When we began our trip around the world, our little one was eleven-months-old. He will be twenty-months by the time we head home. The amount of change that babies go through in nine months is insane! Keeping up with how much they grow, their changing interests, and their ever-evolving developmental needs while traveling long-term could burn right through our travel budget.
The keys for us have been:
- Using high-quality baby gear that holds up to wear and tear
- Buying gear that serves multiple purposes
- Getting to the root of what he needs and when he needs it, and
- Leaving the rest at home.
This post will highlight our tried and true favorite pieces of baby gear that we traveled with during our around-the-world trip, as well as things that we wished we had.
A baby carrier is imperative for travel. It takes you places that a stroller cannot while leaving your hands free. If you are debating bringing one, just do it! Our Lille Baby Carrier has been with us for four years and to twelve countries and counting. I have chronic lower back pain and the Lille Baby allows me to lug my now ginormous baby around comfortably for long distances. The Lille Baby supports babies from 7 to 45 pounds (our guy is about 25 pounds in the photo above). It allows for an ergonomic sitting position and all sorts of ways to wear a baby.
What I wish we (could have if our baby was younger) bought: The Doona Infant Car Seat and Stroller eliminates the need for a separate huge piece of gear. If you have an infant and are on-the-go from one vehicle to the next, this is a must have. We chose not to bring car seats, which worked out perfectly for our first few months in Europe since we exclusively used public transportation. If you are taxi and shuttle loving travelers, having a car seat for your babe is essential and this one is genius.
For an older baby or toddler, the Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat consistently gets great reviews from traveling families because it’s super lightweight and affordable. A lot of families will purchase this seat exclusively for travel.
We knew that we wanted to bring a stroller for the baby on this trip. That’s the first question to answer – Do you even need/want to bring a stroller? I did quite a bit of research and we ultimately, semi-impulsively, bought a GB Pockit (non-reclining model) on sale at Target. The folded size was impressive and made carrying easy, but unfolded it was just an umbrella stroller with no recline and a measly excuse for a shade.
Four months into our trip, we upgraded to BabyZen Yoyo, a stroller that was on my radar initially but was four times as expensive as the Pockit. Needless to say, it is worth the cost. The fold, while not quite as impressive as the Pockit, still fits within guidelines for an overhead bin. We love that it unfolds with one hand, feels sturdy, has a carry strap, decent recline, big shade, and it rides like a dream.
Other travel strollers to consider:
If you are traveling for an extended period of time, just expect that you will need to buy new things at some point. Babies are messy, destructive, and grow crazy fast. That said, there are a few items of clothing that have stood the test of time in Luca’s suitcase.
The legs of Little Sleepies Zip Rompers are extra long so that they can be folded over the feet to become footed jammies. Not only does this make them wearable in a variety of climates (as does the cozy bamboo fabric), it extends the amount of time that baby can wear them.
Give me a swim shirt with a top-to-bottom zipper, and I’ll show you one happy mama. The Cat & Jack swim shirts from Target are the very best in the game and all of our kids have multiple. Luca also has a One-Piece rash Guard from Primary that makes up for its lack of a top-to-bottom zipper with crotch snaps. As for swim diapers, the Cheeky Cloth One-Size Reusable Swim Diaper is a game changer. One diaper can fit babies 8 to 40 pounds!
Luca’s shoe needs changed dramatically in the course of few months as he went from crawling, to a wobbly, unsteady baby, to a full-blown running toddler. The pair that withstood this test were his Freshly Picked Mini Sole Moccasins. They’re soft and comfortable, yet sturdy and protective. Tip: Choose a natural color, as the painted leather will chip and wear much quicker!
Diaper bags seem to be a very opinionated item, and there are a billion choices out there! Back home, I have a leather Lily Jade Madeline; one of those diaper bags that doesn’t look like a diaper bag for cool moms. I adore it, but for our extended travels I wanted something that I wouldn’t feel weird bringing to the beach and wouldn’t worry too much about it getting damaged or stolen. I went with a JuJuBe Classical Convertible Diaper Bag, which is the minimal version of their popular B.F.F. It sadly seems to have been discontinued. Regardless, I recommend using a bag that is a backpack, is a washable, durable fabric, is not heavy on its own (like a leather bag), and that has ample pockets. Has anyone ever complained about too many pockets?
What I wish we bought: The Guava Lotus Travel Crib gets rave reviews from families traveling with babies. We did not bring a portable crib on this trip. Our first apartment in Spain provided one, as have many of the hotels and short-term rentals we have stayed at. Once we arrived in Malaysia and did not have access to a crib, we went out and bought the first one we found. My husband actually totally loves it, but it’s way too heavy to keep toting around. The Guava Lotus Travel Crib is only 13lbs., comes with a a backpack carrying case, and can be taken on an aircraft as a carry-on bag.
Portable Travel High Chair
I had this portable travel high chair on my baby’s Amazon Wish List and a girlfriend bought it for Luca as a gift. I’m not sure if it would have made the final cut of baby gear on our trip had she not purchased it, so I am forever indebted to her. We use this nearly every single day, as we have yet to stay in an apartment or other accommodation that has provided a high chair. This silly thing is a fixture at our dining table. It has its flaws, mainly that the baby is pretty low at the table because his bottom sits on a chair of normal height, but it has been a life saver. I will say, however, that we definitely could have gotten by without one if its only purpose was to use at restaurants.
What I wish we bought: Bombol Pop-up Booster. Given how much we use our portable high-chair, this super sleek model would have been worth the cost.
Feeding & Food Storage
I hesitated adding a section about bottles, nursing, and other feeding needs because, like toys or clothing, a baby’s needs change dramatically over the course of a year. One piece of advice that I stand by is this: Bring way less than you think you need. Don’t bring a million bottles, pump parts, bibs, bowls, spoons – Just bring one and some soap (or better yet, buy dish soap when you get to your destination)! Below are some of our favorites in this category. In full disclosure, Luca has been exclusively breastfed and did not take a bottle as an older infant, now toddler. Younger babies and formula fed infants will need extra gear.
The Best Feeding Gear for Traveling Babies
- Pura Kiki Stainless Steel Infant Bottle – Interchangeable nipples take this from a baby bottle, to a newbie sippy cup, to a big kid sippy with a straw.
- Ju-Ju-Be “Be Neat” Bib – We love these bibs’ strong magnetic closures, machine washable and easily wipeable fabric, cute prints, and convenient carrying case.
- Ryan & Rose Baby Spoon – An excellent training spoon and fork (but curiously not a spork). It also doubles as a teether.
- Beaba Silicone Suction Bowl – We just bought Luca this bowl and love it. It’s a perfect size, completely functional, and is compact for packing.
- Skip Hop Grab-and-Go Container Set – I’m completely obsessed with this snack container. Use them separately or stack all three together.
- Breastmilk storage bottles – We very briefly used these for their intended purpose, but they have since stored vitamins, snacks, crayons, Legos, etc.
- Stasher Silicone Reusable Food Bags – Fresh snacks, dry snacks, and literally anything else. These are the ultimate reusable storage bag.
Whether or not your baby is breastfed, and whether or not you use a cover while nursing, a baby cover (“nursing cover”) is a super handy blanket that can double as a scarf, a baby tent, a shopping cart or high chair cover, or a stroller blanket (put baby’s head through the center and it won’t slip off!). I’ve even used mine to cover my bare shoulders when visiting temples. My favorite covers have been from Milk Snob and Copper Pearl.
Wet bags were introduced to me when we started cloth diapering our twins. They have since been incorporated into so many other aspects of our lives and our travels. Wet bags essentially keep wet things inside while staying dry on the outside. We keep a small one (like these from Bum Genius or these from Bumkins) in our diaper/day bag packed with a change of clothes. If the baby gets dirty, the soiled outfit goes in and the clean outfit goes on. Our favorite large size is made by Kanga Care. We use these as dirty laundry bags, for wet swim suits, to put the baby carrier in while on an airplane, and all sorts of random reasons.
Baby or no baby, everybody needs packing cubes for travel. We use the Gonex Compression Sack Packing Cubes and Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes to organize and squish down all of our clothing, maximizing precious luggage real estate. Each family member has their own color for optimal organization and visual appeal!
“What are some things to keep my baby entertained on our flight?” gets asked more than any other question on family travel groups of which I am a member. Have you met a baby? Anything will hold their interest for about 2.5 seconds until they are onto the next thing, which may or may not even last that long.
Do not invest in expensive, single-use toys. My best tip is to get a quart-sized storage bag and fill it with random objects around the house (think mirror, bookmark, pump of a shampoo bottle, old jewelry) and throw it in your bag.
Baby’s interests and skills change quickly. As such, you might need to buy and ditch toys along the way. Purchase toys that serve multiple purposes or that will change as they age.
Favorite toys and gadgets for traveling babies (4 to 18-months-old):
- Chew beads jewelry – Cute for you, entertaining for baby
- Teethers that double as toothbrushes (or vice versa)
- Puffy stickers or reusable stickers
- Stacking cups – Beach toy, pool toy, bath toy, toy-toy
- Clean trash like empty bottles with lids or paper to rip up
- Small First 100 Words type-books
- Breastmilk storage bottles filled with (non-choking-sized) Legos or anything else they can take out and put back in.
- ALL the snacks