Are you desperate for time away with your family but filled with dread at the idea of traveling with your baby? Yes, it’s daunting – but holidays are extremely important for children of all ages, and us parents! Kiddos get their parents’ undivided attention and lots of bonding (read about the science behind how holidays make your child happier and smarter here).
Whether you’re traveling with a newborn or a toddler there are a few things you can pack to make sure your journey is safe and fun! One golden rule, though: if you can get it at your destination then leave it at home!
Baby Travel Bag Essentials
Whether you’re flying with a baby, or traveling by train or car, pack your travel bag carefully and wisely. You need to be able to get to stuff quickly and you don’t want to be sifting through things you don’t need. Stick to the essentials.
A New Toy/Book
Worried your baby will be bored? Two toy trains staggered across a 10 hour journey kept my 16 month old son occupied for hours – it’s a no brainer. Just make sure it’s not too noisy or risk a frosty response from your fellow travelers! Try this multi-sensory book from VTech which is suitable for 3-24 month old babies.
Manual Breast Pump
This only really applies to long journeys – or if you need to pump when you’re out and about. Manual pumps are a must for public transport, because who wants to hear a mechanical ‘hee-haw’ sound while they’re enjoying their inflight meal?
I’ve tried a few breast pumps but none compare to Medela because they’re amazingly efficient (what they call ‘2-Phase Expression Technology’.) Let’s face it, who wants to spend more time than they absolutely have to expressing milk?!
Bottle With Disposable Liners
These are so useful! Just slip the liner into the bottle and discard when you’re done. Even if you are breastfeeding it’s worth taking a bottle for water to keep baby hydrated while flying. Don’t forget your favourite formula while you’re traveling, too. These bottles are air-free and encourage more natural breathing.
Formula Dispenser/Snack Container
By far the easiest way to transport formula and snacks if you’re flying with a baby. You can buy small containers just for formula but if you want to take snacks too this stacking one from Simba is BPA free and great value. Or, if you want to make life even easier, Hipp Organic make pre-mixed formula for every stage.
Baby First Aid
Why is it that babies seem to get sick at the most inconvenient time? I’m slightly obsessive when it comes to first aid kits – I never leave home without one! This set from Summer (also available in white) is a complete care kit for babies and can tackle everything from snotty noses to fevers to pacifier medicine dispensing – and so much more. Just don’t forget the pain relief.
A Change of Clothes
Pack extra clothes for unexpected leaks and spills – maybe two if you have you a very long journey. And don’t forget a spare sweater for mommy and daddy.
Bring as many as you need until you can get to a store to buy more, plus a few extra for unexpected leaks. You can’t afford to run out mid-journey. And don’t forget the cream.
For wet/dirty clothes and diapers.
What diaper bag is complete without them! We love these from Burt’s Bees.
Airplane bathrooms always the cleanest places, especially a few hours into a flight. Most diaper bags will have a changing mat included but I love this from Skip Hop because it’s full of storage pockets so everything you need is in one spot. And it’s so stylish that I’ve been tempted to use mine as a purse!
One wipeable bib is better than lots of absorbent bibs in our book. Especially for vacations. These cute silicone bibs are soft, easy to keep clean and they fold down for storage.
Inflatable Nursing Pillow
Babies often nurse more when flying, especially if they have ear pain from sudden changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing. A nursing pillow will keep baby comfortable and give your arms a rest! Top tip: don’t over-inflate before take off. It will puff up more as the aircraft climbs and may spring a leak (blame Boyle’s Law).
We never go on long journeys without our Kindle Fire – load it up with books, magazines, movies and games for the whole family (Yes – adults too. I’m being optimistic here!). The children’s edition is preloaded with 10,000 kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games and comes with a 2-year breakage guarantee – no questions asked.
Umbrella strollers – or lightweight strollers – are an easy win for trips away from home. They’re practical, super light and won’t break the bank. Having tried to haul my bulky Phil & Ted’s onto a plane I now wax lyrical about the virtues of a lightweight stroller. They’re elevator friendly, you can drop them at the airplane door and they’re great for zipping round crowded places. What you don’t get are the range of features of some bigger models – but what do you really need?
We love this one from Summer Infant. It looks great, folds small and has ample storage.
Snack & Play Travel Tray
OK, these aren’t essential but boy are they useful! Travel trays give older babies and toddlers a flat surface for eating or drawing. They sit on kiddo’s lap and buckle either to a buggy/car seat or around your child’s waist.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be travelling somewhere with sterilizing facilities you may want to take your own. There are a few options from steam bags to UV cleaners (although some parents complain that UV cleaners leave a chemical smell behind). Dr Brown’s steam bags are great but they only fit Dr Brown’s bottles.
The best one we’ve found is a microwave sterlizer from Dr Brown’s. Just speak nicely to the hotel reception staff if you don’t have one in your room!
Pack n Play
If your accommodation has a crib make sure you check it over before putting baby down for the night. Look for flaking paint, loose screws and general sturdiness. If you prefer to take a crib that your child is familiar with for peace of mind (and sleep!) take your own, there are plenty of compact options for baby travel.
This one from Lotus goes up in a flash (15 seconds) and doubles up as a play area by opening a mesh ‘door’ on the side.
If your baby or toddler will be sleeping in a bed try an inflatable bed rail that slips under the sheet and forms a buffer between your child and the floor and packs down super small.
These are BPA-free and come as a pair – pump included.
Babies can be unsettled when they’re away from home so it’s nice to be able to keep an eye on them as they sleep if you have more than one room. Well worth throwing in the suitcase. This best seller from Optics has a camera too.
Travel Bath Tub
Another non-essential perhaps but if you’re not comfortable with taking baby in the bath or shower with you it’s worth trying a bath sling if you’re traveling with a newborn baby. They’re amazing for washing baby in the sink. Or for babies who can sit independently an inflatable tub like this one (it even monitors the temperature of the water!).
Travel High Chair
If you want your lap to yourself from time to time (trust me, you will) get yourself a travel high chair. Travel high chairs that fix onto a chair are fantastic and take up hardly any space in your suitcase. I guarantee that you’ll get tons of use out of it and not just on holiday.
This super compact chair from Summer Infant gets great reviews from parents. It comes with a BPA-free tray and can be used independently on the ground or fixed to a chair.
Baby carriers are a super useful baby travel product, and they’re easy to transport. Consider babywearing on vacation if you’re likely to be visiting anywhere with stairs, or where strollers might get in the way (or if you just fancy a cuddle!).
Wraps are perfect for travel because they fold down flat, and for me they are the most wonderfully snug way to carry your child. We love this one from Boba.
If your baby needs a little light at night then pack your night light. If you don’t have a portable one these rechargeable X-CHENG night lights are adorable and will give you 15 hours of light from a single charge (12 hours in colorful breathing mode).
And finally – RELAX! Enjoy this precious time with your baby, it’s what vacations are all about.