I've logged 40+ flights with my little ones and have tested a lot of baby essentials for travel over the years. Traveling with babies from DC to Europe and Asia 4 times and dozens of domestic flights, I have my favorites. Below is my Must-Have gear with some cheap/free swaps included too!
I've used all of these items with my kids. Preparation is key when traveling with babies so the list is organized by:
- Baby Must-Haves for All Types of Travel (6)
- Traveling by Plane (9)
- Hotel Baby Travel Essentials(9)
- Car Travel Must Haves (6)
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Baby Essentials for Travel of All Types
We use washable bibs at home but when traveling any less laundry is great! These disposables bibs have an absorbent layer plus a liner to keep kiddos dry. I also like that there are 4 per pack so you can just throw one into your diaper bag for the trip!
Disposable Stick-On Placemats (I always have these in my bag!)
I always have Disposable Stick-On Placemats in my bag for restaurants, airplane trays, and in-law houses. They have 4 stickers on the back so you can put them around the edges to keep everything clean. There are different designs including Disney and usually around 40 cents each.
I could never find good window shades that stayed up on my windows so Baby Sunglasses is a great solution to sun in a baby's eyes. I would not recommend the strap while in the car for safety reasons. I recently tested these Cocosand sunglasses and was really impressed with the quality. Easy to see why they have a full 5 star rating and 5,400+ reviews!
If you are nursing, a cover is essential on the plane. Many times the sights and sounds on the plane can be distracting for little ones and a cover helps them focus (and maybe even fall asleep!) I believe this is the nursing cover I used but there are tons of great ones. The best for me was with a small arch so the baby and I could see each other.
Baby Carrier - Top Baby Essentials for Travel
Wherever your travels take you, a baby carrier will make it a little easier! I am a loyal Ergo user and used ours from infant to 4 years old for my two children. The Ergobaby 360 All-Position Baby Carrier with Lumbar Support and Air Mesh is versatile for long hikes or a brisk walk to your airport gate. Because it ranges from 12 to 45 pounds, this can be one of your only carriers. I used all of the different positions: front carry, front carry (5+ months), hip carry, and back carry (6+ months).
Spill Proof Water Cup - If you don't already have... my #1 of Baby Essentials for any travel
You might have already have these famous cups but just in case not, my 3 favorite things about the Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup!
- Spill proof, really
- Handles are great for older babies and young toddlers
- Lids and handles are interchangeable with other models as they get older.
I've used this Skip Hop Pronto Changing Pad on trains in Switzerland, planes to Taiwan, and everywhere in between! I like that there is a cushion on the pad, wider at the arms for babies when they wiggle, space for a couple of diapers, a wipe container, and a big strap to put on your arm.
The Best Travel Stroller (13 lbs. under $100 and reclines!)
The Summer 3Dlite Convenience Stroller is my favorite travel stroller by far. We purchased one and it lasted through over a dozen international trips and 4 years. And then we purchased a second one. The best part is that it's affordable and still has 4 different reclining positions. It is also super lightweight and easy to maneuver.
Painter's Tape - Mom Hack of Baby Essentials for Travel
MOM HACK: This may seem like odd to add to a list of baby essentials for travel but hear me out! Painters Tape is great for babyproofing in all cases. At a hotel, you can use blue tape to cover outlets, shut drawers and pull up cords. And it won't damage the paint or furniture when you pull it off! On the plane, painter's tape can cover the call attendant button or outlets.
Baby Essentials for Travel by Plane
Fun Snacks in a new pill box
MOM HACK: This is a fun surprise for your baby when you travel on a plane! Put small, safe snacks in a new pill box for them to open with you. My kids have loved cheerios, puffs, and other safe snacks in these. I bought mine at the Dollar Tree or this is the most affordable pillbox I found on Amazon :)
Fun Snack Containers! (Not good for car, just plane when you are next to them!)
We've used these Gate Check Bags for our Stroller and Car Seats for years and they hold up for about 2-3 round trip international flights. They are much cheaper than the padded ones but if you have an expensive stroller, consider those.
It's a rule in plane travel that as much as you try, everything will fall from the tray! This Foldable Tray Cover helps with that and keeps everything clean and tidy. My kids are older now and love using it!
Toy from Home for Takeoff/Landing
I always recommend parents bring a favorite toy, like a Sophie the giraffe, for your child to chew or suck on during take-off and landing. The chewing relieves pressure in their ears. Nursing is also amazing for take-off and landing!
Good Traveler Awards
My mom started this tradition when we were young and moving internationally. She would 'wrap' new, little toys in brown paper bags and we could open them as Good Traveler Awards. To this day, I still pack a couple of GTAs on our trips. These can be simple items from the dollar tree or a new coloring book. Here are a couple of ideas for babies on planes:
GTA = Good Traveler Award!
These spill-proof Snack Catchers are gold on a plane and very affordable.
Extra Clothes and Ziplock Bags
Friendly reminder to bring extra clothes for each traveler on the plane, not just the baby. I learned this lesson the hard way when our complimentary ANA wine spilled all over me and I met my new Taiwanese relatives smelling like alcohol!
MOM HACK: I always pack a couple of ziplock bags in my diaper bag to keep dirty clothes zipped up.
Hotel Baby Essentials for Travel
I never knew these soft Portable High Chair's existed before kids! We used these when traveling to grandparents' houses and when we visited Taiwan. I couldn't find out exactly one but this one was highly rated and rolls up to fit in your diaper bag.
We used this Portable Sound Machine for years and love that it can clip onto anything in your hotel room or car!
Portable Blackout Curtain + Free Hack
Jet lag and changed sleeping schedules are all the more difficult when the early sun wakes up your baby! I tested out these Portable Blackout Curtain with Window Suction Cups and it worked great!
MOM HACK: It is a little bulky for travel so another option is to use a hanger in your hotel that has clips for pants. Use the clips to close the curtains!
Bring your own sheet for the crib
A great packing tip that my daughter's pediatrician gave us is if you are going to borrow a crib from a hotel or friend, bring your own fitted sheet.
- It’s a lot softer than the harsh hotel bleached ones
- The smell will remind your child of home and help them sleep better!
If you don't have a pack n' play sheet, here are 100% Natural Cotton Fitted Pack N Play Sheets with 6,000+ reviews and 4.5 stars.
Depending on where you are visiting, a travel cot or portable bassinet is a baby travel essential. We've used the Koalaty 3-in-1 Universal Travel Bassinet, bag, and changing station. I love that it is lightweight and can even be packed in your luggage. The Koalaty is only for young babies for sleep (you could use it for older babies as a changing table.
For older babies, the Lotus Travel Crib is the most recommended. It folds into a 13 lbs backpack, includes a mattress, and is certified safe and non-toxic.
Blanket or Play Mat
If you have a scooter or crawler, I highly recommend bringing some sort of mat for the hotel floors... they can be pretty dirty! I usually just used a muslin blanket but here is a waterproof play mat that has high reviews and comes in a pouch!
I didn't think about bringing baby shampoo on my daughter's first trip but realized quickly I didn't want to use my soap on her! You can fill up their regular baby shampoo in a reusable container or use the always amazing California Baby Travel sizes.
A more affordable option is the Johnson's Baby Shampoo Travel Size.
Washcloth and Hair Tie
MOM HACK: If you are using the hotel bathtub, first put a washcloth and hair tie or rubber band around the nozzle. This puts a cushion around the sharp nozzle in case you or your baby brushes up against it.
Washcloth and Hair Tie Tip for Hotel Bathroom!
We didn't always travel with a baby monitor but when we did we used these very affordable Vtech travel monitors which are under 20 dollars.
Baby Essentials for Travel by Car
Toy Links - #1 of my Baby Essentials for Road Travel
This is my number 1 recommendation for baby travel essentials specifically for long car rides... Toy Links aka clips! I clip toys, water cups etc. It can be so hard to find things in the back seat once your baby in a rear-facing car seat drops them! Also great for planes and just as a fun non-droppable toy/chew toy for babies!
You might already have one but if not, a car mirror is a must-have baby travel essential! We used this Brica brand Car Mirror for all the years of rear facing car seats.
Board Books - Cars
Tons of great board books about cars and things that go!
- Counting Cars
- Car, Car, Truck, Jeep
- Richard Scarry's Car and Trucks from A to Z
- First 100 Trucks: And Things That Go
Baby Essentials - Travel Books with Clips
Books with activities like crinkling or tabs and all have clips so they don't fall!
And if you’re visiting DC with your baby, check out my full DC with Kids page including Things to Do with Babies in DC, VA and MD, Best Playgrounds in DC and Best Playgrounds in Northern Virginia and Maryland.