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.)
To get you on the right packing path, we’ve put together a list of 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 13 items you don’t want to leave off your packing list!
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.
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 Baby Tula Explore Coast Carrier is our carrier of choice.The Explore will keep baby comfy with multiple 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 Explore 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 Vivaiodays Turmeric Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, which we think rocks for lots of reasons.
It uses only natural mineral barriers (including Non-Nano Zinc Oxide); it has no potentially irritating chemicals; it offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB skin protection; and it’s very highly rated by EWG. And, unlike lots of Zinc-based sunscreens, it’s easy to apply and doesn’t leave a thick, white coating behind.
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!
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.
Our editor-in-chief 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,” says Karell. “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 💜Gathre mats. Made from a soft bonded leather that’s water impermeable and easy to wipe clean, they’re a beautiful place to, well…gather!
Whether you need a spot on the beach, a place for a family meal, or your stuck at an airport gate due to a weather delay, the uses for these mats are truly endless. And have we mentioned they are absolutely gorgeous? You’re going to have trouble choosing between the huge assortment of modern colors and prints.
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.!
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.