Nomads, Digital Nomads, Travelers, Wanderers, Adventurers, Explorers. Whatever the label is, we’ve been traveling non-stop since March 2018. If you’d like to learn how to travel forever too, check out our FREE Nomad Guide! A few months into traveling, we discovered that we would be expecting a baby in early 2019. A few months before the baby’s arrival, we started researching the BEST baby travel essentials. We’ve traveled with our baby on over 10 international flights through 6 countries and counting. This is what we have found works best when traveling with an infant.
1. Baby carrier
There are SO many baby carrier options! A popular recommendation was the Baby Ergo, which my sister has and loves for her littles, but I was looking for something more compact and easy to pack since we travel full-time. Baby wraps are minimal, but require more tying, adjusting, juggling, and balancing the baby than I wanted to do. We ended up finding this soft carrier which packs up small, has a hip belt, and is very easy to adjust. We also like that it comfortably fits us both. Another similar option that we almost went with was the Baby K’tan. It has been our #1 go-to item since baby nomad was born and we’ve brought him on all sorts of adventures with us – up to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, hiking in Ubud, and meeting animals in the Singapore Zoo to name a few.
2. Baby bed
If you’re planning to co-sleep then you might not need this. I wanted to have a safe, separate sleep space for our baby nomad. Many hotels and some Airbnbs have cribs or pack-n-plays available but we wanted to have something on hand as well just in case they didn’t have anything. It was difficult to find something that wasn’t too bulky or heavy as every pound (or kg) counts when you’re traveling! We thought about getting something like this travel crib as it folds up into a backpack type carrying case, but chose this kid travel tent instead. It fits in a suitcase and can be used easily indoors or outdoors. Plus, it protects against mosquitoes – something co-sleeping and cribs likely don’t do as well (especially in places like SE Asia, India, and Africa). However, the reality is that in the first few months of having a baby, they like to be held so much that we have only used ours once so far. We imagine that it will come in really handy as our son starts to get bigger, but for now we have ended up just co-sleeping to make life easier. Letting him scream in another room just doesn’t work when you are staying at Airbnb’s!
UPDATE: 3-month baby update – We use this tent regularly now that baby nomad has started rolling over. It keeps him safe while he naps, and he is used to it so he naps in it even when we move it around.
UPDATE 2: 7-months in – The tent has become his favorite place to sleep at night and for naps. We even took it with us to the beach so he could take a nap and have a shaded safe place for him. It may even overtake the baby carrier as our #1 baby travel essential item soon!
Since we’re headed off to SE Asia after our baby nomad is born, we decided to hold off on getting a stroller. Our baby should be light enough to wear for the first few months, and there are many roads/paths/walkways in SE Asia that aren’t paved or conducive for stroller pushing. But when we do get a stroller, we’ll likely get the this popular traveler favorite, or a similar but more affordable one for their folded, airplane carry-on size, and being lightweight, yet sturdy.
Usually we carry day bags when we go out, so we have just been using them to carry baby essentials too. A large diaper bag wasn’t necessary since I was planning to breastfeed and wouldn’t be carrying around formula and bottles. However, we did get a portable changing pad clutch that also holds wipes, 4 diapers, and some bum cream. We also carry a large ziplock bag with a change of clothes for the baby and us.
For flights, we pack a few extra diapers because even if you’ve never had a blowout, you’ll probably have one (or two, or three!) on the airplane. A rule of thumb is to pack one diaper per flight hour into your carry-on bag.
5. Car Seat Insert
We have just been renting car seats from the car rental companies, if we decide to travel by car. Our nomad baby hasn’t been very fussy when it comes to car seats, but every child is different. We have still considered getting a car seat insert that can be used in any of the rentals so that the smell of the seat will at least be the same to our Baby Nomad wherever we may be.
A definite must-have baby travel essential! We chose a thermometer that can be used a couple different ways (soft touch and ear). It is much easier to point the thermometer at his forehead and get a reading quickly than having to wait for a traditional thermometer to reach the correct reading. We also purchased a few temperature strips that don’t require any batteries, because they don’t take up much space and can easily be used in emergency situations if the other one stops working.
7. Baby bath
We have been staying in places with tubs since we can use that filter on booking.com or Airbnb. Additionally, we picked up this travel baby bath which works in shallow sinks of all sizes, and folds up to almost nothing for packing. It’s also easy to clean, weighs almost nothing, and has a place to hang it on a hook for drying.
UPDATE: We’ve found that our baby likes showers more than baths so we haven’t used the travel baby bath as much as we thought we would. We still like how lightweight and easy to pack the travel bath is though so if your baby likes baths more it’s a good purchase. It just didn’t work out for us. Every baby is different!
8. Multi-use scarf
This multi-use scarf is for both nomad moms and nomad babies. It can be used as a scarf, a nursing cover, a car seat cover, a stroller/pram cover, and a shopping cart seat cover. Multi-use items are great for nomads/travelers as you can do more things with less. It also works great as a make-shift sunshade or an extra blanket. For us, it has come in as a must-have travel item whenever we go out because our baby is breastfed and it covers up everything exceptionally well - plus it’s stretchy so it’s easy to get him up in there to just the right spot. It worked wonders on his first 3 flights and counting!
9. Muslin Receiving Blankets
Just like the scarf above, muslin blankets/swaddlers are multi-use. They can be used as burp cloths, diapers, sunshade, nursing cover, and of course as blankets and swaddlers. They are lightweight and dry quickly. We have 6 of them and almost got a pack of 2 more, but it turns out that 6 is just the right amount for us. They can also be used to help cover the baby’s head when they are in a baby carrier. If you’re in a hot and humid location, you can also use it as a barrier layer between you and your baby when wearing them in the carrier so you don’t get as hot and sweaty.
When baby starts eating solids, you can also use the muslin as a makeshift bib while traveling. They are easy to hand-wash and dry in almost no-time.
10. A Soft Small Warm Baby Blanket
Newborns aren’t very good at regulating their body temperature and often like to be warmer than you might expect. For baby nomads, a warm baby blanket is an essential travel item – especially for flights! Airplanes can get very cold – the aisle with the bassinet is often near an exit door which makes the area much colder when up in the air. Our baby also loves the soft feel of the blanket we got and many times will calm down when he feels the fluffy blanket placed on top of him.
11. Swaddle Wraps
We received these swaddle wraps as a hand-me-down. At first we didn’t think they were essential as we could use the muslin blankets to swaddle instead. But the design and the velcro make the swaddle wraps a must-have while traveling. Babies are excellent at wiggling out of swaddles, but the swaddle wraps keep the baby snug and safe. Since the Moro Reflex often wakes babies from their sleep, swaddling them helps them – and you – to sleep better. You need all the help you can get to get over jetlag!
12. An Infant Sized Pacifier
When you’re staying at an Airbnb or hotel and you need to soothe your baby nomad, sometimes the only thing that will help is a pacifier. We found a two-pack that came with a sterilizing case so it travels well. They come in various sizes, so make sure you get the ones that correspond with your baby’s age. Most advice online says to wait until your infant is at least a month old before introducing a pacifier to avoid nipple confusion. In our case, since our baby latched well during breastfeeding, we were able to introduce the pacifier at 1 week old without any confusion to our baby. We also got pacifier clips that we usually clip onto one of the muslin blankets to keep the pacifier from dropping on the ground when baby spits it out.
A common flying tip when traveling with babies is to feed them during take-off and landing to help pop their ears. But sometimes your baby is hungry right before take-off or landing and doesn’t want to eat during that time. Even if you try to time it just right, there can be flight delays on the runway. You can use a pacifier to help your baby pop their ears instead if they don’t want to feed.
13. Infant Clothes with Feet and Zippers
Footed pajamas with zippers are your friends. Keeping baby nomad warm during flights or covered up in mosquito prone areas is essential. The full-length zipper makes it easier to change baby’s clothes quickly in the event of a blow-out diaper, getting them dressed after a bath, or just when they feel like being extremely squirmy. You can use them as a single layer, or as a secondary layer in slightly colder climates. Some outfits also have extra-long sleeves that you can fold over baby’s hands. It isn’t easy to keep socks and mittens on an infant so having an all-in-one clothing piece really helps. The footed pajamas that button up sometimes have cuter designs but when you’re a jet-lagged parent, you don’t want to fumble with snapping all the buttons when you could just use a zipper instead!
That rounds up our list of Baby Nomad travel gear essentials! All of the items on this list needed to be as lightweight, easy to pack, and long-lasting as possible to fit in with our nomad life. Are you planning to travel with your baby? Do you have any baby nomad travel gear must-haves that you’d like to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore