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I’ve got four kids. There are 13 years between the oldest and the youngest and it blows my mind how much baby gear has evolved. So many things exist now that were never around when my oldest was an infant. When we watched a friend’s 2-month-old, it made me realize that baby travel essentials aren’t just for travel. Since our friend had all “the gear” she was able to easily leave us what she needed to watch her baby so she could attend to a family emergency. Shopping for your little one can be mind-boggling. Then you ask for recommendations and it gets even harder! Everyone loves something different. There are so many options that decision fatigue sets in. These are the products my fellow SheBuysTravel contributors and I use and love.
Travel Car Seats
The question here is: infant car seat vs convertible car seat? Each has advantages. Convertible car seats can be more expensive to buy, but they save money over time because they are “convertible.” Evenflo’s All4One convertible car seat took us from infant through preschool. Some even convert into booster seats. That means they carry your big kid all the way to regular seat belt use. Here’s the downside: They are beasts. They’re heavy. Many don’t fit standard airline seats and transferring them from one car to another is a chore, let alone moving them from plane to rental car. On the other hand, an infant car seat is lightweight and easy to move baby around in. Some even pair with lightweight stroller options, which makes them work great for travel. The downside? You’ll end up buying another seat once they grow out of it.
One we love is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggo. In my opinion, it’s one of the best on the market for under $300. My paramedic husband referred to this as “Fort Knox for babies.” Some of the reasons we love it include its narrow base which helps it fit into a backseat with other car seats and European safety features not yet required in the US.
Travel Strollers We Love
This post is intended to be the quick and easy overview to our favorite travel baby products. Rest assured we’ve done some really in depth articles if you want more information. Here are our picks for strollers in all price ranges for all family types. And here is the quick scoop on our favorites: If you’re bringing an infant in an infant car seat, choose a lightweight stroller with a folding basket base. They are lightweight and easy to use. The infant car seat sits on top. Best of all, you can easily transfer a sleeping baby from car to stroller.
Baby Trend makes one that accepts numerous brands of car seats. If you plan to travel extensively or are out and about a lot, choose the upscale Doona, which sells for $550 on Amazon. It’s an infant car seat that turns into a stroller! Seriously, it’s like magic. The wheels come right out of the car seat. If your baby is slightly older, the Pockit can be a great choice. This is the Swiss Army knife of strollers. It’s easy to get through TSA and folds small enough to fit into an overhead airplane bin.
Must-Have Diaper Change Supplies
While you’re traveling, you won’t have a changing table and diaper pail nearby. But there are ways to make roadside diaper changes easier and more comfy for baby. The first thing you’re going to want is a nice folding changing pad. There are a LOT of choices. In my opinion, there are two key things to look for: a handle and a spot to carry bags. This makes it easy to carry the diaper changing supplies and the baby. Plus, it gives you the ability to wrap up stinky diapers in a bag when you’re in tight spaces (plane, car) without that odor-blocking diaper pail.
Most good changing pads will have a couple of mesh sections or pockets for baby wipes, a change of baby clothes, extra diapers and even butt cream if diaper rash is a concern. These changing pads are great for a quick run into a restroom or an airplane diaper change. To tote all the goods, though, you’ll want to consider a full diaper bag. In my humble opinion there are two things that make a diaper bag worth having: good accessible space and easy portability. We’ve veered towards backpack styles that can be easily carried and large tote bag style travel bags for overnights.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Don’t limit your internet search to “diaper bags” only. Sometimes the best bags have been gym bags or regular backpacks. One of my all time favorites was a Champion gym tote. For $25, it had great straps and enough room for supplies when we were cloth diapering. Learn More: Here’s how to change a diaper on an airplane.
Baby Travel Essentials: Feeding
Keeping baby happy and fed on the road doesn’t have to be a hassle. I look for space-saving items that make my life easier. No SheBuysTravel is going to haul a high chair on the road. Luckily, there are some fun travel ones to make feeding time easier. Some are fabric and some are basically mini versions of high chairs. Personally, I think the fabric ones are more versatile but the mini ones come with trays, so they tend to feel more familiar to little ones. What did we do before the squeezable baby food pouch? Seriously, those things are travel life savers.
One product I promise you will love as much as I do is this pouch with a spoon that screws right onto it. It is perfect for babies who are still being spoon-fed and can’t hold and squeeze the pouch themselves. Pouches are easier to pack and less likely to break. The spoon addition makes them perfect. I also bought reusable food pouches. They’ve been used through one baby/toddler. My older kids use them for yogurt and snacks at school. Two years later, they’re still going strong. It’s a great way to serve applesauce or yogurt for snacks.
How to Keep Baby Bottles Clean When You Travel
For bottles and sippy cups, it’s important to bring what your kiddo is used to. There are disposable sippy cups on the market that can be convenient for travel, but if your toddler has never used that type before, it might not be a success. I strongly recommend giving any new bottles or sippy cups a test run at home before you hit the road. My oldest daughter would only drink from Dr. Brown bottles. They have a bunch of small parts.
I was SO happy to discover microwave sanitizing bags. I tuck the parts into the bag and pop the whole thing into the hotel room microwave. It’s super easy. The bags can be used to sanitize everything from baby bottle parts to pacifiers to breast pump attachments and teethers. If you want to bring a bottle brush, I recommend a silicone one so you can easily dry it off before repacking. We all know that babies are messy. Bring bibs. There are some plastic wipe-clean ones that are great for travel. Baby swaddle blankets and muslin blankets also are great for protecting baby’s outfit. They’re thin and can easily provide a food or breast milk barrier and are great for cleaning up spit up.
Sleeping Away from Home: Baby Travel Gear You Need
When you’ve got a new baby who has settled into some sort of routine, sleeping away from home can present some challenges. One way to make it easier? Plan for future travel even if you don’t know when it will happen. How? Well, for us it was using a small sound machine every night. At home, it was necessary because of those three older (loud) siblings. It paid off when we traveled, though. Our son associated the white noise with sleep. In Pavlovian fashion, he fell asleep easily in hotel rooms once we turned on the machine.
Now, let’s talk about cribs. By the fourth kid, we were done with cribs. In fact, my husband wrote an entire post on why you don’t need a crib. Our youngest slept in a pack-and-play-style bed until he graduated to a tent-style pack-and-play. Most hotels say they have cribs available. Ninety percent of the time those “cribs” turn out to be pack n’ plays. So if kiddo is used to it, they’ll sleep better. Pack an extra pack-and-play sheet and a baby blanket in your luggage. They’ve been missing in many of the places where we’ve stayed. Serious travelers may want to consider a more travel-friendly option like the Lotus travel crib, which folds down into a backpack-sized case.
Traveling with a newborn? A pack-and-play is awkward to use and feels way too big for baby. The Munchkin Brica Baby Travel Pod opens with the push of a button and is lightweight for easy travel.
Other Baby Travel Essentials for Sleep
Night lights. Although “no one puts Baby in the corner,” we’ve definitely had our baby sleep in a closet. When you’re trying to get one kid to sleep without making everyone else turn in, placing the crib creatively is the answer. Our youngest has slept in a Four Seasons Jackson Hole closet (with the door cracked open) larger than my upstairs bathroom and we were glad we had the nightlight with us to cast that comforting warm glow.
Soother. This is baby’s comfort item. The best baby can go from chill to crying if a loved soother is forgotten. If your kiddo has a favorite stuffed animal, do not forget it. Also, new moms, if there’s an item that your baby loves, please learn from my mistake. Buy two. Inevitably, at some point it will go missing or be left behind and having a substitute is worth its weight in gold.
Sleep swaddle. Hotel rooms can sometimes be chilly, so consider packing a heavier sleeper or even sleep swaddle to bundle up baby. They’re often easier to pack than baby blankets and easier to wash. We used to keep the blanket for the car and use swaddles at night. Also not to age myself but sleep swaddles are amazing! When my oldest was young we didn’t have them and had to baby burrito him by hand. Sleep swaddles are one of my all-time favorite baby products.
Baby Travel Items that Make Bath Time Easier
Bath time can be a little tricky if you’re staying in hotels that don’t have bathtubs. We might have been a bit more casual about baths while traveling and given some baby wipe baths. But a lot of folks use bath time as part of their nighttime routine. Travel bathtubs have gotten way better over the years. Even folded in half, they were huge. Now, plenty exist that pack completely flat.
I highly recommend a lay-flat baby bath over an inflatable tub. There’s room for mildew and trapped water and no one wants to be drying a tub off as they’re trying to get out of a hotel room. The sponge-y material ones can turn any sink into a spot for baby to bathe.
How to Ditch the Baby Bath Tub
Another method is to get baby used to the shower. My oldest daughter had colic and breastfeeding was a struggle for us. One of the ways I calmed her was to take her in to a warm shower with me. The water soothed her. Why am I telling you all this? Well, I obviously didn’t want to hold a slippery baby every time I showered, so I found a baby carrier designed for swimming and water. It changed everything. Now, bathing baby on the road is as simple as putting the baby in the ring sling.
For safety reasons, always choose a sling with metal rings (plastic can degrade). The rings should have no visible seams on them. Pick a pricier option that’s been safety tested. Beachfront Baby has great options in a variety of colors. The slings have been chlorine tested, too. If a ring sling seems hard to use, consider a Boba Air soft structured carrier (SSC). The nylon material is quick drying and it folds up tiny. We used it at water parks several times.
A Baby Travel Monitor
Not necessary for hotel stays, but a baby travel monitor is helpful when visiting relatives’ homes or when staying in a multi-room vacation rental. The VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor has a soothing night light too – we love products that do double duty!
Baby Carriers: The Must-Have Travel Baby Product
Baby carriers are my all-time favorite baby travel essentials. I started with a Baby Bjorn with my almost 18 year old son and have worn every baby since. It is easy for me to fall down a baby product black hole when talking about carriers. So I’m going to mention some of my favorite soft structured carriers that are readily available to the general public.
Tula is a brand name that many new parents know. There are two main types: solid fabric or the Coast, which is a mix of fabric and mesh. Whichever one you buy, add Frogg Toggs to the order if you’ll be wearing it in the summer. These cooling towels absorb cold water and don’t drip. You can use them to make a cool layer between you and your older baby. You will stay cool without getting wet. I prefer the Tula because it is easy to switch so it also fits my larger husband. In addition, it easily went from baby to toddler.
We also had an ergobaby for my daughters but design changes over the years weren’t my favorite. If you have back problems the LILLEbaby can be a good option; it offers additional lumbar support. There are some cheaper entry brands like Infantino. As baby grows, they may not have some of the comfort elements for you that the pricier carriers offer.
Name Brands Do Matter
No matter what you do, look for name brands. Baby carriers are required to be safety tested in the US. No name options shipping on Amazon may not adhere to those requirements. Love hiking with baby? Check out hiking style carriers for added storage room and stability. (And read our tips for hiking with babies!)
Baby Products that Make Road Trips Easier
If you’re road tripping with baby, you want to be as prepared as humanly possible. I totally get it. Road trips can hold a lot of unknowns (traffic, potty stops, etc) so being ready for anything is essential. The good part? You’re the captain of your destiny. Here are 6 things I always pack for to make road trips easier.
A Silicone Bucket
Puke happens. If baby is tiny, you obviously won’t be able to use a bucket for spit up (and you won’t really need one). But a bucket is useful for other things — dirty clothes, toting toys and even playing with at stops. Silicone buckets are a lifesaver because they collapse. They are space saving until you need them.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Buy one before your trip. Trust me. I found myself in upstate New York panic buying one at Target. Fun story, they don’t carry the cheap ones in store. I ended up with an expensive one that played music and had a remote control. After dropping $40 on that, I had to go back in and buy scissors to open the package. Don’t make my mistakes. Get a simple cheap baby mirror. If you’re sitting in traffic you’ll be glad you can see baby.
Did you see the story above? Make sure there are scissors in the car. Yes, they’re not a “baby item” but there will be a reason to use them. In fact, get trauma shears. They can cut through practically anything (and can replace those special seat belt cutting safety tools).
First Aid Kit
Seriously, it’s not just because my husband is a paramedic but yes it kind of is. Bring a basic first aid kit when you travel. Even if you do something as simple as getting a minor cut it becomes complicated if you have to go on a band-aid hunt with a baby.
Seat Back Organizer
A seat back organizer, even a super basic one, will come in super handy on road trips with baby. You can fill it with diapers, wipes, bottles of water and more so that everything is easily within reach at stops.
If your baby likes to chew on things bring extra. For some reason, cars become binkie black holes on road trips. They enter but never come out. Buy in bulk.
The Right Toys
You want Junior to stay entertained in the car but please take this advice to preserve your own sanity: Limit toys that make noise, have parts, or are hard to clean. My secret? Tub toys. They’re sturdy, washable, easily sanitized and are usually bright and popular with babies. Bathtub books are also very easy for another child to read to baby and they double as a chew toy!
Sunscreen and a Sunshade
If you’ll be hitting the road for hours at a time, consider sunscreen for the baby. While sunshades are great and can help block glare, constant car sun exposure can have an impact. We round up our favorite baby and toddler sunscreens in this post. I’m a huge fan of the sunshades that come with both window clips (that go over the window as it rolls up) and suction cups. That way nothing falls off the window. We share way more about road tripping with a baby over here. Check out our full post of tips, tricks and what you need to know.
What other baby travel essentials do you pack when you travel with baby? Have a question or need a recommendation? Drop us a comment and we’ll help you out!