A guide to the best baby travel gear and baby travel essentials from travel experts and firsthand experience. Also, let me save you from the things you don’t need for flying with a baby…
As a shortcut, find the Amazon best baby travel gear list here.
The Best Baby Travel Gear and the Baby Travel Essentials
Flying with Baby
Baby Lab first flew with us at 3 months old and has been on over 20 flights since then, sometimes just with dad.
You can do it! But you do need to do a few things differently. Here’s a list of the baby travel essentials you need and how to use them.
You might also want to check out this article on how to breastfeed on a plane.
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The Baby Packing List At a Glance
The Baby Travel Essentials
The right travel gear makes for a smoother trip and happier families. Here’s what I think makes the essential baby travel products list. Ready? Let’s go.
Baby Sling or Baby Carrier
Most people put strollers or pushchairs at number one. For babies and for flying, a sling is indispensable. It frees your arms at security, while boarding the plane, and then while sightseeing. If your baby will only fall asleep while being rocked, you can do that in the sling and then doze yourself on the plane.
The one I’d recommend depends on the age of your baby and your personal comfort level. I’m a little on the short side and my husband is quite tall and we each had slings we preferred. Most slings seem to be designed with a woman’s frame in mind, so Mr Lab preferred the fabric DIY slings that he could adjust to fit. I loved the pre-assembled slings because I didn’t want to have to think while feeling so sleep deprived!
TRAVEL PUSHCHAIR OR STROLLER
OK, so this is next up! Most guides will advise you to buy a separate, travel pushchair but I’d advise thinking twice before you do this.
The advantages are obvious: travel strollers are lighter, they fold down smaller and they fit through airport security scanners.
However, they are bumpier, are also an added expense, and are more likely to break in the hold. They’re also something new to get to grips with at a time in life when you want things to be easy.
We used a beast of a pushchair for baby Lab. The car seat could clip in, so could a lie-flat bassinet and then it transformed to a standard, fold down pushchair that lasted until she was too old to need it.
And despite its size, we never had a problem at an airport. In fact, moving through the airport, it helped to carry the car seat on the pushchair with the other hand luggage and keep the baby in the sling ready for security.
take the buggy to the gate. Here’s why.
It gets heavy lugging all these baby travel essentials around.
Plus, if your flight gets delayed, there’s somewhere cosy for baby to sleep while you have your hands free. Stick a luggage label on your baby travle gear at the check-in desk and have all your paraphernalia organised into bags by the time you reach the plane.
The pram can go in the hold (folded down) along with the car seat, but not any of your other stuff. Avoid (ahem!) scrabbling around on the floor by getting yourself organised before you hear your boarding call.
Also, double check with your airline for the weight and dimension limits for your baby travel gear. Each airline is different, so check for every single flight.
Car seats are essential for babies from a safety point of view. However, the one you use at home may not work abroad. In fact, in some cases it won’t be legal as different countries have different rules, even when they’re otherwise closely linked (sigh.)
So what can you do? You can either bring your own car seat with you or hire one in advance with your car rental or taxi from the airport. Finally, if you’re embarking on a long journey abroad, you could consider buying one in your destination.
- As a reminder, it’s best to keep children facing backwards for as long as possible.
Flying with a car seat
Don’t forget you’ll need some transport options when you emerge on the other side. Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, it may make sense to bring your own car seat (checking that either it will fit in using a seatbelt or iso fix.)
Increasingly, airlines allow you to bring a travel car seat onto the plane, which seems an altogether better way of transporting an infant than having them perched on your lap. However, you often need to have bought a dedicated seat on the plane to be able to do this.
If your car seat attaches to your buggy, happy days. Take it up to the gate as well. If the flight is nearly empty, you may be able to take it on anyway. If not, into the hold it goes. You get a tag for this in the usual way when you check in your bags .
CHANGING BAG or Diaper Bag
You probably already have one, but a travel one can work wonders. There are two main designs that I love.
- One is the messenger style bag, with easy zip access at the top. This is perfect for younger babies when changes are frequent and you’re often perched somewhere manky where you don’t want to put anything down! See also the larger changing mat below.
- The other, is a rucksack type changing bag for older babies. I LOVE the LEKEBABY backpack. It has two main compartments: one for clean clothes, nappies and wipes. The other for food and toys. Plus, of course, a separate undersection for nappy bags and soiled nappies and a holder on the side for water. There’s a small, zippable compartment for keys or sunscreen near the top and sections within the bag to stop everything from falling about.
A LARGER CHANGING MAT
Many of the changing mats that come with changing bags are tiny. And when you’re mainly at home or at other people’s houses, that’s fine. When you’re perched inside an airport loo or worse, balancing in a public toilet that you deeply suspect doubles as an opiate den and crack house, well… it’s kind of nice to at least have a larger changing mat for your baby!
A SNOOZE SHADE
This is a really handy piece of kit that I use all the time at home. Designed by a mum, it’s a fully breathable shade that will attach onto all buggies and cots. It has a small zipped section that allows you to peer in – plus a picture of a snoozing baby on the outside in the vain hope that people around you will leave her alone to sleep.
It’s obviously useful at home on a pushchair but it’s also handy during a flight to drape across a bassinet. Or over a car seat to help combat jet lag.
I’ve found Bundlebeans to be really useful both at home and away. It’s a fleece-lined waterproof that you can put over a baby in a sling or across a pram. Quick on, quick off, easy to scrunch and attach. Perfect for travel. It even doubles as a playmat if you’re not too keen on putting your baby right on the airport floor…
A Teething Necklace
To the uninitiated, these are rubbery (BPA free) necklaces that babies can chew on or grip. The colours attract their attention and keep them focused on feeding and the fact that it’s a necklace means that it’s always there in the right place. Handy amid a journey of whipping things in and out of various seat pockets and different bags. And, of course, you can’t drop it.
Noise machine, swaddle cloth, Whatever Results in Sleep
Look, I’ve been there. Exhausted. Utterly, utterly exhausted and more tired than I could ever know. More tired than when I was working 140 hours a week as a junior doctor and falling asleep on my feet.
What helped us?
- A swaddle cloth
- A white noise machine – ours came in the form of a sheep
- A worn, sweaty (I know) pyjama top of mine to use as a sheet. Babies have a very well developed sense of smell and are soothed by the scent of their mothers. And, hopefully, you won’t smell SO bad you put anyone else off…
Travel-sized Toiletries if Flying
Most airports and airlines allow you to bring unlimited milk and baby food (although, to be safe, check in advance.)
You still have to stick to the 100 ml or under rule for other liquids, gels and pastes, however.
So look out for travel-sized:
- Nipple cream
Recent childbirth and having a weight on your lap for hours during flight does increase your risk of blood clots, so consider those oh-so-sexy in-flight stockings and a low dose of aspirin before you fly (check with your own doctor first etc to be safe yadda yadda yadda)
Breast Pump and Formula Even if You’re Breastfeeding
Blocked ducts can happen at any time. If you’re on a long haul flight, you need to be able to do something about this.
I’d recommend a small hand pump for travel, along with a pre-sterilised bottle and a few cartons of formula for emergencies.
First Aid Kit
During a flight, the cabin crew will have all the first aid essentials you could dream of. But it’s still a good idea to have a small travel first aid kit with you for when you’re not in the airport. Here is a fun first aid kit which older babies will love.
Travel Tips for Flying with Baby and finding the best baby travel products and baby travel essentials
From the Road
I’ve been travelling and flying for a lot of years, now, and a lot of times. So much so that airports have become second nature to me and the security line queues almost feel like home.
I was unprepared for the upheaval in my packing and planning that a new baby would bring (not to mention, my sleep, but let’s forget about all that for now.)
The lists went on and on. Dithering and self-doubt crept in. It wasn’t helped, of course, by the ongoing sleep deprivation and the reality that chunks of available time were, well, less chunky than when I only had to pack for me.
With baby, everything needs to be done in a snatched few minutes here and there before the next nap, feed, and nappy cycle starts up again.
Fortunately I had help.
Friends who travelled. Readers who travelled. Twitterers who travelled. I asked for tips, they gave them.
And now that I’ve been through the flight razzamatazz the once, I was amazed at how much easier it was the second time around.
Easier in my head, easier in my actions. With more of the drudgery automatic, I was free to focus on the more important things and able to respond to lovely little Rosa more easily as we went along.
If you’re reading this and wondering whether you can manage flying with your baby, let me tell you right now that you can!
You just need to learn a few new moves.
The Best Baby Travel Gear You Need to Book in Advance
A Sky Cot or Bassinet
For long haul flights, a sky cot really helps. It frees up your hands to eat, among other things, and the bulk head seats the cots attach to bring extra leg room, which really helps with all the extra gear you’ll need in-flight.
Unfortunately, each airline has their own policy about how you do this. Some airlines (currently Norwegian) don’t have them at all.
Virgin Atlantic issue them on a first come, first served basis, although you don’t know if you’re one of the chosen ones until you’re on the flight. Also, if you check in online, that automatically cancels your request.
So, phone as far ahead as possible and follow the instructions to the letter.
The Virgin Atlantic Sky Cot – attaches baby to the cot through a harness so you don’t have to take them out during turbulence. This is a godsend if you’ve only JUST managed to get them to sleep!
A Car Seat for Car Rentals
If you decide not to bring your own, make sure to book this in advance.
A TRAVEL COT
Again, if you’re not bringing your own travel bed, check that your accommodation can provide this as not everywhere does. Also, bring a cellular blanket of your own as many places provides duvets for babies, which is against current safety advice.
Inside tip: booking a sky cot
Airlines have quite bizarre processes about this. Phone early and follow the instructions to the letter.
Baby Travel Gear You DON’T Need
For all the baby travel items you could have, here’s what you don’t need. Seriously. Don’t worry, don’t stress. And don’t buy these travel items.
Sky Cots on Short Haul Flights
Your lap is fine, I promise.
Presents for Other Passengers
I don’t think that anyone expects it and, personally, I think it sets the wrong tone for a flight.
We were all children once. We all have equal rights to get from A to B.
As long as everyone’s trying their best rather than ignoring their responsibilities, we all need to accept that.
Don’t bring too many. Maybe none at all. Tiny babies are too young to need them. Rosa was dazzled by the people, the lights, the procedures of the airport and the flight. Barely looked at the toys we’d brought.
Many first class lounges have areas designed for babies and younger children
Baby Travel Gear: Optional Extras
Babies add an extra layer of fun to the whole WHERE ARE THE PASSPORTS?!! game of panic. Consider having something that zips up and attaches to you/the pram/your baby.
I’m really happy with my black leather, zip up passport holder with a wrist strap (that can also hang on the pram.)
You know those undignified waterproof absorbent mats you bought for labour and kept for potty training? Grab a couple. Maybe put one on your lap. Consider having one on the floor if baby wants to try tummy time and wriggle around. If all else fails, throw one over your own head and try to get some sleep.
These can be handy for two reasons. One, you can offer them to other people should a crying fit emerge. Two, you can use them yourself.
The idea isn’t to ignore your baby and irritate fellow passengers, of course. But just to take the volume down a little if needs be so that you can sound and be calmer, which helps translate to a calmer baby.
More Family Travel Essentials
- Find our list of toddler travel essentials for flying here.
- And a collection of toddler travel toys here.
- The best travel gifts for kids, from toddlers to teens.
- How to plan a zika free babymoon
- The best places to travel with a baby.
- How to entertain a toddler on a plane.