Traveling with a baby can be challenging. If you’re traveling by air, you’ve got to think about going through security and waiting for your flight — and that’s before you even board the plane. And, you’ve still go to hope there are no flight delays. Traveling by car or rail isn’t much easier. Most travel is rife with public moments of “what do I do now” anxiety for any parent. Having the right essentials on hand when traveling with a baby can make all the difference.
But before you fill that diaper bag with the essentials you’ll need when traveling with a baby, consider these tips for a smoother, less stressful experience.
- Change the baby’s diaper just before your trip begins. Airplane, rail and gas station bathrooms don’t provide much elbow room, even if they do have changing tables. The fewer changes you need to make while traveling, the better for both of you. After all, a dry baby is a happy baby.
- Prep for ear pain if traveling by air. Changes in cabin pressure can cause pain to young, sensitive ears. Breast- or bottle-feeding, as well as sucking on a pacifier, can soothe discomfort. If your little one is sick, check with your doctor before traveling.
- Plan to travel around your baby’s sleep schedule whenever possible. If you have the option, elect to travel at times that won’t disrupt your baby’s sleeping patterns. “Starting your trip with a well-rested baby and having a sleep plan to get back on track once you arrive is like gold for parents who want a memorable travel experience,” says Cara Dumaplin, founder of Taking Cara Babies and mom of four.
If you follow tips from professionals and have the necessary essentials on hand, you’re in for a much more stress-free journey. Read on for 14 diaper bag checklist essentials that will make traveling with a baby much easier.
It seems obvious to pack diapers when you’re traveling, right? Sure, until you miscalculate how many you’ll need and you’re scrambling to find a fresh pack in a crowded airport or an unfamiliar city. “Try packing one diaper for every hour you’ll be out and about,” Dumaplin says. This ensures you’re prepared if flight delays or road traffic extend your travel longer than expected. Pampers has a wide range of diaper styles for every age and stage, even preemies and newborns who need umbilical cord cutouts to be comfortable. Each diaper comes with a wetness indicator so you can change your baby before they even realize they’re wet.
A portable white noise machine
for travel may seem like a frivolous extra to the novice parent, but having four kids has taught Dumaplin it can be a lifesaver. “I love a small, portable sound machine,” she says. “That rumbling white noise is soothing, prevents overstimulation and cues your baby's brain that it's time for sleep.” Use it during travel and at your destination to soothe your little one — and perhaps even you — for some much-needed shut-eye.
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Almost every travel parent expert we spoke to highlighted the importance of traveling with a sturdy baby carrier that supports your baby in a variety of positions. “My number one diaper bag essential for travel is the Lillebaby Complete Airflow Baby Carrier,” says Rachel Earls
, vlogger and mom of three with one more on the way. Earls says she used the Lillebaby carrier with each of three her sons from babyhood through the toddler years (the carrier can be used with babies and infants from 7 pounds to 45 pounds). “It’s easy to put on and it’s very supportive for my back during long travel days.”
The Lillebaby Complete Airflow Baby Carrier’s breathable mesh design minimizes sweat, a plus if you’re moving through theme parks or busy airports. Two-way adjustable straps allow you to customize the fit to your — and your baby’s — body, while strong lumbar support keeps your back from aching.
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“When people see clips like these, they typically think of pacifiers,” Dumaplin says. “But I love to loop these around snack cups, toys, teethers, blankets and pacifiers.” Cutie Clips are designed to easily clip onto just about anything, even large items such as your diaper bag
, a baby carrier
or your baby's clothes. “This makes them easy to find and protects them from falling on the floor when your baby drops them,” she adds. From beaded to braided, Cutie Clips come in several chic colors and styles,
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that leaving the house without baby wipes is pretty much unheard of, but even more so when traveling. Not only do they help during diaper changes, but they also can be used to wipe down pacifiers, toys and just about any surface your baby touches. Given that planes, trains and automobiles have a slew of allergens that babies may not yet have been exposed to, it’s more important than ever to pack plenty of baby wipes. These wipes from the Honest Company are gentle, hypoallergenic and 100% plant-based, so you don’t have to worry that your baby will suddenly have a reaction when you've got hours to go to reach your destination.
Items that serve dual purposes are ideal when traveling with a baby. Just ask Olympic gold medalist and mom of two Shawn Johnson, who is a huge fan of the Halo Easy Transition Sleepsack Wearable Blanket. It’s both a blanket and a cozy set of PJs, which helps your baby feel and stay comfy while giving you less bulk to lug around. A two-way zipper and tab covers at both the top and bottom make it easy to dress your baby and change their diaper, a plus when you’re in tight quarters, such as on a plane, a car or a train. Moms love that it’s just thick enough to provide some weight when the baby starts to kick, helping them stay calm and asleep without being so bulky that they can’t move around.
If the idea of using anything disposable makes you cringe, having to reuse a dirty bib while traveling will only make you cringe harder. That’s why the dads behind Alex Squared Adventures
prefer Mighty Clean Baby Disposable Bibs. “We learned the hard way that regular fabric bibs quickly got stinky in our daughter’s diaper bag and we had to wash them often,” says Alex Mattey, one half of the duo. “We tried these disposable ones and besides being convenient to use and toss, we found we can use each one twice before we toss them. They also have a waterproof liner that keeps our baby dry underneath, even when there are spills.” Adhesive clasps and an adjustable neck closure ensure the bib stays put through feedings, while the pocket at the bottom catches crumbs and spills.
A pacifier is a must-have, especially when you’re traveling. These uber-popular combos are a hit because they’re both a soothing pacifier and a snuggle buddy in one. Made of BPA-free silicone, the pacifier has an orthodontic nipple that won’t interfere with your baby's teeth if they’re starting to come in. The soft and lightweight plush helps keep the pacifier near the baby at all times — a boon when you’re traveling. Both pieces detach for easy cleaning, and the pacifier itself is dishwasher-safe. The best part? There are six adorable animal plushies to choose from.
Another double-duty wonder that’s perfect for travel, the Sassy Ring o’ Links is both a rattle and a chew for teething babies. Just clip the links together on the ring to form the rattle. BPA-free plastic means you can let your little one lick, suck and bite the toy worry-free. Just wipe it with a sanitizing towel or dip it in warm soap and water for an easy rinse whenever needed.
Babies get dirty. They spit up. Sometimes they even get wet. Handling all that while on a plane, train or inside a car can be a real challenge because the last thing you want to do is soil the rest of your baby’s gear — or your own. This waterproof bag can easily fold down when not in use, so it doesn’t take up room in your diaper bag until you're ready to use it. It’s big enough to accommodate clothes, toys, bottles and more, plus it’s washable, reusable and has heat-sealed seams that keep the yucky stuff from spilling out. A snap handle makes it easy to clip it to your stroller, diaper bag or suitcase
, and it comes in 10 adorable prints and patterns.
With a wide neck, flexible nipples that promote a natural latch, an anti-colic system to prevent tummy discomfort and only a few parts to clean, this two-pack bottle set is ideal for traveling with a baby. Each bottle holds up to 9 ounces, making it ideal whether your baby is a newborn taking in just 4 ounces at a time or they’ve graduated to 8 ounces at every feeding. It comes with only one size nipple that’s ideal for newborns, but Philips Avent nipples are sold on their own in various sizes
, making it easy to find the perfect fit for your baby’s age and stage.
Having the right bottles for travel
is one thing, but being able to clean them quickly and easily while on the road is another. “This set is very compact, which helps us pack fewer bottles and still feed our baby as much as needed,” Mattey says. “It comes in handy when visiting museums and attractions as we can wash her bottle almost anywhere.” BPA-free and dishwasher safe, the set includes a baby bottle brush with an extendable wand, a nipple brush, a straw brush, a drying rack, baby bottle soap dispenser and a container case that can double as a bottle warmer. Pack all or a few of the pieces — depending on your travel needs — to make cleaning bottles on the go easier.
If there’s one thing you can’t control when you’re traveling, it’s often the temperature. So, dressing your baby in layers becomes more important than ever. Carter’s Three-Piece Layering Sets come in a wide range of colors and styles and always include a short-sleeved onesie, elastic pants that are easy to pull on and off and a cardigan, pullover or vest for moments when the baby seems cold. It’s a good idea to pack more than one set, just in case you’re hit with delays or spills and you need to change your baby more than once.
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The worst thing you can do is wait until your baby has a red-hot diaper rash to apply an ointment. Boudreaux's Butt Paste can both prevent and treat diaper rash on contact, providing a healing sensation whether your baby is dealing with a bad case of rash or not. The primary ingredient is FDA-approved zinc oxide, which heals pretty much on contact. One mom who said she’d tried several diaper cream brands said, “It's the only cream that will stop any diaper rash within a couple of applications.”
The right diaper bag essentials can help ensure a smoother experience when you’re traveling with a baby. Whatever you do, don’t let the stares or glares of other travelers bother you if your baby cries or becomes fussy. Most people have had similar experiences themselves and can relate, and as long as you’re doing your best to take care of your baby and yourself, that’s all that matters.
Check out CNN Underscored’s guide to the best travel credit cards currently available.