Inside: Wondering what to pack when you’re traveling with a baby? It can be overwhelming, I know. That’s why I’m giving you a complete list of infant travel essentials
We were just going away for a few days – a short car trip for a family event.
Sure, my oldest was an infant, only a few months old. It might be a little challenging, but what could possibly go wrong?
Turns out a whole heck of a lot.
I didn’t pack enough diapers. Have you ever stretched your last couple diapers over too many hours? Yeah, not fun.
I didn’t pack the infant Tylenol. Guess who developed a fever and major crankiness a day in? Yep, that’s my baby!
Talk about a sleepless night while we waited for a store to open in the morning.
I forgot the diaper cream, too. Add that to the list of “things to buy as soon as the store opens”.
And I hadn’t bothered to buy a lightweight stroller for the car seat. Realllly wished I’d had that for pit stops and walks when the baby carrier was not working for either of us.
That first trip opened my eyes to the challenges of traveling with an infant. And it pushed me to think through ALL infant travel essentials for every future trip.
Five babies and SO many trips later (by plane and by car), I feel pretty confident when I say that these are must have items for traveling with a baby.
You Might Also Like: Baby Essentials for the First Three Months (from a mom of 5)
What Makes Traveling with an Infant So Tricky?
This is probably self-explanatory, but for the sake of being thorough, let’s unpack this, shall we? (See what I did there? 😉)
Infants need to be tended to practically every second of every day and night. Precious, wonderful, exhausting, and draining little creatures, aren’t they?
When traveling – by car, plane or boat – their needs can’t always be met exactly at the time and place that they would prefer. Cue: all the screams and tears.
They’d much MUCH rather be snuggled up against you in a baby carrier than be forced to schlep around the country or the globe in a car seat.
Your options are a bit limited when you’re traveling, no matter what mode of transportation you’re taking.
But you know this already.
By chance, if you’re still planning your trip, and it’s a longer one, I’m gonna lay out the pros and cons of air travel versus car travel with an infant.
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Traveling by Plane vs. Traveling by Car With an Infant: The Cons or Both
I’ve done both and seen the downsides of both car and air travel with an infant firsthand.
Hopefully laying this all out there for you up front will help you choose the best method of travel for your particular infant.
On a plane, your infant might struggle with cabin pressure, and you have no way of knowing whether they will or not.
If you chose to take your infant on a plane as a lap child, that’s awesome. They can be snuggled up with you the whole time.
A potential con? They might really struggle with cabin pressure.
Thankfully, you can usually nurse them through take off and descent, which can help with this much like chewing gum helps adults.
In a car, your trip could take SO much longer if you need to stop frequently to tend to your infant’s needs.
Especially if your baby hates their car seat and cries non-stop even during short trips, long road trips can be pure torture for both parents AND baby.
If your infant is particularly fussy for whatever reason (colic, car seat rebellion, hunger, diapers), you might be compelled to stop VERY frequently.
This could stretch your trip out far beyond the usual amount of time it would take with just adults, or even older children.
On a plane, if your infant hates it, there’s nowhere to go (for you or the other passengers). Plus, changing diapers on a plane is tricky business.
Have you ever been on a plane with a crying infant and felt mildly annoyed? Try being the parent attempting to calm said infant.
It’s infinitely worse.
Unless you’re a true rebel who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, you will probably feel enormous amounts of pressure to calm your infant down and stop the crying so everyone else can have a good trip, including you.
You might be able to take a quick walk up and down the aisle, especially if you’re traveling internationally, but constant movement is generally prohibited on a plane.
Feeling stuck with limited options to soothe your screaming infant is THE WORST.
Then there’s changing diapers on a plane…even with two adults, we’ve botched it. It didn’t end well: the airport floor can tell you more.
In the car, you can’t hold your baby all the time, and they are pretty much stuck in one position for hours.
My parents seemed baffled about why I was reluctant to take a road trip with my young children.
Then I remembered: my parents used to take overnight trips with us laid out in the back of the station wagon sleeping in sleeping bags.
Ah, the days before strict seat belt laws. Must be nice.
Oh, and I’m pretty sure all of my siblings and I loved the car. As infants, maybe we cried a little, but we would just fall asleep after a bit.
Not my babies. They would scream their little eyes out for over an hour, until we were forced to stop the car to soothe them.
Every single long car journey with a baby was pure torture.
Getting all your infant travel essentials onto a plane can be exhausting and tricky.
To feel truly prepared for your trip, you might need to pack more than you usually would.
If you usually take just a carry on, forget about it: you’re going to need to check at least one or two things.
At the very least, you’ll need to check the stroller. But if you didn’t purchase a seat for your infant’s car seat, you’ll need to check that as well.
Then there’s all the things for baby, which we’ll cover in a minute.
Bottom line? Both air and car travel with an infant can be challenging.
Sometimes, you don’t have a choice. Farther destinations will almost always require air travel.
No matter which method of travel you choose, though, you know what can make your trip infinitely better? Having all the infant travel essentials.
Let’s dive into the list.
Infant Travel Essentials: Everything You Need to Feel Truly Prepared
Normally, I’m a minimalist when it comes to travel. Less is more, I usually say.
But NOT when it comes to traveling with an infant. When I was traveling with little babies, I
wanted needed to feel extra super duper prepared.
I’ve run through all the worst case scenarios (what if the store is closed and we run out of diapers?! what if they have a blowout on the plane?!). I’ve faced most of them.
Those are reflected in this list.
There are also things you cannot possibly foresee, like travel delays of any kind: you get sick, planes are delayed long-term, the car breaks down.
If you’re looking to pack the least amount of stuff, try someone else. Because even though I’m a minimalist, the Enneagram 6 (queen of worst-case scenario preparedness) in me comes out strong when I’m traveling with an infant.
One Unique Tip for Plane Travel with a Baby: If you need to check bags, be sure to carry on your infant’s separately packed bag. That way you have a back-up on hand and don’t need to overstock your diaper bag.
How many clothes do you need when you’re traveling with an infant?
Take the amount of clothes you’d bring for yourself and double it.
You might want to throw in a couple extra pairs of pants beyond that as well depending on how often your little one’s diapers typically leak through.
Always remember babies get cold and hot easily so pack layers as well. Lots of socks and some jackets even if it’s summer. Tiny toes can get cold on planes pretty easily.
2. Diapering Supplies (NOT Cloth)
No matter your chosen method of travel, I think we can all agree that diapers, wipes and diaper cream are pretty essential.
Pack twice as many diapers as you would expect to need. You don’t need an exorbitant amount, but you don’t want to run out at any point either.
If you think you’ll be stopping at a store at your destination, great. Pack twice as many for the trip as you think you’ll need.
If you’re traveling overseas? Definitely pack your normal diaper brand, and twice as much.
You have no idea if your baby’s diaper brand will be available, and you do NOT want to be dealing with diaper sensitivity stuff on your travels – trust me.
If you typically use cloth diapers, I’m going to strongly suggest that traveling is the time to switch to disposable diapers for a bit.
It is A LOT easier to travel with throw-away diapers because they are so much smaller and you can just toss them in the trash.
And don’t forget the diaper rash cream!
3. Gallon-Sized Ziploc Bags
If you don’t already have a diaper blowout kit, make one for the plane or car.
Pack extra gallon-sized ziploc bags for wet clothes or blowout clothes. Just don’t forget to wash them ASAP after you arrive.
(Honest talk? By the time we got to our fourth and fifth babies…we sometimes threw away the blowout clothes, depending on how bad they were and how tired we were. It just wasn’t worth it to us.)
But if you’re on child number one, pack the ziplocs, and save the clothes.
The time of year that you are traveling with your infant will determine how warm of a blanket you will need.
A safe bet is to bring two blankets: one Muslin for swaddling and/or comfort and a warmer blanket like a fleece one for cold climates.
5. Bibs and/or Burp Cloths
Infants spit up allll the time. At least, my kiddos did when they were infants: their chests were SOAKED.
If your baby is a super spitter, you’ll want to bring several waterproof bibs. If they only spit up when burping, bring a few burp cloths if you know you’ll be able to wash them.
Want to go minimalist? You could maybe get away with doubling muslin blankets as burp cloths. Maybe.
6. Bottles & Formula
If you formula-feed your baby you will need to plan ahead for that. Bring a few clean and sterilized bottles as well as a bit more formula than you plan to use.
THESE stackable formula dispensers are great for travel! You can prefill them with the correct amount of formula per bottle.
If you are familiar with flying and aware that you can only bring teeny tiny amounts of liquid, know that those rules are different when applied to infant formula.
7. Breast Pump
If you are breastfeeding your baby and pumping regularly, you’ll want to bring a breast pump, a few breastmilk storage bags, and a couple bottles as well.
If you want to bring a breast pump on the trip I suggest using a Haakaa. It is small, convenient, manually operated, and very effective.
An advantage to pumping a bit is if you are traveling by car, you can still feed your baby on the drive if necessary.
One of the hardest things about keeping an infant happy on a road trip is that you cannot safely breastfeed them on the drive.
8. Security Items
If your little one is attached to any items like a blanket, a lovey, or a binky be SURE to bring it!
Pack extra pacifiers, too.
Because traveling messes with your infant’s routine, you’ll want to bring any security item you can to keep things as similar as you can to home.
Depending on the age of your infant, you can make a trip go a lot smoother if you bring some toys to entertain your baby (especially if they’re teething).
For car seats, those hanging baby toys are the most convenient. You probably already have them strapped on.
If you like, you could pack a couple more items for play at your destination.
For plane travel, just bring 2-3 items, definitely a teether.
You can buy empty travel-sized bottles to fill with your own products.
It’s best to stick with the products you typically use to avoid any issues when traveling. Signed: a mom of a child with eczema.
If you’ve started brushing your baby’s teeth, don’t forget a toothbrush!
11. First Aid Items
Nothing is worse than being unprepared on a trip when your little one suddenly comes down with an illness.
Just imagine it’s the middle of the night, all the stores are closed, and you have a screaming infant with a fever. #beentheredonethat
You’ll want to have:
- a syringe for liquid medication,
- Infant Tylenol,
- a thermometer, and
- a nose frieda.
12. Baby Carrier
Babywearing can make any trip go smoother! If you know, you know.
If you are traveling by plane this can be HUGE. When waiting in line anywhere, babywearing can make for a happier baby, while giving you two free arms for anything you need to do.
If you are planning to walk around on your trip, go hiking, take a trip to the beach, really anything, a baby carrier will help.
I love using the baby Ktan for my infants. They are small, fold up to practically nothing, and can fit into a bag or suitcase, and keep baby feeling safe and secure.
It is like a baby wrap without the hassle of tying it up all fancy.
As your baby gets bigger and can better support their heads you can switch to bringing a 3-in-1 carrier like a Tula, Ergo, or Infantino instead.
A folding stroller is a MUST for me. From walking through airports to being out and about at the other end of car trips, it just makes sense.
I suppose you could rent one once you arrive? But honestly, I don’t see the point.
If you’re traveling by air, you’re gonna want it to push a car seat through the airport. If you’re traveling by car, you should be able to fit it.
Our normal stroller is a single BOB running stroller, but I discovered THIS much cheaper one that goes with infant car seats when my youngest was a baby and MAN, what a difference!
It was so much lighter and easier to pull in and out of the car. Highly recommend for all things travel! Leave the heavy stroller at home.
You can find the lightweight stroller HERE.
14. Car Seat
Of course, if you are planning a road trip you are planning on bringing your car seat.
But did you know that a car seat is also the safest way for a baby to travel by plane? It’s also quite necessary on the other end, unless whoever you’re visiting plans on bringing a car seat to the airport.
Learn everything you need to know about bringing your car seat on a flight.
15. Pack n’ Play (Car Travel Only)
If you’re traveling by plane, you’ll want to either rent a pack n’ play, ask whoever you’re staying with to borrow/rent one OR confirm that your hotel will have one available to you.
You don’t want to be schlepping a pack n’ play on and off of planes.
If you’re traveling by car, you should be able to easily fit a pack n’ play along with your bags.
These Might Be Must-Have Items for Traveling With a Baby, Depending on Your Unique Trip and Infant
You may or may not need these additional items, depending on your infant’s needs and your destination.
For example, if you’re coming from a warm climate and traveling to a chilly destination, you’ll need warm winter clothing for your baby that you might not have on hand.
A White Noise Machine or App
You don’t have to bring all your fancy machines with you when you travel if you don’t want to, but you do want to replicate your baby’s routines.
Download a white noise app on your phone before you leave. If you bring the noise maker, don’t forget the cord and/or batteries.
Airports and hotels are crawling with germs.
Pack a few travel-sized packs of disinfecting wipes to help prevent sickness.
For little hands, stick with something gentler like THIS travel-sized sanitizer.
What for you ask? Baby-proofing outlets, coffee table corners and more.
It can be super handy to have in your travel toolkit for older infants.
If your baby is sensitive to napping in the dark like a couple of mine, you can make any room blacked out by taping aluminum foil up in the windows.
I find it a lot easier than making a curtain stay without tacks or awkwardly draped sheets.
If a swaddle or sleep sack is essential to your little one’s sleep routine, don’t forget to bring it!
Summer Trip Essentials
If you are planning a summer vacation don’t forget that there are extra items you will want to pack as well like…
- a baby sun hat,
- sunscreen for 6-months-old and up babies
- Talc-free baby powder (it gets sand off after a beach trip), and
- swim diapers.
Winter Trip Essentials
If planning a snow or winter weather vacation, be sure to bring enough warm thick clothes for baby that will keep them warm and dry in rain, snow, or whatever weather you can expect.
How Much More Do I Need to Pack for a Longer Trip with an Infant?
My only question I need to ask to adequately answer this question is: will there be a washer and dryer where you’re staying?
If the answer is yes, then you don’t need to pack much differently for a longer trip. All the infant travel essentials mentioned above should cover it.
If there isn’t a washer, then you’ll need to pack A LOT more clothing. As in, pretty much every scrap of clothing your infant owns.
You will also need to make sure you have enough diapers, or that you will have access to stores with the diapers you need when you get to your destination.
Ultimately, Your Parenting Personality Will Determine What You Consider to Be Infant Travel Essentials
Are you a “plan for every kind of worst case scenario so I can sleep at night” kind of parent? Or are you a laid back, “we’ll figure it out along the way” kind of parent?
(If you’re the latter, teach me your ways!)
How light or how heavy you pack will depend A LOT on your parenting personality.
If you don’t mind running to the store for a few toiletries and extra diapers, you can pack less.
If you have the same mindset about running out of clothes – we’ll just buy more – then maybe you can go light on the clothes, too.
That being said…
You can choose to live on the wild side, but I highly, highly, HIGHLY (you get the idea, right?) recommend that no matter how long or short your travel time, don’t skimp on the diapers or the clothes.
Most of the time I end up with a lot of clean clothes and unused diapers that we use later in the trip after the initial flight or drive, but better safe than sorry and smelly and wet.
I can assure you that every time you might think, “Eh it’s ok, this is all he’ll use in four hours I’ll just get more diapers and wash some clothes there,” THAT is the time you will run out and end up scrambling in the bathroom using paper towels to dry up their last pair of pants while taking another wad of paper towels and building a makeshift diaper. **Gulp.**
You don’t have to pack everything under the sun to have a great travel experience with your infant, but I think you’ll have a much better experience if you remember to pack these infant travel essentials.
Wishing you the best possible trip!
Owner of Growing Serendipity, June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism, which she does at This Simple Balance. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids, doesn’t happen very often.