Items you absolutely need if you’re traveling with a baby
Are you new parents about to undertake your first trip with a baby?
Congratulations! Welcome to the scary but exciting world of family travel.
The good news is infants can actually make quite good travel companions. They complain and move about far less than toddlers, they don’t need their own full-size bed, and you don’t need to buy a separate plane ticket!
The bad news, I bet it’s a little daunting thinking about all the baby travel gear you need to pack
What if I forget something? What are the most important things to buy? What’s a complete waste of money?
After traveling extensively with three babies over a decade, we’ve learned a thing or two about packing for babies and what baby items are really useful to bring with you when it comes to the crunch (and what we’d leave at home).
We have an absolute bumper baby travel checklist here covering everything you need. However, for this baby essentials guide, we wanted to help you narrow it down with the top 10 essentials for traveling with a baby.
This post is part of our Baby Travel Advice series
If your child is slightly older, pop on over to our Toddler Travel Essentials page.
10 Baby Travel Essentials For Every Type of Journey
Baby Travel Essential #1: A Baby Carrier
Being able to walk hands-free through crowds, upstairs, on and off public transport is a vital part of traveling with a baby, so without a doubt, a baby carrier tops our list as the most essential baby travel item.
After trying several different types, our favorite brand has been Ergobaby. As well as front wearing from newborn (with an insert), it can be used as a back carrier for years to come, right through the toddler years (we discuss our favorite toddler carriers here).
Since we first purchased our first Ergobaby back in 2012, you can now also get the Ergo 360 model that allows baby to be forward-facing on the front. It’s by far the most versatile and comfortable carrier for a long-term investment.
TIP: There are so many things to consider when investing in a baby carrier that will become a travelling essential for years. From our experience, the newborn insert for the Ergo wasn’t brilliant, for a newborn I would still recommend something like a Boba Wrap where they can be held in close to you (practice, practice, practice using these at home with some help though before heading into the big wide world and first trying it on at the airport!!!). If you will be heading to the beach or a resort, consider a waterproof baby sling.
The Ergobaby will comfortably see you through for occasional and urban use for several years. (And for the really brave – you CAN wear the Ergo on your back with a toddler with a newborn wrapped on the front – sorry we never got a photo of this in action!!).
Baby Travel Essential #2: A Reliable Travel System
Oh, how we’ve agonized for years on finding “the right one” – I bet this will be one of the biggest baby purchasing decisions you and your partner will make and the one you’ll agonize and argue over the most – after all, it’s a lot of money but so important for everyday life AND travel.
I first stated it here – and many times again – you will end up owning multiple strollers!!! No one stroller will fit all your needs from birth to toddler.
We got to baby #3 before discovering ultra-compact strollers for travel. They are so small they can come all the way onto the plane with you and fold into the overhead bin.
If you are frequent flyers, honestly, I would invest in this from the start. There are now multiple manufacturers targeting this market, but these three have been around the longest, and we’d say they are the most reliable as they can be used from newborn (with car seat attachments/adaptor kits)
If you are looking for twins or children close in age, check out this selection of lightweight double strollers perfect for travel. The only one that you can adapt from newborn in this category at present is the Mountain Buggy Duo.
RELATED POST: How to select the best travel stroller
Baby Travel Essential #3: Infant Capsule / Infant Car Seat
So seeing as we’ve talked about travel systems, the infant capsule is essential to this. Our favorite for years has been the Maxi Cosi Infant Car Seat.
We love that it’s such a well-known brand that all infant travel systems we know can adapt to fit the Maxi Cosi. There’s a huge range of add-ons and accessories that are purpose-made to fit.
When traveling with an infant, being able to easily move from one transportation to the next with baby easily tucked in is great!
Baby Travel Essential #4: Nursing Cover
TIP: Don’t forget when your travelling to pack extra breast pads, even if you don’t normally leak, the impact of time change and jet lag can throw your natural feeding cycles out of rhythm and lead to leaky boobs on the move!
Baby Travel Essential #5: SnoozeShade
I’ve seen many wonderful and innovative products come up even in the last few years since I’ve become a mum – a lot of entrepreneurial mommies out there trying to solve our parenting problems! – but one of the best I’ve seen is the SnoozeShade.
I’ve seen some lovely hand-designed cotton ones, too (far better than my effort throwing a muslin over the pram with a bulldog clip), but this one built with breathable mesh fabric that also blocks out UV rays is a real winner and a must for your travel gear.
But do check out some newer alternatives too, which may suit your style – wearable nursing covers that can also double as a sunshade. What do you think?
RELATED POST: The best infant capsule covers for all seasons
Baby Travel Essential #6: Stroller Hooks & Organizers
While we’re still on stroller essentials, where or where would we be without a Mommy Hook?! (Sorry, Dad, you can use it too, though!)
Seriously, far from being gimmicky, this is one of the handiest investments you can make. Hanging bags, toys, shopping off your stroller; definitely get this one on your baby shower list, you won’t regret it!!
There are several similar brands available, all do roughly the same job. Just be careful not to overload the back of a stroller or it becomes liable to tipping over.
Just be careful if you need to fold the stroller up so everything doesn’t fall out. Now my kids are a bit older, our stroller has become just as useful as the communal family dumping ground as a stroller!
Baby Travel Essential #7: Portable Travel Cot
Forget bulky play n play systems unless weight and size are no object; these old-style “travel cots” are out, and the newer, more versatile Traveller-style cots and pop-up pods are in!
It depends on how long you want your product to last you and what sort of traveling you do. We love the KidCo Peapod from newborn (or Peapod Plus from 6 months), which is like a canopy tent.
However, we later discovered the Phil & Teds Traveller Cot and this would be our top choice to last you through to the toddler years as well – super lightweight, though it does involve a few construction skills. If you’re using it outside, don’t forget your bassinet sunshade.
Simply put, we never rely on our hotel room or holiday rental to have the appropriate gear. We always got peace of mind bringing our own, even if it takes up a little extra space in our packing to know our totw would get a good night’s sleep.
You can see our full comparison guide on travel cots and portable bassinets here, or check out some of these designs and options:
RELATED POST: Sleeping on the go and dealing with jet lag
Baby Travel Essential #8: Quick Diaper Change Kit
If you don’t already have an easy-grab diaper/nappy change kit, it’s time to invest!
Taking an entire diaper bag into an airplane toilet is cumbersome and unnecessarily bulky – not to mention some of the weird and wonderful places you might find yourself needing to squat for diaper changes during a traveling adventure!
We have used and loved our Skip Hop Portable Changing Mat. Being small but all-in-one means we can easily swap it from a diaper bag to carry-on bag, or throw it under the stroller for use at home or away.
You can still fit your travel-sized ‘bits’ like a pocket diaper cream, disposal sacks, wipes, and a little sanitizer into the pockets.
Moved on a stage with older kids? If you’re approaching potty training, check out this great post for tips dealing with this difficult stage on the move and our detailed guide to picking out portable potties!
Baby Travel Essential #9: Large Muslin Cloths
Over the years, these aden + anais extra-large muslin swaddles have become a much-beloved item (yes, even with bigger kids, too!). They are so immensely versatile from cleaning up spills to swaddling, emergency sun cover or breastfeeding cover, quick blanket for on a lawn – we’ve used them for just about everything! They are undoubtedly one of the top baby travel essentials you’ll want on your list.
Being so light and thin they are especially good for warmer climates and very easy to rinse and dry if they do get dirty. You MUST have some of these in your travel bag – and I bet you will for years to come!
Baby Travel Essential #10: Feeding Essentials
If you are bottle-feeding or weaning older babies, a pre-filled formula container should be amongst your baby travel items.
Note: Always check the latest airline regulations for the country you are flying from for liquid rules. At the time of publishing this post this is the latest TSA advice:
“Formula, breast milk and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 millilitres are allowed in carry-on baggage and do need to not fit within a quart-sized bag. Separate formula, breast milk and juice from other liquids, gels and aerosols limited to 3.4 ounces. Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.”Transport Security Administration
We have a more detailed guide about transporting milk which can be found here, along with a guide to breastmilk cooler bags or check out this complete guide to travelling with bottles.
And 5 more “nice to have” baby items we’ve loved when on the move
While this is not a baby travel essential in every situation as it does significantly add weight and space, if you’ll be staying anywhere where perhaps the baby is out of immediate earshot, we recommend a portable baby monitor. Some even come with a portable sound machine which some children need.
We have a complete review of leading baby monitors for different travel situations over here.
OK, I can hear some of you mocking me from here, but first-timers do stick with me! A lot of babies do hate them and will pull them off immediately, but for the record, my number 3 DIDN’T (well up to about 7 months old). If you’re heading anywhere hot and sunny, do give them a try.
Worth it if you can make them work, but I’m afraid there’s no magic way to know if they’ll take to them without trial and error. Luckily, they are relatively inexpensive so worth the experiment.
Why not try these highly recommended ro•sham•bo baby sunglasses?
If you’ve never taken a baby to the beach before – you’ve been warned!! SAND.GETS.EVERYWHERE! I can’t promise these little beauties will solve all your sand issues, but they are a great way for babies to sit and play with less sand while being protected from the sun.
I’d say these are perfect from approximately five months old (or sitting upright) through to 12 months, or walking – when they have no intentions of staying still! One with an easy fold frame and carry case is a must.
You can catch our complete guide to baby beach shades here
Another baby travel essential that we couldn’t have lived without was baby sleep sacks. They assist with seamlessly transferring a sleeping bub from one form of transportation to another without needing to redress or re-wrap them.
Leading brands will come with holes cut in for your car seat harnesses, or move them from stroller to cot. They come in several different weights for hot and cold climates.
Best of the rest – download your baby packing list now!
This baby travel essentials list is not exhaustive! From small toys to essential clothing items in different climates, there are undoubtedly a lot of scenarios you need to consider when traveling with a baby.
The most important thing to remember is that babies are everywhere! Wherever you are traveling to, you will almost certainly find baby supply shops for anything you’ve forgotten.
Pop over to our ultimate baby travel checklist here, or join our online community and immediately get your hands on the printable PDF version of our baby travel checklist – plus our complete range of packing lists for every type of family travel.
Note we will ask you to sign up to our mailing list when downloading the checklist, but if you decide it’s not for you, you can unsubscribe at any time.
More Baby Travel Essentials
We have several more detailed reviews and advice posts covering you through the years of baby travel. Why not pop on over and read next:
- Your first time flying with a baby; Everything you need to know, from booking seats to dealing with a baby on board long-haul flights.
- Hiking with a baby – essential baby gear for hiking before you fit the trails
- What to pack in a first aid kit when traveling with a baby and young children
- Summer sun protection for infants – dealing with the sun and heat on a family vacation
- Ideal travel toys for infants under 18 months. Keeping it simple, what are the best baby toys for airplanes and long journeys?
- Is it worth packing a portable high chair? We look at the pros and cons of this extra piece of baby gear and compare leading brands.
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