Although what you need to take (and leave behind!) does evolve as they grow older, two things remain absolutely clear to me:
- You don’t need half as much stuff as you think you do
- Organisation is key
In this post I want to share what I think are truly essential items when travelling by air with a baby, and what I think you don’t need to worry about.
Check out your airline's luggage policy for accompanying infants. Some will allow you to take a separate carry-on for your baby and some will not, which will determine how much you can take on board in total. Most airlines will allow you to take a collapsible buggy up to the gate, and some will also let you check one other large item (such as a car seat or travel cot) into the hold free of charge.
Research whether the brand of formula/baby food you prefer is available in your destination country. If it is, you can just buy it there once you arrive rather than carting it all with you in your hold luggage.
If you know anyone with children at your destination, ask to borrow as many big items as possible - cot, high chair, a buggy, toys, etc.
Have an honest chat with yourself about how much carry-on luggage you can actually carry. A change bag, a small wheelie suitcase, a buggy and a baby may seem doable when you've got your feet still firmly on the ground, but after 10+ hours in the air you will be tired and sore. Stuff will have gotten disorganised, in and out of the bags. The buggy will refuse to fold up and if it does, the baby will refuse to go in it. The less you have to carry, the better so be ruthless - your future travel-weary self will thank you for it.
Air Travel with a Baby - What to take on board (and what to leave behind)
Nothing, other than a cover-up for you if you wish. Boob on tap will suffice (especially during take-off & landing!)
HUNGRY BABY - formula feeding
- ready-to-pour formula milk, or formula powder already measured out into the required no. of feeds. You can get special, easy-pour containers for this.
- enough clean, empty bottles for the required no. of feeds. Once you get through security you can ask for tap water or buy as many bottles of mineral water* as you’ll need and ask airport/flight staff to heat the water up for you.
- finger food in a ziploc bag or small Tupperware. Ideally it won’t be smushable, so things like breadsticks, crackers and dried fruit are good options.
If your baby is still eating only pureed food, make your life easy and don’t bother bringing any. It can be a pain to get through security (was I once frisked over a pot of purée? Yes I was). Also, the potential for mess is far too great! At that age they will be totally fine on just milk for a while, even if your journey takes all day.
- a non-spill sippy cup that you can fill up with tap water or mineral water* once you're through security.
- 2-3 bibs
- an empty ziploc for dirties
- 1 pack of wet wipes
- no. of nappies required + extra in case of delays
- 1 travel changing mat
- spare clothes divided into 3 ziplocs: 1 with trousers, 1 with t-shirts, 1 with extra bits like socks & hats. Squeeze as much air out of the ziplocs as you can to save space.
- 1 big empty ziploc for dirties
- one set of clean clothes for each accompanying adult (because you KNOW baby will be sick on you when you’ve still got 10+ hours to go)
- 1 sling, as compact & fiddle-free as possible (I like the BabyHawk because it comes with a little travel bag. Also useful is a simple fabric ring-sling which can double as a blanket).
- baby’s usual comfort thingie - dummy, lovey, etc.
- 1 lightweight shawl (which could be a ring-sling, see above) for warmth, or to cover their buggy/travel cot with if it’s too bright to sleep.
- 2 small toys, of which one is a favourite and one is new for extra entertainment value. If you don't have any space for toys, think creatively - your car keys, wallet or glasses case will probably do too!
- 2 books, of which one is a favourite and one is new for extra entertainment value.
- a muslin or fabric sling (see above) for playing peekaboo
- well-oiled vocal cords for singing
Pack these in a Tupperware and store it somewhere you can easily get to, like the front pocket of your carry-on bag, in case it needs to be inspected.
- a thermometer
- teething gel
- teething ring
- baby paracetamol
- rehydration salts suitable for children
Air Travel with Baby - what to put in your hold bag (and what to leave behind)
- a spare of every one of baby's usual comfort thingy - dummy, lovey, favourite blankie, etc.
- your preferred brand of formula/baby food, but only if you use them and if they're not available to buy in your destination country (see above)
- your preferred brand of sun cream, mosquito repellent and nappy cream, but only if you'll need them and they are not available in your destination country.
- a travel cot, but only if you're certain you can't borrow one and/or your hotel won't provide one (which is very rare).
- a travel (booster) seat if you can't borrow a high chair at your destination and/or you're reluctant to use restaurant high chairs. We've never tried any but I like the look of this one by Totseat or this one by Tomy.
- travel black-out blinds. Whether this is really necessary depends on how light a sleeper your baby is and what they are used to at home. This fold-up, portable one by the Gro Company is a little heavy but it does work very well.
- a tiny night light to make feeds, nappy changes and random wake-ups easier to deal with. We swear by this super-dinky one from IKEA.
- more toys. You might think you'll need them to keep your baby entertained at your destination, but in my experience being in a different environment is often entertainment enough.
- baby's toiletries, wipes & nappies - unless your baby needs a specific brand that is hard to find, you will most likely be able to buy what you need at your destination.
- travel bath tub - there is nothing wrong with bathing your baby in the sink.
- baby cutlery - it's perfectly okay to give your baby a stainless steel teaspoon as opposed to a plastic baby spoon.
- baby's bedding - unless they are very attached to a specific blankie, you'll probably be able to make do with what is on hand at your destination. An adult bed sheet can be folded several times to fit around a cot mattress, for example.
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