Young families are often intimidated about traveling with their baby. Having a baby at home is difficult, taking them on vacation has to be even harder, right? It just depends on what you think is more difficult! Traveling with a baby requires more careful planning.
Unless you are going on an African safari, there will be stores nearby. If you happen to leave something at home, you will be able to find a replacement. The problem is making sure that you take TOO much stuff. Your vehicle is only so big. Even worse, airplanes only allow you to bring a certain amount of things with you before they charge you an arm and a leg.
Over the summer when my littlest baby was just four months old, my husband and I loaded our three kids up in the van and headed for a weekend trip to Washington D.C. With a six-year-old, a three-year-old and a young infant, our weekend was exciting, but we learned a lot about traveling with a baby.
Before you start the process of packing, I recommend that you clean out your diaper bag. Start with a freshly washed, empty bag. Then, start putting the necessary items inside. Try to keep everything as organized as possible. Put pacifiers in one pocket and diaper rash cream in another.
Baby Gear Items
- Car Seat: There is no way around bringing a car seat. To get to your destination, your child has to ride in a car seat. When you get there, you need a car seat to travel around the town. Other countries require car seats. Remember to check the laws wherever you travel. Some states do require children to rear face to two years old because it’s the safest choice.
- Stroller: You will walk around wherever you are going. The stroller makes life easier. If your baby can sit upright, I highly suggest you purchase a lightweight stroller. Some great ones on the market have desired features with half of the price.
- Baby Carrier: Babies want to be close to mama. A baby carrier is a life saver. When we went to Washington D.C., our littlest spent most of his time in the baby carrier. Breastfeeding mothers can learn to nurse in a carrier while on the go. If you don’t use it, fold it up and stick it in the diaper bag.
- Pack and Play: You are going to want somewhere for your baby to sleep in the hotel or wherever you are staying. Unless they provide a crib, a pack and play is the next best choice. They fold compactly and are a safe place for your baby to sleep.
The items you need to bring with for feeding is going to depend on a few factors such as if your child is bottle fed or breastfed and if he is old enough for solid foods. However, we have put everything on the list for future references.
- Bottles and Bottle Supplies: If you use a bottle to feed your baby, you are going to need to bring a few with you. Also, don’t forget a bottle of dish soap and a bottle cleaning brush. You can wash them in the bathroom sink of the hotel if need be. A drying rack is handy, but you can also just lay them on a towel to dry. Don’t bring too many bottles; they take up a lot of space. Instead, bring just a few and commit to washing as frequently as you can.
- Cans of Formula: Formula using parents have to consider how long they will be gone. I would suggest bringing an extra can beyond what you think you will need. It is your child’s most important item; you don’t want to run out without a store in sight. However, most areas have a store, but you might end up paying a few dollars more than you would at home!
- Breastfeeding Supplies: A breast pump may not be a necessity unless you exclusively pump or you are on a pumping routine you want to continue. Nipple creams and nursing pads are necessary. Some mothers like to take a nursing cover along. It is up to your personal preferences!
- Baby Food: Once your baby is over six months old, it is time to introduce solid foods. Estimate how many jars or pouches you will need for the time you will be gone. Spoons are necessary. IF your child is old enough, forks may be a necessity. For older infants, you will want to bring snacks like dissolved Puffs, yogurt melts, rice crackers and arrowroot cookies.
- Bibs: Since you are likely to be eating in restaurants a lot, bibs are even more important. Bibs help to keep your baby’s clothes looking their best. Also, since you probably won’t be washing clothes for a few days, stains will have a long time to set in, making them harder to get out later. Save yourself a headache and bring along a few bibs. Ideally, two for each day.
- Burp Cloths: Breastfed and formula-fed babies both need burp cloths. Bring along at least one per day. My favorite burp cloths are the prefold flat cloth diapers. They are absorbent and huge. One cloth can last more than one day.
- Cups: If your child drinks from a sippy cup, don’t forget to pack one or two in your diaper bag.
Clothes, Bedding, and Extras – Oh My!
Does the list seem daunting yet? We just covered a few of the essentials. Let’s take a look at the rest of the things you will need.
- Diapering Supplies: Forgetting diapers would be a huge mistake. They are one of the top five essential items. Your baby (and you) will be miserable without an excellent supply of fresh, dry diapers. I suggest you overestimate the amount of diapers you need as well. Don’t forget a few packs of baby wipes and diaper rash cream.
- Clothing: This is where most parents get overwhelmed. It is hard to estimate how many outfits your child will need while you are gone. First, you need at least one set of pajamas for each night. If the first pair isn’t dirty, you probably could wear them again. However, always figure they are going to get dirty. Second, assume you need two outfits per day. Third, add an extra onesie for each day.
For example, if you are taking a weekend trip, you would pack three pajamas, six outfits, three onesies, and six pairs of socks. Overall, I have found this method to be sufficient. Don’t forget to pack items like bathing suits, swimsuit covers and a jacket or two.
- Hats: If it is cold, you are going to need to bring one or two hats that will cover his ear. For summer, you need at least one hat with a wide brim to cover his eyes!
- Blankets: Blankets take up a lot of space in your suitcases, so try not to pack too many. I love Muslin blankets; they are thin, huge and don’t take up too much space. I bring two with me whenever we travel. Then, I bring one heavier blanket. Hotel rooms can be chilly!
- Bath Supplies: In your toiletry bag, don’t forget to include baby items. You need to bring along his bath soaps, lotion and anything else special that he may like.
- A Few Small Toys: You probably don’t have enough space to take along large toys, but everyone can fit a few small toys in their diaper bag. For my older children, they each get a backpack for their unique Bring some toys that will entertain your baby in the car, in the hotel room and at restaurants. Don’t forget a teething ring if they are cutting teeth!
- A Stocked First Aid Kit: I never go anywhere without a first aid kit. I keep a small one in my diaper bag with the essential items. I always have a few bandaids and Triple Antibiotic cream. Take Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Orajel, Benadryl, and a few syringes. Make sure that you bring children versions and adult versions. Also, I always keep medicine for motion sickness. When traveling long distances, children are likely to get sick while on the road. Sunscreen is essential no matter where you are heading!
Traveling with Baby: Tips to Remember
If you have never traveled with a baby, it may seem daunting. There are so many tips and tricks you can try to make things go smoother. Here are the things I have done with my kids to make traveling a breeze.
- Wear Your Baby: Yes, strollers are convenient. Some babies just won’t sleep in a stroller. A baby carrier is one of my top essential items. I can breastfeed my child discreetly. Most importantly, I can keep my baby close when their surroundings are overwhelming. Babies get overstimulated easily. When they are snuggled close to mama, they can close their eyes and relax.
- Baby Powder for Sand: Are you headed to the beach? Bring baby powder. While baby powder isn’t recommended for diaper rashes anymore, it takes the sand off of your hands in a second. When your child stops building the sand castle and wants to eat a sandwich, baby powder will make sure there isn’t any extra crunch.
- Plan Naptimes: Your child is going to need to nap. There is going to have to be some down time. How you plan the downtimes will depend on the age of your child. Little infants can typically nap anywhere and everywhere. I would simply plan to get into the car around their naptime or put them in the carrier or stroller. They are lulled to sleep, and you are headed to your next destination.
For older babies, naptime may be a break in between activities. It could be the time that you come in from the beach for lunch and a break before dad heads back down with the older kids. It may be the time you are getting ready for dinner reservations. Think ahead about naptimes.
- Dine Earlier or Make Reservations: Prime dinnertime is 6 to 7 p.m. Restaurants are packed; there is sure to be a wait, and that is horrible with a starving child. I highly recommend that you opt to dine earlier. 4 to 5 p.m. is a great time to be seated and start dining. Keep some bedtime snacks in the hotel room or grab a small bite on the boardwalk.
- Opt for the Hotel with Breakfast Included: You are going to be running around a lot; stay low key during breakfast. Finding a hotel with breakfast on site is key. You can head downstairs, still in pajamas, and have breakfast immediately. Your baby has time to relax before the day starts.
- Bring Paperwork: If you are flying with your baby, you need to take along his birth certificate and passport. You might also want to bring his vaccination records, especially if you are traveling overseas.
- Plan to Feed Before Takeoff: When flying, takeoff applies some pressure to your child’s ears. It is a good idea to prepare a feeding before takeoff. Nursing or drinking a bottle should help reduce the pressure. Plan to do the same thing while landing.
- Bring Boredom Busters: A lot of traveling is getting to and from your destination. If you have to resort to technology, do so! The passengers around you will be thankful.
Getting Ready to Go
Traveling with your baby is an adventure waiting! While it requires some forethought, experiencing a new place with your child is so much fun. They get to see new places, try new food and meet new people.
I recommend that you write out a checklist of things you need to pack. As you put things in the suitcase, you can mark it off. It helps to reduce any chances of you forgetting something. Planning ahead is the key to success when traveling with a baby.