Preparing to travel with an infant or toddler for the first time can be intimidating. Hopefully, these tips can help you. In the first 15 months of my daughter’s life, she flew on over twenty separate flights. The first six months are usually the easiest time to fly with your baby. Take advantage! When traveling with a baby you obviously need things like: diapers, wipes, food/drink, clothes, car seat, and anything typically in your diaper bag.
Here are things I recommend for when you are traveling with an infant, and additional items that are helpful when traveling with a toddler.
Stroller ∙∙∙ If your baby is younger than six-months-old, it’s best to bring a stroller that works with your infant car seat. If your baby is a bit older, bring an umbrella stroller or a lightweight stroller like the gb Pockit that folds to 12″ x 7″ x 20″ in just two steps.
White Noise ∙∙∙ White noise is usually helpful for baby sleeping in a new — and potentially noisier — environment. We typically use an ambient sound app on an old iPod set in airplane mode when we travel. You can bring any sort of portable white noise machine. We love this portable sound machine that stays on all night and the Sleep Sheep sound machine.
Baby Carrier ∙∙∙ A hands-free method of carrying your child through the airport is ideal! So, a soft-structured carrier is a must-have for traveling with a baby or a toddler.
Lightweight Blankets ∙∙∙ I love these lightweight muslin blankets. Some of the many brands with adorable patterns are Little Unicorn (pictured), Aden + Anais and Lulujo.
Travel Bottle Drying Rack ∙∙∙ This travel drying rack is awesome if you are using bottles. It fits compact and can easily fit in a diaper bag. It comes with a bottle brush that stands up on the pegs when opened.
Portable Activity Station ∙∙∙ This portable activity seat is great for travel. It has loops to attach toys and a cup holder for drinks. The recommended age range is 4 months to walking.
Portable Diaper Changing Pad / Station ∙∙∙ You can turn anything into a changing table with one of these! It’s one of my “must haves” for your diaper bag that is especially necessary when traveling.
High Chair ∙∙∙ You won’t need this until your baby can sit up unassisted — probably around six months. A hook-up chair like the Inglesina Fast Table Chair is great because it is portable and clips on to most tables up to 3.3″ thick. Or you could do something like the My Little Seat Infant Travel High Chair that can be slung over a chair to create a high chair with a 5-point harness.
Travel Crib ∙∙∙ While the Playards / Pack ‘n’ Plays are not too difficult to close up and carry, the size, weight and/or set-up time make them not ideal for frequent travel. If you travel a lot and need a safe sleep spot, I recommend getting a more lightweight travel crib. I have two favorite travel cribs: Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light and Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib. Both of these are fantastic and will work for your kid for several years. Comparing the two:
Baby Björn Travel Crib Light
•easier to set-up / takedown
•slightly thicker mattress (feels a little less safe for newborns, but more comfy for older toddlers)
•mattress consistently lays flat on the floor (this feels safer for newborns)
•less compact when packed up and can’t be an airplane carry-on
Guava Lotus Travel Crib
•compact: can be a backpack & fit as a carry-on
•has a zipper door that is helpful is comforting baby, or when using for play
•thinner mattress (maybe safer for infants but less comfy for toddlers)
•more work to change the crib sheet
•some parents complain that their mattress doesn’t consistently lay completely flat on the floor
•converts to bassinet with purchase of additional kit
It’s so hard to decide which I recommend more. If you’re flying, the Lotus is better because it can fit as a carry-on. If your kid is a toddler, the Baby Bjorn may be better because the mattress is more comfortable. The Lotus has a slightly thinner mattress, which feels safer for newborns. But then again, it (supposedly) doesn’t consistently lay flat on the floor. If you will be staying in multiple places setting up and taking down the crib daily, the Baby Bjorn is better. If you nurse your baby to sleep, the zipper door on the Lotus would be helpful.
Does Your Baby or Child Need Darkness to Sleep?
Here are two products that may help…
Travel Black-out Blinds ••• If your baby needs a dark room to sleep, and where you are traveling will not have a dark sleep environment, consider bringing a travel blackout shade. This is a very popular one that can be easily attached to a window using suction cups, and easily removed.
These paper blackout shades easily stick to the window frame.
Darkening Playard Canopy ••• This is a breathable cover for your playard to help create a dark environment for your baby.
Traveling With a Toddler
Stroller & Blankets ∙∙∙
Baby Carrier ∙∙∙ A soft-structured carrier is a must-have for traveling with a baby or a toddler.
White Noise ∙∙∙ White noise is helpful when sleeping in a new — and potentially noisier — environment. This one stays on all night with a single charge.
Snack Containers (filled with snacks!)∙∙∙ I love reusable snack bags
Tablet Case ∙∙∙ Toddler-proof tablet or case
Wireless Headphones ∙∙∙ Toddler-friendly headphones that can be wireless.
Flying with a Toddler
Some particularly helpful items when traveling by airplane with a toddler:
Car Seat Wheels ∙∙∙ Getting through the airport, depending on the age of your kids you may need: baby carrier, umbrella stroller or wheels for your car seat. I just bought a Gogo Kidz TravelMate to convert our convertible car seats into a stroller when moving through the airport. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I hear it is helpful!
Airplane Tray Cover ∙∙∙ I like to have an airplane tray cover for toddlers. They make disposable ones, smaller reusable covers, and larger padded trays that also holds drink cup, books and small toys.
Snacks ∙∙∙ Bring way more snacks than you think you need. It’s nice to have a small plastic bag for trash from all the snacks as well. The same goes for diapers. You want to be prepared for delays!
Extra Clothes ∙∙∙ Bring extra clothes for everyone in your carry-on. My daughter threw up all over me on three different flights. I was not prepared the first time it happened. I was flying alone with her and that made for a pretty miserable remainder of the flight!
Going to the beach? Don’t forget sunscreen (if your baby is over 6 months), shade (hat, umbrella, playard cover, etc.) and baby powder (to sprinkle on your body wherever sand is stuck before you head back into the car or inside)
Nursing? It may be helpful to have a breast pump with you!
Laundry? If you won’t have a washing machine, buy these Dreft Travel Sink Packets and wash baby’s clothes by hand anywhere!
Bathtime? If you want to bring a separate infant/toddler bathtub with you, take a look at the Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub that is recommended for 6-24 months.
We flew from DC to San Francisco when my son was four-months-old and the day after my daughter turned two. It was quite an adventure having two adults, two car seats, luggage for four people for a week, two little ones, diaper bag, carry-ons, etc. It’s exponentially more difficult to fly with two babies/young-toddlers than one. I imagine it gets easier once one kid is old enough to walk through the airport carrying their own bag.
Traveling with a young infant (0-6 months) in the winter? Click here to see some more tips.