Parents who want to travel with their little ones in tow are often simply told “good luck.” You can review your travel plans and fend off anxiety in the moments leading up to the big day, but traveling and sharing new experiences with your baby shouldn’t overload your nerves.
Here’s what to bring on the road to make your trip less stressful for you and your child.
Staying Busy on the Road
There’s more to long car rides than tons of screen time. Try these tricks to keep your little one entertained during the trip:
- Because your baby will be sitting for longer than usual, pick up some quick tips on massage. Massaging your baby, their legs and feet in particular, can help them relax and calm down.
- Bring their favorite interactive toys, like soft, crinkly books (lightweight and great for flights) or interlocking teething rings, which are perfect to keep little hands busy.
- Fully charged devices are a must on long trips. Make sure you pack their chargers in a carry-on for easy access.
- Play games and sing! Sing simple songs and make up games to keep your baby interested, or download some music you know they love.
- Travel at night. Although it can seem exhausting to drive or catch a red-eye flight, your baby will probably be asleep much of the time. This gives you a chance to rest or sleep, if flying, and to make better progress if driving.
What to Pack in Your Baby’s Carry-On
Keep calm and carry on half your baby’s wardrobe? Probably not. Bringing the right essentials will ensure that you’re not weighed down by a massive carry-on:
- Lots (and lots) of baby wipes. They’re especially handy when you don’t have access to a sink.
- Enough diapers for one day, plus a few extra. If your diaper stash is checked in your luggage or loaded in the trunk of your car, you’ll probably be in for a messy situation.
- A portable changing pad
- Portioned breast milk or powder formula. Bring a thermos of hot water on car trips so you can easily mix a fresh bottle of formula. Consider disposable bottle liners for easy refills.
- A light cloth or blanket, if you’re breastfeeding, for privacy in crowded areas
- Supplies in case your baby gets sick. This can include a forehead thermometer, infant pain reliever (over-the-counter cough/cold or anti-allergy medications are not recommended for infants).
- Light layers. Bring several changes of clothes for your baby, with lots of light items that are easy for layering. Packing separate tops and bottoms will make diaper changes simpler.
- A cozy blanket that your baby associates with sleep. This will keep them warm through temperature changes and offer a sense of comfort and stability.
What to Pack in Your Baby’s Suitcase
Bring all the supplies. Now’s the time to load all the comforts of home in the baby’s suitcase:
- A baby sling. If you’re not wearing it during your travels, a baby sling comes in handy during long, sightseeing walks on vacation.
- Feeding equipment
- A wide-brimmed hat and baby sunscreen
- A universal bath plug. This will fit into any drain, easily converting any sink into a bathtub. Don’t forget other bath essentials like gentle soap, lotion, nail clippers, and diaper cream.
Ask about laundry facilities before leaving on your trip, and plan accordingly. Pack 2 to 3 outfits for each day.
Packing enough diapers to last through your trip can be tricky and really adds up. Depending on the length of your stay, check on ordering diapers online and have them delivered to your destination.
By Land or By Air
Whether you’re flying or driving, these traveling tips will keep you comfortable and keep your baby happy.
If you’re taking a flight:
- If your baby is under 18 months old, it can help to have a bassinet on the plane. Call the carrier ahead of time to reserve one. Ask about height, weight, and age restrictions to make sure your baby will have a spot all their own.
- Feed your baby during takeoff and landing to help them adjust to the changes in air pressure. The key is to get their jaw moving.
- If it's in your budget, buy an extra seat for your baby. Bring a forward-facing, hard-backed car seat, also known as a child restraint system (CRS), for their comfort and safety. Some airlines will discount the fare for a baby's seat, so ask before you buy. Make sure the CRS is government-certified before you bring it to the airport; check for a label on the seat itself or on the manufacturer's website.
- If you’re not able to get a full row to yourself, see if you can take two aisle seats across from each other. You and your partner will be able to pass the baby between you easily if they start fussing.
If you’re driving:
- If you’re traveling with a partner, have one drive while the other sits with the baby. Their parents are their whole life at this age, and they want to feel that you’re nearby.
- Plan stops along your route. Have a look at rest areas along the way. A refreshing break from the car could be just what your baby needs when they’re getting cranky.
- Stay ready with a first-aid kit. Insect bites or allergies happen, so it's best to be prepared. Bring acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, antihistamines for surprise allergies, and any prescription medication. Have your pediatrician's phone number, just to be safe.
Make sure you have a spare tire kit. Have a backup plan or a towing company’s number handy for emergencies.
Traveling Internationally With a Baby
If you’re traveling internationally with your baby, be sure to do plenty of research about your destination. You may need to get vaccinations or learn about common illnesses abroad. You may also need to bring a car seat or other safety equipment that isn't available or doesn’t meet U.S. safety standards at your destination. Your baby will be more vulnerable to any differences in a new country, like diet, climate, and disease, so do your research.