When our baby was 6 months old we were invited to a wedding in France and being the travel addicts that we were (in our pre-baby life!) we barely blinked before hitting the RSVP-YES button.
Then as the Australian travelers logic goes, we said, “Why don’t we visit all of our family and friends scattered across the continent while we’re there!”
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…except this time it would be with an 11 month old baby!
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, usually leaving you 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. Then flying was tough, road trips were tough, boat rides were tough, and so was the daily routine – or anything that resembles a routine while crossing time zones!
Yes we loved the sites, seeing family and friends and laughing about all the chaos we put ourselves through now… but I’m very glad that I spent months beforehand researching and hunting down every clever, small and light baby device that I could find to make gallivanting around the globe with a baby more bearable, i mean, enjoyable.
Here are 20 products that helped save or sanity on our travels with a baby:
ON THE GO
- Nappy change mat
This is my number one ‘must-pack’ travel item! Not only does it makes for a more hygienic surface on change tables, but because change tables are not a standard requirement of businesses around the world! Particularly in those beautiful historic buildings from the middle-ages where the toilets are all of a cubic meter in size. I literally had to change my baby on toilet seat lid or the floor! Horrible I know, but there was no other choice at times. For this reason I would highly recommend getting a spongy change mat that fits into your bag or stroller to have on you at all time, not just the paper-thin disposable ones. A mat that can be easily washed is also a good idea.
Clips are the best stroller accessories, they’re great for holding down a cloth or blanket and can second as a rain shield if the weather turns on you while you’re out for day. They can also become stroller toys. Pram 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 bag. I had clips permanently hanging off our travel stroller plus extras in my bag.
- Muslin cloth
Even if your baby is beyond the swaddling stage, keep a light muslin cloth on-hand when you’re travelling as it makes for a great pram cover if you get caught in the rain while out and about, or if your baby falls asleep you can use it for some added privacy. If you make an impromptu stop at a park you can also use it as a sitting blanket for baby. Muslin cloths are also super light and compact compared to plastic pram covers or blankets so they’re easy to pack in your carry-on luggage.
- Hooded jumper
I know this may not be everyone’s fashion preference or style but bear with me on this one… if you will be 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 if it’s a packed flight which can aggravate your airways leaving you with a cough or blocked nose. An adult can cope with this, but a baby can’t. After a disastrous first long-haul flight which was cold and noisy, we put our baby in a hooded jumper on all of our remaining flights so if he fell asleep the hood could keep his head warm and his face a little-bit sheltered from the blowing air conditioning vents. I think it also helped dampen the noise of the cabin for him too. Give it a try yourself.
- Sleeping bags
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 trying to pack enough blankets to keep baby warm, but it helped us a lot with flying because it kept our boy uniformly warm and the baby seat-belt could easily go around the outside of the sleeping bag for the flight stewards to see if things got turbulent. The only other consideration that you need to make with a baby sleeping bag is what grade or warmth rating (the TOG rating) you might need for the countries you’ll be travelling to. I took both winter-grade and summer-grade sleeping bags since most of the hotels had heating (summer grade bag) but the flights were cold (winter grade bag).
- Pram bags
If you plan on travelling to a cold climate you may like to consider getting a pram bag, which is basically a sleeping bag that attaches to a lining which sits in your pram. Like a normal sleeping bag, the pram bag helps keep your baby uniformly warm compared to blankets which 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 cot
Depending on where you plan on travelling to, a travel cot may be a necessity item on your travel shopping list – your baby needs to sleep somewhere after all! We also found that the bed arrangements in some of our overnight stays were just not suited to co-sleeping: three in a bed was not happening so it was either a travel cot or one of us parents was going to be sleeping on the floor! Luckily, you can get some really affordable travel cots these days which can be checked-in with your luggage on your flights. The mattress situation in travel cots was my biggest concern given how long we would be using our travel cot for, but I found that creating added layers with blankets or pram bags was really helpful. Don’t forget to pack a cot sheet to help keep your added layers intact for a safe sleeping environment for your baby.
Medieval cities were not designed with strollers in mind so it’s one heck of a bumpy slow ride for baby – if your stroller doesn’t break first – down the loveliest of ancient villages. And the older the town or tourist site (castles!) was, 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 and you will have to carry your baby around. 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!
- Baby car seat
If you plan on doing a lot of road tripping on your travels you may like to consider bringing your own baby car seat. Most airlines will accommodate baby car seats in your baby’s air fare and the cost of hiring a car seat can be obscenely expensive!!! If we had known the price of hiring we would have lugged our own baby car seat overseas.
Also, many countries don’t require professional car seat fittings in hire cars and taxis often don’t supply them either. Not only did we spend a heap of money on car seat hire, we had to work out how to fit all the different seats we hired ourselves or we had to hold our baby in our arms during taxi rides.
- Wash bags and washing lines
One of the worst things about travelling has to be the daily struggle to find washing facilities. It’s hard enough with adult clothes, let alone with the mass of baby clothes that you go through each week. I packed a few wash bags to segregate baby clothes into urgent items, delicates (yep, I dragged those super cute baby woolen jumpers over with us!) and other things as we went. So when the opportunity to use a washing machine came up I knew exactly which items had to be done first.
Hand washing a few baby clothes might also have to happen on your trip so buy 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 towel
While most decent hotels will happily provide you with an extra towel for your baby, some establishments may not supply towels at all. Taking a small baby towel can also second as an outdoor towel if you end up going for a spontaneous swim somewhere or for mopping up your car in the event of car sickness or food spills. Better to be prepared than sorry I say!
- Baby thermometer
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 boy 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 foreign lurgy that would have required medical attention.
- Pain relief
While I prefer not to advocate medicinal products because I am not a doctor, this is just a tip for a discussion you could have with your family doctor before travelling. 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. Speak with your doctor regarding suitable pain relief products you can take for your baby while travelling.
And now we come to the preparing meals stage of packing (I still shudder at the memories!)…
If your baby is at the stage of transitioning (weaning) from milk to eating solid meals 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 mealtime items given how crazy our itinerary was going to be, so here are some of the items that helped us get by:
- Lunch bags or boxes
If your baby has started eating solids you may need to prepare baby meals for your daily outings. I took a larger thermal lunch bag for any sandwiches I might make and a smaller lunch bag for baby snacks (ones with a Velcro tab to hang off your pram are the best). It was remarkably hard to find food that was suitable for our baby at times so having a lunch bag ready to go each day was super handy.
A friend got me onto the great idea of buying a small food thermos canister to keep food warm during your all day outings. The canister I have kept food warm for a good 4 hours so it was great to have hot lunches ready for our baby each day.
Something I 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 which were multi-level houses or just not being familiar with their kitchens made it tricky to prepare feeds in the night. Instead, we would fill our thermos with boiling water before bed and have pre-portioned formula ready to make feeds in our room. This also meant our baby was less likely to wake the whole house up screaming for his food in the middle of the night!
- Spare storage containers
If you plan on making solid meals for your baby while travelling its a good idea to pack a couple small storage container with good seal. I only had access to a kitchen every second day at one point on our travels so I was able to make and store a large batch of food for a couple of days.
- Mini travel kettle
If your baby is on formula you will need to access boiled water regularly on your travels. And while most hotels offer kettles in their rooms (although i’ve noticed that fancier establishments are starting to put coffee machines not kettles in rooms – which is the only downside of a surprise upgrade!), hostels, B&B’s and guesthouses may not. As we were staying at a variety of places across our trip I decided to buy a mini travel kettle which was great.
- Travel high chair
This is one of the more unique items I found in my hunt for travel items, it’s a fabric high-chair that can be attached to most chair shapes (except super wide chairs I found) so you always have a high chair on hand provided your baby could sit upright. It was handy to have but realistically most dining venues offer children’s high chairs these days, however there were occasions where there weren’t any or enough chairs to go around the restaurant. The brand I bought was Totseat to give you an idea of what it looks like.
19. Bibs, bibs, bibs
Even if your baby is a tidy eater you may find great use in having bibs on hand on your travels. Not only to 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 feeds sessions on the go.
20. Puree food bags
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.
Ultimately your travel shopping list may not need to be as extensive as mine because the type of travel itinerary you choose will determine the types of baby products you actually need.
I’d love to hear how your travels went with a baby or any other tips you might have! So add a comment, email me or send a message through our social media outlets…
One can never be too prepared for travelling with a baby!