It's all too easy to fall into the trap of overpacking when taking your first trip with a baby. As your mind spins through every possible scenario that could happen away from home, your pile of luggage grows higher and higher. You find yourself with outfits for every weather condition, medicines for every possible ailment, and clunky gear to make you feel at home away from home.
While packing the right gear will ensure smoother sailing for your crew, packing too much will slow you down, frustrate you, and guarantee a sore back. Here's the travel gear you really need when traveling with a baby—and what you should leave at home.
1. Do bring an affordable, collapsible, lightweight stroller. Emphasis on the affordable. This thing will get beat up, especially if you're flying. You'll be using it to walk for miles (hopefully). You don't want to worry about getting it dirty and dinged. We've put some serious miles on our Summer Infant 3D Lite stroller, and it's holding up beautifully. We love that it folds up easily, it's lightweight, and it reclines—perfect for naps on the go. Don't bring a heavy, expensive, complicated stroller.
2. Do bring a comfortable baby carrier or wrap. The style you choose really comes down to the size of your kiddo and your personal preference. We have packed both lightweight wraps and the classic Baby Bjorn on our trips, and they have helped us get through airport security and miles of exploring with ease. If your baby enjoys being worn, this can be preferable to a stroller in a lot of destinations. Don't bring something you haven't tested. Make sure you and your baby are comfortable with the carrier or it'll just take up extra space in your luggage.
3. Do bring a swaddling blanket or two. These are invaluable even if you're past the swaddling phase—to give baby a clean place to play on the airport floor, to cover up in unexpectedly cold places, to use as a shade when baby falls asleep in the stroller, to offer comfort at bedtime, to cover up when nursing... We especially love soft swaddles that double as scarves, so they're always close at hand. Think twice before bringing a travel crib, especially if you're flying. Even the smaller models will weigh you down significantly. (And, if your baby is anything like ours, he'll want to sleep with you anyway.) Instead, see if your hotel or host can provide a crib, or look into renting one at your destination.
4. Do bring a changing pad. Baby's bowel movements wait for no one, and there's a really good chance there won't be a diaper changing station in sight (or even on the same continent) when you need it. We've changed our son's diaper on the floor of St. Pancras Train Station in London, at a scenic vineyard in Virginia, and on a dirty bathroom floor in Miami. Luckily, we always have this changing pad to keep him from coming in contact with unsavory elements, and to easily stash the diapers and wipes we need. (Actually, we don't even use a diaper bag because this is all we need.) Do make sure you bring enough diapers and wipes to account for potential delays in your journey. But don't pack a week's supply of diapers, unless you're headed into the wilderness. Most likely they do have stores where you're heading, and they do sell diapers there.
5. Do bring a travel-size bottle of tear-free baby-wash/shampoo. Really, that's all you need for bathtime. Don't bring additional toiletries, special towels/washcloths, bath toys, or god forbid a baby bathtub of any sort. The sink'll do just fine.
6. Do bring a comfort item or two. Something that you know will soothe them that reminds them of home, whether a favorite stuffed animal, a blanket, or a pacifier. (Actually, if it's a specific type of pacifier, stock up. We learned that the hard way.) Don't bring tons of toys and books. The point isn't to recreate the feeling of being at home. Your child will be excited and stimulated being in a new place, and they don't need a bunch of stuff to keep them happy. Plus, shopping for new toys and books on vacation is one of the best parts of the experience, isn't it?
7. Do bring antibacterial wipes. And use the heck out of them on airplanes, hotel remote controls, and restaurant high chairs. Yep, be that mom/dad. The last thing you want is for baby to get sick on vacation. Don't pack the medicine cabinet if you're going somewhere with pharmacies. Many foreign pharmacies, especially in Europe, are even better stocked than in the U.S. with significantly more knowledgeable employees. Take the basics (Tylenol, diaper rash cream) and if you need anything else, you can get it at your destination.)
8. Do bring a small umbrella, and carry it with you everywhere. Even if the forecast looks perfect. You can use it for sun protection, too. Don't bother with heavy rain coats and boots unless you're headed somewhere that you know will be super rainy. That goes double for babies who can't walk yet.