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How to Prep Like a Pro for Baby's First Trip

Luckily, infants are super-portable—especially before those little legs (and vocal chords) are up to speed. Get your crew all packed and ready to go with these helpful tips.
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profile picture of Erin van Vuuren
ByErin van Vuuren
Updated
September 1, 2021
Mom packing a suitcase for a trip on her bed.
Image: Leo Patrizi

Taking baby on their first trip is an exciting milestone. But, whether you’re taking a road trip to Grandma’s house or prepping for that first overseas family vacation, there’s a lot to think about. After all, for someone so small, baby (and all their gear) tend to take up a whole lot of space! Luckily, there are a few ways to help make prepping baby’s first trip easier, from strategic packing tips to helpful FAQs to be aware of. Here’s what to know before you go.

How to Pack

It’s best to make babies feel at home as much as possible on a trip—and often that means traveling with all their daily gear. Between multiple changes of clothes, diapers, wipes, feeding supplies, toys and travel gear, the list of items to pack can really stack up! When preparing your packing checklist, try to think about the items baby needs as strategically as possible.

Baby clothes

Packing clothes is fairly simple: Have a spitter-upper? Bring extra bibs and onesies. Fairly tidy tot? You may get away with fewer items. Pack the same amount of outfits that baby would go through at home, and don’t forget pj’s and a sleep sack, and any weather-appropriate items (a sun hat, snowsuit, etc.). For long trips, call ahead to check for laundry facilities. “When we went to Hawaii, tons of moms were washing clothes,” says The Bump user Lori R. “I’d never thought of that.”

Baby gear

Infant clothes are tiny—it’s all that gear that gives traveling with baby a bad name. To avoid an overloaded dash through Terminal B, invest in compact, lightweight and multipurpose items that can pull double-duty to lighten your load. (Think: a travel system stroller, a portable crib/playard, a collapsible high chair, etc.) Just make sure you know how to set up, break down and use it all before you start your travels.

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To further cut down on gear, call ahead to see what your hotel can provide. (A crib? High chair? Infant bath tub?) Also, check to see if it offers baby-proofing items. If not, grab a supply of pipe cleaners for tying up loose cords and some masking tape for covering outlets and securing washcloths over sharp table corners. Another option to consider is renting baby gear, if available, at your destination.

Remember: Unless you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, you can probably buy some things (like diapers, wipes and so on) once you arrive. You’ll only need to pack enough diapering essentials for the flight or drive, plus a few extras for any delays. Depending on where you’re headed and how partial you are to specific brands, you might even buy baby shampoo and lotion at your destination. And don’t discount Amazon’s far-reaching delivery range! "We ordered the diapers, wipes and formula to be delivered to our destination. That saved a ton of space,” says The Bump user Penelope M.

Baby hygiene essentials

While you may get away with limited supplies of wipes, do pack first aid items (such as a thermometer, snot-sucker, saline drops, chest rub, etc.) and medicines that could come in handy just in case baby gets sick. “You don’t want to lug a screaming, feverish baby on a midnight hunt for Motrin,” Lori says. Check the latest information on Transportation Security Administration (TSA) container restrictions—they always seem to change.

Baby toys and food

Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the toys. Carry a nice stash to keep baby distracted along the way, including old favorites and a few new ones. Just leave any squeaky, rattly or talking toys at home—fellow travelers will be grateful. And don’t forget the snacks (for baby and parents). "I bring granola bars, animal crackers, Fig Newtons, Goldfish—stuff we both can eat,” says The Bumper user Caren D.

If you’re nursing or pumping while traveling, find out where the Mother’s Room or lactation room is at your airport terminal. Investing in thoughtfully designed products—like a portable, hands-free pump and cleaning wipes for your pump parts—may also help.

Preparing to Travel

Packing for baby’s first trip is certainly an accomplishment in and of itself—but you haven’t reached the finish line once you zip up that suitcase. Now that baby (and you) are packed and ready to go, it’s time for the actual travel. Whether you’re hopping on a plane, bus, car or train, you may want to schedule the journey during your child’s naptime or bedtime (if they’ll sleep away from their crib)—sleeping babies don’t get bored. Bring along pj’s, books, pacifiers, a white noise machine or anything else included in your usual routine. The more baby feels at home, the easier the journey.

Regardless of the mode of transportation, build extra time into your schedule as a buffer, in case you experience any hiccups—the last thing any parent wants is to be running through the airport or train terminal with a sleeping baby and all the gear and luggage in tow.

Traveling by plane

If you’re flying, call the airline to check its policies on checking and carrying on baby gear. For long flights, consider purchasing an extra seat and bringing the car seat along. Having your iInfant in your lap can get very old after a few hours, and it’s not as safe if there’s turbulence or other problems. “We’ve always said that if we can’t afford a seat for our son, then we can’t afford the trip,” says Jill P., another Bump user. If you do plan on holding baby for the flight, go for a window seat—it’ll keep those tiny arms and legs out of the aisle and away from the drink cart rolling by.

For security, keep the items you’ll have to pull out at the checkpoint easily accessible. Put your plastic bags at the top of your carry-ons so you can open the bag, grab and go. TSA allows you to bring more than 3.4 ounces of baby formula, breast milk or juice through the security checkpoint, but these items will need to be screened separately from the rest of your things. Declare the excess liquids to TSA officers for a smoother process, and know that they may ask to test a small quantity for concealed prohibited items or take additional steps to clear the liquids. If you’ll need to heat baby’s breast milk or formula, here’s a clever way to create a makeshift bottle warmer: “Carry empty bottles and fill them on the other side of security. Airport bars will fill your bottles with [hot] water for free," says Maggie B., another Bump user.

Whatever you do, allot enough time for your security screening! Some other tips to help you get through security smoothly?

-Flag any special concerns: Let TSA officers know if your child has a disability, medical condition or medical device.

-Be ready in advance: Put all items (including carry-ons, toys, bags, backpacks and travel gear) on the X-ray belt for screening.

-Wear baby for fewer hassles: TSA lets you go through the metal detector while wearing baby in a carrier, which can be useful if you’d rather avoid having to remove baby from the stroller, fold it and place it on the X-ray belt.

-Anticipate delays: Know that any equipment that doesn’t fit through the X-ray machine will go through a separate visual and physical inspection.

Once you’re at your gate, take advantage of being able to move about freely: Walk around with baby, feed them, offer tummy time, etc. And don’t be afraid to linger in the lounge area! “You don’t have to board early,” Lori says. “Remember that it takes 30-plus minutes for everyone else to board, and all of that is just extra time your child will be spending in a cramped seat getting antsy.”

Traveling by Train

Trains can be a wonderful way to travel. They offer picturesque views and a chance for baby to hear the iconic “choo choo” horn in person. Once you’re all packed for the trip, follow these tips from Amtrak to make embarking on the journey a little less stressful.

-Know where to sit: If it’s a short ride, you’ll likely be in coach, meaning you can sit almost anywhere on the train. At busier stations, ask an Amtrak staff member if you and your family can board first. This will help increase your chances of finding seats together.

-Use the Red Cap service: At many major stations, uniformed Red Caps can help you with your luggage, strollers and any additional bags. The service is free, and for parents of kids under 2, items like strollers and diaper bags don’t count toward the carry-on limit.

-Prepare for the horn: The sound may be iconic, but it’s loud and can wake baby up from their nap. Have comfort items on hand to help them fall back to sleep if this happens.

Traveling by car

Before you start your engine, double check that all car seats are properly secured and make sure toys, teethers and food items are within arm’s reach. It’ll also help to have a diaper bag packed for the bathroom, restaurant and sightseeing breaks (even babies need to stretch!).

Preparing for baby’s first trip can be overwhelming, but take a deep breath and know it will get easier. Give yourself the time you need to ensure packing and traveling goes smoothly. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey—you’ll miss these precious moments when baby is older.

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