Narrowing down what to pack and what to leave home when traveling with a baby can be frustrating. It’s tempting to want to pack, well… everything. Baby, clothing, toys, food, the nanny, and the fridge. Okay, perhaps you can leave the fridge at home. And the nanny. But you’ll definitely need all the rest! Making a list in situations like these really helps. Since we love to be helpful, keep reading for our ultimate baby travel packing list. Add and subtract whatever makes the most sense for you and yours.
What to Pack When Traveling with Baby
Though you can make all kinds of lists and checklists, ultimately, what to pack when you travel with kids boils down to a few key things.
- Your baby's age and current daily needs. Infants often require more “gear” than toddlers.
- The nature of your trip (length, transportation, destination, etc.). Shorter trips tend to require less preparation and sometimes less stuff than longer trips. Mode of travel can also dictate what to pack and what to leave home.
- Environmental factors, especially if they differ from what your baby is used to. If the weather is very different at your destination, or you know your baby will be exposed to elements she’s not used to, you’ll have to plan accordingly and make sure you have appropriate gear and clothing.
An ideal packing list for your baby will include things she needs and uses on a daily basis, combined with necessities due to travel arrangements, where you’re headed, and what kind of environment your little one is about to be exposed to.
Planning for Travel
As a parent, you probably already know everything your child needs. Even if you’re a new parent, you’re a quick study. You probably already have a rough idea on daily needs already. For instance, you know how much food your baby eats in a day and you know how many diapers she tends to soil.
So, you should pack enough to last the whole trip, unless you expect to have access to laundry facilities along the way or don’t mind making pit stops at local stores for things you run out of. Ideally, you should always pack a little extra of everything you consider a necessity.
One just never knows what could happen along the way, especially if your plan on taking your baby on a plane. It’s always better to be prepared than wind up in the middle of nowhere with a screaming baby, and no spare diaper and nothing left to feed her.
Think about how long it will take to get from point A to point B in your travel plans, and how you intend to navigate that distance. If you’re flying or taking a bus or train, you may need to split some of your baby items between your baby's suitcase and a carry-on bag.
Shoot for two outfits per day, plus a few extra. Don't forget the socks and shoes. Also pack an extra set of clothes for yourself in your little one’s diaper bag. You never know how your baby will react to traveling, and what might end up on your shirt. Make sure the clothing you pack is weather appropriate for both you and your baby. Don’t forget to add a couple large baggies to store soiled clothes or messy diapers.
Diapers and Changing Gear
This includes diaper cream, wipes, and a changing pad. You can use a blanket as a changing pad in a pinch, but most diaper bags come with a changing pad already, so you might as well use it. They tend to have more cushion and are much easier to clean if there is spillage. In the absence of running water, you might be surprised to see how many wipes you use, so packing plenty is key. They’re good for just about everything. Depending on your environment, you might also want to take some antibacterial wipes in case you need to wipe anything down.
Food and Drink
This will depend on your baby's age and eating habits. If your baby is still an infant, it might mean formula or pre-pumped breast milk. If your baby is in her toddler stages, it might mean food jars and finger snacks. Don’t forget to add a couple of easy-to-eat foods for yourself, like granola bars. If you are breastfeeding, you may also need to pack a portable pump.
With infants and toddlers, pack at least two bibs. Consider ones made from silicone, as they will be easy to wipe while on the go. Pack a minimum of two bottles (and a bottle brush). These can be for feeding and drinking things like juice or water. Opt for smaller bottles so they take up less space. If you are pumping while traveling, make sure you have ice packs and an insulated compartment for storage.
Baby Hygiene and Health
Some of the basics include body soap, baby lotion, and sunscreen if you plan on being outdoors in warmer weather. Infant nail clippers never go to waste either! A travel first aid kit is super important because you never know what can happen along the way and if help or medical supplies will be readily available. Think infant acetaminophen, bandages, and an antibacterial ointment gentle enough for baby use. Of course, don't forget to take medications your baby has to take on a regular basis either.
Don’t Forget the Odds and Ends
- It’s always an excellent idea to pack several pacifiers, as they tend to go missing easily.
- You should pack a couple of blankets with at least one warm and cozy one, to help keep your baby warm.
- Smaller receiving blankets can be used for a variety of purposes, including cleaning up messes or used as a burp cloth.
- It’s not unwise to pack a few outlet covers too if your baby has started crawling. That way you can baby proof your hotel room or accommodations.
- Pack a few favorite toys and consider including a few new toys. The new toys can be used as a distraction on a long trip if the existing toys fail to do the trick.
- Don’t forget your essentials. A bottle of water, a snack, your keys, wallet, and any documentation you and your child will need while traveling.
Think about the best way to organize your items in your carry-on bag and your suitcase. A backpack diaper bag is roomy and can help keep all your baby’s things compartmentalized. The more organized you are, the easier it will be to find something in a hurry, or when it's semi-dark. Try creating some kind of system with baggies or plastic containers, whatever works for you and makes life easier. Pack any nonessentials in your larger suitcase and save the good stuff for your diaper bag or carry-on.
Bigger Items to Consider
While you might get away with not taking these things, it will largely depend on your travel arrangements and how comfortable you are at managing without them.
- A stroller. A lightweight one could be fine in many cases. But if you plan on doing a lot of sight-seeing, you’ll probably want the granddaddy of strollers, which can be heavy and bulky.
- A car seat or infant carrier. They are mandated by law in traveling on the road, but it’s also a lot safer if you take one flying or traveling on a train. You will have to pay for an extra seat, but it’s worth it for peace of mind and safety.
- A travel crib and a play mat. These are totally necessary but do come in handy, especially if your plan on staying at your destination for a while. Try letting your baby sleep in the travel crib for a few days before your trip so she gets acclimated to it.
- A portable high chair and collapsible baby bathtub. These are both excellent if you plan on ending up in a mountain cabin with very few amenities but might be unnecessary if you’re staying at a five-star resort hotel.
- A baby monitor. This again, is not a necessity, but may be comforting if your baby won't always be with you in the same room.
The reality is that babies and all the things they “need” tend to take up a lot of space. How much you take with you when traveling depends on you. You get to decide what’s too much, or not enough. However, if you’re ever in doubt, err on the side of caution and pack extra.