It doesn't matter how many frequent-flyer miles you have: Traveling alone is a completely different experience than traveling with a baby. A mom's gotta be smart about what to pack to make trips with a baby easier, whether your destination is the beach, the mountains, or just Grandma's house.
Pre-kids, my travel routine looked something like this: Book last-minute trip somewhere fabulous. Arrive at airport just before departure, slink onto plane with one single carry-on, and curl up in the window seat with an adult beverage in one hand and a good book in the other.
Post-kids, things have changed. Whether we're traveling by plane, train or automobile, I've swapped my single piece of luggage for strollers, car seats, multiple suitcases and a bag full of tricks to rival Mary Poppins, all to survive traveling with a baby. (I could still go for that adult beverage, but I now reserve that for after we arrive at our destination.)
In addition to the baby travel basics you're already bringing, the products here will help make your getaway with your little one even easier — both for the getting there and the "we're here, now what?" part of the trip — so you can stress less, relax more, and enjoy your adventure.
1. A Portable Sound Machine
There's a lot that can wake your slumbering baby while you're traveling: Noisy hotel neighbors, loud restaurants, traffic — pretty much anything out of your baby's typical routine is a potential wake-up hazard. To help your little one sleep more soundly, bring along a portable white noise machine like the Marpac Hushh (the travel-size sibling of the ever-popular Dohm). It features three different sound options to choose from, a baby-safe clip to attach it to a car seat or stroller, and the ability to be used plugged in or on the go.
2. A Three-In-One Play Yard For Day Or Night
You can get away with skimping on a lot when traveling, but it's no question: Your baby needs a safe place to sleep at night. Fisher-Price knocked it out of the park with their Ultra-Lite Day and Night Play Yard, which offers that and more. It's especially a lifesaver for moms whose babies prefer to sleep on an incline (think Rock 'n Play, minus the rock).
3. A Lightweight Umbrella Stroller That's Not Light On Features
Unless your travel plans include daily runs with your baby (in which case, way to go, girl!), don't bring your massive jogging stroller with you on vacation. Same goes for other giant strollers (stroller SUVs, as I like to call them). No, traveling calls for a lightweight, easy-to-fold umbrella stroller. The UPPAbaby G-Luxe pairs the simplicity of a standard umbrella stroller with features of its SUV cousins: Near-flat recline, huge sunshade, cup holder, storage basket...the list goes on. Got two babies? Check out the double version.
4. A Collapsible Drying Rack
You may be on vacation, but those baby bottles aren't going to wash themselves. Instead of packing up your entire bottle-washing system, grab one of these travel-size drying racks by OXO. The included bottle brush with silicone detail cleaner stows neatly inside the case, and the elevated tines ensure your baby's gear dries hygienically.
5. A Bottle When You Need It
Traveling with babies often means long days away from the comforts of home (or your hotel room, as the case may be), but if you're formula feeding, you do not want to find yourself miles from your bottle supply with a hungry baby in tow. Keep this water-bottle adapter in your bag to convert almost any standard water bottle into a baby bottle. Don't forget single-serve packets of powdered formula, and you've got a meal on-the-go.
6. Protection For Your Electronics
Traveling is the one time when all rules go out the window. At home, we tend to cap screen time at 30 minutes a day, but for planes, trains, and automobiles, things are different. Protect your expensive electronics with this playful, flexible iPad case made of a lightweight foam. He even stands upright on his own, making zoning out in front of Daniel Tiger even easier.
7. An Activity That Never Runs Out Of Batteries
Entertaining kids confined to a car seat or your arms for hours on end is difficult. Rather than dumping your entire toy bin into your carry-on, choose toys that provide endless entertainment. This reusable coloring pad requires nothing more than a bit of water — just pour it into the included pen — and scribble away to reveal the colors hidden on the paper. Your budding Picasso's masterpiece will disappear when the water dries, meaning it can get used again and again. Note: Water Wow! comes in other designs, like Fairy Tale, Vehicles and Alphabet.
8. A Comfortable Baby Carrier
Even if you don't make a habit of baby-wearing at home, having an ergonomic, soft-structured baby carrier with you while traveling can make things much easier, not least because babies off their typical nap schedules may sleep better when snuggled in with Mom. It'll also make flying with an infant in arms (that is, when you don't have a separate seat for your baby) less exhausting, and keep in mind certain historical sites and museums don't allow strollers. (Basically, just bring one.)
9. An Easier Way To Get Through The Airport
Getting around with an infant car seat is pretty easy, but a heavy, convertible car seat is a whole other story, even if you're as strong as Michelle Obama. To make things easier, you can lighten your airport (or train station) load with this easy-to-maneuver, wheeled car seat dolly. Simply use the straps to attach your car seat (check to see if your car seat is compatible here), and off you go.
10. A Four-in-One Cover
Since space is at a premium when traveling, products that do double-duty are essential. This multi-use baby cover kicks that up a few notches by performing four separate tasks with one piece of stretchy, jersey fabric. Use it as a car seat cover (great for keeping germs and strangers' hands at bay), a nursing cover, or to cover a high chair or shopping cart.
11. Disposable Hand & Face Wipes
No matter where you're traveling – or how you're getting there – the one constant you can be sure of is germs will be with you every step of the way. Use these alcohol-free wipes to sanitize everything from airplane tray tables (gross) to hotel remote controls (gross) to your baby's hands and face themselves (cute, but all those invisible germs on them? Gross.).
12. A Scented Sack For Diapers (And More)
Packing a diaper pail probably isn't the best use of your carry-on space, but fear not: That doesn't mean you have to live with Eau de Baby Poop for your entire vacation. Stash these scented, disposable diaper sacks in your bag to keep your temporary digs powder-fresh. Pro-tip: You can also use them while en route to keep trash contained.
13. Pain And Fever Medication – Just In Case
Of course, your vacation is going to be amazing and wonderful and nothing could possibly go wrong. After all, you've done so much excellent planning, and you've packed so carefully! That said, your baby may have different plans. Keep baby-safe medication on hand in case of an untimely fever or pain (hello, baby teeth) so you can all get back to enjoying your vacation.
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