Must have items for traveling with baby and baby travel essentials worth buying. What do you really need for traveling with baby? Expert guide to baby travel gear by a mom of two who to loves travel light (but in comfort!).
The other day I was chatting with a friend of mine who recently had a gorgeous new baby.
She is an expat and was telling me about her plans to fly back home to introduce the new arrival to the extended family. She was looking forward to it but also had all the doubts and fears that the first trip with baby stirs up in pretty much any new parent.
What baby travel gear would she need? What are the must have items for traveling with baby you will regret going without?
This post is my reply to her, based on my experience as traveling mama who got her first flight with her baby when he was only 6 weeks old!
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and if you make a purchase through them we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Baby travel essentials: do you really need extra gear?
When getting ready for the arrival of a new baby, getting the right gear is part of the fun.
It is, however, also part of the stress as baby essentials quickly pile up and can take a real hit on the wallet (and the space in your house!).
Getting the latest gear and being all kitted out is an easy way to feel prepared for parenthood but let’s be honest: the vast majority of ‘baby must-haves’, especially when it comes to travel, are not must haves at all.
I believe that if you already have good gear at home, this gear will most likely work for you when you are on the go to!
However, travel does pose some extra challenges and if you are not happy with what you already have or are looking into your first purchase, it is worth checking how fit for travel the product you have in mind really is.
What to look for when choosing baby travel essentials
The best travel accessories for babies are the ones meeting these characteristics:
Nothing kills the joy of travel more quickly than lugging around too much stuff.
You want your baby gear to work hard for you so you can use it in many different situations. Pick one good item you can use over and over again. The perfect example? A good stroller! Get a good travel stroller and you can use both at home and when traveling.
Comfort for both you and your baby.
Especially when it comes to baby wearing items and carriers, pick one that feels right for your body.
Read reviews carefully, pick some that are excellent, some that are terrible and some in between: when it comes to must have items for traveling with baby, that little extra step of reading the reviews will go a long way to ensure the item is right for YOU.
Easy to clean materials
Laundry is a huge part of parenthood so baby travel items that can be easily thrown in the wash without extra effort are always a good idea.
Pay particular attention to the materials and check if the item wipe clean or needs a full wash – in that case, think of your style of travel and if washing on the go is an option.
Gender neutral colors
This has nothing to do with the gender of your kids but with your partner!
I fell in love with a baby carrier in a gorgeous shade of hot pink but just before buying I realized my husband wouldn’t be seen dead wearing it – I switched to a neutral (and beautiful) green color and suddenly we were able to share baby-carrying duties.
Bay travel gear wouldn’t make my list of essentials unless I could count on it to be strurdy and have a long life. Travel can put a strain on gear: select things that will last heavy use as anything flimsy is likely to leave you stranded
Must have items for traveling with baby: quick list
The baby travel essentials I believe are worth bringing on travels are
- A good travel stroller
- Travel car seat
- A travel high chair
- Portable travel bed or crib
- Baby sleeping bag
- Portable black out blinds
- Portable mosquito net
- Diaper changing bag or backpack
- Baby carrier
- First aid kit
Baby travel essentials: a baby carrier
I am fond of baby carriers for travel.
They are excellent for city exploring and hikes in nature they tend to fold pretty small, meaning you can carry them with your easily without too much effort. I find them very handy to use even in airports, when having free hands is a definite plus although do bear in mind that when passing security you will have to get your baby out.
Our favourites are:
Baby Bjorn carrier, original: perfect for young babies and small children.
- Pros: Easy to buckle and unbuckle,
- Spread the weight evenly across your shoulder and back creating no strain
- Hugs baby snugly
- The gender neutral design makes them good for sharing with dads too
- Suitable from birth to 11kg according to manufacturer’s instructions
- Cons: none, except the need to change carriers once the weight limit is reached
BEST FOR infant and young babies
This was an excellent purchase of us and opens my list of baby travel essentials I recommend.
Ergo baby organic baby carrier. One of our best purchases to date, an excellent carrier that we used with our youngest and then gave on loan to two friends. Three kids later, it is still going strong!
- Pros: very comfortable to wear thanks to large straps and waistband
- Many positions: facing mum, facing forward, on the hip, on shoulder
- Organic, easy to wash material
- Con: very few, although buckling up does require a little bit of practice.
BEST FOR Toddlers (if using with babies and very young kids, it is advisable to buy the baby insert)
Baby backpack carrier
For hikes and older children, we are fond of the Deuter Kid Comfort baby carrier, which you can see in use by Little Ms E in this photo. It sits comfortably on the parent’s shoulders and we found it particularly good for hikes and outdoor activities.
Top tip: When choosing a travel baby product, make sure it is fit for purpose. When selecting a back carrier for hiking, for instance, make sure they are built for the outdoors: some city-carriers look the same as sports one but do not offer the same level of comfort
The best travel gear for babies and toddlers is the one that keeps being useful at home. A good baby carrier both parents can use is an invaluable aid not just on the go but also for local excursions and days out.
Baby travel essentials: a word about slings
A word about non-structured, wrap-around slings. My first baby wearing purchase was a wrap around sling, a long piece of soft, beautiful material with no buckles or straps that I could simple wrap around myself and my baby.
It was a good purchase and one especially Mr M adored when he was very little and I thought it would be perfect for travel since it folds easily and has no metal to trigger security system in airports.
However, I do not recommend slings for travel for a couple of reasons:
- When passing airport security, a wrap-around sling is likely to require two hands to do and undo (you need to pass in under the screening devices, just like you would with a jacket of buckled on carrier). This means you would need to rely on someone else’s help to hold your baby – hardly ideal!
- Especially in hot climates, I found slings too prone to get both myself and my baby overheated. A buckled carrier, such as the ergo baby, allowed for more passage of air and, for me, made for a much better baby wearing summer experience
If you are concerned about sling safety, I recommend you spend some time reading about the pros and cons of each type.
This is an article about baby slings from the Mayo Clinic and these are some safety tips and background info from baby wearing international. Please note, I have no connection with either site / organisation and using those articles for reference only.
Baby travel essentials: a traveling strollers for babies and toddlers
I don’t believe it is necessary to purchase a stroller specifically for travel, but there is no doubt that some pushchairs are better than others when it comes to lugging them onto a plane.
Here you can read our guide to the best travel stroller, handy to compare different options.
What I loved about these is that they were sturdy and suitable for older toddlers too. I find many light strollers too hard to push with a toddler on. A sturdy, solid frame makes for a better experience and protects you back from strain.
If you already have a pushchair and are wondering whether it is good for travel, I recommend you look at how easy it is to fold, how much it can recline and how much storage space it offers.
Be aware than when passing security in airports you will have to empty the stroller and fold it so easy manoeuvering is essential
Must have item for road tripping with baby: car seat
A good and safe car seat is among the very first things you need when buying for baby (here, you cannot even leave the hospital without one) and this applies as much when traveling, both nationally and internationally.
For babies and young toddlers, the best car seat is probably the one you already have however, if you are on the market for a particularly portable car seat, have a look at our car sat selection here (forward facing)
A portable high chair for eating out
I am very fond of travel high chairs, especially the foldable ones that occupy virtually no space and can be attached to almost any sort of chair.
They make a huge difference to how hard or easy mealtimes are: many restaurants are welcoming to kids but not equipped with seats for them and a travel high chair means your choice of establishments widens significantly.
If you are still in the sterilising phase, you may also find handy to look at portable sterilizers: we have always been using the Avent products and found them to be excellent albeit a bit bulky for travelling.
A good changing kit / traveling diaper bag
I have never been a huge fan of changing bags (or diaper bags as they are also called).
While some of them are truly beautiful (see my favourite diaper bags for travel here) I do find in most cases they are bulky and just not versatile enough for travel, a situation that more often than not requires some creative thinking when it comes to changing babies!
Rather than a full bag, I have always preferred compact changing kits that allow easy access to essentials such as changing mat, nappies, wipes and muslin cloths.
A brand I really like is ‘skip hop’, which has not just a clever portable changing station but also some matching wet/dry bags (several colours and patterns available). If you can count on dad to most of the carrying, you may want to look at baby bags that stylish dads won’t be embarrassed to carry such as these diaper backpacks here
A travel cot or bassinets for sleeping on travels
One of the best presents we were given, as new parents, was a travel cot.
Travel cots come in all shape and sizes and depending on the type you choose they can also double up as a baby playpen, something extremely useful especially in unfamiliar surroundings when you may need to enforce some ‘containment’ strategies while you secure your room or vacation rental.
We are particularly fond of full-size travel cots (like the one in the photo) but I heard many parents being extremely happy with the BRICA Fold N’ Go Travel Bassinet.
Portable black-out blinds for bright rooms
My kids have never been great sleepers (understatement of the century!) and the two things that helped to make their night better were ensuring that their room is dark, especially in the early hours of the morning, and that they had music to fall to sleep onto.
For darkness, we found an excellent solution in with the portable gro-bag blackout blinds.
They fold easily and attach to any window thanks to easy to use suction cups, while for music we simply brought with us our home baby monitor.
A sleeping bag
I always loved baby sleeping bags at home and I find they come in even handier on travel. As well as keeping baby safe and warm in bed, they can come really handy on planes when you can wrap your baby in it without worrying the blanket will fall or catch in the cabin confined space.
They occupy next to no space and they are a life saver when eating on the go or on planes or train. They probably already are in your diaper bag so make sure you don’t take them out when packing for travel: you will use them extensively!
Portable mosquito net
This only applies to some destinations but I always mention a mosquito net as a must have item for traveling with baby as it has come in handy for us in very many occasions.
They are perfect for mosquitoes of course but also if baby is napping outdoors and you want to protect them from noisy flies and other insects that may be bother them while snoozing.
This is not something to pack but something to help you packing: I love packing cubes and find them excellent to organize my luggage. When traveling with baby, they are also an excellent and easy way to separate clean and dirty clothes.
These go hand in hand with the packing cube advice above: small, cheap and often pretty, wet bags occupy little to no space and come in super handy when laundry needs to wait!
I am not super germ phobic but when it comes to travel, I think being able to clean the surfaces around you is a good idea.
Plane seats and tables are a good example of surfaces you may want to give a wipe to before letting your baby or toddler use and the same can be said of high chairs you get in restaurants (other reason why I recommend you bring you own!)
Nice to have items: our favorite family luggage
Considering all the gear and bits that you need when travelling with kids (don’t forget that on top of you travel essentials you need your usual, daily baby stuff – see our full packing list below), choosing the right luggage for travel is a priority.
We are light packers and are exceptionally fond of the following items:
- Osprey travel backpack (for me)
- Lowe Alpine travel backpack for Philip (we have two different brands simply because we liked the different looks, they are both excellent),
- Trunki ride-on suitcase for kids (see my full trunki review here) and
- Deuter Kikki Backpack for the kids which started using as soon as age allowed.
What we love about the travel backpacks is that you carry them like a standard backpack but open up as a traditional bag, so horizontally, rather than vertically. This makes a huge difference in terms of comfort as it means you don’t have to fish out from the bottom of the rucksack what you need, sprawling objects across the floor as you go! You can read
In addition to this, the backpacks we have chosen are carry on size, which means they can come with us in the plane cabin, allowing for faster check-in and arrival airport procedures
I hope you find this list of baby travel essentials useful and it will act as a handy buying guide for you.
If you are already in packing mode, I also prepared a full list of what you may need on travel: it’s a pdf and if you click on it, you should be able to print it out and tick items as you go.
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