Here’s how to pack and prepare when travelling with a baby

Oct 15, 2021

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First trip with a new baby? Or maybe this isn’t your first time travelling with your little one, but you’d like to pack more efficiently this time around. It can be hard to know how to prep and pack when you have a baby in tow. They often change so quickly that anticipating their needs can be complicated — especially if you have a longer trip planned.

Besides the typical packing concerns (such as the weather in your destination or suitcase weight regulations), it’s not always clear what you can carry on and/or put in the hold when it comes to your little one. This guide will help you prep, pack, and travel better with your baby.

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(Photo by Rubberball/Nicole Hill)

1. Choose accommodations wisely (and pack accordingly)

If you’re travelling via car, you can easily add in a travel crib or other larger baby items, but if not, choosing the right accommodation is key. Picking the right place to stay can help you pack lighter, which is the goal. Toting around your infant is heavy enough, so staying somewhere that has baby items will help you toss out the extras in your suitcase.

Make sure to check with your hotel to see if they offer cribs or other baby items and have laundry options. Some hotels will even provide an extra fridge for milk storage upon request.

Oftentimes, a home rental might be a better choice than a hotel, assuming you pick just the right one. Airbnb allows you to filter accommodation by items such as ‘crib’ and ‘high chair’, and you can also message hosts to see if they have any other baby-friendly items available.

For example, I recently filtered an Airbnb search in Punta Cana to rentals that include a crib, high chair, and washer/dryer. I ended up picking a rental that included not only the aforementioned items, but also a bottle sterilizer, bottle warmer, and a few other infant-friendly items, which allowed me to pack less.

Having access to a washer/dryer is important since babies tend to have accidents or leaky diapers. Being able to do laundry will allow you to bring fewer items. It’s also important to check for an elevator — a five-floor walkup with a pram, shopping bags and baby in arm is difficult.

2. Call your airline to understand the regulations

Depending on your airline, fare class, and destination, you may have to adhere to different regulations when it comes to travelling with an infant.

If you’ve purchased a lap ticket versus a separate seat for your baby, the regulations may also be different. In almost all cases, most airlines allow travellers with an infant to gate check a stroller/buggy/pram, and some may also allow a car seat. Make sure to check with your airline to understand baggage rules for your little one to avoid getting caught off guard at the airport or having to pay extra, especially when it comes to low-cost carriers like Ryanair or Spirit.

If you’re flying with an infant in a car seat, make sure your car seat is approved for air travel. You also may want to request a bassinet for your baby (if the aircraft you’re flying has one) or ask for an aisle seat, which makes things easier for standing up with the baby.

3. Invest in travel-friendly baby items

A travel stroller can really lighten your load. (Photo by Orbon Alija/Getty)

Having a special travel buggy or stroller that’s foldable will be useful beyond just the airplane. It’s the perfect item to have when exploring a new city so you’re not carrying around too much stuff. Other key travel baby items to consider taking along are:

  • A travel diaper backpack
  • A portable changing pad (change them with ease anywhere)
  • A travel car seat
  • A car seat or stroller bag so these items aren’t damaged if put in the hold
  • Portable baby monitor
  • Baby carrier or wrap
  • Swaddle or baby blankets
  • A travel white noise machine
  • Inflatable bathtub
  • Inflatable crib
  • Travel neck pillow (you can use this while feeding your baby)
  • A baby chair strap
  • Disposable bottle liners

4. Source where you can purchase (even preorder) nappies, formula, and other baby items at your destination

Depending how long your trip is and where you’re headed, calculate (and it’s always best to over-calculate) how many nappies you’ll need for the trip. If your baby is using a specific formula or baby food, make sure you know where to buy it at your destination. Amazon and other delivery services can be useful for ordering these items — and remember, these services are available internationally, too. You can also compare ingredients to see if you can get a similar formula or food at your destination. If you can, that means you won’t have to load up your suitcase with nappies or formula.

And if you forget baby socks, don’t worry. Remember, babies live all over the world, so you can typically buy most items you’ll need in your destinations, but if your baby needs something specific, it’s best to pack it just in case. You can even find companies that rent baby gear in many destinations around the world. Researching ahead of time to find out exactly where and how to obtain these necessary items will make it easier for you upon arrival, especially when travelling abroad.

5. Carry on the essentials (and extras)

(Photo by Jamie Grill/Getty)

Make sure to always pack any key essentials for your baby in your carry-on. This includes comfort items like their favourite toy or dummy, extra clothes for baby and mum and dad (yes, they may poop all over you during the trip) and enough food/nappies/key items to last you through the trip, plus any possible delays. Always overestimate here, and factor in things like weather (if a snowstorm is predicted, pack more nappies!). Here are some of the things you may not want to forget in your carry-on bag:

  • Extra clothing for mum, dad and baby
  • Layers of clothing/blankets (plane temperatures are often extreme)
  • Dummy + clip (and backup)
  • Comfort toy or blanket
  • Extra nappies
  • Formula
  • Breast Pump
  • Snacks (for you and for baby)
  • Baby wipes
  • Sanitiser wipes
  • Bottles
  • Extra bibs
  • Ziplock bags for soiled clothing (or a reusable waterproof bag)
  • Baby Tylenol or any infant medications
  • A basic first aid kit
  • Small toy(s)

The rest of your baby’s items can go in your hold bag, like additional clothing, blankets, etc.

6. Be clear on security regulations and have a backup plan

On a recent call to Iberia Airlines, I was told that I could bring usually bring ‘reasonable quantities’ of formula and breast milk through security. However, the rep also told me that in some cases during security checks, certain agents may not allow me to pass these items through security at the Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD). What?

Not all security checks, TSA agents or customs agents are alike, and each country, airport or airline may have specific regulations. Call ahead of time, pack and prep accordingly and prepare for things not to go as planned. If you are pumping, it might also be a good idea to bring both a hand pump and an electric pump in case you have limited access to electricity or encounter issues with electrical outlets or voltage when travelling internationally.

Arriving at the airport early is always a good idea, because you may not breeze through security like you might have in your pre-baby days. Everything takes longer with an infant, so having that extra time will ensure your infant travel experience is low stress. And if your airport has a family security line, use it!

8. Use apps

Mobile phone apps can help you anticipate what you need, as well as keep the baby (and yourself) comfortable during travel. Using an app will help lighten your load, as you can leave some other items at home. A white noise app is key for better sleep for your baby — read — better sleep for parents, and then you won’t need that travel white noise machine.

You can also connect most baby monitors to your phone and use an app to access the video of your baby so you won’t need a separate, additional device. Parents also may find an app to track sleep/feeding especially helpful during travel, where switching time zones or the interruption of daily routines may throw schedules off. A general packing app may help you keep track of what you need to bring for your infant, as well as the entire family. Make sure these apps are accessible offline if you need them while flying.

9. Don’t forget their passport

(Photo by LightFieldStudios/Getty)

This one is obvious, but you’d be surprised. Don’t forget your baby’s passport when travelling! Make sure to also look into identity/consent documents, as each country has its own requirements, especially if you’re travelling with a baby that isn’t yours or your partner isn’t with you.

Bottom line

When in doubt, bring enough for a few days or a flight delay, but don’t overpack. Using these tips, packing and travelling will be a more enjoyable experience for the entire family.

(Feature image courtesy of Tatyana Tomsickova Photography/Getty)

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