Once upon a time, I used to traverse the globe with a backpack strapped to my back, and a daypack on my front. I travelled the world for a year, living out of those two bags. That was almost 20 years ago and I can’t begin to tell you how times have changed. I have since upgraded to suitcases and added a bag for all my photography gear. Now we have a baby, the way we pack and the way we travel has changed, once again. In her eight short months she has already seen a lot of the world, giving us plenty of practice to fine tune what to pack for travel with a baby and to develop some great baby travel hacks
What to Pack for Travel With a Baby
The Big Ticket Items
- A travel stroller. Most have heard of the Baby Zen Yoyo and you will find at almost every check-in and gate you will be asked if your stroller is a Yoyo. If you opt for a Yoyo, beware the many fakes on the market and ensure you are getting an authentic Yoyo from a Baby Zen seller. After asking a number of other people, we chose the Mountain Buggy Nano instead and we absolutely love it. It cost about half the price of the YoYo and it weighs slightly less. Both strollers can be carried onto a plane and stored in the overhead compartment.
- Stroller accessories. One regret from a recent trip was that we hadn’t bought the Mountain Buggy Nano weather cover pack. Instead, we got caught in the rain on a couple of occasions and we had to use a cotton muslin to shade our baby from the sun (which she hated as she couldn’t see out). We added some hooks to the handlebar for shopping bags or extra and pram clips that we use with a cotton muslin to cover baby when she is sleeping in the pram.
- A stroller liner. We also invested in a pram liner. I wasn’t sure at first whether it would be worth the money, but it saved us a couple of times when exploding nappies soiled the pram liner, instead of the pram and it was easily washed and dried in a hotel room overnight. It also provided more comfort for our daughter. Just ensure whichever liner you buy, it will fit in your travel stroller.
- Baby carrier. We use a Baby Bjorn and love it. Other friends love their Ergobaby carriers, particularly for older babies.
- Travel cot. After chatting with other family travel writers we took the leap without a travel cot and we are glad we didn’t take one on our latest trip where we were on the move and a lot of planes. It did mean there was a mix of travel cots from hotels or co-sleeping during our trip but we didn’t mind that too much. If we were taking a road trip or staying at a friend’s house closer to home, we would definitely take one with us and the Baby Bjorn would be our pick.
- Car seat. Again, we spoke to many people about whether to take a car seat overseas for our baby and most said it is a safer bet to take one. We took the risk and didn’t take one when we travelled to the United States and found we got a real mix of seats, some of which I really wasn’t happy with. Also, in the United States and Europe, be prepared that you will likely be collecting and installing your own baby seat into your hire car. Unlike Australia, the companies won’t do it for you. We had an amazing, brand new car seat on our recently trip to Italy. So, it really is the luck of the draw I think. For those with children in booster seats. There are now travel booster seats available.
- Car seat insert. We use our own car seat insert in rented car seats, to help protect our little lady from germs and also so it feels and smells familiar. We wipe all parts that she can touch down with disinfectant wipes too.
- Nappy (diaper) bag. I cannot recommend getting a nappy/diaper backpack as opposed to a regular nappy/diaper bag enough. I have tried both options while travelling and the backpack is definitely the winner for me. While I lusted over the bags from Tiba and Marl, we went for the more affordable and less flashy option of the Skip Hop Main Frame black backpack which, while at times was a little small, and wasn’t super comfortable to wear as a backpack (the straps lack padding), it generally works really well for us and hooks easily to the stroller. One of us generally had it slug across our front, while the other wheeled the pram. When choosing a nappy/diaper bag to hook on to a travel stroller, remember they can’t take nearly as much weight as your regular stroller and will tip easily.
- Carry on suitcase. We generally use a bigger backpack as a travel nappy/diaper bag while on flights with items like extra nappies carried in our cabin bag on travel days. Our nappy/diaper backpack then becomes a day bag when out exploring. This is essentially because it’s easier to have more room to move around in a bigger bag than trying to repack a smaller bag perfectly, all the time. We actually use our Patagonia bag for our daughter’s things when on a plane as it is easy to pack and sits upright on its own really easily.
- A Bassinet cover. We never invested in a CoziGo. However, some people find them useful. We simply fashioned a cover out of a muslin wrap and pram clips when we needed to.
- Birth certificate. Two copies of your baby’s birth certificate so you have proof you are their parents. Store them in different places; one in your carry on and one in your luggage in case you lose one.
- Your baby’s travel documents. Check their name is correctly spelled and they have been added to all flight bookings etc. Having different surnames has meant our daughter’s tickets have been booked incorrectly on more than one occasion, leading to some long delays at check in.
- Travel insurance. A copy of the travel insurance policy covering your baby. Or get confirmation in writing that your credit card covers them.
- Extra passport photos. In case you need a last-minute visa while travelling.
What to Pack for Flying with a Baby
Carry-on Baby Kit
We create a little carry-on kit containing baby essentials and items you may need if your baby becomes unwell. When it comes to medications, consult your Doctor to determine what you carry and are comfortable using.
- Nasal saline drops.
- Nasal aspirator.
- Thermometer. We are in love with our digital baby thermometer. We were given it as a baby shower gift. We take it, the disposable covers and a spare battery with us (don’t forget the batteries needs to be in your carry on bag).
- Nappy/diaper cream.
- Hand sanitiser.
- Disinfectant wipes. You should always wipe down your tray table on a flight. It is the dirtiest part of a plane for travellers, least of all babies who touch everything and proceed to put those hands directly into their mouths. We use Milton wipes and wipe the tray table the arm rests, the bassinet and anything else she may touch that may carry germs.
- Baby Panadol.
- Baby Nurofen.
Baby Change Essentials
- Travel change mat. Invest in a good travel change mat – ensure it is big enough and it is waterproof. A loop handle can be really handy too just to sling over your wrist and grab baby. We keep our travel change mat loaded with a couple of nappies, wipes and nappy/diaper bags so we can just grab it and head straight for the bathroom.
- Nappies (diapers). We pack about one for every hour or two. They do offer nappies on most flights if you run out, so don’t panic. Make sure you have enough in your suitcase to get through your first night at your destination too. The last thing you want to do is to go looking for nappies as soon as you get to your hotel.
- Baby wipes. We store our baby wipes in our change mat ready to use.
- Burp clothes. We use cloth nappies as burp clothes and take two on the plane and an additional in our luggage.
- Crisis Kits. Thanks to some advice from friends we now carry several kits we call Crisis Kits, when travelling. Essentially, they are large sandwich/packing bags each carrying a onesie, singlet (vest), nappy/diaper, and nappy/diaper bag in them, in case the worst happens. We carry 2 or 3 depending on how long the trip is.
Keeping Your Baby Entertained While Travelling
What entertains a baby can change by the month. Generally speaking, the younger the baby, the easier it is to distract them, so really simple new toys and books will do the trick. The key in all cases though, is to take one of their favourites and introduce new books or toys as well on the plane or in the car, so they feel safe with their go-to comforter and they are stimulated (or more importantly distracted) by a few new friends.
- New toys. For little babies; rattles, linkables or tactile books are great options.
- New books. Choose thin, lightweight books. I found some amazing books in the U.S. called Indestructibles which were perfect.
Baby Feeding Essentials
When flying, the most important times to feed your baby could be during take off and landing as the sucking action helps unblock their ears. If you can get that timing right (which can be harder than it seems), then you may avoid a lot of upset (and noise).
- Baby Bottles. 4 x sterilised and ready to use. We love Pigeon bottles.
- Formula (if applicable). 1 tin in your carry on and/or pre-measured portions in your bottles, so you just need to add water.
- Bottle Sterilising tools. Microwave bags or sterilising tablets are both great options. We generally request a kettle to be in our hotel room before check in as well.
- An insulated bottle bag. Even if you have room in your baby bag, a separate bottle bag can be useful. Simply hang it on your stroller hook through the airport and hand to security as you’re folding down your pram for screening.
- Food pouches. You can also pre-request a baby meal if your baby is eating solids, but you need to do it before your flight. I would recommend you to take pouches or food your baby has eaten before so they are familiar and you aren’t risking any kind of allergic reaction.
- Bibs. Keep a bib in the insulated bag with you bottles.
- Baby spoons. We carry a regular baby spoons and a few twist top spoons that screw directly into pouches.
Clothing and Other Items
- Fresh clothes. A change of clothes for each parent in case of a mishap.
- A muslin wrap. We use our muslin wraps for everything and anything. They come in very handy on planes to protect baby from the lights, strangers and air conditioner blasting at them. They are great for covering over the pram while baby is sleeping and many other uses too.
- A piece of clothing that smells like you. This may sound a little unappealing but I’m not talking about something you’ve been wearing on a week-long trek in Nepal. Even if it’s the jumper you board the plane wearing, it might give your baby some extra comfort when trying to settle them in your arms, the baby seat or plane bassinet.
For the Suitcase
Our daughter has a medium Lojel Cubo suitcase which is the perfect size for our travel. I pack our baby’s suitcase in the same way we pack our own – divided into compartments and packing bags (one with onesies, one with dresses, one with pants and tops in outfits etc) to make it easier to navigate, find exactly what we need and re-pack quickly.
- Muslin wrap/s. We choose 100% cotton or bamboo so they are breathable and we can simply layer when needed.
- A bunny rug (baby blanket). Cotton is best.
- Cot sheet. If you are taking your own travel cot)
- PJs x 3. We love Bonds wondersuits for travelling.
- Sleeping bags x 2. We love the Ergopouch sleep suit bags
- Nappies (diapers). A few to get you through the first night at your accommodation.
- Clothing. Exactly what you pack will depend on how long you are travelling and where you are going.
- Swim nappies (if appropriate).
- Travel play mat. Not essential but great for a road trip and if you have the room/weight allowance.
- Toiletries kit. Including a hair brush, nail clippers, baby shampoo, soap, baby oil, toothbrush, sunscreen, other creams.
Road Trips With a Baby
There are a few non-essentials that we found useful when travelling in a car with a baby, particularly for long periods of time. They helped make things a little easier when she became bored or had enough of the car. So, if you have room, pack these too.
- A mirror. We found a lightweight portable mirror handy for travelling with baby in a rear-facing baby seat to help keep her distracted.
- Car window shade. A window shade is a great idea if you are spending long periods in the car, particularly in hot weather.
- Shusher. Shushing can help settle younger babies, particularly when you can’t get to them straight away. Take a portable shusher with you or simply download a free white noise app to play when needed.
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Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller. She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health. As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Skye created The Fit Traveller as a beautiful online space and community where people feel inspired to escape the desk to move and explore more.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her insatiable appetite for adventure.