Packing for the first trip with a baby can be daunting. Every trip with a baby becomes an adventure vacation with a baby, not necessarily in a good way.
If you forget something for your baby, you might be in trouble. The last thing you want when you travel is to shop for missing baby items, especially in a foreign language and in a place where they might not have what you’re used to. On the other hand, you don’t want to overpack and having to stuff a giant bag full of things you really don’t need in a taxi or rental car.
When it comes to the baby packing list, there’s one word you need to remember: moderation. You don’t want to be that person that travels with a baby bathtub and multiple suitcases.
Trust me, you don’t need it, but you won’t be able to get off the plane and bring it all alone. It’s not worth your nerves, especially as you can easily live without it (and more importantly, so can your baby).
And I’m saying this after numerous trips with a baby: to resorts, AirBnBs, road trips, over 30 flights with a baby, dozen more with a toddler and moving to and from different countries.
Traveling with a Baby: Checklist
In this blog on traveling with a baby I decided to divide these baby packing lists into two categories: essentials, gadgets & what you do NOT need. When it comes to packing I’m a minimalist, but some gadgets can really be helpful. While you can be perfectly fine without baby travel gadgets, sometimes it’s fun to try them out!
Plane Travel with Baby: Carry-On Luggage Items
Since Dylan was born in a different country then we lived in at the time, we had to pack for his first trip before he was born. Which, naturally, was daunting and while we were missing some things on our first flight it definitely taught me how little you actually need when you’re flying with a newborn.
Now that he’s practically a toddler, we need even fewer things, and soon he’ll be able to carry his things in his own backpack or Trunki.
The worst part of plane travel is getting in and out of the plane through a narrow aisle and getting through security. More often than you think, especially on European airports, you’ll have to go through flights of stairs in and out of the plane, get in and out of the bus and so on.
Especially if you’re flying alone with a baby, you don’t want to drag a giant bag, suitcase, baby and stroller. Not always you’ll have someone willing to help you out – I experienced it way too many times.
If I traveled alone, I always made sure that I brought no more than a carry-on suitcase, baby’s diaper bag, and a stroller. And that’s for both me and the baby. Once I brought and extra bag and let me tell you – it was a nightmare!
Diapers – It goes without saying that the baby needs diapers and wipes. Bring enough of them and some spares. I tend to have 10 diapers for long-haul flights including times to get to and from the airport.
If I travel with my husband we also bring a pack of diapers and spare formula in a checked bag.
Changing pad – While you don’t NEED it, I highly recommend it. Airplane’s changing tables are hard and cold, plus once you get off the plane you never know if a place you need to change your baby at has a changing table. Various times I had to change Dylan on the floor and without a changing pad it would be quite gross.
Bottles filled with a baby formula (or breastmilk if breastfeeding) – I wasn’t breastfeeding, so I filled bottles with powder and brought some hot water in a thermos and small bottle of cold water. You can bring both through security even when it’s over 100ml because it’s for the baby.
Bibs – It goes without saying that your baby needs a bib, whether they eat solids or not yet. For milk, we really used whatever came our way, but for food, these ones were the only ones that survived cleaning, machine washing and caught food in the pouch.
Pacifiers with a leash – Binkies (or dummies like they call it in the UK) are assumed to bring with you onboard, but one thing we learned to bring the hard way is a leash for it.
Babies keep losing their pacifiers and when they’re older they love to throw them, so if you want to avoid cleaning them every 10 seconds get a leash. I tested many and I stand by these ones we pretty much use exclusively after others kept breaking constantly.
Baby snacks – If your bub is old enough to eat, he will want snacks. Now, if you’re flying into the US you often cannot bring any berries and other small fruits, but teething waffles are always a good idea. The baby takes longer to work on them then on simple crunchies, so he’s occupied for longer periods of time.
If you’re flying long-haul you can pre-order baby meals with your airline. I wrote more tips and tricks in my post on flying with a baby. They will also provide you with spoons and forks, so you don’t need to bring your own.
Change of clothes – Speaking of food and poopy emergencies, you might want a change of clothes for your baby and yourself. In case a baby has a poopsplosion or throws up.
Travel stroller – This one comes as a necessity because while baby carrier or sling is useful and necessary in some places, a stroller is a life-saver for extended periods of time. Big strollers can be easily checked at the gate, but after our stroller was destroyed by the airline twice out of 4 times we brought it and once I had to wait over 45 min to pick my stroller up, I gave up and use exclusively strollers that actually fit into an overhead compartment.
For my personal reviews of the best and worst travel strollers check out my other post.
Sling / Baby Carrier – While I put mine in hold luggage because I might need it for hikes and other non-stroller friendly spots, many parents swear by babywearing your child at the airport. You still have to take the baby out for security, so in my opinion, it’s not very helpful.
Gadgets for Flying with the Baby:
Cupholder for the stroller – You’ll have your hands food, so you might want to put your coffee or water somewhere near you. The cupholder is one of a few gadgets I actually frequently use.
Hold Luggage for Flying with the Baby:
Medicine kit – I never put meds in a carry (apart from teething gel) on because it’s unlikely that the baby will suddenly get a random fever. Have some baby Tylenol with you and nail clippers. We never use the suction things for nose buggers, because Dylan hates them all.
Car seat – If you’re going to travel by car on your trip bringing your own car seat might be cheaper. Especially considering that you can check it for free whether as oversized luggage or at the gate.
Unless you’re going to London or New York City, then forget about car seats, because you won’t be able to install them in any taxis anyway.
What Don’t You Need!
When I first saw baby packing lists online my first thought was ‘how on earth am I going to travel with all this crap?!’ The truth is, you don’t need most things listed on many blogs and websites.
I even found some ridiculous items on people’s packing lists like ‘chalkboard’, ‘window blinds’, ‘coolers’ and other things you DEFINITELY don’t need or want to drag around.
If you really feel like you cannot live without something, you can always rent any item at the destination. There are many companies all over the world that rent baby gear. They’ll deliver it to your hotel or bring it to the airport. Here are some most popular websites around the world.
Flyebaby (!) – You might have heard of that because man, way too many bloggers and influencers promote it. Please, don’t buy it (even if you find it as most places had to stop selling it). It’s actually VERY ILLEGAL and can cause harm when someone reclines (and yes, even if you’re flying with a baby you shouldn’t demand that the person in front of you doesn’t recline – it’s simply rude and I’m saying this as a mother).
Portable foldable or inflatable bathtub – Talk about space fillers. You don’t need it, no matter how small your baby is. In the worst case, you can enter the shower while holding your baby or wash them in a sink. I’ve done it a million times.
High chair – I originally thought of purchasing a travel high chair, but I quickly changed my mind after seeing how much space would it take. My mother in law actually had Summer Infant Pop & Sit, but it was a pain in the butt in my opinion and I ended up propping the baby with pillows anyways. If you really want something, get a material one that can be attached to a seat.
Travel crib – So far I’ve never even had a travel crib. When Dylan wasn’t moving he slept with me or on another big bed barricaded with pillows, later on, we always picked hotels and AirBnBs that provide cribs (and actually also high chairs). It’s much better than dragging your own crib around.
However, many smaller hotels will provide cribs, but not sheets, so make sure to have sheets or blanket with you.
Baby monitor – Unless you’re going to a giant penthouse, you’ll most likely share a room with your baby or he/she will be in a room next door. The monitor isn’t needed in these situations.
Noise machine – One smart advice my friends gave me was to teach to baby to fall asleep without gadgets. While we have a noise machine at home, we didn’t use to have it at first and never travel with it. He likes the noisemaker but can fall asleep without it without any issues.
If you really feel like you cannot live without it, there are plenty of apps you can download for your phone that will save you some space. We always have one in case of a “sleeping emergency”.
Sterilizing tablets/wipes etc. – Truth to be told I never sterilize bottles after the first time or wipe everything after it touches a clean floor. And my baby is healthier than every single baby out there – he hasn’t been sick at all until 9 months when he got a bit of a cold from me.
Jars of spare baby formula – We always made Dylan drink whichever formula was available somewhere and made sure to change it every 2 weeks, so he doesn’t fuss on the go. Different brands didn’t bother him, and while he’s fussy with drinking water now, a formula is a formula for him.
Beach Holidays with Baby
When it comes to going for beach and sunny holidays with a baby you need a few more items. First and foremost:
Hat – Babies shouldn’t be exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, so a hat is a must. I found it quite difficult to find a sun hat that fits a baby smaller than 6 months (and Dylan is a giant baby, so probably 9 months in most cases if not 12). The only one that fit best was this one from Carter’s.
Salus Lifevest – While everywhere lifejackets for kids are provided they don’t have it for babies up to 1-2 years, depending on the size of the bub. If you want to go on a boat ride, rent a pedal boat, bringing your own lifevest is your only option. Some places will allow you to have your baby in a carrier instead, but then you’re very limited and both of you will get sweaty. This lifevest was the best purchase for us and definitely put it to good use.
Gadgets for Beach Holidays:
Baby sunglasses – Once the baby isn’t a newborn anymore he’s going to remove it faster than you put them on, but they worked well for a small baby. Plus, it was more fun for the parents.
Swim diapers – Everywhere I went I saw plenty of kids going into pools in regular diapers. We were always bringing swim diapers for Dylan, so the back of them wouldn’t fill and look ridiculous. Those who don’t want to buy simple single-use ones, there are multi-use ones that can work as a diaper & swimsuit in one!
Remember to change your baby out of swim diaper right after you leave the pool – they’re only meant to hold a potential poop, not pee.
Swimways – I swear people asked for about it one so many times once they saw it. It was just perfect for our not-yet-sitting baby. Naturally, if your baby is already sitting up, you might want to invest in this fashionable model instead.
Matching swimsuits – This one is totally for the parents because your baby cannot care less at this stage, but I loved matching with my boy for our first holidays.
Most outfits are obviously mommy & me (AKA for baby girls) or weird tees for dads & boys, but I managed to find these cute sets from Etsy we all loved.
Ski Holidays with Baby
Winter trips with the baby, whether ski or non-ski, require you to pack extra items.
Snowsuit – If your baby is moving around it’s a good idea to dress them up in a snowsuit. It’s also good for sledding since the baby will be sitting up and potentially fall in the snow. Alternatively, if you’re just strolling around the city you can get a footmuff for the stroller like this one. Not all footmuffs fit all strollers, so make sure you pick yours accordingly.
Gloves – Dylan has never liked mittens without fingers and they don’t make non-mittens for babies under 1. The only ones that fit him and he approved were these ones with one finger.
Lotion – Baby’s skin will get very dry in cold weather, so you should cream him a few times a day. Really. Otherwise you’ll freak out the baby has eczema.
Any additional items from my baby packing list that you have doubts about? Let me know if you have any questions about traveling with a baby!