Essential items not to forget traveling with a baby
Ready for your first big family adventure with your baby? Undoubtedly some wonderful memories to be made but the packing alone can be a daunting prospect before you’ve even left the house. Babies really do come with a lot of STUFF!
We talked about the most essentials items for baby travel in some detail before, but in this bumper guide, we’re going to dig into the nitty-gritty details of every item you need to think about packing with a baby, along with the WHY – or WHY NOT!
For some more specific travel checklists make sure you also check out:
- Essential gear you will need camping with a baby
- Hiking with a baby essentials
- Baby at the beach – essential gear and safety tips
- Essentials you’ll need for a road trip with a baby
- Taking off on your first flight with a baby
There’s no one right solution – your ‘nice to have item’ could be another tots absolute essential so base it on your families needs and adapt our suggested packing checklist to make it your own; but most importantly try and avoid the overpack!!
This post is part of our packing list series & also our best baby travel advice series – packed full of useful tips for first time family travellers
What to include in your baby travel checklist
NB – Many baby items are called all different things around the world! We know most of our readers are from the US so try and use the American name but we will slip in some of our Aussie and British expressions for baby gear too!! We’ve included some handy links to Amazon and some of our preferred baby gear suppliers, if you make a purchase we may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
We suggest you work slowly through our printable checklist, cross out anything you definitely won’t need and use the spare lines to add anything vital to you.
It looks like a dauntingly long list but once you cross out anything unnecessary for the type of travel you’ll be undertaking it’s not too bad – but try to avoid too many unnecessary or ‘just in case’ extras. Remember people have babies all over the world!! You will almost certainly be covered if anything vital is forgotten.
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Baby Travel Checklist: Documents and Paperwork Before You Go
Crossing any international borders with your baby there are plenty of considerations:
- Passport – Yes, even those adorably squidgy faces need a photo passport to travel overseas. Make sure you organise this well in advance of your proposed travel date. Consider whether you need a family passport holder to keep all your docs together now you’ve got several of you travelling in a group.
- Permission to fly letter – Crucial if one parent is flying without the other parent – married or not – you will want something that documents you are allowed JUST IN CASE.
- Insurance – Never leave home without it! Covering delays and cancellations, accidental breakages, theft, baggage loss, and so much more, travel insurance is more critical than ever for family travellers. We use and recommend World Nomads for international travel.
- Visa – Some countries will require a Visa for your to visit for every person, even infants. Check if you can apply in advance or is it a visa on arrival. We always take a few spare passport photos in case they’re needed for these sorts of things.
- Airline tickets – Even if your infant will be travelling as a lap baby and sharing your seat, they still need to be ticketed for every flight. If you booked the flight before your child was born you’ll need to update the airline with your babies full details (including passport number if you’re flying internationally).
How soon can you fly with a baby? We cover flying with your baby in much more detail in this guide.
- Emergency Contact Details – Always have the important numbers you might need on your journey and at your destination near to hand. This includes hospitals/nearest doctor, insurance hotline, ambulance number. Over in our subscriber’s area, you can get your hands on our first aid travel checklist which includes a cutout card for placing all your emergency contact details, super handy to keep in your travel wallet alongside your passports, and a spare elsewhere in case passports are stolen.
Baby Travel Checklist – Feeding Gear
Feeding your baby away from home can be one of the more challenging areas of travelling with a baby, especially if you’ve hit the weaning stage and finding yourself in a juggling act between boobs, bottles and bringing along your own pureed food.
This feeding checklist list is pretty extensive – but oh so important! Make it less intimidating by crossing out any items not relevant to your baby’s age or feeding stage. Feeding items to consider packing for a baby:
Nursing Cover – Possibly one of our all-time favourite pieces of travel kit! Useful not only to give you and your baby some privacy while you feed, but a nursing cover can also be a super-versatile blackout or stroller cover, picnic blanket. We take a detailed look at the best types of nursing covers for travel here.
Portable Breast Pump – Whether you’re a regular pumper at home or not, there can be some great benefits to pumping while you travel, be it occasions you’ll find it difficult to feed on the move (just picture an epic hangry meltdown in the middle of a busy arrivals hall), or to keep up your milk supply while your baby is adjusting time zones. Find our guide to the best portable breast pumps for different types of travel here.
Bottle Warmer – Got a little one that only likes their milk when it’s at a certain temperature? A portable bottle warmer is great not only for bottle feeds but quickly heating baby meals too that you may have refrigerated for your journey. We take a much more in-depth look at what portable bottle warmers can do over here.
Muslin Burp Cloths – Oh so many uses! A bit like our nursing covers, these simple cloths have come EVERYWHERE with us for years, helpful for feeding times and sleeping or providing additional shade. A good pack of small and large muslin clothes is a travel baby essential.
Bottles – If your baby is bottle-fed in any way you will need a reasonable number of bottles with you with their favourite nibs. “Reasonable” is really down to circumstances and how often you’ll be able to wash and sterilise between feeds – we discuss it more in our travelling with a bottle-fed baby guide.
Bottle Cooler – Travelling with pre-pumped baby milk or cows milk? Then an insulated bottle chiller bag is essential for keeping your precious cargo chilled at the right temperature and ready for use. We talk in a lot more detail over here on how to transport breastmilk and the best milk cooler. Make sure this is easy to access and open for inspection if you pass through airport customs control.
Formula & Dispenser – Although we say you can get baby supplies anywhere in the world, we do know babies can be fussy and formula is one we always take with us if we can fit enough in our case for the duration of a trip. We find having a small formula dispenser in our travel bag already divided into portions one of our handiest pieces of baby travel gear.
Sterilising solution – For keeping your bottles clean on the move, consider these portable cold water bottle sterilising tablets or if space permits and you have the facilities at your destination, a portable microwave steriliser is one bulky item you won’t regret packing.
Portable High Chair – Weigh up whether it’s necessary or will you have adequate access to a high chair for mealtimes? This really depends on the type of travel you’ll be undertaking and the available facilities at your destination. Portable high chairs can be something that clamps onto the table, additions you add to a chair or a portable seat that sits on the ground. We take a much more detailed look at the right sort of high chair for your baby over here.
Finger Food – Once your baby is upright and weaning, having a selection of quick grab snacks to stave off any munchies is essential (and this will be essential for many travelling years to come!). For the under 1’s, try yoghurt drops, cereal puffs, teether rusks.
Food pouches – We have found these pre-made pouches of pureed baby food are one of the easiest meal solutions when we are away from home without our baby food blender. For younger babies, we still spooned it into a bowl (or use one of these handy dispensing spoons) while older infants can hold the packet on their own.
Platic bowl and spoon – This can be location dependent, but we always found it helpful to throw in our own bowl and spoon set for our infants. Even if they were joining in with a family meal out, you can give them their own portion in a bowl, you’ll just need to be sure you have the facilities to clean.
Sippy cup – Extra water on top of their milk feed is especially important in the heat (you can see more of our tops for taking babies to hot climates here).
Wet wipes/water wipes – Cleaning little fingers before mealtimes, wiping surfaces, faces, you name it we all know that these are one of the number one items in any parents arsenal, near or far from home!! Have an easy to grab purse pack of wipes with you always, as well as supplies you might keep in your diaper bag.
Washing brush and liquid – Think bottles, plastic containers, feeding spoons. No matter what stage you’re at this is probably one of those overlooked items you’ll be super thankful for us suggesting! Just pour a small amount of dishwashing liquid into a carry bottle to last the number of days you’re away and something to actually clean with – we love these travel kits including a drying rack.
Baby Travel Checklist – Baby Gear On the Move
So how do you get about with your baby away from home? You may find many of your everyday pieces of baby transportation gear will perfectly suffice for the most part or depending on your type of travel you may find yourself needing to invest in some specific travel items.
We’ll talk through all the different items we’ve found useful, and where investing in something specifically for travel may pay off:
Baby Carrier – 100% this has to come in at number 1. Whether you’re a regular baby wearer or not, this is the most useful thing a travelling parent can bring with them. Being hands-free at times is a must and this keeps baby with you close and secure.
We’ll continue to harp on about this and insist you keep using one well into the toddler years and they no longer fit! Go with something like a Boba Baby Wrap when they’re a newborn (practice the technique for wraps though before you leave home and can still follow YouTube instructions!), graduating into a structured baby carrier that can be forward or rear-facing as your infant grows.
Collapsible Stroller – You may or may not need a separate travel stroller depending on what you use day-to-day. We have owned an obscene number of strollers over the years, trying to find ‘the right one‘ categorically, there is no one! Your needs change from newborns to multiple children to different location needs which differ from what you want near home – I know at home your stroller can be like your mini moving home! On the move, you’ve gotta get sleek.
We’d suggest if you use a larger pram or bassinet style stroller at home, you’ll want something lighter that comes in one piece (after 6 months or once sitting upright) for travel. The best types of lightweight collapsible strollers fold up so small you can even take them all the way onto an airplane with you. We compare all the leading brands of ultra-compact travel strollers here.
If you have twins or children close in age, a lightweight and portable double stroller is a must. We compare all our favourite double strollers for travel over here, or if you’re heading on camping and outdoor adventures you may be better off with a larger but more robust double jogging stroller.
Stroller organiser – Even when we’re travelling we love keeping organised! These stroller organisers are super handy for keeping everything from sippy cups to maps in an easy to grab spot. We also take a Mummy Hook everywhere we go – ideal for hanging bags and shopping (Just be mindful if you are using a lighter travel stroller, it may not be capable of holding the same capacity off the handlebar as your everyday stroller).
Car Seat – whatever mode of transport you’re taking, almost certainly you’ll need a seat for transporting your baby safely. If you’ll need your car seat for both the car and on a plane, we recommend you check out our comprehensive guide to car seats and which brands are actually allowed on board, along with their conditions of use.
Travel system – A great all-in-one solution when your baby is still very young and in an infant car seat/capsule, you can easily switch from car to stroller to plane if using an all-in-one system. We’ve had varied success with these over the years; they don’t last your baby for long, especially if you’d prefer a collapsible stroller once they’re out of their capsule.
The market leader in a convertible car seat-cum-stroller all in one is Doona, but it is a little pricey. In other models, you can mix and match any car seat with a stroller base (two pieces) and as they grow out of their car seat, it converts to a proper stroller seat you can insert instead. Not our preference for baby travel, we prefer the lighter weight collapsible stroller, but many swear by buying complete travel systems.
Car seat/infant capsule cover – Will you be travelling somewhere ultra sunny or somewhere very cold? To keep baby’s temperature regulated when you’re travelling with an infant in their seat, you may need additional sun protection or a cosy toe cover. We look at both hot and cold weather capsule covers for infants over here.
Car Seat Travel Bag – If you’re taking any sort of car seat with you and won’t be using it on the plane, then it will need checking into the hold. We highly recommend preventing damage to your car seat (nothing like sorting that out at 3am with a screaming baby when we first moved to the UAE) then protect it with a proper car seat travel bag. We love the Hello Jolie – reviewed in detail here – for a sturdy wheeled option making getting around the airport with your bulky gear a cinch.
Stroller Cover – Ditto if you’re checking your stroller in the hold of a plane it’s imperative to keep it protected – some of these devices cost more than my first car! If your stroller doesn’t come with its own travel bag then invest in one of these generic brands – the more you pay the longer they’ll last.
Suitcase with Seat – A fairly new invention for travelling parents, if you are checking your infant’s car seat and stroller but still need to get from A to B, consider these super handy suitcase seats from Mountian Buggy, suitable for larger infants.
Car Seat Trolley – The alternative if you will be taking your car seat onto the plane, consider getting a small trolley to tow your car seat, they are surprisingly heavy and difficult to manoeuvre without some help! This is where you can see you need your baby in a carrier rather than a stroller when getting about with all this baby gear!
Baby Travel Checklist – Changing, Bath and Bedtime
Keeping as close as you can to your babies normal schedule of nap times, bathing and sleep will help all of you to adjust when you are on vacation – but go easy on yourselves, too; if bedtime is an hour or two late, does it really matter?
You can adjust to your new normal but there are aspects of your routine you may want to keep the same as we know babies thrive on routine and knowing what comes next. Not every item in this section is essential but may help your baby with those routine parts of their day around getting changed, bathing and sleeping away from home.
Diapers – Although we’ve not mentioned it anywhere else so far, should go without saying that diapers or nappies are a baby travel essential! Cloth of disposable up to you, but if you’re using cloth just think about what facilities you’ll have on your journey for watching.
Diaper Bag – Should go without saying, you’ll need something to carry everything on this list! Although backpack baby diaper bags are pretty much the norm these days, we highly recommend when travelling with all this kit you have something you can carry hands-free. If your everyday diaper bag doesn’t meet this criterion, consider a separate travel bag. We run you through all our favourite travel diaper bag designs over here.
Changing Kit – We like to have a small easy-to-grab kit that can be separated from the main diaper bag. We keep this in the pocket in front of us on the plane, or under our stroller on days out, so much easier than dragging your whole bag to a bathroom. Keep your small kit well-stocked before every outing with hand sanitiser, disposable diaper bags, wipes and diaper paste for running repairs!
Portable Bath Tub – Maybe not essential for every type of trip. Always check what’s available at your destination before packing a portable tub as even the smallest of portable tubs can still be quite bulky. We look at different ways to wash bubs on the go and portable bathtub styles over here.
Baby toiletries – You’ll likely prefer your own sensitive skin baby soaps and shampoos over using hotel supplied freebies. Bring with you small containers of everything you need. We also throw in some basics like cotton wool, nail clippers, extra diaper paste/Sudocrem and baby panadol.
Swaddle – We double up using the large muslin clothes for our travels for feeding and sleeping times, they can be used for pretty much anything you want! If your baby is swaddled at home, definitely don’t be afraid to continue swaddling away from home too, even in hot climates we’ve always continued to use breathable cotton swaddles.
Sleeping Bag – Likewise if your baby sleeps best in their sleeping bag, this is one of those bulkier items to make space for in your case. If you are travelling to a different climate from home, check the tog rating, you may want an 0.5 tog sleeping bag in a hotter climate, or something thicker and quilted like this in a cold climate.
Portable Cot – A super bulky but essential item. Again, we always check whether this is something we can get at our destination rather than bringing our own. Only when we’re making multi-stop trips and sleeping in many locations do we bring our own for surety. The type of portable baby cot you use depends on how small your tot is. Under 6 months there are some cute sleeping tents, older infants you’ll want a complete baby travel cot that will stay with them through their toddler years; avoid the bulky pack ‘n play style cots unless it’s their play space too.
Cot sheets – If these won’t be provided at your destination or you’re using your own portable cot, best to BYO crib sheets.
Favourite cuddly – Maybe not your most prized teddy from home but a toy that they’re familiar with that will assist them in feeling familiar at bedtime and getting to sleep.
Pacifier – And if your baby needs a pacifier or dummy to soothe themselves off to sleep, of course, this is essential to bring their favourite! Plus spares! There’s no guarantee on finding their favourite brand at your destination if things go horribly wrong!!
Blackout curtain – Research before you go what the sleeping arrangements are. However, bringing a portable blackout curtain can be one of those bulky extras you simply won’t regret! Some babies simply won’t nod off and get the sleep cues unless it’s dark – and jet lag is simply no help to this!
Portable Monitor – We’re not suggesting being miles away from your bub; But you may want baby resting in another room while you finish out your day and to give you that extra peace of mind when noises and location are different for you all. If you’re not using a device through your mobile phone, try one of these portable baby monitor units.
Baby Travel Checklist – Clothing
If there’s one area you may well want to overpack it’s baby clothes! No matter how many outfits you think you’ll go through on a trip you can be sure your infant will go through more.
Consider how long you will be away for and whether you will need to use washing facilities or laundry services while you’re away, or will you try and pack everything you need for your entire trip? It’s hard to suggest exactly what you’ll need as it vastly varies by climate so work through our list considering:
- Short sleeve babygros/onesies
- Long babygros/onesies
We have more handy hints over here on keeping organised with laundry needs while you travel.
Baby Travel Checklist – Pool & Beach
Heading to the pool or beach on your family vacation there are several more baby items you’ll want to consider packing:
Swim Diapers – Designed to keep your infant from having number 2 accidents, these come in disposable swim diapers or re-usable swim diapers. Reusable swim diapers are much easier to re-use and keep clean on the go than their everyday diapers.
Bathing suit – Are you going for something cute or is sun protection paramount? As we mention in our baby sun protection article, babies should be kept completely shaded and no sunscreen until 6 months, so a cute swim diaper is likely all they need as you keep them shaded and protected. As they grow – babies should really use a rashguard, not a cute bathing suit, if they’re in the direct sun.
Rashguard – So rashguards are long-sleeved swim tops that babies and toddlers should really be wearing when out in the direct sun at the pool or beach for the first few years. They can, of course, still be cute and colourful but will provide your baby with SPF50+ protection all over their shoulders, arms and bodies. You can optionally add longer shorts and swim pants for boys and girls, or go for an all-over bodysuit.
Floaties/Swim vest – When your little ones are ready to start taking to the water on their own they will still need help with keeping afloat in the waves. As well as any novelty floating device they might be using (with adult supervision, of course), it’s best your infant has a wearable floatation device. We look at the different types of infant swim vest over here.
Sunscreen – Once you’re baby’s skin can handle it, SPF50+ sun cream is essential out in the sun. Babies can still have very sensitive skin so look for the organic sunscreens made especially for babies, not always cheap but definitely worth it – reef-safe a bonus.
Sun Hat – Clearly an essential for keeping heads protected, you can find our favourite infant sunhats that work well in water here.
Sunglasses – Love ’em or hate ’em? Your baby will soon let you know! Out in the bright sunlight do try a pair of baby sunglasses with head strap on your infant to protect their eyes but many babies totally reject the idea of wearing something on their face! Give it a go!
Beach Shade – If you’ll be out in the sun with your baby for any period of time during the middle of the day then a pop-up baby sunshade can be an excellent idea for protection against UV rays, especially if their skin is still too sensitive for sunscreen. This added layer of protection will give your bubs a protected area to play in the sane. We compare leading brands of baby pop up tents over here.
Water Carrier – Taking baby into the water, especially if your hands are full with other kids, you’ll want an easy way to keep bubs close. These can be wraps, ring slings or more structured carriers in waterproof material. Find our complete comparison guide for water carriers over here.
Beach Toys – Go light! You don’t need to invest in every plastic contraption under the sun when they’re only a baby. Some simple shape moulds and a bucket and a spade are really all a baby needs for some fun in the sand, possible some stacking cups they can use in the bath too. Bring a mesh bag to keep them in and keep sand away from everything else in your family beach bag. As they grow, we have more toddler beach toy ideas over here.
Paddle pool – It might feel counterintuitive to go to the beach and take a pool but this can be a great way to keep little one cool whilst safe away from larger waves. A great combination to help your baby beat the heat but join in with the family at the beach is to pop them with their toys in a small inflatable paddle pool under your pop-up tent = baby beach day sorted!
Hooded towel – Cute hooded towels for drying off and keeping warm by the pool or beach are a must for babies. Remember they are not nearly as well-equipped for regulating their body temperature so you want to change them as soon as they’re done in the water and out of soggy clothing.
Baby Travel Checklist – Baby Travel Toys
Babies, on the whole, need very few toys when you’re travelling – shock, I know!! It’s the area I’ve seen most first-time parents chronically overpack. Trust me, the stimulation of new environments and your company alone is normally enough for most babies.
Understandably on really long flights or car journeys, you’ll want a few tricks up your sleeve so make sure you check out our best baby toys for flying. We also have several guides for travel toys by age group, check out our favourites for:
The common theme you’ll find amongst our baby travel toy recommendations is small, portable, limited sound, no small parts and no electronics. We’ve included a selection of idea here but do go check out the detailed list for each age group – we’ve been specialising in baby toys for years!!
Baby Travel Checklist – camping, hiking & outdoors
A Structured Baby Carrier – more than just your everyday soft infant carrier, for a hiking adventure with an infant you’ll want a structured carrier specially designed to cover long distances and wearing over an extended period of time.
A toy teether – keep your tot from dropping items to the ground when in their carrier or camp chair, a small but super-handy piece of kit to add to your outdoor arsenal.
Camp chair – great for feeding on the go, picnics to camping we always took a portable chair with us. We’re currently loving the Summer Pop ‘n Sit for something easy, or if you’d like an outdoorsy portable highchair to last into the toddler years, try the Baby Delight Go With Me, a superb longer-term investment. We compare more outdoor baby chair options here.
Chair for Feeding – an optional extra if you’re a feeding mama out on a hike, it can be much easier for both of you to have a comfortable chair to sit on, though weigh this up of course with all the other gear you’ll be carrying
Rain cover for baby carrier – A little rain should never stop you from continuing to enjoy the great outdoors with your baby, just come weather prepared. If you don’t have a fitted rain cover on your carrier then get your baby a good weather-proof cover.
Before you go… More baby travel advice
Thanks for sticking with us this far! A monster guide but we hope you’ve picked up lots of handy hints. You may also want to check out:
- Our complete guide to travelling with a baby – All our best baby travel advice in one spot
- Perfect gifts for the travel-loving parents-to-be – Give new parents a gift they can really use with this handy gift ideas list (+ how to set up a baby registry to get all the useful stuff you actually NEED!)
- Family guide to stress-free packing – How exactly we set up ready for a big overseas trip with little kids.
- Preparing your home before you travel – Don’t forget these important things that need taking care of around your home before a big vacation
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