The Best of Everything: Baby Travel Gear.

By: Jen Shoop

I’ve written a couple of posts about items I have used while traveling with mini at various stages, but the other day, Mr. Magpie texted me: “Is there one post with all of the baby travel gear in it?  A colleague is asking.”  It made me realize it can be hard to find those old posts, so I thought I’d do a summative “Best of Everything” edition pertaining to all my favorite travel gear.

Baby Travel Gear: Sleeping.

+Brica Fold N’ Go Travel Bassinet.  When mini was, well, mini, we used this for a couple of trips home.  It’s lightweight, folds flat, and fits in a large suitcase.  It was a total lifesaver when she was sleeping every couple of hours — we would just bring it down to the family room or wherever we were while visiting my parents and she’d sleep soundly while the rest of us chatted.

+Nuna Sena Aire Travel Crib.  We bring this with us now that mini is bigger, although someone brought up in a comment relatively recently that checking a travel crib often costs an additional $25 each way — and there are apparently services out there that will enable you to rent travel cribs at your destination for cheaper, and without the literal extra baggage.  That said, this crib has come in handy many times, including when we were living out of hotels and several of the hotels “sold out of cribs” or offered cribs that were seriously disturbing in my opinion (old, rickety, lined with bumpers, and had probably not been cleaned in a decade), and also a handful of times when I have been under the weather and needed a place to corral mini while I basically laid on the couch.  The pros are these: it’s super sturdy, it comes with a bassinet insert that you can use before your babe can pull herself up (which makes it so, so much easier to get her into and out of it), the “mattress”  is super soft and plush, it’s very easy to set up (you literally push your hand down and it snaps into place), and it looks great.  The cons are these: it’s heavy, it’s expensive, and I find it difficult to fold up by myself (you’re supposed to wrap the mattress around the tent poles to sort of contain everything, and it’s super hard to do on your own!)  I don’t have a point of reference since I’ve never used another pack n’ play / travel crib, but based on the extensive research I did, people tend to find this to be one of the better-made models on the market and I’m inclined to agree.  I also considered the Lotus travel crib, which purports to be lighter, but ended up going with the Nuna because I liked their carseat so much and had an affinity for the brand.

+On the Go Sleep Sheep.  I love this little sound machine because it comes with velcro so you can affix it to nearly anything — and we have.  Her stroller, her travel crib, her crib at home, etc.  Mini can sleep without it, but it’s become sort of a bedtime cue for her, and I’ve even put it on while traveling on the train!

+Infant Optics Baby Monitor.  We bring this with us when visiting my parents, as we tend to stay way up on the fourth floor of the house, and the living area is on the second.  I find that mini has trouble sleeping when we’re away on vacation, so this is crucial to helping me decide whether I need to make the trip up to soothe her or not — i.e., is she standing in her crib, screaming?  Or is she laying down and whimpering?

+Monica and Andy Always Blanket.  I like this because it’s often cold on the plane, and this one is snuggly but lightweight and breathable.  It’s also pretty big, so it would double (when mini was young) as a tummy time mat.

Baby Travel Gear: Packing.

+Land’s End XL Canvas Tote.  A classic.  This is excellent for car trips, when I want everything easy to access without any need to unzip or unpack layers and layers of items.  This tote has pockets that line the interior, so I’ll organize one pocket with bottles and formula and snacks, one pocket with diapers/wipes, one pocket with books, etc.

+Pottery Barn Kids Wet Bag.  I rarely leave home without this — it always stores a spare pair of clothes for mini for the inevitable blowout/mess/etc — but it’s especially handy while traveling, and on travel day in particular, where I tend to accrue a mass of dirty items: her burp cloth, her bib, that sock that fell in a puddle, etc.

+EZ Packing Cubes.  I’ve mentioned these so many times I’m almost embarrassed to re-feature, but these changed the game for me when traveling with a baby.  I’m able to keep her clothes and accessories in separate, easy-to-find compartments.

+Eagle Creek Compression Cube Set.  I use these to store her dirty laundry.  You can jam a lot in there!

Baby Travel Gear: Meals.

+Pretty LouLou Wet Bag. I initially bought this as a back-up in-case-of-emergency-change-of-clothes receptacle, but never used it as planned.  Instead, it’s mini’s “lunch” bag, and I keep a couple of pouches of food, some utensils (we love these from Beaba right now), bibs, etc in here.  I love it because if I’m not close to somewhere I can wash her bib/utensils, the liner protects the bag and can be wiped clean easily.

+Beaba Clip Containers.  I will often fill these with diced fruit or shredded cheese for healthier snacking on the go.

+Bumkins Superbibs.  I use these at home as well because I like that they can be tossed in the laundry and then folded up to lay flat in our cupboards (we’re short on space), but they’re extra handy while traveling since you can fold them and stow them in your bag easily (versus the stiff molded plastic ones).

+Boon Trip Travel Drying Rack.  Mr. Magpie looked at me askance when I insisted we needed this, but I found it completely indispensable, especially when staying in a hotel (how else do you wash and dry them?!) and even when staying with family, because it gives you a tidy space to keep your bottles instead of cluttered all over your host’s counter.

+OXO Formula Dispenser.  My most commented-on article of baby gear.  I have been stopped several times and interrogated about this — it is genius.  You pre-apportion three servings worth of formula, snap on the top, and then can pour out the appropriate amount when needed.  There are many brands that make formula dispensers, but believe me — this is the best, and I spent a lot of time reading up on reviews.  Another tip: fill a couple of bottles with the appropriate amount of water as soon as you get through the security checkpoint and then add the formula just when you need it.  Then you don’t have to flag down an attendant when you need water on the plane and it’s a lot easier to have the water poured out before you board than while you’re juggling a crying baby.  I also found that it was always better to err on the side of caution — pre-fill a couple of bottles with water, even if you only anticipate using one, because you just never know…there have been times we were stuck on the tarmac, or mini was just plain fussy, and having an extra bottle was CLUTCH.

+Ziploc baggie.  Yep, just a plain old gallon size Ziploc bag.  We’d use this to bring mini’s formula along.  Mr. Magpie is brilliant, so rather than using the tiny scooper in the Hipp formula bin to apportion enough formula powder for a week, he did the math — “OK, she needs four six or seven ounce bottles each day, so that’s 196 ounces total,” and then he used our kitchen scale to measure out the amount of formula powder we’d need to bring.  Putting it in a Ziploc saved a lot of space for us, as opposed to bringing the bulky metal tin.

+Munchkin Snack Catcher.  I did a lot of research on the best snack cup, and I think this is it.  It contains spills, but is easy enough for mini to get her hand in and out.  I also like that it comes with a removable silicon lid and has handles — easy for her to hold.  The only snafu is that I find it can be hard to screw the top onto the threads of the bottom, but time and perseverance have helped me crack that nut 🙂

+Noodle + Boo Cleansing Cloths.  OK, this is completely unnecessary because you could absolutely use diaper wipes, but it’s the little things in life and I absolutely love the scent of these facial cleansing wipes.  I only use them while traveling, but it’s a dorky little treat for myself.  Plus, it keeps everyone smelling fresh as a daisy on those long days.

+Herban Essentials Towelettes.  The first thing I do when I get on a train or plain is wipe down all of the seats, tray tables, arm rests, etc.  Mr. Magpie is dubious as to whether this really matters (“we live in New York…there’s no way to escape the germs!”), but it gives me peace of mind to have a clean slate.  I like that these are nicely scented and well-moistened.

+EO Hand Sanitizer.  I like that this is a spray, and it smells great.  Mr. Magpie prefers plain old gel Purell, so I am usually equipped with both.

Baby Travel Gear: Diapering.

+Gathre Micro Mat.  I’ve used these since day one (I have one in my diaper bag, and a spare that we keep in the stroller).  They fold up into a square and can be wiped down easily.  They’re thicker than some of the other mats I’ve seen, and far more durable — and they’re pretty!

+Munchkin Arm + Hammer Diaper Bags.  These have saved me on so many occasions, and I would have had no idea I needed them had a kind mom not tipped me off just a few days before mini was due!  They’re the most polite way to discard soiled diapers while visiting with friends/family and the most generous to yourself when staying in a hotel or spare room, when the trash might not be removed for 24 hours.  They’ve also served as a makeshift receptacle for soiled/wet clothing and for the odd amount of trash we manage to generate while on a plane.  (Wrappers, wipes, etc!)

+OXO Travel Wipes Dispenser.  As with most of OXO’s baby products — sleek and thoughtfully designed.  This can actually store quite a lot of wipes, and I usually am able to get by on travel days by solely filling this and then replenishing by heading to the nearest drugstore upon arrival in the destination.  This container really keeps the moisture in — I had issues where others would dry out very quickly.  This also doubles as an excellent toy for a bored baby!

Baby Travel Gear: Transit with Infant.

+Nuna Pipa Infant Carseat.  This is one of the lightest weight (possibly THE lightest weight?) infant carseats on the market.  I also like the style (sleek) and the fact that it has a sunshade.  (I did find that the magnets that hold the sunshade in place were not quite strong enough and they’d often come free, but it did its job most of the time and I presume the design meant that they were able to shave off a few ounces of weight, which I’ll take any day.)  It comes with a base, but it can also be strapped into a car/taxi using a seatbelt.

+Gate Check Pro Carseat Travel Bag.  This is a must for two reasons: first, it has a strap so that Mr. Magpie can throw the carseat in it and carry it on his back/almost like a backpack, which is SO SO much easier than carrying it awkwardly in one hand while rushing through a terminal.  Second, I like that it offered an (admittedly thin) layer of protection when being handled by baggage crews.  It meant my expensive Nuna Pipa’s plastic wouldn’t be inadvertently scratched while tossed on the ground or whatever.  It’s also very easy to spot when it comes out on the conveyer belt!

+Baby Trend Snap N Go Universal Carseat Carrier.  We spent so much time debating whether or not to buy an umbrella stroller, just use a baby carrier, or bring our full-size stroller with us.  We were concerned about the latter because we’d heard that unless you pack your Bugaboo in a Bugaboo travel case, if anything happens to it in transit, they will not fix it — and the Bugaboo travel case is like $170.  Our Bugaboo is also pretty damn big and bulky for travel.  And when mini was super little, we didn’t feel an umbrella stroller was suitable for her (most suggest that they only be used after the baby is 6 months, or can sit up!), and neither Mr. Magpie or I are huge fans of the carrier — it’s exhausting after awhile.  We decided to get this inexpensive carseat carrier, which folds up nicely and I believe can be stowed in the overhead bin (I think we did this?).  But we also weren’t as worried if it did get thrown around.  We could nestle the Nuna Pipa right into it.  It’s not the sturdiest solution (or the most attractive), but it got the job done and enabled us to travel super light.  In retrospect, I feel like it would have been the ideal solution were it not for the fact that I ended up buying the Babyzen Yoyo travel stroller, which can be used for babies as soon as they are born.  I ended up buying the Yoyo when mini turned around one.  I would say that if you’re going to invest in the Yoyo — or are toying with it — you might as well just buy it when the baby’s born because then you can obviate the whole question of what to do about a stroller when you arrive.  More on the Yoyo below.

Baby Travel Gear: Transit with Toddler.

+Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Carseat.  Now that mini is older and has outgrown her infant carseat, we bought this $35 steal, which incidentally gets very good reviews for safety.  It’s VERY lightweight (like a few pounds??), which makes it a dream for travel days.  We found it a little bit difficult to position and secure in cars upon destination — it’s long so it felt a little wobbly — but I suppose no carseat secured by seatbelts ever feels as secure as one secured by a base.  In general, Mr. Magpie and I try to avoid taking the carseat with us whenever we can — you can request Ubers that have carseats in them, you can rent cars that come with carseats, and my parents have a spare carseat in their SUV.  So if at all possible, we avoid bringing this with us, as it’s just one more thing to tote around (and it’s BIG!)  That said, the airlines we’ve used thus far have permitted us to gate check it without cost, so it’s not adding an additional expense to your ticket if you need to.

+Gate Check Pro Carseat Travel Bag.  Yep, we used this for the Nuna and we use this for the Cosco Scenera — it’s plenty big.

+Babyzen Yoyo Stroller.  My Dad refers to our Bugaboo as our “Rolls Royce,” so when he saw us roll up with the Yoyo on our trip to visit them in Florida, he commented: “Ah, you just have your Ferrari out today, huh?”  The Yoyo is a luxury umbrella stroller, and an incredible extravagance, but hear me out: I cannot carry minimagpie in a baby carrier any more — she’s way too heavy and way too long for me.  And when I’m on my own, trying to navigate the New York subway, I absolutely cannot wield the Bugaboo on my own.  The Yoyo gets a lot of mileage in this New York family; we’ll take it with us when we’re out and about, taking the Subway, etc.  It folds up super small and comes with a convenient strap so you can throw the folded stroller over your shoulder and walk down the Subway stairs while also holding your daughter.  I spent a lot of time comparing lower-priced umbrella strollers, and found that all of them had some sort of major drawback — the wheels folded up into the awning, meaning that dirt and street gunk wind up in your child’s hair — disgusting thought for us Manhattanites — or you can’t push it without your feet kicking the wheels, or the sunshade literally does nothing at all, or it’s difficult to unfold, or etc, etc.  (The best reviews I saw on a runner up were for the Summer Infant 3D Lite stroller, which — at $80 — is a pretty ridiculous value given that it seems to outshine competitors in much more expensive classes.)  I finally decided to just get the one with the best reviews, and it has not let me down.  Aside from being light and compact, it also has a sunshade, a seat that reclines, and a pretty easy fold/un-fold mechanism.  It takes a minute to figure it out, but once you do, you’re golden — and can do it on your own.  The trick is that you need to keep your child in the stroller until after you’ve folded down the handle/sunshade, then take her out, and then the rest is doable with just one hand, which is pretty much a miracle unto itself.  Unfolding it is like a magic trick: you unhook one red clasp and it springs immediately into action.  Amazing.  My parents-in-law were obsessed with it.  “That must be European,” said my mother-in-law.  (She’s right; it was designed by five French fathers who were dissatisfied with all of the strollers on the market and insistent on creating one that was easy to use, lightweight, and compact.)  My brother-in-law’s eyes widened when he saw how tiny it becomes when folded.  “Damn!”  (Oh, the conversations you have with fellow parents…)

Baby Travel Gear: Bathing.

+Mustela Travel Set.  This is a rip-off, but the sizes are great and I’ve just refilled the bottles ever since I’ve had them.

+Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub.  Up until now, I’ve “made do” with whatever bathing situation our travels have presented.  Mini has been bathed in sinks and stand-up showers, with me climbing in behind her.  For an upcoming longer trip, I’ve placed this inflatable tub in my cart because it folds flat and will make my life so, so, so, so much easier than either getting wet myself or awkwardly wrangling a toddler’s head under a sink faucet at bath time.  Plus, I think mini will be obsessed with it.

Things We Buy at the Destination.

+Diapers and wipes — if we’re staying for longer than a few days, I’ll ship a box via Amazon.

+Before mini was using Hipp formula (which you can only buy online, to my knowledge), I would pack a generous amount of formula “just in case” but buy the organic formula at whatever grocery store was in the destination city.  This saved a lot of space.

+Dish soap, for cleaning bottles.

+Puffs/Cheerios/Snacks.  I find these are too bulky to carry in a bag — much easier to buy on arrival!

Unsolicited Advice.

+Set low expectations and remove any semblance of a schedule on travel days.  You will go nuts any other way.  You will always end up in a super long security line when you arrive at the airport planning to breeze through security and feed your child at the other end, and you will always sit on the tarmac longer than you wish, and your baby will always fall asleep right as you land, etc, etc.  I try my hardest to refrain from planning anything.  Sometimes I’ll find myself thinking something like, “OK, this is good!  We’re at the gate.  I’ll keep her awake for just twenty more minutes, and then we’ll get on the plane, and I’ll give her a bottle, and she’ll sleep the first two hours of the flight!”  Just, don’t.  Or, do, but know that your plans will likely be foiled.  The plane will be late, and you’ll have delayed her nap time unnecessarily, only to wind up with a crankier baby.  I have learned to just go with the flow.  If she seems sleepy, I’ll just let her sleep and deal with carrying a passed out baby or transferring her from her stroller to my arms on the plane.

+Take a deep breath and just go with it.  You can do it!  Millions of parents do it and survive.  Yes, there are nightmare situations where your baby screams an entire flight, but don’t let that paralyze or dissuade you!  You can do it!  You will get to the other end.  Just think of it like any other day and don’t let bad energy spoil things!

+Pack a lot of snacks.  This is my number one way to get through a travel day.

+Pack extra bottles of milk/formula.  Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, you never know when you’ll be stuck on the tarmac or stranded in an airport or holding a fussy, teething baby.

+Take a deep breath.  I’ve found that people tend to be very kind and forgiving on travel days with a baby, but I also try to be proactive about engaging my seatmates when we first board, saying a friendly hello and exchanging some polite conversation.  It’s a lot harder for them to be angrily grumbling at you when you’ve set a good precedent!  Someone told me that they buy their seatmates glasses of wine/beer when they’re traveling internationally!

+Enjoy a glass of wine while in flight.  It really helps ease the nerves.

+Pack special toys and books for the flight.  This is an oldie but a goodie — my mom used to tell us to line up our bags on the kitchen counter by bedtime the night before a trip so that she could put some special surprises in it.  It was a good way to make sure we’d actually pack!  Then, we weren’t allowed to open our bags until after the seatbelt sign had been turned off after initial ascent.  It was brilliant because it kept us excited and on our toes until after the flight was underway.  Mini’s too young for that now, of course, but I try to stick to a similar principle, keeping new toys for her hidden away until I really need them.

+Many airports have nursing lounges / mother’s lounges — I took full advantage of these on multiple occasions.  They were such a relief for me; I always felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public!

+Toss your laptop in the basket of your stroller so you have it handy when going through security.  There are many conveniences to having a stroller!  This is one of them.  I also try to have mini out of her stroller and in my arms by the time we’re at the conveyer belt so I’m not unsnapping her at the last minute.

+Think about the travel hours as part of the adventure.  This is super-cheesy, but there was a time not too long ago when I would look at families traveling with their little ones and think, “How adorable!  It looks so fun!”  And I even looked on with envy at mothers and their carefully packed diaper bags — I longed to have the opportunity to be solicitous and thoughtful for someone else, to anticipate their needs and make sure that there were fun toys and snacks on hand.  I completely romanticized the idea of traveling with children.  I now know how much stress can go into it, but I also try to remember how much I’d looked on longingly when I was a bit younger.  It’s like that mawkish quote going around: “Never forget when you wanted what you know have.”

What am I missing?  What are your other travel must-haves?

P.S.  What’s in my diaper bag.

P.P.S.  8 things I never travel without.

P.P.P.S.  One of my readers wrote to insist that I add this book to my list of the best books for babies, and if you don’t have this, you’re missing out.  I use it to deodorize mini’s strollers and upholstered furniture and other hard to clean gear, but have also used it on our couch, pillows, etc…


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12 thoughts on “The Best of Everything: Baby Travel Gear.

  1. I had to laugh at the duck tub: it is one of the few things Louisa absolutely FREAKED out about. Absolutely will not get into that thing. Hoping it goes better for you 🙂

    1. AHH! Noted. Maybe I’ll get the non-duck inflatable tub (there’s another one with clovers all over it…)


  2. We have the baby bjorn travel crib and we are the second family to use this one and on our third kid with it. It is light, folds easily, comfy for baby, and packs into a pretty sleek looking suitcase-shaped bag. 5 stars.
    My other big travel tip is to GET ON LAST. We always board last–40 fewer minutes with our kids in their seats. If we happen to need overhead space, I send my husband on the plane with all the stuff during zone 1 and I get on last with the kiddos.

    1. Good to know re: Baby Bjorn — great rec! Will share this as an option in future inquiries!! I usually opt for the absolute lightest weight of everything and don’t know how I missed that element of this decision.

      Also, great idea re: getting on last! Had not thought of that! xo

  3. Thank you for this! Especially the “You can do this!” cheerleading. We are gearing up for our first big trip with baby in June, to San Diego. I am already freaking about the 3+ hour flight and the 3 hour time difference. Ugh. But you’re right, parents do this all the time and it’s fine. Everyone’s fine. It’s all fine! (deep breathing). Now I need to check out the 3D Lite stroller…

    1. Yes, Stephanie!!! You can do it!!! (I feel like the anticipation and all the planning that lead up to travel day have been worse than the actual event.) Deep breaths! You got it! xo

  4. Yes to all of this (especially the snacks)!! I’m dreading our upcoming flight a little because my Little has never wanted to sit still, and now she has newly discovered walking (!!), so now she definitely won’t want to stay in our laps. But, for her birthday, she got a mini Fjällräven backpack, and I’m hoping that packing it with “new” toys (ie ones she hasn’t played with in awhile) will occupy her for a little.

    And I’m adding that Noodle and Boo linen mist to my Amazon cart stat!

    1. I know, we’re careening into a super challenging time for travel with little ones :/ I agree with your strategy — a bunch of new toys! And some non-toys, too. A found that a pad of post-its preoccupied mini for about 12 minutes straight on a car ride recently! xx

  5. Thanks Jen – this compilation is so helpful! I’ll add one thing we found useful on our most recent trips: Babyganics Travel Dish and Bottle Soap, which is available in a mini 3.4-oz container. One less thing to have to buy in a larger size than necessary, and it comes in a pack of three from Amazon!

    1. Ooh, great rec! I should have mentioned that I like their sunscreen because they sell it in mini 3.4 oz sizes as well, and I then stash some in my stroller, my diaper bag, etc, AND they work fro travel…xo

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