Expert Tips on Traveling With a Baby
Traveling with a baby can be intimidating! But with these tips from Baby & Toddler Expert Robbie M., you and your little one will be traveling like pros in no time!
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Whether it’s a day trip to the park or a weeklong vacation involving a plane ride, traveling with a baby can be a challenge. However, if you are properly prepared with the right travel gear, extra time, and a lot of patience, bringing your infant along can be a fun and rewarding experience. In my wife's and my experience, the key to a successful trip with our kiddo involves a checklist of items that help us make a home away from home.
Going to the Store: The Errands Pack
Something as simple as going to the grocery store can require a lot of planning. You never know when your baby might get hungry, fill their diaper (or worse), or get fussy. So here’s a list of items to make sure you have to make any brief excursion successful:
The center of your errands pack, a diaper bag, is the key to success when going out with your child. When selecting a diaper bag, the main things to consider are the number of things it can carry, the level of organization built into the bag, and its ease of use.
There are many options, from traditional-looking backpacks, such as the Eddie Bauer Crosstown Backpack, to more designer-looking backpacks, such as the UPPAbaby Changing Backpack and the Silver Cross Wave. One of my favorite features in a diaper bag is a folding changing pad and side pockets for easy access to wipes or bottles.
Our child has fussed numerous times in his car seat or the shopping cart while out and about. Bringing a child carrier allowed my wife or myself to pick him up and still have both hands free for shopping or running errands. Many great baby carrier options are available, from the BabyBjörn Carrier Harmony to the ErgoBaby Omni Breeze.
Another option to consider is a baby wrap, which typically is less cumbersome and allows for closer snuggles with your child. Wraps such as the Ergobaby Aura and Moby Classic Wrap are great choices to wrap your child (especially newborn baby) in when out and about.
Ensure you have enough diapers for an entire day. You never know when your child may have a record output day!
Bring along your favorite pack of wipes. Many soft packages reseal to keep the wipes moist, and you'll also find smaller hard-sided wipe containers to bring along what you need. My wife and I love Water Wipes due to their extremely low chemical content, making them ideal for diaper cleanup and wiping off dirty hands and faces.
Diaper rash is never fun for anyone, especially on the road. However, a tube of diaper cream can be a life-saver, such as Boudreaux’s Butt Paste or Aquaphor Baby.
A changing pad is great for diaper changes and is often included with many diaper bag options. I even use it when changing our kiddo on a diaper changing table, as who knows the last time they’ve been cleaned. Many are machine washable, which is nice when things take a turn for the worse. Pads like the SkipHop Pronto even have built-in wipe storage for a one-stop solution.
Muslin Blanket / Burp Cloth
A good muslin blanket or swaddle is one of the best multi-taskers you can bring when going out. Need a blanket for your cold child? Check. Need a cover for breastfeeding? Check. Need a sunshade in the event you forgot your sunscreen? Check. Our favorite has been the Aden + Anais muslin swaddles. Lightweight, breathable, and packable, they come in a four-pack, so you can always have a clean one in your errands pack.
Bottle, Sippy Cup, Formula, Etc.
Regardless if you’re packing breast milk, formula, or water, making sure you have some form of hydration for your baby while you’re away from home is very important. Some diaper bags even have an insulated pocket for keeping your liquid hydration cold (or warm). Our son’s bottle of choice was the Comotomo, and his current favorite sippy cup has been the Munchkin Miracle. It is a miracle the number of times it’s been thrown and not spilled!
Spare Change of Clothes
After the first blowout, you’ll never forget a change of clothes again (sometimes worth an extra T-shirt in the bag just for you).
Baby skin is extremely sensitive to chemicals and sunlight. So, ensuring your baby is protected is critical when out and about on a sunny day. We love the Thinkbaby stick sunscreen as it makes applying it easy, even on the fussiest babies.
Find which item(s) calm your child down or what they like to play with, and bring a duplicate with you on your errands. For example, 50% of our church bag is comprised of books, fidget toys, and stickers (which help keep our kiddo entertained for a while). Also, the WubbaNub pacifier/stuffed animal combo has been and continues to be a favorite for our son.
Let’s be frank. Just like adults, children need snacks, too. Individually wrapped snacks or snack cups, such as the Munchkin Snack Catcher, help keep things clean (as clean as they can be) in your diaper bag.
If you’re traveling more than an hour away, you’ll want a little more than your errands pack. You never know when accidents will happen and ensuring you have what you need can make even stressful situations tolerable. Along with the items below, be sure to include all items mentioned in the errands pack above!
A stroller can act as a mobile base for any family. It can be a safe haven amid day excursion chaos by providing storage, laying seat(s) flat for diaper changes or mobile nap times, and supplying a shady spot for your baby to cool off. See our article on different types of strollers to learn more about the pros and cons of each to help decide which is a good fit for your family. Pro tip: get a rechargeable fan to help cool your little one on even the hottest days.
Packable Picnic Blanket
A packable picnic blanket can act as a warming device, soft mobile play surface, or organizer for outdoor gear. Look for one that rolls or folds up into itself to save precious space in your daypack or vehicle.
If you’re out for the day, there will very likely be a mealtime (or two) to navigate. Go for a silicone or plastic bib, such as the BabyBjörn Baby Bib, which can be easily rinsed, wiped clean, and rolled up for easy storage.
Placemat, Bowl, and Utensils
A silicone placemat or bowl and some baby utensils are other mealtime essentials. Like the bib, silicone is much easier to wash and wipe on the go. The EZPZ placemat is a placemat and bowl all in one, making it simple to pack and go.
I thought I was a snacker until I met my son! It’s always a good thing to make sure you carry enough snacks. Snacks to consider bringing are those that won’t melt or get sticky, such as yogurt bites, puffs, or cereal. If your child is old enough, consider granola bars!
Overnight Road Trip
Taking a road trip with your new baby can be a fun adventure. Going to visit relatives or even just a little vacation with your new kiddo for the first time can be a little intimidating. Not only do you need the items listed in the sections above (I recommended bringing them all) but also several more that you may not have if not at home.
A car seat is seemingly obvious. However, something to consider if you plan on taking long road trips with your baby is looking for a more plush car seat with extra padding and features. These tend to be more expensive; however, if you plan to go on many road trips, your baby will spend a bit of time in the car seat, making it worth the extra price.
Portable Travel Crib or Bassinet and Mattress With Sheets
Unlike adults, babies need a particular and safe place to sleep. The UPPAbaby REMI and Graco Pack N Play are two great examples of portable cribs. If traveling with a newborn, you may want a travel bassinet that can be easily packed. Before buying a mattress or sheets, ensure they’re designed specifically for your travel bassinet or crib to ensure a safe sleeping space, per the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. Note if traveling to a hotel, some might have cribs available for your child.
Mobile High Chair / Booster Seat
Your baby will need a place to eat at your final destination. A booster-style high chair can be beneficial and easily packable. Options such as the Ingenuity Baby Base 2-in-1 Booster or BabyBjörn Booster are great for quick setup and easy cleanup.
Bring a small reusable bag full of your kiddo’s favorite toys. Unless you’re going to grandma and grandpa's (in our case, fully stocked with our son’s favorite toys), you’ll want some to keep them occupied.
Sun Shades for Your Car
If your car doesn’t already have built-in pull-up sun shades, it’s a good idea to buy a pair for your vehicle. These have saved us numerous times from a fussy baby with the sun in his face.
Portable Sound Machine
If your baby sleeps with a sound machine at home, it’s a good idea to bring one with you on overnight trips to help make bedtime as similar as possible. Many great options are easily packable with the rest of your baby gear, such as the FridaBaby 2-in-1 Portable Sound Machine or HoMedics SoundSpa Sound Machine.
Bringing your baby monitor along with you might make sense, depending on where you're staying. For example, when we visit my in-laws, our son has his own room. Thanks to our monitor, we can make the most of our evenings. Monitors like the Lollipop Babycare Baby Monitor are easily packable and set up in a variety of configurations, making them perfect for travel.
Our son loved his playmat until he outgrew it, and due to the easily packable nature of playmats, it’s not a bad idea to bring it with you. Playmats roll up and can fit in a suitcase or bag, like the Skip Hop Activity Gym.
If your child has a blowout or gets dirty, you’ll want to have bath essentials on hand, such as baby shampoo, a scrubber, bath toys, and a towel. We always like to bring a bath kit just in case.
Traveling on a plane with your little one is the ultimate test of parent preparedness and the endurance of patience. Unlike traveling in your car, going by plane requires the optimum amount of gear, as you will have to lug all of it with you throughout the journey. Make sure you include the gear mentioned in the above sections!
In the case of air travel, you may want to opt for a different stroller than you use for your daily outings. Of course, you can always check your stroller with an agent. However, my wife and I have found that our stroller becomes base camp while at the airport. Many strollers have removable wheels or fold up small enough to go through the x-ray scanner at airport security. In addition, some travel strollers, such as the Pockit Air or City+, Silver Cross Jet Ultra Compact, and the BabyZen YOYO+, fold down and fit in the overhead compartment on airliners.
Baby Carrier / Sling
One thing we found with our newborn son when traveling or sitting for long periods of time is he enjoyed being snuggled close to us in a sling. Wearing a sling on a flight may be an effective method to get your little one to fall asleep on you. Plus, with a sling, your hands will be free throughout the flight.
Car Seat or Child Restraint System (CRS)
If you are not carrying your infant on your lap, they will need a car seat to ensure they are buckled in safely. Flight attendants will typically check that your baby is buckled in, just like you. Before your flight, ensure your child's car seat is FAA or aircraft certified, as many airlines will check before allowing you on board.
When picking a car seat to fly with, consider its weight as you will have to lug it through security, to your gate, on the plane, and to your final destination. The WAYB Pico Car Seat is a great option for those that fly a lot. It weighs 8lbs and folds so you can carry it easily down a narrow aircraft aisle. An alternative option for older kids is a child restraint system (CRS), such as the Cares Kids Fly Safe Harness. A CRS gives your child a harness that attaches to their seat but is more effective at keeping them safe during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
Pacifier or Teething Toy
As cabin pressure changes throughout the flight (especially on descent), it’s an excellent idea to whip out a pacifier or teething toy. This action will help your baby’s sensitive ears to depressurize with the air pressure as the plane comes down for landing.
Car Seat / Stroller Check Bags
If you check your car seat or need to gate-check your stroller, utilize a bag to protect some of your most expensive baby items. The J.L. Childress Gate Check Bag folds in on itself when not in use but provides a durable cover for your strollers or car seats in the event you opt for them to go under the plane.
Utilize Checked Luggage
The less you carry through the airport, the better. When we travel, my wife and I opt to store all of our son's clothes (minus spares in our "errands pack"), toys, snacks, and stuffed animals for the trip in our largest checkable bags. There’s something incredibly freeing about being able to drop off two large bags and only have your stroller, car seat, and diaper bag left to worry about when at the airport. Another perk is that if you have a tight layover or long delay, checking luggage and paying those extra fees make those stressful moments much more tolerable.
Enough Clothes for the Trip
When packing clothes for your travels, consider bringing an extra two to three days worth of items. Consider the temperature of your destination and what activities you will be doing with your child (such as swimming where you would want to bring a swimsuit and swim diaper).
A typical clothing packing list would include sleep sacks or pajamas, a plethora of onesies (short and long sleeves), pants or shorts (depending on the weather), socks, warmer layers (like jackets or sweaters), and shoes or sandals if your kiddo is walking. Accidents can and will happen, and you may or may not have access to laundry, which is where overpacking for your infant can be a good idea.
Pro Tip: bring a small bottle of baby laundry detergent in the event you need to wash clothes in the sink.
Hopefully, these travel tips have helped prepare for your child's next (or maybe even first) trip. However, if you need additional assistance, reach out to one of our Baby & Toddler Experts or me here on Curated to help make sure you’re properly geared up for your trip with your baby. We’d love to help ensure you have all you need to feel confident to take your child with you everywhere you go!