What to Pack for Vacation With Your Baby

Family packing car for trip
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Taking a family vacation with an infant presents some unique challenges. Babies need a lot of gear and it can be overwhelming to gather up everything needed to ensure their comfort (and survival!) on the road or in the air.

For such tiny people, babies sure take up a lot of packing space. In addition to the day-to-day items you tout in a diaper bag, you'll also need extra changes of clean clothes, diapers, bottles, nipples, formula (or equipment for pumping breast milk), toys, medicine, and whatever your little one needs to sleep.

Exactly what you will need to pack will depend on how you are traveling, where you will be staying, and how long you will be gone.

For example, you'd have different needs when visiting family (and having access to a laundry room) then you would staying at a remote island resort. Likewise, flying to your destination will present different challenges than driving.

Almost any destination will have a grocery store where you can stock up on daily items like diapers and formula once you arrive. If you are staying with family or friends, you might be able to borrow bulkier items like a pack 'n play.

When you're ready to start packing, here's a checklist you can use to make sure you have everything you need—and that you've packed it in a way that will make the trip easy and enjoyable for your whole family.

Carry-On Diaper Bag 

If you are flying, remember that your diaper bag will need to go through TSA screening. To make passing through security a breeze, keep any liquids in a plastic bag near the top of your carry-on and be mindful not to pack any contraband items.

  • Baby food and utensils. If your child has started eating solids, pack enough food in your carry-on for as many meals as they will need during travel time, plus one extra meal in case you get delayed. Choose shelf-stable items that do not need to be refrigerated—and don't forget the spoons! 
  • Bibs. If your child wears bibs, pack at least two in your carry-on.
  • Blankets. Bring two or three blankets. You can pack one or two on the baby and toss a spare in your bag.
  • Bottles and nipples. If your baby bottle feeds, make sure to carry at least two baby bottles and nipples with you.
  • Clothes. Pack two separate outfits in gallon-size storage bags. If you have two bags, you can put the soiled items into one after changing your baby's clothes.
  • Comfort items. If your child has a favorite comfort item like a blanket, stuffed animal, or toy, make sure to pack it in your diaper bag.
  • Diaper changing pad. You'll be changing lots of diapers on the go and in public restrooms, so make sure you pack a portable changing pad in your diaper bag.
  • Diapers. Pack one diaper for every hour of expected travel time plus one or two extras. If you are flying, be prepared for at least one blow-out mid-flight. 
  • Formula. The TSA allows formula, breastmilk, and juice for children in reasonable quantities. Remember to pack all liquids separately in a plastic bag so you can easily and quickly remove them from your carry-on for screening. Bring as many servings as your baby would typically need in the time it will take you to travel, plus three or four extra in case you are delayed. Powdered formula is the easiest when you're traveling and can be measured out in advance for convenience. 
  • Gallon-size storage bags. Pack at least three in the diaper bag. Use them for wet/dirty clothes or for used diapers when you don't have another way to dispose of them.
  • Hand sanitizer. As of May 2020, the TSA will allow each passenger to carry on one container (up to 12 ounces) of liquid hand sanitizer. However, containers larger than the usual 3.4 ounces allowed in a carry-on will need to go through a separate screening process, so be sure to factor in the added time you'll be at the security checkpoint. Keeping containers of hand sanitizer in a separate plastic bag (preferably with an easy-to-open zipper) can make the process go a little faster.
  • Medicine. Small children have an uncanny knack for getting sick while traveling. Be sure to pack pain reliever, fever reducer, ear drops, gas drops, thermometer, and a first-aid kit. And remember to store any liquids in a plastic bag for TSA screening.
  • Pacifiers. If your baby uses pacifiers, pack at least two extras (you're likely to lose at least one)
  • Toys. Pack a few books and quiet toys to keep your little one entertained in the car, airport terminal, or mid-flight.
  • Wipes. Keep a small package of wipes with a flip-top lid in your carry-on. If you already have a pack in your diaper bag, check that there are enough wipes and that they are still moist. 

Luggage

Even though their clothes are little, your baby needs can easily fill a suitcase of their own. If you'll be flying, check with your airline to see how many suitcases your family can bring along.

Here's a list of what to pack in your baby's suitcase.

  • Baby food and utensils. If your baby has moved up to solids, pack enough food for the first 24 to 48 hours of your trip in your suitcase. Plan to buy more once you reach your destination. Don't forget utensils—make sure to bring at least three spoons with you. 
  • Bibs. Pack two to three additional bibs. Bibs are items that can be washed in the sink and hung to dry once you reach your destination.
  • Blankets. Pack two additional blankets.
  • Bottles, nipples, and a bottle brush. If your vacation will be packed with activities and your family will be on the go most of the trip, make sure that you have enough clean bottles and nipples (including the ones you pack in your diaper bag for one day). Don't forget to pack a bottle brush for cleaning.
  • Clothes. The number of outfits you'll need will depend on how often your baby needs to have their clothes changed, and whether you will have access to laundry facilities when you arrive. Pack at least one outfit for each day plus three extra. You also want to have at least two pairs of pajamas. ​​
  • Diapers. You'll be able to buy diapers at your destination (and you'll want to check online before your trip to find out what stores will be nearby), but it's a good idea to pack at least 10 diapers in the suitcase. That gives you enough to get by until you can make a trip to the store.
  • Extra bag. You might want to pack a smaller bag to use as a diaper bag on the go.  
  • Formula. Pack enough formula for the first 24 to 48 hours of your trip. You can purchase additional formula at your destination. If you're breastfeeding and will want to pump, make sure that you've packed all the equipment you'll need.
  • Toiletries. You'll need everything for bath time. Pack baby soap, baby shampoo, ear swabs, nail clippers, diaper rash ointment, and baby lotion in gallon-size resealable bags.
  • Wipes. You can buy more once you arrive, but be sure you have enough wipes on hand for the first 24 hours of your trip. Keep a package of wipes that is at least half full in your suitcase.

Equipment

Whether you are driving to your destination or flying, there are a few key pieces of baby equipment you might want to bring along for your trip.

Car Seat

You'll be able to rent a car seat if you rent a car, but you might prefer to bring along the one you use at home since you're already familiar with it. Make sure that the car seat you bring is FAA-approved and check your airline's specific seating guidelines.

Most airlines allow car seats to be checked in with luggage and do not count it as an extra bag. You might want to buy or borrow a car seat cover to protect it.

When you're in-flight, most airlines will let your baby ride in your lap. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that all infants ride in secured safety seats.

If you chose not to purchase a ticket for your baby, you might consider asking if there are any open seats on your flight at check-in.

Stroller

You'll want to bring a sturdy, collapsible stroller that is less than 20 pounds. Even though umbrella strollers are lightweight and portable, they may not withstand the wear and tear from a busy vacation. They also might not be as comfortable for your child and can be hard to steer through crowds.

If you choose to bring a stroller on your trip, you should be able to check it at the gate before boarding your flight. However, if you are traveling to a theme park or resort, consider leaving your stroller at home.

You'll want to check with the specific place your family is headed to, but many parks like Disney World offer stroller rentals.

Crib or Pack 'n Play

You will need a place for baby to sleep safely. Fortunately, many hotels and resorts offer cribs and pack 'n plays as part of your room rental (at no additional cost).

If you are staying with family or a friend's home, find out if you'll be able to rent what you need or perhaps borrow from a neighbor.

Baby Carrier

If your baby prefers to be worn or otherwise kept close, remember to pack a carrier or sling. Check with your airline to see if you'll be allowed to wear your baby during the flight. 

Breast Pump

If you're breastfeeding, you might want to bring a breast pump in case you're unable to nurse. Having a pump on hand can also be helpful should you need to relieve the pressure of full breasts while maintaining your milk supply.

Baby Monitor

If your baby will be sleeping in a separate room, you might want to pack a baby monitor (don't forget the receivers!).

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  1. Transportation Security Administration. Hand Sanitizers. Updated May 2020.

  2. Federal Aviation Administration. Flying with Children. Updated December 2019.