How to Travel With a Baby & Lessen the Stress

Updated February 15, 2022
Woman traveling with her baby

Traveling with a baby can be intimidating because you need to anticipate and be prepared to meet many needs and possible eventualities that may arise for your little one while away from home. What do you pack? How do you stay organized? Yes, there is a lot to think about when it comes to babies and travel, but it can be done, especially when you know the tips and tricks that will make the adventure more manageable and less stressful.

Expert Tips for Traveling With Babies

A successful travel experience with little ones involves thought and consideration every step of the way. You need to plan like a champ, organize like a boss, and avoid common mistakes. It really is that simple, as author and organizational expert Tonia Tomlin emphasizes in her business and in her daily life. The Plano, Texas mom of multiples who owns Sorted Out, aims to help parents get out and see the world, with baby in tow, while leaving stress and chaos behind.

Tips for Traveling With a Baby: Packing Makes Perfect

Happy mother with her child packing clothes for holiday

Packing for a trip with babies is an art form, and if you manage to do this right, you are already off to a successful start for your vacation. Tomlin suggests parents pay particular attention to the packing phase of the journey, to ensure they aren't without a major necessity while in transit or during the vacation stay. The items that make her "must-have" list include:

  • Snacks for travel - Remember that snacks given during air travel are minimal, and picky eaters might fare better with nibbles from home. Breastfeeding mamas need to consume constant calories as well, so be sure to travel with nutrition.
  • First aid kit - Choose one that can easily fit into your carry-on and contains medications, band-aids, and a thermometer.
  • Car seat and stroller - Choose a lightweight version of both of these must-have baby travel items.
  • Pack-n-Play - Pack one per child, but first, check with your accommodations to see if they have cribs on property before lugging these on your trip.

Tomlin encourages parents to think about what they can buy once they arrive at their final destination. Only pack what you will need during travel, and purchase the rest once you get to where you are going. This will make for a far lighter load.

Must-Have Diaper Bag Items for Travel

Mom and Newborn Baby in a Home

When you are roaming about town or running a quick errand with your baby, you likely throw a few essentials into your trusty diaper bag, and out the door, you go! When traveling on lengthy trips, Tomlin suggests parents spend some extra time packing and organizing the diaper bag, especially if traveling by plane. In addition to the typical items parents keep in their diaper bag, consider including:

  • Enough diapers and wipes for the journey
  • Rash cream
  • Large plastic bags for soiled clothing
  • Sanitizer or antibacterial wipes
  • Formula and clean bottles to last you through travel
  • One to two changes of clothing
  • One to two burp cloths
  • Several pacifiers
  • A few small objects to keep baby's attention (toys or books)

Spend some time placing items in the bag where they make the most sense. You don't want to be rummaging through your diaper bag looking for a pacifier as your baby screams their head off mid-flight. Tomlin also suggests parents consider the size of their diaper bag. If you are traveling via plane, your diaper bag will need to fit below the airplane seat. Be sure yours does, and if you think it might be too large, purchase a smaller one for travel purposes.

Staying Organized and Staying Sane

Staying organized in your travels with baby is key to staying sane. Tomlin can't stress this point enough. Organization begins during the planning phase of travel and continues throughout the trip.

Stick with Simple Organization Systems

Don't abandon structure and routine just because you are on vacation. Routine is key for babies and for parents who need to run the daily ship smoothly. Feeding and sleeping schedules should be adhered to as much as possible during your travel experience. Another organizational system parents can try is the daily check system. Once each day, do a daily check of supplies. Know what you need, what you are almost out of, and remind yourself where everything is. Spending ten minutes doing this means spending the other 23 hours and 50 minutes doing fun things!

Lastly, have a system for all of that dirty laundry. Vacation doesn't mean daily chores disappear, and this includes laundering clothes and baby bedding. Pack light and work in time to do laundry (if laundry facilities are at or near your accommodations). Have travel laundry soap, a mesh or collapsable bag for laundry, and a block of time carved out to replenish clean clothes and linens.

Be in the Know With Travel Regulations

Long before departure day, be sure you are in the know with all travel regulations. Call your airport and double-check all necessary documentation to fly with your baby. This is particularly crucial for families traveling internationally. Cruise ships also have their own set of travel regulations that parents need to follow. Connect with the appropriate people regarding those regulations before setting sail.

When looking into travel regulations, double-check any cruise and air travel policies regarding items that can be carried on and packed. The last thing you want is to be held up at port or the plane gate trying to unload stuff you aren't permitted to travel with.

Protect Valuables

When traveling with tots, your brain will be in a million places all at once. You'll be thinking of whether the diapers and wipes will last, if your baby will scream their head off mid-air, where you put that back-up pacifier, and a million other things that will divert your attention from details like where you stored the car keys or other valuables. With all the attention on the kids, seemingly natural things like storing currency and essential items fall to the wayside.

Tomlin encourages parents to keep those crucial items in some sort of impact-resistant, watertight and buoyant container. Also, carry more cards and less cash on you. Store your car keys in the container, especially if you won't need them until you arrive back at your home airport. Once you are at your hotel, pop the container in a safe provided by the hotel.

Pack Practical Baby Clothing Items

Fight the urge to bring multiple infant outfits for each day you vacation. Yes, they are all so cute and will all look darling on your Instagram, but this is a baby we are talking about, not Beyonce. Tomlin stresses the concept of packing practical clothing items that wash easily, wrinkle little, and can be interchanged with other garments. Another excellent packing tip (for infants and adults alike) is to roll clothing before packing. Rolled clothing takes up less space in suitcases and remains more wrinkle-free compared to folded items. Don't forget baby hats, swimwear, sunblock and other items you may need depending on your destination.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling With Babies

No parent is perfect when it comes to travel or otherwise. Sure, you will make some missteps, that is to be expected, as you are only human! While parental perfection is impossible and should not even be in your scope, avoiding common travel mistakes can make you feel like a rockstar in the travel department.

Don't Overpack

Over-packing is one of the most common mistakes parents make. The fear of going without trumps the fear of being saddled with too much. You really can travel with babies and not over or under pack. Take what you need, but consider what your rental property will have for you to borrow, and think about what you can purchase once you reach your destination.

Make Lists

Lists are wonderful tools to help you stay organized and on track. Take all the "to-do's" rumbling around in your brain and transfer the chaos to paper. You can see what needs to be done, and check off tasks you have completed.

Don't Wing It: Plan Ahead When You Can

Spontaneity can be exhilarating, but not when it comes to travel and infants. When traveling with tots, plan whatever you can ahead of time. Putting work in at the front end of travel will save you so much stress and time once you settle into vacation mode. Check into your flight early, call the hotel and ask them to hold your bags at the front desk if you will be arriving before check-in time, reserve an Uber before you leave the tarmac upon landing; whatever you can do prematurely, do it!

Don't Assume All Airplane Seating Is the Same

Young mom playing her baby boy on board of aircraft

Look into seating on airplanes. Ask for a seat directly over the engines if you are traveling with an infant. The engine's sound has a lulling effect on little ones, which might make for an easy and relaxing flight for baby, you, and other travelers.

Don't Overlook Comfort Items

Don't forget to download your infant's favorite videos and bring along their beloved stuffed animal or blanket (tip: buy a duplicate of this prized item if possible, so if it goes missing during travel, baby still has the item upon returning home). Travel can be uncomfortable and overstimulating for babies, so be sure to bring items that might remind them of the comforts of home.

Purchase Baby Their Own Seat for the Flights

If it fits your budget, purchase a ticket for your baby and let them have their own seat (with a car seat, of course). This is especially important if your infant is used to falling asleep without being in your arms. Having free hands for periods of time will also make the travel experience a bit more delightful for you as well.

Don't Be Afraid of Traveling With Tots

While you might have apprehension heading into a travel experience with a baby, know that you can do this. Now that you are equipped with the planning and organizational tips and tools to help you get on the road or into the sky, you and your tot can head out and see the world! There is no adventure the two of you can't tackle now that you have a better idea of what you need for travel success. Get planning, get packing and get out and have some fun!

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