50 essentials for traveling with a baby

What helped us most while on the road, in flight, and other times in between

When we left New York in March to travel as a family for the year, our daughter Eliza was almost 8 months old. Since then, we started Bond & Thomas as a resource to share highlights and tips. To mark our 50th post today, we’ve reflected on the 50 essentials that have made traveling with a little one a great deal more manageable. Whether you’re planning for a weekend getaway by car, or daydreaming of an around-the-world ticket—whether your baby is a few months old or you already have years of parenthood behind you—we hope these tips help make your adventures a little easier, as they have for us.

Sleep GearNavigating time zones and different sleeping arrangements sometimes proved tricky for nap times and bedtimes, but this gear helped us (all) get through the night.

1. Travel crib: We have the Lotus Travel Crib and love it, especially because it’s portable and lightweight.

2. A sleep sack: Like this one, the fuzzier the better. This helped her stay warm and cozy through the night.

3. Double zipped pajamas: Easy on/off and they make diaper changes a whole lot easier.

4. A lightweight cotton blanket: We used a pineapple blanket from our friend Amy throughout different climates and seasons. It paired well with everything except maybe her pineapple outfit.

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This photo contains 5 of our essentials (!)

 

Toys: We try to travel with few (i.e., anything can be a toy), but these ones made the cut.

5. Sophie la girafe: We felt a silly solidarity with other parents every time we saw a baby also chomping down on one.

6. Indestructibles books: They are perfect for travel and a baby who likes to try to rip things. Our favorites were Baby Animals and Baby, Let’s Eat (thanks, Nana).

7. Crayons: There are so many tactile development benefits. But do monitor children closely unless you’d like like to leave a Picasso-esque wall or two at your hotel room.

8. Plain index cards: Fun for little ones to sort and also double as a creative canvas for crayons.

9. Business cards: Again, great for sorting purposes and to give your baby a sense of what office life will be like one day. Seriously, Eliza entertained herself for an hour the first time we gave her a few.

10. Stacking cups: Lots of fun and they take up so little space. We give to her at bedtime and often hear them being tossed from her crib before she finally succumbs to sleep.

11. A baby bear: Pick a favorite stuffed animal or doll and your child will have a new friend for life or at least your travels. In our case, a gift from a cousin meant that we had a little bear with Eliza constantly.

12. Colorful blocks (thanks, Marmie): We’ve traveled with these since Eliza was 3 months old, always bringing 3 or 4 at a time, and now we realize they’re mostly missing, which we consider a series of little gifts to the world.

13. A spinning wheel: It can easily attach to most any surface and helped buy some entertainment time on our flights.

14. A kazoo: Sean found one in a local musical instrument shop in Hokitika, New Zealand and Cathlin wondered whether this was a curse on both of us, but it ended up being so cute and fun.

15. Non-English books: These help her (ahem, us too) learn a second or third language. Thanks to Sean’s cousins in Poland for our Polish books, our friend Meggie for her French book, and each other in Spain for Spanish books to help Eliza learn farm animals and rock’n’roll.

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A signature Eliza airport move called “throw the toys and run”

 

Food: Yes, you can feed your child what you eat along the way, but also be armed with so many snacks. Many of these double as healthy parent food.

16. Almond butter packets: High in fat (in a good way!) and energizing and perfectly portioned.

17. Raisins: Because who doesn’t like raisins?! Besides Sean.

18. Rice cakes: They might make a mess but last for so long and are a good vehicle for almond butter.

19. Dried apples and pears: Nothing wrong with keeping it simple.

20. Banana bites: These are pricey but wow, they taste like a healthier banana bread and last a really long time. These are great for places that don’t tend to have fresh bananas available when you have a baby who goes wild over ‘em.

21. Unsalted pretzel sticks: These take Eliza so long to eat and buy us time when she’s hungry before a meal. Or you can choose the salted variety, but allow yourself enough time to knock off the salt granules. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve done this.

22. Plain cooked pasta: Don’t knock it until you try it cold – we’ve shared this snack with Eliza and it’s actually pretty darn tasty. Use penne or another bite sized type.

23. Dry cereal: Corn flakes and other varieties aren’t bad and take a while to get stale.

24. Unsweetened oatmeal packets: Easy to make even in a hotel room without a kitchen, since all you need is boiling water (and a little patience, and a non-picky baby helps).

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Speaking of food…just because your baby is curious about what Vegemite tastes like doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to give it to her

 

Gear: Parenthood means you might try to bring everything but the kitchen sink, but at least bring smaller versions of everything.

25. Baby Bjorn carrier: This was the greatest before we traveled; Sean has the happiest memories of walking around the Lower East Side of Manhattan before dawn during the earliest months of Eliza’s life… but the same in Paris, and anywhere.

26. Britax Holiday Stroller: We were a little skeptical and the cost seemed high at first but oh how good. It folds up to practically nothing.

27. Diaper changing mat: We had one that’s easily washed by hand that’s helpful whether you’re changing on the edge of a bed, the backseat of a car, or in a public park.

28. Pacifiers: Even though she kicked the pacifier habit because we only brought a few and lost them all early on.

29. Pacifier clips: Though again, we didn’t have much use for them after losing the pacifiers.

30. This duck bath: Oh my goodness, how funny it was when Cathlin walked in and found Sean inflating it. Eliza’s happiness with it was endless. We didn’t travel with it to most places, only in Ireland, but it’s a great and lightweight find.

31. Stacking travel cups: Cathlin received these for free from the Women’s Travel Fest but sadly lost them somewhere along the way.

32. Bibs: We ended up using more than we thought we’d need. Find ones that are cheap and washable and easy to throw in your pocket.

33. Baby spoons: Ditto on the above—bring more than you think you’ll need or be willing to buy more at each step on the way.

34. Electrical tape: We used it to cover up outlets in hotel rooms and Airbnbs.

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Clothing: Sean’s travel advice is “bring clothes. wear them.” But some items proved better than others.

35. Lamb cardigan: People love babies, and they really love when babies wear animal outfits. Thanks to our friend Ash for an adorable deer hoodie, which unfortunately was often referred to as Bambi and therefore left us feeling rather nervous for ourselves…

36. Plain onesies: They’re cheap and they go with everything, help babies stay warm and there’s no harm in spilling since they’re easy to clean (and ultimately discard if you’re out of room).

37. Red moccasins: Good for crawling or early walking days but most any shoes will work.

38. Sunhat: Highly protective, especially if it takes your baby longer to grow hair. You can also do a daily local search for the UV Index so you have a realistic sense of the risk.

39. Head to toe pineapples: Is there anything cuter than a baby wearing fruit?!

40. Animal socks: These fit Eliza for a long time (they’re marked from 0-2 years). There are several pairs, so if you tragically lose one, it’s ok. It was helpful with Eliza learning animal noises, so if you want a laugh, have her put her walrus socks on.

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Hygiene/Medical: Staying healthy is important. These things helped.

41.Thermometer: For reassurance that it isn’t a high temperature, as much as affirmation it is.

42. Baby nail clippers: They’re less likely to cause tears.

43. A teething toy: Our pick was The Bitten Mitten teething toy; Eliza’s Michigan indoctrination began young.

44. Ziploc bags: We bring multiple in all different sizes. We hate relying on plastic, but found these so helpful.

45. Lucas’ Papaw ointment: It can be used for everything from chapstick to diaper rash (though you might want separate tubes for each :\). We picked this up in person in Australia but you can buy it online too.

46. A tube of SPF 50 baby sunscreen: This goes on easily and we also used on ourselves. But it’s only applicable if your baby is above six months.

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Lucas Papaw ointment on the left, doubling as a fun sorting toy for our daughter while I took in the art at the Dublin City Gallery

 

Technology:

47. White noise on YouTube: Only when we had wifi available and only when she went through a few “light sleeper” stages.

48. Google Photos app: This freed up space on our phones and made us laugh with random montages (sometimes hilariously bad), automatically created movies, and more.

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Who let the parents out? Taking a moment to enjoy a pre-flight drink while Eliza played nearby

 

Upgrades: Well, these aren’t actually upgrades, but they’re helpful touches

49. Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check: We have it for all of us, including Eliza. Yes, it felt a little ridiculous making an appointment for a four month old child, but it has made our overseas travels faster and easier.

50. Window seats on the airplane: Peering into the sky temporarily captures a baby’s attention time and time again, especially with views like this.

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