It’s exciting to have your family meet and spend time with your new baby. Traveling to get there can be a bit of a headache though.
Trying to figure out what baby travel products are worth it, and which ones you can pass on isn’t always clear. Even though you may be staying with loved ones who are going to have a few more amenities than a hotel, there are still a few question marks. How much do you lug with you? How much can you just use there? How do you maintain the groove (or sort of groove) you’ve established at home?
I’ve found some excellent baby travel products that you pack in the car or even take on a plane, but that said, YOU DO NOT NEED ALL OF THIS. I just wanted to get a few things on your radar so you know what’s out there to get you thinking like, “Oh yeah, mom’s dog goes bananas anytime someone sets foot in the room. How are we going to swing naps?”
Here are some of the best baby travel products:
Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard
As far as baby travel products go, this Chicco Alfa Lite is a great choice for a few reasons. It’s easy to set up, it has high sides so it can double as a playard, and it can be used for babies that roll. It has the side zip so you can put the baby in there from the side rather than lowering them in from the top, so you don’t have to worry about a not-so-gentle lowering of a sleeping infant due to postpartum lack of core strength (just me?). The side zip is also handy if you nurse your baby to sleep and want to crawl in there. You can buy one here.
Note: a cheaper alternative is the pack n’ play. They are a little more work to set up and heavier, but they are less expensive, and if you’re driving to your destination and setting it up once, who cares, right? (Second note: have your baby sleep in the pack n’ play bassinet and not the napper – it’s only safe for hanging out and not safe for extended sleep.) BabyBjörn Travel Crib and the Lotus Travel Crib are also lovely but more expensive.
If you’ve established a great sleep routine that’s about to go out the window (see what I did there?), you can consider investing in a Gro-Anywhere blind. The suction cups adhere to windows and frames to block out the sun if your baby needs a nap at high noon. You can buy one here.
Portable Noise Machine
Babies love noise but sometimes new noise like your mother-in-law’s hysterical terrier or your Uncle Mike’s unmistakable laugh is going to throw a wrench into nap time. This tiny sound machine has five fan sounds, four white/pink/brown noise variations, and two ocean surf sounds for falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. It's also Bluetooth compatible, so you can play your baby's favorite playlist. You can buy one here.
Portable Activity Seat
Not only is this activity center great for travel, but it’s also great for picnics, camping, or plain old space saving when you don’t want a giant “circle of neglect” in your living room. It folds up like a camping chair and slips into a bag. The mat below protects little feet on grass, stones or questionable floors. Hook some of these rings onto it with a couple of inexpensive, never seen before toys and you’ll have a whole minute of quiet time! You can buy one here.
Inflatable bathtubs are lightweight and portable and come in handy if your destination has a giant tub or no tub at all. I like this Mommy’s Helper Inflatable Bath Tub because it has the ‘crotch stopper’ for kids who slide down in the tub. These are also great for camping or summer backyard ‘pool parties’ when you want to change it up a little. You can find it here on Amazon.
Note: these suckers may be small, but a baby can easily drown one so don’t leave them unattended. You already know that, though. You’re super smart.
Portable High Chair
Once your baby can sit up, portable high chairs are a great way to keep them involved at mealtime. Another reason is that they’re a great baby travel product: they are a nice way to keep babies safe in a space that isn’t baby-proofed like your pad. I love the Inglesina Fast Table Chair because it’s easy to clip on and your baby is right up at everyone’s height. You can find it in a variety of colors here.
Travel Drying Rack
This portable drying rack from Boon is great for bottles and comes with a built in drying rack. It all folds up into and tidy carrying case, making it a shoo-in for the best baby travel products lists. You can buy one here.
Umbrella strollers are lightweight, easy to carry and a great alternative to carrying a baby around with you all day – especially when they are out of the newborn phase. I’m often asked about umbrella strollers, which is a whole post in itself, but here are my top three picks to get you started. If you’re traveling with an infant car seat, check out the Snap n’Go.
- Easy fold
- Baby Jogger has great resale value
- Relatively inexpensive
- Decent canopy and storage
- Super compact
- Easily fits most overhead airplane bins
Note: If you are checking a stroller or car seat at the airport, have a look at a Car Seat Travel Bag or a Stroller Travel Bag. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to protect a pricey piece of baby gear.
Think about whether you even need a stroller. You may be able to get away with your carrier or sling for the trip, plus you can tie that baby onto other members of the family – “Here, dad, let me tether this screaming kid to you for your evening walk. Love you!!” The carrier featured above is the Ergobaby Omni 360.
Portable Safety Gate
If you’re headed somewhere with a crawler or early walker, this travel gate is held up with pressure (no screwing hardware into the wall) and rolls up for easy transport. Evenflo also makes a wider version. These are best suited if you’re trying to keep a curious baby out of a kitchen or room of antique china and not suited for the top of the stairs or over-enthusiastic large dogs. You can buy one here.
Portable Sliding Locks
There are always one or two spots a baby shouldn’t venture and these sliding locks are super easy to install and relatively inexpensive. You can buy them here.
Sometimes it’s just easier to secure the baby rather than trying to secure the house. Plus, baby gates can be challenging for some people to navigate (i.e, Auntie Barb after the box of wine above). This portable baby thunderdome is excellent to have at home, in the backyard, or taking on the road. You can even get one with a canopy if you are going to be in a sunny spot. You can buy one here.
Another hack is to pack a baby pool. Simply inflate that sucker, fill it with toys and let the fun times begin. It only works with new crawlers who are happy staying put – if you have a determined adventurer, stick with the thunderdome.
- Packing list: write your list over the course of a day so you don’t forget the mundane stuff. (This is how I forget socks.)
- Just in case stuff: medicine, diaper rash cream, nail clippers, insurance cards, etc. are stuff that you may not use day-to-day but may be a pain in the butt to track down while away.
- Weather: Keep the weather conditions of your destination in mind. Will you need something warm for the baby or perhaps the hats and sunscreen you’ve tucked away for the season?
- Ship Ahead: Think about shipping extra diapers, wipes, formula, or new gear to where you are going rather than hauling them with you in the car or on the plane.
- Renting: consider renting baby items and have them sent directly to your destination. Google “rent baby gear <city>” to see if there is a service nearby. We have an excellent post on it here.
- Prepare: Brush up (or have your family brush up) on things like Surprising (and Not so Surprising) Choking Hazards for Babies and Top Tips for Introducing Pets to Your Baby, so there are no unpleasant encounters with a bowl of loose peppermints or a wary chihuahua.
Most of all, take it in stride.
Chances are your baby will throw a fit in front of your Uncle Mike, who says, “kids are spoiled these days,” while a drunken Auntie Barb wipes out on the baby gate, but who cares. Hand the baby off to a friendly relative, dip into the box wine and enjoy the magical time spent with your one-of-a-kind family.
Happy travels, and let me know if there is anything else you would add to the list!
Related: Is It Worth Renting Baby Gear When You Travel?