Remember the carefree days of throwing a change of clothes, a bag of toiletries and a phone charger into a duffel bag for a weekend of spontaneous adventure? Ah, the pre-parent travel lifestyle.
But now you’ve added a baby to the mix and even a jaunt across town seems to require the same amount of gear it takes to scale Everest. Just the thought of packing can be enough to make you bag the idea of a family vacation altogether. That’s why we’re here to help. It doesn’t have to be so stressful and daunting. With the right equipment, you may discover traveling with baby is just as fun as the good old days. (Granted, with fewer afternoon cocktails and more nap planning.)
Related: Flying with baby? 10 tips to make air travel with kids a breeze ✈️
To get you on the right packing path, we’ve put together a list of baby travel gear–vacation must-haves that will make your next trip a whole lot easier. Whether you’re road-tripping or renting a beach house across the country, you’re going to need an arsenal of baby-proof products to make the journey seamless and fun.
These are the 16 items you don’t want to leave off your packing list!
Best products for traveling with baby
When you’re away from home, finding a safe, comfy spot for baby to sleep is key. It’s also key to find a travel crib that’s lightweight, easy to carry, compact, and doesn’t take a PhD to open and close. Enter the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light: our absolute favorite travel crib, ever. Yup, it’s that good.
Weighing in at only 13 pounds, this crib is perfect for any family adventure. Setup is super easy (truly—once you get the hang of it, it takes about one minute), and the mattress is much more comfortable than any other travel crib on the market that we’ve tried.
The mesh sides allow for great air flow, and the crib works for kiddos up to 35 lbs. And best of all? The travel cribs folds up easily into a tiny carrying case, making it perfect to take on the go.
Filed under: “How did we ever live without it,” the SlumberPod might be one of the best baby travel gear products of all time. Designed to work with playards, mini cribs, toddler cots and even kid-sized inflatable mattresses, this black-out sleep pod creates a dark and cozy sleep space anywhere, any time of day. The tent-like construction assembles just like you’d expect with two poles and clips and simply sits over top of their sleep space. It’s got plenty of ventilation including a fan pocket so even hot sleepers stay comfy throughout their slumber! And if you end up using it at home too, well you wouldn’t be the first parent to do so!
Alternatively, for sleepy time away from home, these portable blackout curtains come in clutch. They’re designed with suction cups to easily affix to the window and feature velcro edges that allow you to customize the dimensions. There are several colors and patterns to choose from which each come packed in a convenient travel bag.
If your babe can’t sleep without a humidifier and you’re wondering how the heck you’re going to cram that thing into your luggage, prepare to have your mind blown. The Hey Dewy cool mist humidifier is not only smaller than your average water bottle, it’s also completely wireless so you can use it anywhere, any time. Tap water works just fine and on a full charge it will last up to eight hours. It’s whisper quiet and there’s even an optional night light! Honestly, once you use it you’ll realize it’s not just great for travel. Since cool mist is also great for your own skin, set it on your desk while you work or pop it into the cup holder of your car. Your face will thank you!
Have you ever been out in the wild with a toddler who has to go potty? There’s no “hold it for a few minutes, honey.” Nope, they need to go NOW. Which is why a portable potty is a must. We love the OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty for the many times it comes in handy in-transit and once you’ve set up shop.
With a near-perfect rating and thousands of reviews, parents of potty training (and potty trained) kids call this foldable seat a “total lifesaver,” a “must-have,” and “the best potty seat on the market.” It sets up in a cinch and can be used with a liner (or regular ol’ plastic bag) when you’re on-the-go, from the sidelines of the soccer field to the back of the SUV. And with the legs locked, it can be used on top of public toilets, reducing their fears and the ick factor.
For hands-free baby carrying, or for when a stroller isn’t an option, we love the ease and portability of a baby carrier. Carriers offer a great spot for babies to get a birds-eye view of all the sights and sounds around them, and are also the perfect place to snuggle up next to mom or dad for a nap on the move.
For summer travel especially, the LílléBaby Complete Airflow baby Carrier is our carrier of choice. The Complete Airflow will keep baby comfy with six carry positions, and mom or dad comfy with a wide, padded waistband and a soft mesh fabric that allows for breathability and air flow for those sticky summer days. The Complete Airflow works from seven to 45 pounds (from newborn to toddler!), so it will be around for lots and lots of family adventures. Bonus: The carrier has been acknowledged as “hip healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
If there’s one universal truth about motherhood that we can all agree on, it’s that babies come with a lot of stuff. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re away from home is not having a change of clothes or a stash of snacks on hand (can we say 4-hour traffic jam, anyone?), so you’re going to need a roomy, comfortable place to store all of those emergency must-haves and a back means you’ll be hands-free, which is KEY when you’re on the go with little ones.
Enter: The Caraa Baby Bag. Made from cloud-like waterproof nylon, this is actually the ultimate diaper bag disguised as a backpack. Not only does it have easy-to-access pockets to keep you organized, the side pockets are insulated to keep water bottles and sippy cups cool. What’s more, it comes with a removable caddy to easily slide all your diapering needs in and out depending on what they day holds. Available in two sizes with prices starting at $275. Bonus points for the travel-friendly back sleeve which easily slides over the handle of your rolling suitcase to keep you as nimble as possible when you’re getting from point A to B.
Whether you’re bottle feeding with formula or breastmilk, finding a reliable way to warm it while on the go is the kind of logistical nightmare that wakes mamas up in a cold sweat. This innovative system safely heats at the touch of a button to the temperature of your choice without compromising nutrients or leaving dangerous hot spots. For formula feeding mamas, the convenient on-the-go dispenser makes prep simple and mess-free– one push equals one scoop of formula.
Protecting your little one from the sun is so important—but so is keeping them safe from harmful chemicals. Although choosing a natural sunscreen can be daunting, we’ve landed on MDSolarSciences Mineral Kidcrème, which we think rocks for lots of reasons.
The mineral-based formula is powered by titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and jam-packed with skin-boosting ingredients like Vitamin C and aloe. It’s completely fragrance-free, safe for sensitive skin and blends in like a dream. Can you imagine a summer without whining every time you pull out the sunscreen bottle? Victory can be yours!
What’s more, MDSolarSciences is super committed to sustainability with fully recyclable packaging and 100% vegan and reef-safe formulas.
If your baby is still teensy—too small for the above crib—consider this Brica Fold N’ Go Travel Bassinet. Surround by an exterior of breathable mesh, the bassinet is the perfect place to lay babies age infant to three months old. The bassinet weighs just 2.5 pounds and folds flat and can be carried to and fro via the included travel bag. Whether you’re traveling to grandma’s house or a hotel, this is your most portable bet for a baby bassinet.
If you employ a sound machine at home… then you better be bringing one on the road! We love the Hushh—it’s the mini, on-the-go version of our favorite Dohm sound machine from Yogasleep. Packing an equally masking sound in a much smaller package, the Hushh can be attached to your stroller for an on-the-go nap or place in a travel crib for a good night’s sleep.
Just 3.5-inches in diameter and 3.8 ounces in weight, the Hushh takes up zero space… but it will be a lifesaver when you find yourself in a noisy restaurant or a foreign hotel room that baby simply is not having. It offers up three sounds (white noise, deep noise and ocean) and can operate all night long on one single charge. Amen to that!
If you’ve ever tried to make it to your gate with a toddler in tow you know that, 1. you’re not moving very fast and 2. that gate is farther than you think. This genius product is for use with kids ages two and up. Just attach it to your suitcase and they’re ready to roll. Literally.
There are so many travel stroller options out there, but this one totally nails it.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in compact strollers, the upgraded Baby Zen Yoyo2 6+ checks all the boxes. At 13 pounds, it’s not the lightest on the market, but the featherweight strollers on the market are not going to cut it on gravel or bumpy sidewalks! It’s pricey, but boasts an impressive list of amenities: a “soft drive” system (enabling you to navigate rough terrain without having to lock the wheels in place), ample under-carriage storage, a reclining seat, an extendable leg rest, four-wheel suspension, beautiful fabrics (that peppermint green!) and extra seat padding, custom color packs, and a carry strap, just to name a few.
It also folds up teeny-tiny via an easy one-handed fold and is a cinch to tote with its padded shoulder strap. It’s also compatible with many infant car seats, making newborn travel a breeze. It’s even certified for airline carry-on luggage, meaning you’ve got one less thing to worry about when you’re taking your little one on the plane.
On Motherly editor tried the WAYB Pico Forward Facing Carseat while flying cross-country with her toddler, and, let’s just say she’s now a huge fan. “We’ve gone through several travel car seats and this is by far my favorite one,” she says. “It’s the lightest (only 8 pounds!) and the least complicated to set up. I especially love the travel bag because it makes the folded up car seat like a backpack you can just schlep around with you to your next adventure. I can’t stop recommending it to all my mama friends.”
Summer is the perfect time to relax on the beach or spread out for a family picnic. To keep everyone mess-free (and sand-free!), we absolutely love the Nomadix puffer blankets.
Whether you need a spot on the beach, a place for a family meal, or you’re stuck at an airport gate due to a weather delay, the uses for these blankets are truly endless. The water-resistant fabric is great for damp grass or sand and you can even anchor it down at the corners. Need an extra blanket for snuggling along the way? No problem. Best of all, when you’re on the move again, all you have to do is cram it back in the included stuff sack and you’re ready to roll.
If your little one is eating solids, tossing your high chair in the trunk of your car for your next family vacation probably isn’t going to fly. The Phil & Ted’s Lobster chair is a safe, easily portable solution for families on the go.
Featuring a 4-point safety harness with padded shoulder straps and super strong ‘lobster claws’ with rubber grips, the Lobster is quick and easy to clip to any stable countertop or table. It’s also easy to open, close and store—it folds up and slides right into its own carrying bag.
The chair’s fabric slides out of the frame for cleaning, and it even comes with a dishwasher-safe food tray that slides between the clamps to keep those gross restaurant germs off of baby’s tiny hands. And it’s safe for babies up to 3 years old and 37 lbs.!
Want more options? Check out our other picks here.
This one may not seem like a must-have, but trust us here. We can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve gone on vacation and realized we didn’t have anything to clean our bottles or straw cups except for the dingy sponge sitting next to the sink at our beach rental house 🙈 Was it the end of the world? Definitely not. But remembering to throw the OXO Tot On-the-Go Drying Kit into our suitcases would have made things a whole lot easier.
We love how the brush comes apart and fits securely into the carrying case (which also doubles as a drying rack for bottles, nipples, or even breast pump parts—genius!) and comes with everything you need to keep bottles and cups clean while you’re away from home. The whole thing is top-rack dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean before you pack it away for your next adventure.
Why lug 800 pounds of gear you may or may not use? One of the slickest tricks to save you the struggle is to rent the things you need instead! Strollers, car seats, even cribs and toys can be delivered directly to your destination via the pros at BabyQuip. (They’ll even meet you at the airport!) Not only do they deliver it–they set up everything for you, and pick it up when you’re done—all at your convenience. All rental gear is clean, safe and insured so you can rest easy and just enjoy your vacay!
Whether you’re expecting in months or mere days, let Motherly guide you with our registry featuring curated collections of essentials for you and baby. Click here to check out Motherly’s essential registry guide.
A version of this story was published November 10, 2020. It has been updated.