A baby sits in his mothers lap while on a plane

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless you have a screaming baby, glowering relatives, and can’t find that pacifier you know you packed somewhere.

We’ve got you covered. Here’s a guide to help you determine what you need to pack (and what you don’t) when traveling with a baby. With a bit of preparation, you’ll have everything you need to keep your baby happy, so you can enjoy your time visiting with family and friends.

What to Pack

What you need to pack depends on where you’ll be staying and what you’ll be doing. Are you staying at a hotel or with your parents? Will you have access to laundry facilities or not? Does your host for family dinner have young children (and therefore bibs, cutlery for babies and other baby gear)?

The key to efficient packing is to first assess which items may be available at your destination — if your host already owns cabinet locks, sippy cups, or a stroller, leave yours at home. The more items you can leave behind, the lighter your bags and the happier you’ll be in transit; plus, it reduces the number of items you have to worry about remembering to bring back!

Below is our list of baby essentials. Select from the following list which items you can borrow or obtain when you arrive, and which you’ll need to bring yourself:

Baby’s Clothing

  • Outfits (including socks): One per day if planning on doing laundry, two per day if not planning on doing laundry
  • Pajamas: Three sets if planning on doing laundry, one set per night if not planning on doing laundry

Baby’s Utensils

  • Baby fork, spoon, and dishes
  • Spill-proof snack cups
  • Bottles or sippy cups
  • Bibs (2-3)

Baby’s Toiletries

  • Baby soap
  • Baby shampoo
  • Ear swabs
  • Nail clippers
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Baby lotion
  • Diapers, wipes, and formula or breast milk: Only pack as much as you need while in transit (you can buy more when you arrive at your destination).

Baby Gear

  • Baby-proofing equipment: Outlet plugs, door knob covers, toilet locks, and any other safety devices for crawling babies or young toddlers.
  • Car seat
  • Baby monitor
  • Baby carrier
  • Toys: Attachable toys like ring links and wearable toys like wrist rattles and foot rattles are great if you worry about losing toys while traveling.

Parent Gear

  • Breast pump: If you’re nursing and you anticipate that your holiday plans may interrupt your nursing schedule.
  • Nursing cover: If you’re nursing.
  • Nursing pillow: If you’re nursing.
  • Diaper bag: Bringing a bag with a portable changing pad can be especially helpful
  • Extra bag: If you’re taking day trips or expect to go shopping, you may want an alternative to a diaper bag.
  • Stroller: If you expect to be out and about during your visit, you may want to bring a stroller. If you’ll be going straight from a car to a house and back again, consider skipping the stroller.

If you’re visiting close family (such as parents or grandparents) that you’ll be visiting again in the future, consider purchasing some duplicates of items you own — like a stroller, high chair, baby monitor, or infant clothes — to store at their home and use whenever you’re there. Your folks or other relatives may even be happy to help purchase some of these things, as a gift to you and your baby (especially if they are excited for future visits).

Extra Items to Pack If You’re Flying

If you’re flying, it helps to think about packing in two categories: what you’ll need at your destination (see the packing list above) and what you’ll need during transit.

Use our list below as a guide to packing your carry-on bag with the things your infant will need for the duration of the flight.

Baby Carry-On Bag

  • Diapers: only as many as you’ll need during travel. Don’t overload yourself.
  • Wipes
  • Blankets
  • Bottles
  • Bibs
  • A change of clothes
  • Formula or breastmilk
  • Pacifiers
  • Medicines
  • Snacks and toys: Out of respect for other passengers, skip the noisy toys. Infant teethers are common favorites for keeping those little mouths happy (and quiet).

Breastmilk and formula are exempt from the TSA’s three-ounce limit on liquids, so you can bring as much as you need. Keep in mind that liquids are heavy to carry — so it may be preferable to measure out full-bottle quantities of formula and then mix with bottled water as you need it while traveling.

You may also need:

  • A baby passport, if you’re traveling outside of the country. Read more about getting passports for your children.
  • A consent letter from your baby’s other parent, if you’re traveling solo.

What to Leave Behind

There’s no point in overloading yourself with items you don’t need. All parents know that persistent feeling of never having enough free hands — and it becomes even more true when traveling. Strive to pack only the essentials; the less bulky your baggage, the more you free up your attention (and your arms!) to focus on keeping baby comfortable along the journey.

Don’t Pack:

  • Anything your host already owns that you can use when you arrive.
  • More diapers, wipes, and formula than you’ll need while in transit. It’s simpler to buy these when you arrive (or ask a family member to pick some up to have waiting for you).
  • A crib. Hotels often offer these at no additional cost. If you’re staying with family, you may be able to rent or borrow a crib.