extra give – and we always need it) it’s time to think about what you’ll need to carry baby around in. Now, a lot of this will come down to your destination.
If you’ll be renting a car, a car seat is of course essential. But if you’re going somewhere with good public transportation and plan to walk everywhere, you can get away without a car seat – though our first time in Europe, we were too nervous to leave ours at home, so we brought it along (luckily it fit into our stroller so it wasn’t an extra thing).
You might also consider – and I know this is going to give some of you anxiety – not bringing a stroller. I’ve found that they’re actually REALLY inconvenient in a lot of places, like anywhere with lots of cobblestone streets and narrow stairs and non-accessible transit systems with giant gaps between the sidewalk and the train doors (Germany, I’m side-eyeing you).
In places like that, lugging it around is a huge hassle and it basically just becomes a giant unwieldy luggage cart. We also found that Baby A really wanted to be strapped directly to us in unfamiliar places, so she wouldn’t let us put her in the stroller even though she loves it at home.
That said, if you don’t have experience babywearing, don’t leave your stroller at home, and don’t let this trip be the first time you attempt to spend a 6-hour day with a sweaty, 15lb ball of cuteness and drool strapped to you.
You and baby need to both get used to your carrier (and make sure it fits right and doesn’t cause you any pain), and honestly, it helps to build up a lil’ muscle first, too – especially in your lower back, moms, because there’s a good chance your abs were just freakin’ destroyed as your adorable ball of sunshine made their grand entrance into the world. (Any other c-section mamas out there? Y’all are going to want to work up to long days of baby-wearing – use your partner’s functioning ab muscles in the meantime.)
That said, here’s what we recommend based on our experience:
- Carriers: Both Jeremy and I LOVE babywearing. We swear by it. And we find that in strange and unfamiliar places, strapping Baby A to us helps her to feel more safe and secure, too. In fact, she outright refuses the stroller sometimes on trips, so we end up carrying her all day, every day. Having a comfortable baby carrier (that you’ve used before your trip) is essential for traveling with a baby. Look for one that’s lightweight with mesh panels, or just whatever you can wear comfortably. We have a few recommendations:
- Jeremy’s favorite carrier is made by Colugo. It’s super soft and comfortable, and the buckles are magnetic which means they’re incredibly easy to put on and take off.
- My favorite is a heavy-duty carrier made by BabyBjorn with a nice wide leg panel. The BabyBjorn breathable mesh carrier is perfect for hot weather.
- Never used a carrier or just not sure you’ll use it much? This travel-friendly baby carrier is lightweight and packs down small. Our other carriers take up quite a bit of room but this one is perfect for keeping in the diaper bag just in case.
- Stroller: You’ll want a stroller that’s comfortable for baby and for you to push with plenty of room to carry your gear each day, but also relatively easy to fold down and carry. Here’s what we recommend:
- When Baby A was smaller, we swore by a stroller and car seat combo – knowing we have a car seat in case we need to take a taxi or rent a car for an emergency is SUCH a relief! This nifty foldable stroller/car seat is all one piece to make your life much easier (imagine getting out of your car when your carseat is ALREADY A STROLLER – game changer). That said, it doesn’t have storage underneath – no problem if you don’t mind carrying a diaper bag, though.
- When Baby A grew bigger and started forward-facing in her stroller, we got this lightweight travel stroller, which fits into the overhead compartment on planes (though pretty much every airline will gate check, so that’s not totally necessary). This compact stroller folds down with one hand and includes a rain cover and cupholder, and has plenty of storage underneath, too.
- Depending on where you’re traveling, you can also rent a stroller (and car seat!) upon arrival from BabyQuip.
- Rain cover for stroller: If there is even a hint of rain in the forecast for your trip, throw one of these in the bottom of your stroller!
- Tushbaby: This little seat that straps around your waist is extremely helpful to have if your baby is old enough to sit upright. It’s perfect for older and bigger babies – and you’ll save your back and arms (tennis elbow, anyone? We got it BAD once our baby hit about 15 lbs!) We use it when we’re walking around restaurants or museums, to nurse crossbody, and to hold a few essentials like hand sanitizing wipes. We also used it instead of the stroller or carrier for short distances, like from the car to the hotel. That said, if your little one isn’t super heavy and you’re not constantly battling tennis elbow, this probably takes up more space in your suitcase than you really need if you’re happy with babywearing in a carrier!
What NOT to Bring: 5 Baby Travel “Essentials” You Really Don’t Need
Before we started traveling with Baby A, I read a LOT of baby travel guides. And a lot of them left me shaking my head (or, in my early postpartum days, filled with hormonally-induced rage).
It seems like a whole lot of people make a lot of money off selling desperate, tired, nervous parents stuff they really don’t need. (Lookin’ at you, galactagogues which have been proven to do absolutely nothing but I still took religiously or months JUST IN CASE.)
So here’s what you really don’t need to bring (with some duplication of tips we already covered above for those of you who are tired and busy and skipped to this section to get the tldr):
- Diapers: It’s tempting to throw a bunch of packs of diapers and wipes into your suitcase, but resist the urge. Honestly, just bring enough to get you through your travel day and maybe a day or two until you can get to a grocery store. You can find diapers and baby wipes pretty much anywhere. (And listen: while we cloth diaper at home, when we’re traveling? Disposable diapers all the way. The convenience can’t be beat!) That said, if you need really specific stuff, go ahead and bring it along, but it’s worth googling to see if there’s an equivalent abroad first – that’s how we figured out which organic, chemical-free brand of diapers we could buy in Germany, for instance.
- Baby Wipes: Same as diapers: bring what you need to last you until you can visit a store.
- Formula: If your baby needs a specific formula, bring enough with you to last for your entire trip. Otherwise, you’ll have no trouble finding formula wherever you are (unless you’re going to somewhere where babies and mothers don’t typically go, like Antarctica, I guess, but pretty much everywhere else has it). European formula is, in many ways, even better than what you can get in the US as their guidelines are very strict! That said, do bring SOME formula of your own to mix with the new formula rather than starting all at once to avoid an upset tummy.
- Baby Food: If your baby is on solids or needs the occasional (or frequent) snack, you might be tempted to load your bag up with pouches, puffs, and heavy jars of baby food. Don’t! This is another item you’ll be able to find absolutely everywhere. Add it to your shopping list. And again, you might be surprised by how much better the options are in other countries. We found so many organic, nothing-added pouches and jars of baby food in Germany at regular, ordinary pharmacies! And don’t forget, you can always just feed baby fresh, ordinary soft fruits – there’s will be something they can eat at the grocery store, trust me. Just pack enough snacks and food to get them through your first day or two until you can get to a grocery store.
- Baby Bathtub: Fitting an entire bathtub into your suitcase is a headache no matter how “portable” it is, and frankly, it’s totally unnecessary. If your baby is too big to wash in the bathroom sink with a towel down, and your hotel room doesn’t have a bathtub (again, you can put a towel down and jump in there with them) take baby into the shower with you! Showering with baby is lovely and snuggly and relaxing, and it means everyone in the family gets to take a shower whenever they need one. Another benefit to showering with your baby is that it gets them used to having water on their face, which helps with swimming! We’ve been showering with Baby A since she was about 2 months and we all LOVE it. Hold baby while you shower, or lay them carefully down on a towel on the shower floor, making sure that the water isn’t going directly on their face or head.
Rule of thumb? If you’ll be near a store, there will be baby stuff there. Even if you forget to pack something you DO need (which is why one of our silicon bibs is German)! Moms need this stuff EVERYWHERE. So deep breaths – it’s going to be OK.
Just … you know, install the Google Translate app on your phone so you can translate the ingredient label or ask the salesperson for what you need. And then take deep breaths!
Hopefully this extremely long list of travel essentials with baby was helpful! My goal was to publish it before Baby A turned 1, and she’s turning 1 this weekend … which gives me all kinds of feelings and makes me tear up whenever I think about it. I guess my next posts will be about traveling with a toddler 😭 So do me a favor and go snuggle your baby – and then take them on an absolutely amazing trip that you will remember forever (and they’ll enjoy looking at pictures of when they’re older)!
Psst: Need some packing advice for yourself? We’ve got LOADS of packing guides for people who aren’t babies! (And I wrote them before baby brain destroyed my ability to think clearly!) Start here or take a look at these:
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