The first time you travel with baby doesn’t have to be horrible at all. (Or…as horrible as you think it will be.) We’ve all been longtime advocates of traveling with your kids early and often. It’s something you’ll never regret, whether you’re flying across country or making daytrips to the cousins’ house.

Here are some of our top baby travel tips, from years of experience of traveling with children under 12 months. Ask us if you have any others!

(at top: baby swimsuits from babyGap)

1. If you’re flying…
It’s not always possible, but try to pick flights around nap schedules which can make things easier. Nighttime flights are often good for that reason. Also be sure to have a pacifier or be ready to nurse on takeoff and landing, because that’s when the changes in air pressure can hurt their ears.

2. Pack more than you think you need
This isn’t always an intuitive travel tip, but when it comes to babies and young toddlers, you can never go wrong with more snacks, more diapers, more wipes. We suggest you take what you’d normally use in a day, and add 50% more.

You also want to pack an extra change of clothes that you have handy, in case of diaper blowouts or general spills and messiness. This goes for flying or car rides too.

babyGap capri collection | Cool Mom Picks

The new babyGap capri collection: perfect for travel

3. Balance the cute outfits with practicality
Remember, on vacation you will be taking pictures, so of course you’ll want your favorite, photo-ready baby outfits. On the other hand, easy-care is ideal; leave the cashmere at home and stick with cottons and other washable fabrics. Also pack mix-and-match everything so that you can swap a shirt out for another shirt without changing an entire outfit.

In summer, we happen to like sundresses and bloomers or bubble shorts for girls which are super easy; and for boys, stick with anything loose and comfy. (Skip the heavy denim jeans unless you’re in the deep woods or deep north.) And definitely be ready for quick changes at any given moment! If you pack rompers or one pieces, make sure they snap at the inseams for easy diaper access. Which they all should do anyway, right?


Some of our favorite easy-traveling clothes from the new babyGap summer collection

babyGap summer collection | Cool Mom Picks

babyGap flutter dot dress; dot chambray sneaker; checkered one-piece for baby; dark wash denim jacket

4. Don’t forget the swaddlers…everywhere.
A swaddling blanket is your lifesaver, trust us. In a pinch it’s ground cover, a nursing cover, a swaddler for naps, an airplane tray table cover, a sunshade over a stroller or car seat, or a shopping cart / restaurant high chair cover. Seriously, bring a swaddler blanket with you everywhere. Two, if you can.

5. Pack less, make the hotel do more
If you’re staying at a hotel, call ahead to see what they might be able to lend you. These days, so many hotels are family friendly, and have everything from travel cribs and high chairs to even strollers, toys, and bottle warmers. If you’re going to be nursing and pumping, also make sure you arrange for a small fridge in your hotel room. (An ice bucket can work if there is none, but it’s not ideal if you’re out of the room all day.)

If you’re staying in a home or a home rental, you can buy travel gear cheap through sites like Trading Cradles. Also, there are also great services around the country that will lend you everything you need while you’re away, and even drop it off and pick it up from your hotel. Lifesaver!

6. When in doubt, pack it anyway
Don’t leave “just in case” stuff behind, especially the first time you travel. If you need a travel crib, a cover for a hotel travel crib, play yard, baby car seat, travel high chair…just bite the bullet, roll up your sleeves and bring it.

7. Make good use of tech
We always have lots of ideas on Cool Mom Tech for travel essentials for parents. One of our favorites: load up an iPod Touch with apps to get you through the vacation. You can find white noise machines and even baby monitor apps, should baby be sleeping in another room on your trip. And while babies don’t really need their own apps and games, you can can load it up with family photos as a nice distraction. Babies love looking at the people they love!

JBL Charge portable speaker and tech charger

Also, don’t forget a portable power pack or battery charging case. You do not want to run out of juice on your phone or camera midday. (Been there, ugh.)

8. Don’t forget the hats and sunscreen!

babyGap straw hat | Cool Mom Picks

Straw hat by babyGap. So cute!

Hats are essential, especially for babies too young for the chemicals in most sunblocks. While we’re on the subject of sun protection, it’s about 600 zillion dollars more to buy sunscreen for kids in a hotel gift shop than to remember to bring sunscreen from home. That’s a rough estimate of course–but not too far off.

Visit the brand new Capri collection of baby essentials on the babyGap website, and see more of favorite cute babyGap picks, plus 150 other baby gift ideas at the Cool Mom Picks Ultimate Baby Shower Gift Guide.