March 31, 2023

20 essential items to pack when traveling

Whether road-tripping or flying, this packing list will make traveling with a little one a…

20 essential items to pack when traveling

Whether road-tripping or flying, this packing list will make traveling with a little one a whole lot smoother. 

No matter the destination — Disney World, a national park, or a relative’s house — traveling with a baby is stressful. Environments change, schedules go out the window, and the amount of gear required can feel more like a move than a vacation. 

A dedicated packing list for your baby is arguably more essential than your own. Here’s a start, with brands we recommend for each category and two price points for the big-ticket items: 

Travel Stroller 

Babyzen Yoyo2 Stroller 

For a cream-of-the-crop travel stroller, look no further than the 12-pound Babyzen Yoyo2. It accommodates newborns up to 48.5-pound toddlers and features a padded seat cushion, an adjustable backrest, a canopy with a window, two storage spaces, and a 5-point harness. Best of all, the stroller can be folded and unfolded with one hand, and stored in an airplane’s overhead compartment. 

If you travel often with a baby and are willing to shell out $449, the Brazen Yoyo2 Stroller will serve you well.  

Countours Bitsy Elite Stroller 

Contours Bitsy Elite Stroller

Another good travel stroller, but at a more modest price point, is the Contours Bitsy Elite Stroller. Like the Babyzen offering, it features a 5-point harness, a canopy with a window, and a storage basket beneath the seat, and it easily collapses in a single step and fits most airplane overhead compartments. It’s 2 pounds heavier, though, and accommodates a slightly smaller range of little ones (newborns — with the add-on car seat adapter — up to 40-pound toddlers). 

Having recently used it to navigate the Thanksgiving travel crowd, I can confidently say that the Contours Bitsy Elite Stroller is one of the best travel strollers you can get for $200 or less. 

Travel Crib 

BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light 

BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light

BabyBjörn excels at all things baby, and the Travel Crib Light is no exception. Intended for newborns to 3-year-olds, it’s sleek, lightweight (just 13 pounds), and collapsible since it’s all just one piece and contains no loose parts. Each purchase includes a mattress and a carry bag; fitted sheets are sold separately. 

My baby has slept soundly in the BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light on two trips so far, and even though it’s pricey — currently running $279.99 — it’s a smart investment for families who travel frequently or need a reliable on-the-go sleeping solution for their babies. 

Graco Pack and Play Portable Playard 

Graco Pack and Play Portable Playard

When it comes to portable cribs and playards, the Graco Pack and Play Portable Playard — with more than 41,000 ratings and a 4.8 star average on Amazon — is a classic. Although 7 pounds heavier and a bit trickier to set up than the BabyBjörn option, it’s still very transportable, folding up into a tight rectangular box that can be lugged around with a handle. When assembled, the mattress sits above the ground, with posts on one end and wheels on the other. That makes for less vibration in the crib and an easy way to move it around. 

Currently on sale for $48.99, the Graco Pack and Play is a great value that allows for both contained playing at home and sound sleeping on the road. 

Crib Cover 

SlumberPod 3.0 Portable Crib Cover 

SlumberPod 3.0 Portable Privacy Pod

If you’ll be sharing a room with your baby or putting his crib in a room that’s not as dark as he’s used to, the SlumberPod 3.0 Portable Crib Cover (reviewed in depth here) is a great solution. Called a “privacy sleep nook,” it’s basically a breathable blackout tent that slips over a travel crib or playard and is tall enough for a little one to sit or stand up. It comes with a handy baby monitor pouch near the top, two fan or sound machine pouches, four ventilation flaps, and a carry bag with straps. 

It took borrowing my sister’s $179.99 SlumberPod to appreciate how ingenious it really is. Not only did it promote sound sleep for my baby in unfamiliar rooms, but it also allowed my husband and I to maneuver around those rooms with the lights on without disturbing him.  

Brolex Mini Crib Canopy Cover 

Brolex Mini Crib Canopy Cover for Pack and Play Portable Travel Cribs

If you’re interested in a canopy cover for your portable playard/crib but don’t want to spend a ton of money, the Brolex Mini Crib Canopy may be the ticket. It features a stretchable cover that fits snugly around Pack and Plays and other portable cribs and creates a dark environment suitable for sleeping. The fabric is breathable and there are three panels on the sides and top that allow you to adjust light and temperature levels. 

The Brolex Mini Crib Canopy Cover doesn’t block out as much light as the SlumberPod, it’s not tall enough to stand up in, and it doesn’t fit all travel cribs. But at $29.99, it’s an affordable option that works great with the Graco Pack and Play and other similar playards. 

Car Seat 

WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat 

WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat with Premium Carrying Bag

If cost is not an issue, the WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat is a fantastic piece of equipment for any traveling family. Suitable for kids between 22 to 50 pounds and 30 to 45 inches, it weighs just 8 pounds thanks to its aluminum frame and is so compact when folded that it fits into a backpack-sized carrying case (included with the Premium Bag option). Crucially, this car seat meets all U.S. safety standards regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, so is maximally safe for both car and plane trips. 

The WAYB Pico Travel Car Seat is expensive, running $470 for the standard bag and $495 for the premium bag. For some mobile families, however, the safety and convenience factors are worth every penny. 

Cosco Finale Dx 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat 

Cosco Finale Dx 2-In-1 Combination Booster Car Seat

It doesn’t fold up like the WAYB car seat, nor does it accommodate babies who weigh less than 30 pounds, but the Cosco Finale Dx 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat is another popular model for families on the go. At 11.5 pounds, it’s still relatively lightweight, and, when you use the included belt-positioning booster, accommodates kids who weigh between 30 and 100 pounds. What makes this car seat handy for traveling is how easy it is to transfer from car to car, which most car seats cannot claim. 

For $59.99, the Cosco Finale Dx 2-in-1 Booster Car Seat is not the flashiest or sleekest car seat out there, but it’s a solid and affordable option if you’re traveling with a baby who’s already hit the 30-pound mark. 

Baby Monitor 

Infant Optics DXR-8 PRO Baby Monitor 

Infant Optics DXR-8 PRO Baby Monitor 720P 5

Not all video baby monitors are compact or secure enough to travel with. The Infant Optics DXR-8 PRO Baby Monitor is both of those things and more. In addition to an impressively clear 5-inch LCD display screen with enhanced night vision, the included parent unit features a LED sound bar, a 6x zoom capacity, and patent-pending Active Noise Reduction, which filters out background noise and provides for crisper audio. Perhaps best of all, the DXR-8 PRO runs on a closed-loop FHSS system that is not subject to the security risks of Wi-Fi-reliant monitors. 

With the Infant Optics DXR-8 PRO Baby Monitor, priced at $199.99, you can easily, clearly, and safely monitor your baby in her own nursery or wherever your travels take you.  

Vtech DM111 Audio Baby Monitor 

VTech DM111 Upgraded Audio Baby Monitor

Maybe you don’t care about actually watching your baby sleep, as long as you can hear him and sense when he needs tending to. In such cases, the Vtech DM111 Audio Baby Monitor — with more than 38,000 ratings and a 4.5-star average on Amazon — is worth considering. It’s simple but effective, with a monitor and parent unit that work within a 1,000-foot range, up to 8 hours of battery life, and secure transmission that does not rely on WiFi. The parent unit features a 5-level LED soundbar, volume control, a built-in rechargeable battery, and a belt clip.