Warm weather, cold weather, snow, shine, rain, hurricane-like conditions…
My baby and I traveled through all of these before he was 9 months old!
And I’m happy to tell you that we passed with flying colors.
Everywhere we went people asked me how I had such a happy baby. Even teething was a breeze, because I knew how to pack for it. Here are the only 10 things you MUST bring with you when traveling with an infant.
10 Most Important Items To Pack For Baby Travel
1. Best Baby Travel Clothing
Here’s the lowdown on Baby Travel Clothing in 7 easy steps:
1. Easy to change: this meant we only brought one pair of jeans but the rest of the time our little one wore cotton pants that were easy to take on and off for the dreaded airport diaper change…or the museum diaper change…or the emergency playground diaper change, etc.
2. Easy to wash… And dry: babies get dirty almost the minute they get clean again. Don’t get caught with materials that are hard to wash, take a long time to dry, or that you feel constantly need ironing. I often bring swimwear for my baby so that it’s easy to wash and easy to dry in a hotel/hostel at night.
3. Comfortable: your baby is going to get carted and carried all over creation so the best way to wear clothes is comfortably! If the outfit isn’t comfortable for you to cozy up to him in, then it probably isn’t comfortable for your baby, either! Comfortable extends to weather, too. You don’t want you little one to get too cold – so always bring an extra sweater and a hat. ALWAYS have a hat. You’ll find that a hat with a brim is much easier to keep on your little one’s head than a pair of sunglasses.
4. Backups: yes, your baby needs an extra outfit, maybe two, for even a five minute trip to the grocery store sometimes. But Mommy and Daddy need an extra pair of clothes too! Mommies are great about bringing an extra shirt but daddies forget that babies can spit up on you, too! And those sweet little white burp-ups in the first few weeks… well they definitely get a lot more substantial as baby’s tummy fills with more water, and eventually solid foods.
5. Efficient: I didn’t put shoes on my child for his Entire. First. Year. You heard correctly. I didn’t want to be the mom running around the museum looking for a lost shoe or sock. Instead, I put my son in either moccasins or Velcro socks. There are a few benefits. Firstly, he never kicked them off. In addition, your baby’s foot doesn’t really develop until he is a couple years old.
Did you ever notice that baby’s feet are small at the heel and then spread out toward the toes like a triangle? Adults’ feet, after a lifetime of wearing shoes, actually mold to shoes by becoming narrower over time. My pinky toes are actually starting to set into my fourth toe, as in “digging” a permanent hole into them, all because I was never put in proper wide shoes as a child.
Leonardo DaVinci once said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”In order for that perfect sculpture which is your foot to be realized to its greatest potential, it’s important to have the most natural foot cushioning possible.
Soles of our shoes are designed to set our feet down so hard that it’s hard on our knees. What’s more, stiff shoes don’t allow our feet to use the intended muscles to propel us forward. This causes strain on our joints. Your infant will only be able to properly strengthen their toes and tendons if you avoid stiff shoes in their infancy.
6. Light: you don’t need 7 onesies for a weekend away. In fact, you probably only need two or three outfits on standby so that you have one to wear, one or two for emergency backup (or blowouts!) and one or two washing/drying at a time. By the end of my son’s first year, I’d leave for a 10-day trip with only three day outfits and three sets of pajamas. I’d mix and match items depending on weather, but I kept it very simple.
It’s common for parents to want to show their little one off and pack too much on a trip. Resist this urge and pack less. You’ll thank me when you’re loading rental cars or airplanes that you packed light!
7. Protective: don’t, just don’t travel without a brimmed hat, baby sunglasses, or proper sunscreen if your child is over 6 months old. If you forget to pack it then get it at a local superstore or Amazon it right away.
Protective clothing will be the difference between a nice day in the sculpture gardens versus a nightmarish baby screaming, sheesh. They aren’t comfortable with sun in their eyes as much as we aren’t!
I always put my son in long-sleeved light shirts on hikes even in the middle of summer and avoided the hottest hours of the day when the sun was blazing. I always have a hat in my suitcase, my hiking pack, and my diaper bag because these things are so easy to misplace while diaper changing and it’s easy to leave them in restaurants or even watch them blow out to sea. Until my son was 8 months old we even used hats with a chin strap (which I never liked), but found some awesome protective ones with a brim for when he got older. See my favorite protective sun hat recommendations in the Appendix.
2. Best Baby Travel Swaddles
For babies under 3 months old, you’re probably already swaddling them at night. For babies over one year, I also recommend bringing something that swaddles them at night. My favorite nighttime sleep sacks/swaddles for your little crawler or walker are the sleep sacks. Merino wool sleep sacks are outstanding for regulating the baby’s body temperature, while also giving the baby a feeling of security like his mother is holding him all night.
YES—this means more sleep for Mommy and Daddy!
Another benefit to having a swaddle with you is to keep a familiar scent on you at all times. We carried our swaddle with us in airports up until our little one was a year old. It provided familiarity, a soothing scent (lavender is the best for calming) and if planes or restaurants were cold, it was an extra layer of warmth for the little guy.
Aden and Anais makes outstanding, soft sleep sacks that are also great for travel. Be careful not to buy a sleep sack that’s too thick, though, as it’ll be difficult to pack and hard to hang dry if you’re without a wash machine and dryer.
But my favorite swaddle by far has been the bamboo Max and Moose swaddle that’s convenient to use as a breastfeeding cover, great as a tight-swaddle, and cozy as a security blanket. I’ve purchased these over and over for my friends’ babies and they’re so pretty; some have even taken professional photos with their Max and Moose Bamboo Muslin blanket.
At the time of writing this book the folks at Max and Moose are sold out of almost everything. So… word got out. I promise, it hasn’t been just me purchasing these constantly for my friends!
3. What Medications You Need To Travel With Baby
It goes without say that you must take medications with you on a trip. Talk to your doctor before traveling and make sure you’re equipped with your child’s medications. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will get you thinking about what you and your baby need.
Most items you can get in a store, but it also advisable to have the following on-hand at all times. Remember, I’m not a doctor and this is merely a list that I personally used. Always ask the professionals in your baby’s healthcare about any and all concerns that you may have, as well as recommendations for locations you are traveling to.
- Vaccinations, especially when traveling out of the country. I haven’t given my son every single vaccination that’s “recommended”, but there are many things I gave him because we were traveling to an area that was, say, infected with tons of infant Whooping Cough. That vaccination we definitely gave him! There are dozens of books you can read about vaccinations. Talk to your doctor and also be your own advocate. Even when we do vaccinate, we prefer to spread them out as opposed to giving our son many shots at once. This is less shocking to his system and it will give us the ability to isolate what, if anything, he reacts negatively to.
- Baby Epi Pen, in case your child has a bee sting allergy.
- Baby Benadryl or other allergy relief for sudden allergy attacks.
- Teething child? Motrin was a lifesaver while mine was popping his pearly whites. I prefer Motrin with no dye in it!
- Baby band-aids, which are equally useful for crawling little ones, who attract splinters and scratches—like my son did in a rental house we stayed in!
- Baby digital thermometer. Although rectal temperatures are more accurate, I once traveled with my little guy while he was battling Thrush and an ear infection. The convenience of the digital thermometer was as good for me, as it was for him. The grocery stores where I was traveling at that time didn’t have any good infant thermometers so this came in handy.
- Vitamin D drops. Even though you’re getting sunshine on your trip, you should supplement with Vitamin D. It’s the only essential vitamin not found in breast milk.
- I love Babyganics Deet-free Insect Repellant, but many moms swear by soybean oil to repel insects.
4. Do You Need Toys To Travel With Baby?
This is going to sound crazy, but since my son was 6 months old his favorite toy was a stacking block set that was rainbow colored. He didn’t know how to re-stack the blocks until he was about 10 months old, but he lived for turning it upside down and hearing the wooden blocks fall on one another.
He really grew into the toy as time went on. Once he learned how to not only take apart, but restack the toy it was exciting. But even before that he loved to grab the handle of the toy and shake it while some blocks were on it like a makeshift rattle.
Mind you – this is NOT a toy that’s safe for a baby under one year unless they’re supervised – if the base of the toy is wooden they can smack themselves in the face with it when shaking it and really get a bruise!
What is the one toy your child can go back to again and again? It’s good to have something that he or she is familiar with to play with. I rarely packed anything more than this toy on trips because it was always more fun to discover new toys in our temporary environments. See more toy suggestions in my Baby Registry list below.
5. The Right Diaper Bag For Baby Travel
You may be saying, “Well, duh!” But the bag does go beyond storing the diapers you’ll need. Ditch your purse or cross/body diaper bag for a backpack.
This makes it easier in airports, easier to carry with your baby sling or carrier, and awesomely easy when carting through museums or hiking! (Which my baby and I do a lot of!)
What’s more, don’t waste space with special bags or pods within your diaper bag unless it’s as thin as a Ziplock.
When traveling with an infant – every square millimeter counts.
Once your little one is really mobile and wiggly, carrying the diaper bag on your back will be critical as every available piece of real estate on your front will transform into your baby’s jungle gym very quickly.
Are you traveling with expressed breast milk that needs to stay cold? Factor this into your luggage. Also know that if you’re traveling on a plane and checking your formula, there’s a chance it won’t arrive at your destination in case your luggage is lost. I highly recommend carrying on any items that are irreplaceable upon landing. If you’re traveling from Canada to the US, for instance, you may not find your preferred formula brand. In this case, I’d carry on powdered formula in a Ziploc. On a side note, always check the lists of what they will allow onto your check-in luggage and call your airline if you have any questions.
6. Baby Travel Strollers, Carriers, or both?
I woke up at 5 AM in Encinitas, California, with my little one and got started on our new routine.
First, a workout and music time. At 9 months old, my son was an absolute fiend for Miles Davis! Then some yogurt and granola on the floor, since we were in the home without a kitchen. Finally, as the sun started to peek through the clouds, we’d set out on food toward the coffee shop, and then the park.
After nap-time, we’d set out again for anywhere from 2 to 5 miles on foot.
We did this for weeks without a stroller. Botanic gardens, malls, and grocery stores. There were trips I took with strollers across hundreds of miles and a half a dozen airports in just a week.
Other trips I chose not to bring a stroller at all… for weeks at a time!
7. Emergency Clothes/Extra Bags
Airplane days are pretty big ordeals traveling from where my family and I live near Aspen, Colorado. Most places we go do not have direct flights from Aspen. Therefore, we must take a plane to Denver and then connect to our final destination.
When it’s somewhere like Clearwater Beach, Florida, to visit my son’s great grandparents, we may spend over 14 hours traveling in a single day between getting out of Aspen, through Denver, possibly connecting before Tampa, renting a car, and then driving to Clearwater Beach.
We have been delayed at O’Hare in Chicago for up to 6 hours and overnight in Denver with no way of leaving the airport because our airline lost our luggage and car seat.
If that happens to you, most car rental companies have infant car seats so that you can get to a hotel. Plus, many airports have hotels connected to them. At this time we didn’t want the hassle of renting a car at 1 AM only to have to find a hotel and turn around in 5 hours. Infant travel isn’t for wimps, you know!
Needless to say, we’ve become experts at keeping our baby cool under pressure, through hours upon hours of travel, and in lots of unexpected scenarios. One of the no-so-unexpected things that happens (a lot) is blow-outs. We all know what they are. Those big, wet, goopy, poopy diapers that get all over everything no matter how quickly you catch them.
What’s really tragic is when the blowout happens in the car on the way to the airport. Or in the security line. Or worse—on the plane!
For these times I’ve learned to travel in my son’s oldest, dirtiest, cheapest, and most disposable outfit. I think you can understand why! However, if you’re looking to travel in something that’s going to really wow Grandma, you may be stuck toting a poopy outfit around in a Ziploc. And for some reason, even in an air-tight baggie that smell will linger.
I prefer to travel with at least one additional pair of clothes and to start our day in something I don’t mind chucking if I need to. For all my organic food, wooden toy, thrift shopping, earth consciousness, this goes totally against the grain for me. However, there are times something has to give (and not just the diaper). I’ve learned that when it comes to infant travel, we can’t always have our preferred way about things. Especially when it comes to cleanliness. I’ve frankly resorted to putting the sanity and health of my family above keeping soiled clothes on my person.
After all, there’s really nothing sanitary about carrying soiled clothes around, right?
But if you do have a doozy on a plane, get dirty with yogurt at the airport lounge, or need to stuff soiled clothes into something, I recommend Ziplock bags when in a pinch—a traveling mommy’s necessity. Even when not using them for clothes, my plastic baggies wind up getting used every trip, every single time.
However, if you can plan ahead (like, say, you’re reading this post before you travel!) I highly recommend Mesh Storage bags for you trip. They mitigate the suffocation risk of Ziplock bags.
8. The Best Baby Travel Booster Chair
From the time my son was 2 months old he had the ability to demand to be at eye-level with everybody else in the room. He couldn’t stand being left on the floor in his Moses basket while I folded laundry, preferring to be sitting on a countertop or atop the laundry machine.
As I write this he’s much older and still he demands to sit on countertops while I cook as opposed to playing with his ample toy collection on the ground.
It’s actually really scary to have a child who’s preferred, since about 8 months of age, to be suspended in the air or on a countertop as opposed to on the floor where most kids play. That’s why a travel booster chair became critical.
But which booster seat to choose…
There are several types of booster seats for babies. I’ve used the Bill & Ted’s Lobster clamp-on seat but there are also travel high chairs, booster seats, and even fabric seat harnesses.
Option 1: Clamp-On Seats
Rather than attaching to a chair, travel clamp-on seats attach to a table’s edge. Beware of breaking glass tables; some restaurants have even banned clamp-on seats because of these types of tables shattering when trying to affix the clamps to the table! The drawback of this seat is also that you’ll need a good lip on the table to securely fit the clamps. Some restaurant tables have tracks underneath for expanding the tables or putting leaves up and down, which makes the clamp-on seat difficult. In booths or wide tables this seat, however, is money!
Option 2: Travel Highchairs
These are great for the child who is getting into crayons and chalk; which happens anywhere from 1 year to 18 months old, or later. My son got really into crayons at 14 months or so. Travel highchairs are basically a high chair seat that goes on a regular “dining” chair. It’s strapped on and can be folded for portability. It isn’t the best for international or plane travel, but if you’re road tripping this is a great option.
Option 3: Foldable Booster Seats
Foldable booster seats are a normal booster seat that attaches to a dining chair but compacts down for easy transport. I loved my son’s booster seat when he was 6 months old and learning to sit on his own. He grew out of it in weeks, though.
Option 4: Travel Seat Harnesses
Think of dining as a journey and the travel seat harness is your car seat. Travel seat harnesses are like soft, plush pieces of fabric that you place on a chair and strap your baby to. He or she will look a little bit like they’re velcroed to a wall or plastered against the Gravitron at the carnival, but they fold up to barely anything and are designed with travel in mind. Some of them have a plush seat at the bottom on which the baby can sit, but the cheaper ones attach to the back of a chair so that your child can sit on the actual dining chair without falling over. I highly recommend that you don’t use these until your child is 12+ months, although some indicate that a child can begin using them when he or she sits unaided.
9. Baby Thrones
Do not overlook this! It is not excessive and it was literally been the most important part of my day when I had my little guy alone for several months of traveling. This is the time you do laundry, paint your nails, or if you’re like me: WORKOUT!
Mommy’s sanity depends on the baby having a place to chill out in and play. I call it his throne because it’s a category that makes the baby feel like royalty wherever you go. Before the age of 2 months, we used his Moses Basket to set him down without actually setting him on a floor, bed, or some other place he could fall out of.
After 2 months but before 6 months, he loved (LOVED!) to sit under his kick-and-play piano gym. Make sure that your baby gym has the ability to have toys switched out so that he gets lots of levels of stimulation. We chose to invest in about a half dozen Wimmer Ferguson Toys because we were impressed with the decades of research put into the shapes, colors, and textures of these toys for your baby’s growing brain.
At about 4 or 5 months old, my son spent 20-30 minutes at a time, twice daily in his Exersaucer. This allowed me to cook all my meals without fear of sharp or hot items getting into my baby’s hands… or elsewhere!
10. Baby Toiletries
There are a few specialty baby toiletries that I never travel more than a week without. We were lost the one trip we took without our beloved baby nail clipper with a flashlight on the end. For how small it is, it’s worth having.
Many people like to also carry essential oils with them when traveling. Lavender is often used to soothe babies and other parents like putting a citrus oil in vinegar for organic, baby-safe cleaning supplies. Read more about essential oils for travel in Chapter 5.
While you can’t always find organic cleaning supplies, you can always find vinegar to make your own! Essential oils come in small but potent amounts so they’re wonderful for travel.
Another critical toiletry during the cold season was our snot sucker. We didn’t like the ones from the grocery stores so we carried our favorite nasal aspirator with us everywhere in our diaper bag.
~ The Best Bedding for Baby Travel ~
There are a lot of advantages to the pack-n-play. They are a great place to set your child if he or she is playing contentedly and you need to walk out of the room. I traveled with a pack-n-play for a few months before I ditched it. My son simply never slept well in it and he certainly wouldn’t let me leave his side if he was playing in it. I virtually had no use for it. I certainly did try, though!
- Travel Beds, Portable Bassinets, and Travel Cribs
These items are designed to give infants, babies, and toddlers a safe place to sleep outside of the family bed. They fold up into a backpack-sized unit, and most can even be carried as such. Some of these, such as travel cots, look like little more than sleeping bags and I wouldn’t dream of putting my baby in something where he or she would be vulnerable to critters in the night or even sleepwalkers. They’re more appropriate for toddlers or older children.
If you’re going with a travel bed or basinet, go for something with at least 18 inches on the sides of net to protect your sweet one. Some of these are designed to sit on the bed next to Mom and Dad, which is great for breastfed babies!
Beware, not all accommodations are equipped with king beds. If you’re traveling with a travel bed or co-sleeper, make sure you know how much room you have on your floors and how large the bed is. My husband and I got stuck for two weeks co-sleeping in a full-sized bed with our little one and that was, let’s say, not great for anybody.
Guardrails are great for the co-sleeping family or for babies who will take a bed next to their parents in a hotel. They’re a bit pricy for the peace of mind, but they free up Mom and Dad to stay up late in another room while baby is sleeping on a bed, without the worry of rolling over or off the bed, God forbid.
Most baby bed rails are too large to travel with (in my opinion), but you can find low-priced inflatable ones that are like little bumpers about four inches high. I’d personally rather throw a few pillows around my little one than lug around extra gear such as inflatable bumpers, but if you’re worried of babies suffocating on pillows or if you have a super squirmy wormy in the bed, they can offer peace of mind.
To be frank, I’m one of these moms who never leaves the room without a monitor on my little one so that I see and hear everything going on in the room. That’s why I’ve been pretty liberal about letting him sleep in the middle of the bed with a pillow next to him. If he starts rolling around, I’m in there à toute de suite.
If you’re staying at a hotel or resort they’ll most likely have cribs or pack-n-plays, but be sure to call ahead to reserve yours!
- See more specific baby sleep recommendations below!
~ The Best Baby Monitors For Travel ~
Video monitors. Two-way talk monitors. Monitors that have white noise. Monitors with long range. Monitors that have multiple cameras. Monitors that play music. Monitors with white noise. Battery-powered monitors. Rechargeable monitors. Cell phone monitor apps. You have a lot of choices when it comes to baby monitors. So how do you know what’s best for you?
Cell Phone Monitors
My first baby monitor was the top-of-the-line $400 Motorola Video Monitor and it broke so many times that the company has already replaced my monitor twice and my power cord thrice. I read on Amazon that it’s typical of this monitor. Therefore, I highly recommend becoming comfortable with a cell phone baby monitor app.
First download your monitor from your App Store. I use Apple devices so forgive me if my language isn’t non-iOS device friendly. Once you’ve downloaded the app on your tablet AND cell phone, sync your devices. Any decent app will basically prompt you to do this when your phone and tablet are in the vicinity of one another in a super user-friendly way. FYI—you don’t have to be a tech genius or know how to hack a phone to do this! The app I used is called “Cloud Baby Monitor” and for less than $5, it works splendidly. It has a video (quality dependent on signal), as well as a shoddy audio capacity, but it is sufficient, for certain. Just set your tablet or cell phone in the room with your sleeping baby and then hold your phone to watch them. It’s pretty easy! And cheap!
WARNING: if you’re staying in a place without cell phone signal (which I often did with my son), this won’t work!
Baby monitors are one more thing you don’t need to pack in your already stuffed suitcase and cell phone baby monitors are an awesome hack for the family on the go. Who wants to travel with more cords and chargeable items, anyway?
At a much cheaper price point than video monitors are audio baby monitors. Some, such as the Summer Infant Babble Band (I love that name), can be worn on your wrist and set to pulsate while your little one snoozes. When there’s a bunch of activity in the baby’s room, you’ll get a vibrating warning. The downside of the Babble Band is that it only holds a charge for 8 to 10 hours. My son sleeps 10 hours and many children sleep 12 hours, so this wouldn’t make it through his night.
I love being able to see my sleeping son when I am in another room. Frankly, if I don’t see the video, I don’t feel like I’m really able to monitor him well because he sleeps with a sound machine and I don’t always pick up his coos or cries well in the monitor audio feed. What’s more, a video monitor allows me to gauge whether or not he’s having a nightmare and will fall back asleep, or whether he needs me to come in a settle him back to sleep.
Multiple Camera Monitors
Traveling with more than one baby? The VTech Safe & Sound Digital Video Monitor is compatible with up to four cameras so you can keep track of the whole brood. I love that this monitor has a 1,000’ range, especially because there’s nothing worse than your monitor beeping at you incessantly as you try to fill your wine glass in the kitchenette across your rental house suite. What’s more, when you’re investing in tricked out baby monitors you can even use a talk-back intercom. I’ve primarily used the intercom to say soothing things like, “I’ll be there in a minute. Mommy loves you!” “One minute I’m coming down the hall now, my angel.”
Temperature and Humidity Level Gauges
If you really want to be a helicopter parent you can even gauge temperature and humidity on your baby monitor. This may seem excessive, but when you’re sitting on the patio of a beautiful resort in Costa Rica and look down to see that the air conditioner somehow turned off in your bedroom and the temperature reads 82°, you can tiptoe in and crank that puppy back on full-blast for babies who sleep hot. For me, this is huge because my son wakes up with a pool of sweat under his head if it’s above 72°, so I make sure not to let it get too hot in his room!
When is this also important? Once my husband and I stayed in a home that had (unbeknownst to us) a near-empty propane tank gas source. I glanced at the baby monitor at 5 AM and saw that the temperature on the other side of the house was nearly 60°. My chilly little angel was turning into a snow angel!
These are merely two instances where I’ve actually used, to great benefit, the temperature gauge on my baby monitor.
~ A Happy Mom’s Guide to Baby Equipment Rental Companies ~
If you’ve already traveled with your baby, you’ll know that it can become a serious schlep-fest. The best thing you’ll have ever discovered to reduce the ridiculousness of your load is finding a baby gear rental agency. And I’ve found some great sources for you right here.
The Ultimate Baby Travel Registry Checklist
Okay, so this is a short list of items I haven’t been able to live without. I haven’t included Strollers (I have a more comprehensive guide at this link!)
~ Best Baby Travel Luggage ~
Gadikat Diaper Backpack with Changing Pad
It’s surprising how often I used that changing pad with my little one! This diaper bag is stylish and can be worn several different ways. Versatility is key while traveling! This is a bit more of an urban backpack; it’s durable, adorable, and it has tons of useful compartments. Babies are messy and it’s nice to have compartments to stow away things like, say, dirty diapers or soiled clothes. I also had another stunning Pacapod diaper bag with a ton of adorable compartments to keep food and bottles cold and/or special changing kits. I found that I never used this beautiful bag because I wanted something simpler that I had the option to organize, but which also worked well as something I could throw things into haphazardly without the zipping and fussing. The Pacapod diaper bag was perfect to have around the house or with a very needy newborn. My Bebamour backpack was also wonderful and durable for travel, but not nearly as stylish as this awesome Gadikat one!
* Best for toddlers/walkers
The Trunki is an indispensable product for baby travel. Let your toddler push it around the airport or hotel room to burn energy. Carry it on the plane – it’s a great size for underneath airplane seats or for easy access to toys while road-tripping. Use the Trunki as a sturdy ottoman on the plane (for us short moms.) Pull your child as he or she sits on the top with the tow strap. Carry baby’s toys and diapers inside of it. And best of all – it’s easy to clean and carry with the Trunki Tow Strap that turns the Trunki into an over-the-shoulder suitcase. Variety of colors and even animal shapes make it customizable to your little one. Best $50 you’ll spend for a baby travel item, hands down!
~ Sleeping ~
Zipadee Zip Swaddles and Sleep Sacks
You may have seen these adorable sleep sacks on Shark Tank. The founders gave a touching anecdote about their child going from a fussy sleeper to waking up very little in the night. Sleep sacks are great because after your child breaks out of a swaddle, he or she still wants to be in the embrace of a body or womb-like environment. That’s why people use sleep sacks after swaddling age. My son loved to be swaddled until he was at least 10 months old in his Max ‘N Moose swaddle. He was small, and it worked. Plus it was soft and I loved wearing it as a scarf or using it as a sun shade while hiking. It was lightweight but generated warmth, too. It gave him a feeling of security, even when we were in foreign hotels or houses. When I stopped swaddling him with our beloved Max ‘N Moose swaddle, he upgraded to a sleep sack. I’m really happy with the Aden and Anais sleep sacks, too! I received one as a gift and it’s fantastic, but too bulky for my personal travel goals.
iPhone Baby Monitor App
I loved using this with my son’s father when we were at home and charging our Motorola video monitor or while traveling and not interested in packing up a bunch of extra cords! It’s easy to pair with a cell phone or iPad and much cheaper than a regular monitor!
Brica Fold ‘N Go Travel Bassinet
It’s 2.4 pounds and fits on top of your suitcase no matter how much you’ve stuffed it full. I love things that fold up slimly to stuff on top of my luggage. Best of all, you never know when you’ll need to bust out the bassinet while, say, waiting in line at a rental car desk or during a layover. If you aren’t co-sleeping, Pack-and-Plays are cumbersome to carry for your newborn. In my opinion, you’ll find it worthwhile to have a more easy-to-carry solution for plane travel while your little one is still bassinet-sized. My son slept in his bassinet until he was 5.5 months old and loved how cozy it was when he was swaddled. The openness of a Pack-and-Play always made him a bit uncomfortable. If you aren’t sure where you child will sleep best, you can always rent bassinets from Baby Gear agencies or see if your hotel has one for you to try out before you buy one. In addition, on the subject of saving money, if your local Facebook Mom’s group has a Marketplace, you should be able to find lots of gently-used baby items there!
Graco Jetsetter Pack-N-Play with Travel Backpack
If you’re going the Pack-n-Play route, make it one with a backpack! It’s hard enough to schlep these things. Although, I’m not the world’s biggest advocate of Pack-N-Plays because I coslept with my son once he hit about 6 months old. The Graco Jetsetter is a great lightweight travel pack and play that is easy to carry if you’re boarding buses, planes, trains, or traipsing through hotels. My first pack and play was hard to carry, which made it more preferable to co-sleep while traveling. But when I wasn’t getting sleep, I knew I had to suck it up and find a great pack-n-play for baby. This pack-n-play has a bassinet feature as well as a traditional “play yard” to keep little ones off dirty floors. I’ve found that Pack-and-Plays are deceptively hard to carry, even when they have handles. The backpack option makes it easy to take to the airport or even on a bus with you. Remember, most airlines will check strollers, car seats, car seat bases, and Pack-and-Plays for FREE, so factor that in when you’re choosing the airline on which you and your baby will fly. If you can’t find the information on the airline’s website, call customer service. I fly United often with my son and they check his stroller, car seat, base, and Pack-and-Play with no problems, and NO extra fees! This makes a huge difference in your travel plans. Coincidentally, I do choose to travel with my car seat and base because the ones in rental cars are generally filthy, and don’t always meet current safety standards. Having baby items that are easy to check when you’re plane flying really makes or breaks your trip! I especially appreciate curbside check-in at airports so that I can pull up my car, check-in my items, and then park later and schlep across the parking lot with FAR less stuff! Find out if your airline will allow you to check in strollers or Pack-and-Plays curbside before you park! If you have a question, call the airport from which you’ll be flying. Sometimes if you don’t have the option of curbside checkin, it’s best to park in a slightly more expensive lot so that you don’t have to park at a Park-And-Ride several miles from the airport (say, in long term parking at a large airport) and wait for a bus to pick you up, load up your gear, wait for other passengers to do the same, and then drop you off near your terminal, but perhaps still far from check-in. See more great airplane tips in my book here.
~ Strollers ~
- See www.happymomsguide.com/strollers for a FREE comprehensive guide to travel strollers! I’ll detail every bell and whistle you may not have thought of on your own from my own vast travel experience with baby. Don’t miss this report. My first stroller was the “ferrari” of baby strollers but was very cumbersome to travel with. Do yourself a favor and check out this guide!
~ Changing ~
Fragrance-Free Diaper Wipes
My son didn’t have diaper rash his entire first two years. One thing I never waivered on ws Fragrance-Free wipes. I’ve tried expensive versions at Whole Foods but settled on Kirkland’s due to their sturdiness (clean a poop in two wipes or less) and the easy of getting them in a box with over 900 wipes. You don’t want to run out of wipes – Costco wipes make that dream a reality.
Another reason for which I credit him never having had diaper rash is the fact that we gave him coconut oil massages almost daily when he was a baby. Some doctors even swear that Vaseline is the cure of a $3.8 billion healthcare problem of eczema. Best of all, you can pick up coconut oil or Vaseline almost anywhere you travel, making it one less thing to pack!
- For changing tips also see *extra pairs of quick-dry clothes below!
~ Airplane Essentials ~
Stainless Steel Baby Bottles
There isn’t a lot of legislation around baby bottle ingredients, so make sure you go BPA free. One way to mitigate this risk is to go stainless. My son didn’t take bottle but my friends used their stainless bottles from birth to two years!
Contigo Baby Sippys
At 14 ounces, you’ll have plenty of milk, water, or juice for baby with the Contigo Baby Sippy Cup. I’ve found them at Target and there’s one in my best friend’s house, my mom’s and my grandma’s. I love this cup for children over 1 year old because it has a large enough straw to suck up a thick, nutritious juice with protein powder, bananas, dark cherries, and freshly ground almond butter in the mornings.
I fill our Contigo with green juice that both mommy and baby love when we’re on planes or in the car. In addition, flight attendants were always gracious enough to fill the bottle with water for us right when I got on the plane so that I wouldn’t have to wait for water while breastfeeding my son on the plane. If there’s turbulence or you’re seated in the very back of the plane, you can wait two hours for water. Don’t baby and mommy thirst on a plane: go Contigo.
Mesh Storage Bag Vs. Ziploc
I have heard one too many grandmas in my life tell me of the dangers of plastic bags and children. Because I use reusable grocery bags, it wasn’t until my first plane trip that I realized I had dozens of little dangerous baggies all over my luggage. Now I use mesh bags; this reduces the risk of a little one choking or suffocating on a bag you’re using for storage.
These bags are also great to organize toys while traveling. You can keep crayons, puzzles, Play-doh accessories, or toiletries in one easy place so that you luggage doesn’t look like a tornado went through it!
Magnetic Drawing Board
There’s nothing worse than picking up pieces of toys on a plane. That’s why we always travel with a magnetic drawing board. We started scribbling, then learned our ABC’s, and now my son likes to draw pictures with me and then erase them with an enthusiastic “buh-bye!”
It helped with hand-eye coordination when he was little and he was delighted to see me draw pictures on the plane. I loved the fact that our magnetic drawing board mitigated the risk of my son coloring on something he shouldn’t (like the walls of the plane!) and we didn’t have tons of pieces that could fall on the floor. Other mommies have tied strings to their toys on a plane so that when it inevitably falls or gets hurled across the aisle, you can rope it back in. This, however, is a much easier way to get creative on the plane or in a restaurant without breaking your back picking up toys.
Manual Breast Pump
It’s hard to endure the stares and horrified looks when you’re pumping on a plane with an electric pump, which is why I recommend the otherwise tedious task of manually pumping with this Medela Manual Pump. It takes up less room and makes a LOT less noise.
I found that after I donated over 60 gallons of breastmilk by pumping daily with an electric Medela Freestyle Breast Pump, I got pooped of being a cow. In addition, once I was done with my active donation-pumping, I only wanted to store a few ounces at a time for my own son for when I was sitting.
What’s more, getting the Freestyle Electric Pump out became hard when he was a toddler. I always dripped milk all over the house with the electric pump because I’d inevitably have to move! With the manual pump, you can stop and go a lot more easily. You can move around without being attached to the noisy, bulky electronic mechanism, which made it infinitely easier with a toddler who needed chasing. I really appreciated that I could start and stop and move around without feeling like I had an IV in my boob! Less room, less noise, and no need for chargers and cords. I’m in!
~ Clothing Musts ~
Once I made the mistake of putting my son in an adorable plane outfit when he was 11 months old and teething… we had a blowout that was so bad I had to leave the outfit in the airport! There was absolutely no way to wash it clean enough to carry with me for the next 8-10 hours of travel. That’s why I love to travel in quick-dry swim clothing with my son when we’re taking planes.
Between the ages of 0-1, he was very prone to “blowouts”. These swim clothes were comfortable and mitigated the risk of carrying around wet clothes because they wash and dry easily in the airport or airplane bathroom.
The Right Socks
Socks dry quickly so I wouldn’t worry about getting a “quick dry” baby sock. What I would warn you about, however, is getting a sock with some traction on the bottom. It’s so hard to see your little one slipping around on hard floors or begging to remove his or her slippery socks because they don’t have traction. Save those teensy toes and make sure you get socks with some rubbery bottoms!
If you’re looking to stock up on socks, join the email list at Carter’s for frequent 40% off deals (or more!) and make your bulk purchases there. The good thing about socks is that unlike other baby clothes, they don’t grow out of them quite as quickly!
The Right Hat
I love this hat because it ties at the bottom and keeps the back of my baby’s bare neck from sun exposure. My son didn’t have much hair until he was over 18 months, so full coverage of the head and neck was a must when we traveled to beach destinations! In addition, he wore this at home when we hiked in the mountains because even when it was cold, we were very high in elevation and exposed to the sun!
My son, like most children, didn’t want to wear his sunglasses longer than a few minutes at a time. With his awesome iPlay sun hat, he barely knew it was on yet it had just large enough of a brim to keep the sun out of his eyes. I’m a huge fan!
When I haven’t been able to find Badger Balm while traveling, I’ve successfully found Babyganics Sunscreen at Target and other easy-to-find stores. Here’s why I trust Babyganics:
- UVA + UVB protection & water resistant (80 minutes)
- Non-allergenic formula that is naturally gentle on skin and tear free
- Pediatrician & Dermatologist tested
- Exclusive 100% natural NeoNourish Seed Oil Blend to help nurture and support baby’s skin
- No: PABA, phthalates, parabens, fragrances or nano-particles
- Never tested on animals
Max ‘N Moose Swaddle
Although my beloved Oatmeal striped swaddle is no longer available with Max ‘N Moose, their swaddles are absolutely the softest things you’ll feel, and they wash beautifully. The owner is taking a leave of absence so if they’re out, check back soon!
Max ‘N Moose swaddles breathe, they’re beautiful, and you’ll love to wrap one up as a scarf or a nursing cover for yourself. Made in the USA from 100% combed cotton. They also make excellent sun protection at the beach or over baby’s stroller when you’re in hot climates!
Krochet Kids Hats
What’s the point of a warm hat if it doesn’t stay on? These hats are incredible. My son wore a grey and blue one for almost 9 months of his life, daily. Because they’re crocheted, they breath and he barely knows they’re there. What’s more, a hat with the ear covers not only looks insanely cute, but keeps him warmer than a hat you’re constantly adjusting over the ears. In addition, it stays on PERFECTLY without my son knowing it’s there!
Every one of my son’s friends received a Krochet Kids hat for Christmas. If you get lucky, you may even find Krochet Kids hats in your local Whole Foods! Who doesn’t love a kid in a cute hat? It’s even better when that hat is made by a company that gives fair wages to it’s artisans. These aren’t cheap hats, but because they stay on so well, you won’t find yourself needing to buy several replacements. Plus it feels good to see the artist’s signature on your piece of head art.
Goomi Boots/ Hats/ Mittens
My son wore Goomi Boots until he was a year old! They NEVER FALL OFF! You can find Goomi hats, mittens, and other baby items. Best of all, the patterns are the most beautiful and fun baby patterns imaginable. Every time a friend is pregnant, they’ll be receiving Goomi Boots from me, no question. They’re the same price as Zutano Booties but fit more snuggly and hold up incredibly well in the wash. Best of all, they’re organic! I was shocked at how well our Goomi Boots stayed on and stayed vibrant. It wasn’t until my son wore one pair for almost an entire year that I began to see some wear and tear. At that point, however, he was starting to walk around… so it goes without say that it was time to get him in some sturdier “toddler” shoes.
~ Feeding & Pumping ~
Microwave Sterilizer Bags
How are you going to sterilize breast pump accessories or bottles in a hotel?
I found out the hard way that it wasn’t easy.
That’s why I recommend anybody planning on staying in an accommodation without a proper sink use these microwave sterilizer bags. You can read more about how to navigate hotels, rental homes, parents’ homes, and even camping tents with your baby in my book here.
Pump ‘N Save Breastmilk Bags
Don’t forget breastmilk storage bags if you’re pumping!
This goes without say but it’s easy to forget to pack them!
I’ve found that when I was donating milk, I went through so many bags that buying them in bulk was key. If you have the extra money to spend, I highly recommend the Kiinde Breastmilk storage bags. There’s a lot less spilling of thawed milk when you use them, and it’s so much easier to pour them into a bottle or sippy cup when you’re twisting off a cap as opposed to cutting a plastic bag. What’s more, it’s easy to make solid foods or purees and freeze them with these bags because I’ve found that the “cheaper” bags without screw-caps often fall over and drop all my precious food or milk when I’m filling them up.
Milk Cooler Bag
If your diaper bag doesn’t have a cooler inside, don’t forget one! Sometimes flight attendants will be “cool” about storing milk for you, but don’t lose precious liquid gold if you’re , say, booked at a hotel in New Mexico where the power goes out for 18 hours. Yes, alas, that happened to us!
Don’t risk spoilage of milk, bring a cooler bag with you if you’re traveling with milk at all times!
Berkey Sport Water Filter
If you’re giving a child water or making a bottle with formula, don’t risk the water from the tap. Invest in these Berkey Water Filters to remove 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria from water. What’s more, they truly make the water taste so good you’ll want to drink a gallon a day.
Berkey Water Filter bottles aren’t cheap, but when you read about how many horrible chemicals are found in tap water, you’ll know how critical filtered water is for your baby. It’s horrifying to hear about the antidepressants, antibiotics, and even birth control residue that scientists have found in tap water!
In addition, most formula companies warn that you should only use filtered water with formula. With the Berkey Sport Water Filter, whether you’re camping in a jungle or God-forbid using Detroit tap water, you’ll know what you’re giving baby is safe to drink.
Juice Plus Green Powder
I normally don’t like to do anything around MLM (multi-level marketing) products because the minute somebody tells you they sell something through an MLM structure, you can usually rest assured you’ll hear nothing but promotions of their product incessantly henceforth.
However, I happened to come across Juice Plus through a friend and I love the product. It’s packed with nutrients, comes in travel sizes, and has tons of actual science behind it. Keep yourself at optimum energy levels and get the nutrients that you and baby need with a simple powder you can add to water or juice. I love mixing ours with ice, water, and coconut milk for a morning smoothie. My son didn’t take solid food right away and he certainly didn’t enjoy vegetables for a long time, even when I pureed them. The green juice powder put my mind at ease that he was getting the vital fruit and vegetable nutrients he needed, even though he wasn’t consuming solid veggies yet.
Postpartum, I really relied on vitamins like Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamin D, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Flaxseed to help me keep balanced and healthy. I’m not prone to depression but raising my son largely on my own without family around was pretty, well, depressing! My doctor also recommended Vitamin K and Copper for me based on an allergy exam/ cellular picture we took. I recommend doing a comprehensive picture of your allergies and/or vitamin needs every year or two. It’s been phenomenal for me. Many naturopaths use an exam called the Spectracell exam to get a comprehensive analysis of what you may or may not need in your diet based off saliva, stool, and urine samples you provide. The proper vitamin regimen can help ward off depression, help you think more clearly, and has even been shown to stave off dementia in later years! Take your health into your own hands and get this done. You’ll be so happy you did.
~ Entertainment ~
Soft Books *0-1 year
Lightweight, easy to pack and easy to clean. My son loved “Jungly Tails” in the car. It was even easy to link to high chairs in restaurants or to his stroller or car seat. Don’t let your little one get sick, throw your Jellycat book in the wash machine to keep germs away. But remember – if you aren’t getting dirty, you aren’t having fun!
Babies adore the “tags” on books and they love the crinkle and fun noises in books that are soft and pleasing to touch. When your child gets older, begin to tell him which animal is which and have some fun showing him or her all the different colors in the book. You’ll be surprised at what they’re retaining, even before talking age!
Car Seat Safety Mirror
I’ve had quite a few car mirrors and I can’t live without them, even with my rear-facing toddler. I like to know what he’s doing, especially if he’s snacking! What’s more, it’s important to me to know when he naps… or to stop him before he naps at an inappropriate time!
I generally pack these and them forget them in rental cars, so travel with cheap ones you find in baby second hand stores or Target. I once got suckered into a car seat mirror that played music and had lights. My son was thoroughly unamused. I think those ones are best for very young infants. By 9 months old they lose their appeal and they’re very expensive.
Water WOW Books
Whether your child is one or four years, these books are endlessly fun. For little ones, it’s fun to paint water onto a page that turns colors.
For older children, it’s exciting to spot characters and images that “magically” appear when you put water on the page. For parents, you’ll be happy to “color” without all the crayons that end up on the floor. Ouch! My back! No more. These are restaurant and plane miracles.
My son loves the construction ones and his friends all got Safari ones for Christmas. They’re available at Target if you aren’t able to Amazon them quickly enough 😉
Babies of all ages love music. I used Spotify to create “Lullaby” playstations I’d play for him while he nursed, for White Noise while he slept, and even a Spanish playstation with songs I sang for him while we played from the time he was born.
Our favorite stations as he got older were our Disney Dance Party and Hunter Playlist with exciting, upbeat “adult” songs that I enjoyed but didn’t have crude lyrics are dark tones that would kill his mind and mood.
I read 55 books in 2016, and it was thanks to this life-saving app. Use Audible to engage your mind and your baby’s. I’d listen to books that interested me while the baby and I traveled so that I felt like I got some “reprieve” in my day. In addition, it is said that for optimal communication development, babies should hear 30,000 words per day. Wow! Give your little one a leg-up in language by using Audible to massage that growing brain.
Graco Door Frame Bouncer
After purchasing several door frame bouncers, this is far and away my favorite.
It’s durable, easy to clean, safe (see: doorway bumpers), you can add lots of toys to it with the sturdy adjustable toy hooks, and my son sat the happiest in it.
Because of the time my son spent in his door frame bouncer, I was able to get at least 10-15 minutes workout time in every day, even when he was too tiny to sit and play on his own for long. This way, I would jump, squat, and exercise alongside him. To this day, he giggles when I say, “bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!” In the winter, before your little one walks or crawls, this is an awesome way to get wiggles out!
Wimmer Ferguson Toys
Wimmer Ferguson toys are based off studies that span 40 years into optimal brain and eye coordination and color development. At two, my son is still fascinated with his Wimmer Ferguson toys.
I never traveled without Wimmer Ferguson toys to chew on or look at until he was a year old. At two, he still loved playing with the Wimmer Ferguson mobile we had above his crib, identifying shapes and staring at the patterns on the disks.
I’ve Amazon’ed a few Wimmer Ferguson toys, but I’ve seen them at Target stores almost everywhere I’ve traveled.
Adult-Mimicking Toys from B.Luckeys and VTech
Toy laptops. Toy cell phones. Even toy car keys! Your baby can chew on them, press the buttons, swipe and listen to music. Best yet, they don’t emit harmful blue light!
My son still takes his B.Luckeys in the car with him when he wants to imitate mommy on a cell phone or driving the car. The keys have buttons that imitate a car starting, a horn, and an unlock feature.
These provided hours of fun for my little one in restaurants and car trips until he was about 15 months old. My son plays with his VTech baby laptop and turtle Touch ‘N Learn books almost every day in the car and he’s almost two!
4-in-1 Puzzle Boxes by Melissa and Doug
My son began to get obsessed with puzzles at about 21 months old… but they were terrible to travel with! However, when we got these puzzle boxes from Melissa and Doug, our prayers were answered. Now we take puzzles to the restaurants, hotels, or even across the country on a plane. They aren’t good for the cramped airplane quarters, but the 4-in-1 puzzle box is very small and lightweight, making it good for packing away. Plus, I love toys that have multiple uses! If you’re taking a road trip to a hotel and have extra room for toys, this is a great one to play with on a hotel room bed while you’re winding down for the night. There are several different puzzles. Shown here is the princess but we love the construction trucks one, too. Best for ages 3+.
Bonus: Don’t Forget…
- Toothbrush or Organic Brushing Rinse for after those salty plane snacks
- Phone + Charger, iPad, Computer, other electronics
- Contacts or glasses + Solution
- Camera (you’re traveling, right?)
- Cash! (Tip those sweet airport valets for hauling luggage and checking you in curbside!)
Before You Book: Documents To Remember
- Baby Passport
- Parent Passport & Card
- Extra Credit Card (in separate place from wallet, in case someone lifts it in San José… while you’re ordering wood-fired pizza. Ugh…)
- Travel Insurance (auto, trip, health or life insurance) See a full Travel Insurance Guide (with tips that can save you thousands) in my book here.
Bulky/ Best Indispensable Items To Rent:
- Baby Gate
- Infant Bathtub
** Other items you can often find at baby gear rental companies include:
- High Chair
- Booster Seat
- Bottle Sanitizer
- Bottle Warmer
- Pack-n-Play – Regular or Premium
- Toddler Bed
- Infant Car Seat
- Toddler Car Seat
- Booster Seat – No Back or High Back
- Convertible Car Seat
- Infant Car Seat Base
- Car Seat Adapters – Single, Twin, or Universal
- Stroller – Full-size
- Stroller – Tandem/Twin
- Stroller (All-Terrain) – Single or Double
- Sit and Stand
- Jogging Stroller – Single or Double
- Umbrella Stroller
- Stroller Travel System
- Tub of Toys – Indoor, Beach, or Mixed
- Toddler Ride-On Toy
- Bouncy Seat
- Go Pod
- Swing – Front/Back, Side/Side
- Wagon – Regular or Beach
- Activity/Play Gym
- Cradle Swing
- Beach Umbrella – Available w/ or w/out Anchor
- Beach Towel
- Beach Chair – Kid-sized and Adult
- Beach Cart
- Beach Tent/Cabana – Kid-sized and Adult
- Wheeled Cooler
- Changing Table
- Diaper Genie
- Potty Seat – Seat or Toilet Ring
- Baby Wipe Warmer
- Room Monitor
- A/V Room Monitor
- Security Gate – Regular or Extended
- Frame Backpack
- Step Stool
- Rocking Chair
- Gate Yard – Regular or Super Play Yard
- Toddler Table – Table or w/ 2 Toddler Chairs
- Portable Sound Machine
Before you Leave Home:
- Pet Care! Schedule early or pet care can be enormously expensive.
- Mail Forwarding
- If you’re leaving in winter, snow removal or home temperature may be an issue.
- Amazon much? Make sure a friend picks up packages or they can get destroyed by the elements while you’re away.
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