When our baby was a few months old we were invited to a wedding in Europe, and being the travel addicts that we were in our pre-baby life, we barely blinked before hitting the RSVP-YES button!
8 flights, 6 countries, 3 big road trips and 2 ferry rides across the Irish Sea later, we planned our trip like the old days: one heck of a jam-packed itinerary even though this time it would be with an 11 month old baby in tow!
It turns out that the difference between travelling abroad and doing day-trips from home with a baby is that your daily activities are so much more impulsive and spontaneous while abroad, usually leaving you very under-prepared.
Yep, it was tough.
For starters, our baby had more luggage than we did so one of us parents had to be the donkey while the other was the babysitter.
The long-haul flights were tough, the road trips were brutal, the boat rides were rough, and our usual daily routine was non-existent creating all sorts of sleep havoc.
Yes we loved the sites, seeing family and friends and laughing about all the chaos we had willingly put ourselves through but I’m also very glad that I spent months beforehand hunting down every clever, small and light baby device that I could find to make gallivanting around the globe with a baby just that bit more bearable… oops, i mean… more enjoyable.
So here are 20 products that helped save our sanity on our worldly travels:
ON THE GO
- NAPPY CHANGE MATS: the portable change table.
This is my number one ‘must-pack’ travel item!
Baby change tables are NOT a standard requirement of businesses world-wide forcing you to resort to less than ideal and hygienic changing locations surfaces. Beautiful historic buildings from the middle-ages are particularly ill-equipped.
I literally had to change my baby on the toilet seat lid or floor of some grand old places!
For this reason I would highly recommend getting a thicker change mat to have on you at all times, not just the paper-thin disposable ones. Finding a mat that can be easily hand washed is also a good idea. Otherwise your jacket may end up being an unexpected alternative!
- STROLLER CLIPS: the fix-it down solution.
Stroller clips are the best accessories around, period!
They can hold down a cloth or blanket for a make-shift rain shield if the weather turns on you while you’re out and about and they’re useful as makeshift stroller toys.
Stroller clips come in all sorts of designs these days, from simple colourful rings, to spring-loaded ones, to carabiner-grade clips that can hold a weighty bag.
I had clips permanently hanging off our travel buggy plus extras in my bag at all times.
- MUSLIN CLOTHS: for instant shelter.
Even if your baby is beyond the swaddling stage, keep a light muslin cloth on hand while travelling as it makes for a great stroller cover if you get caught in the rain, as a privacy shield if your baby falls asleep or as a picnic blanket on unexpected pit-stops.
Muslin cloths are super light and much more compact than plastic pram covers or blankets making them super easy to pack in your carry-on luggage. The air-conditioning on long flights can become an irritant for baby so they can second as a bit of a cover to warm the air as well.
- HOODED JUMPERS: a warm-me-up solution.
I know this may not be everyone’s fashion style but bear with me on this one… if you plan on flying a lot on your trip you will find yourself in highly air conditioned spaces for long periods of time.
The air conditioning on long haul flights can be quite cold and irritating leaving baby with a cough or blocked nose. An adult can cope with this, but a baby can’t!
After a disastrous first long-haul flight that was cold and noisy, we put our baby in a hooded jumper on all of our remaining flights so the hood could keep his head warm and his face a little-bit sheltered from the air conditioning. I think it also helped dampen the noise of the cabin for him too. Give it a try yourself.
- SLEEPING BAGS: comfort plus.
Baby sleeping bags are fabulous inventions for home but they’re even more amazing when you’re travelling. Not only do they save you space in your luggage compared to packing multiple blankets but they helped a lot with flying keeping our boy uniformly warm.
Baby seat-belts can also easily go around the outside of the baby sleeping bag for flight stewards to see if things get turbulent.
The only other consideration to make with sleeping bags is the grade or warmth rating (the TOG rating) you might need in the countries you’ll be travelling to. I took both winter-grade and summer-grade sleeping bags since most of the hotels had heating (the summer grade bag) but the flights were cold (the winter grade bag).
- PRAM BAGS: breeze-free travel.
If you plan on travelling to a cold climate country you may like to consider getting a pram bag. This is basically a sleeping bag that attaches to the pram lining that baby sits on.
Like a normal sleeping bag, the pram bag helps keep your baby uniformly warm unlike blankets that fall-off easily (especially when you’re trying to negotiate a bad weather day), and it helps reduce your luggage load as most pram bags can be laid flat when packing your suitcase.
Our pram bag also doubled as a liner for our travel cot for extra cushioning.
- TRAVEL COTS: the instant bed.
Depending on where you plan on staying on your travels, a travel cot may be a necessity item on your shopping list, your baby needs to sleep somewhere after all and the bedding arrangements in some establishments are not suitable for co-sleeping (unless one of you wishes to sleep on the floor!).
Luckily, you can get some really affordable travel cots that can be checked-in with your luggage on flights.
The thin mattress in most travel cots was my biggest concern given how long we would be using ours for, however I found that adding layers with blankets or using the pram bag was really helpful.
Don’t forget to pack a cot sheet to help keep your added layers intact for a safer sleeping environment for your baby.
- BABY CARRIERS: stroller alternatives.
Medieval cities were not designed with strollers in mind! So it was one heck of a bumpy and slow ride for our baby down the loveliest of ancient villages. And the older the town or tourist site was (hello, castles!) the bumpier the cobblestones seemed to be!
Elevators are also non-existent features of many historic sites (castles, again!), so you will be asked to leave your pram at the entrance so you will have to carry your baby around so, take a carrier!
Even if you can carry your baby easily in your arms, take one anyway, walking around castles takes hours on end and in that time baby might just manage a nap in a carrier. Plus it will spare your back!
- CAR SEATS: affordable transport.
If you plan on doing a lot of road tripping on your travels you may like to consider taking your own baby car seat. Most airlines will accommodate car seats in your baby’s air fare or in your over-sized luggage allowance.
The cost per day for hiring a baby car seat can be obscenely expensive!!! It’s worth considering lugging your own around.
Many countries don’t require car seats to be fitted professionally in hire cars so you may also be expected to fit all of the different seats you hire yourself. Car hire companies will not install baby car seats for fear of liability.
Also, taxis often don’t supply car seats at all so you may have to hold your baby in your arms.
- WASH BAGS AND WASHING LINES: make-shift dryers.
One of the worst things about travelling with children has to be the daily struggle of finding washing facilities. It’s hard enough with adult clothes, let alone the mass of baby clothing that you go through each day.
To prioritise your washing and make the most out of any quick opportunity to wash some clothes, pack a few wash bags to segregate your washing into urgent items, delicates and items that can wait.
Hand washing baby clothes might also have to happen so pack a travel clothes line to string across the hotel bathroom. They’re cheap, small and won’t weigh you down, with most coming in a twist design that means no pegs are needed too.
- BABY BATH TOWELS: the drier and the mop.
While most decent hotels will happily provide you with an extra towel for your baby, some establishments may not supply towels at all.
A small baby towel can also second as an outdoor towel if you end up going for a spontaneous swim on your travels or for mopping up your car in the event of car sickness or food spillage. Better to be prepared than to be sorry with kids!
- BABY THERMOMETER: on medical watch.
Having a sick baby while travelling is a really stressful experience. I received a digital baby thermometer as a gift so I packed it for our trip and I used it all the time. Our baby was teething for most of the trip (yay, lucky us!) so I was able to monitor his temperature just in case he’d caught some sort of other lurgy that would have required medical attention.
- PAIN RELIEF MEDICATION: on advice.
I do not advocate medical advice or medicinal products, this is just a tip for a discussion you could have with your family doctor before leaving on your travels.
When your baby gets sick abroad it’s stressful and it can be hard to find a doctor in foreign countries and remote locations, or to have a proper conversation about your baby’s health if you don’t speak the local language. So speak with your doctor regarding suitable pain relief products that you can take with you while travelling.
And now we come to the preparing meals part of packing … and I still shudder at the memories!
If your baby is in a transitioning stage or weaning off milk and moving onto eating solids like our 11 month old was on our trip, then preparing meals when travelling with a baby can be a particularly complicated event every single moment that you’re away from home!
I don’t think I left anything to chance when it came to packing for mealtimes so here are the things that helped us get by:
- A THERMOS: warm food all day.
A friend got me onto the great idea of buying a small thermos or food canister to keep baby food warm during your all day outings. The canister I had kept food warm for a good 4 hours so it was great to have hot lunches ready for our baby each day.
Something I also picked up mid-trip was a small drinks thermos. I didn’t think that it would be difficult to prepare formula in the night, but staying at friends places that are multi-storey houses or just being unfamiliar with other peoples kitchens, makes it tricky to prepare feeds in the middle of the night.
Filling a thermos with boiling water before bed and have pre-portioned formula ready to make feeds in your room can make feeding so much easier in the middle of the night. It also spares the whole house from being woken up by a screaming baby as you fumble around someone-elses kitchen.
15. INSULATED LUNCH BAGS AND BOXES: all day food preparation.
It was surprisingly hard to find good food for our baby while out and about so having a lunch bag prepared each day became a must – especially on long road-trip days.
I took a large thermal lunch bag for sandwiches and a smaller lunch bag for baby snacks – the ones with a Velcro tab to hang off your pram are super handy.
- SPARE STORAGE CONTAINERS: emergency mixing bowls.
If you plan on making solid meals for your baby while travelling it’s a good idea to pack a couple small storage containers with a good seal.
Having a spare lunch box on hand makes for a great mixing bowl when food gets overheated in microwaves (i.e. on flights) or if baby decides they prefer your lunch to theirs! So pack more than one storage container.
Plus access to kitchens can be limited while on-the-go so storage containers come in handy for making and keeping large batches of baby food for a couple of days.
- A MINI TRAVEL KETTLE: hot water on demand.
If your baby is on formula you will need regular access to boiled water on your travels, and while most hotels offer kettles in their rooms some fancier establishments are starting to put coffee machines in their rooms and not kettles!
Other accommodations such as hostels, B&B’s and guesthouses may also not provide a kettle. Since we were staying at a range of places on our trip I decided to buy a mini travel kettle which came in handy in many places.
- TRAVEL HIGH CHAIR: extra seating.
One of the more unique items I found on my hunt for handy travel items was a fabric high-chair that can be attached to most chair shapes (except super wide chairs) so you always have a high chair on hand provided your baby can sit upright.
While most dining venues offer children’s high chairs these days, there were occasions where there weren’t any or enough high chairs to go around the restaurant so our fabric chair came in handy.
The brand I bought was Totseat to give you an idea of what it looks like.
19. BIBS, BIBS, BIBS: mess control.
Even if your baby is a tidy eater you may find great use in having many, many, many bibs on hand on your travels. Bibs not only save the daily outfit (you really don’t want to be carrying multiple outfits all the time) but it will also spare your car seats and strollers from those messy feeding sessions on the go.
20. PUREE FOOD BAGS: easy food transport.
If you want to make your own baby puree while travelling then you can’t go past re-usable baby food pouches. I tried Cherub Baby On the Go Food Pouches but there are many other brands available on the market now. They are easy to fill and refill and they help prevent mess while baby eats on the road.
Your travel shopping list may not need to be this since the type of travel itinerary you choose will determine the type of baby products you will actually need to take, however, I still stand by the fact that….
You can never be too prepared for travelling with a baby!