Heading abroad for the school holidays? Wondering what to pack for your baby’s first trip? Here’s a full list of space-saving items for babies and toddlers…
I was determined to pack as lightly as possible for my little boy’s first foreign holiday this summer. We weren’t headed far – to Italy – and our apartment already had essentials like a cot, highchair and cooking equipment. Plus, he was only 9 months old. How much stuff can a baby really need?
It’s a question that was ringing in my ears as I stood at check-in, a good few kilograms over my luggage allowance. Turns out I really need to invest in one of those home luggage weighing scales, because my bathroom scales have been flattering me all these years.
Needless to say, after getting over the embarrassment (and the cost), I’ve become a bit better at packing since then. With a bit of research, some tips from friends, and some good old-fashioned trial and error, I’ve discovered that while it might not be possible to pack light any more, it’s still possible to pack smart.
Here’s my list of things to pack for a sunny holiday with a baby under 12 months – if you’re staying at a hotel that’s purpose-built for kids, or your children are a bit older, you’ll be able to leave a lot of these at home. Just check what’s provided at your accommodation before you travel.
Choose a lightweight stroller that lays flat and is easy to fold – you’ll be opening and closing it all the time. It doesn’t count towards your luggage allowance if you’re flying with Thomson Airways, and you can push it all the way up to the boarding gate, although you’ll need to take your little one out when you go through security.
Pick something multifunctional – Lamaze toys are great for young babies – and go for something quiet (or at least with a volume button). For bigger kids, wrap it up like a present to be given in return for good behaviour. Books are ideal for older children.
When you’ve got a baby sat on your lap for the duration of a flight, it pays to have something that’s a) tied round your neck, and therefore can’t be thrown on the floor, and b) a distraction from pulling your earrings/glasses/nose. The beadier, the better.
Aquaint’s 100% natural steriliser comes in a 50ml bottle so it’s perfect for hand luggage, and you can use it to clean bottles, dummies, grubby surfaces – you name it. A must for camping, too.
Tommee Tippee’s travel microwave steriliser is really handy if you’re self-catering, and if you’re seriously short on space in your suitcase, try microwave sterilising bags. Milton sterilising tablets are brilliant if you don’t have a microwave – all you need is cold water.
Tommee Tippee’s milk powder dispenser pots are genius – they fit inside the top of standard Closer To Nature bottles filled with pre-boiled water, so you don’t have to take a separate pot for formula, and everything stays sterile.
They’ll save you forever washing bibs while you’re away and they’re pre-folded. Another useful bit of kit for bigger/messier kids is a long-sleeved waterproof bib like this one by Lassig. When you’re done, wash it under the tap, hang it out in the sun and it’ll be dry in 5 minutes.
We love Plum food pouches – you can squeeze the food straight onto a spoon (no bowl) or straight into your baby’s mouth (when you’ve forgotten a spoon). There’s no glass to smash in your luggage, and they stack neatly. If you’re taking a couple in your hand luggage, check the weight – some are over the 100ml limit.
I confess, I haven’t tried this Totseat washable highchair, but it’s been highly recommended by friends and I’ll be adding it to my Christmas list. Perfect if you get caught short while you’re out.
If you can fit it in your luggage – and you’re planning on getting out and about quite a bit while you’re there – a UV pop-up tent is a lifesaver. You can get lightweight ones that fold down to next-to-nothing, and it’ll save you constantly searching for shade.
OK, so it’s hardly an essential travel item, but we bought a really cheap one that could be left behind if necessary, and used it out on our terrace and down by the main pool with the pop-up tent over the top. Great for cooling off, can be used as a makeshift bath, or drained and filled with toys to become a playpen.
If you’re heading to somewhere like a Thomson Family Resort, you’ll be well catered for in this department. But if you’re staying somewhere that’s less geared up for kids, consider packing a swim float that’s specially designed for small babies who won’t fit in a rubber ring. You’ll get a lot more pool time out of it.
Choose one with a Velcro fastener and handle so you can hang it from the stroller. A must for mobile babies, like mine, who can’t walk but want to crawl everywhere – from the dirty airport floor, to the beach, to the sloping pavement of Siena’s Piazza del Campo.
Our PacaPod really came into its own on holiday. They’re specially designed for travel, and have smaller bags that fit within the main bag so you can get to whatever you need really quickly and streamline if necessary.
If you’re hiring a car, don’t forget to take these out of your own car when you park up at the airport. Or take the free ones you usually get with your first car seat, as it’s not the end of the world if they get left behind. We took Brica’s stretch-to-fit sun shade as it works on different window shapes.
Our SnoozeShade gave my little boy some shelter from the sun and a dark-ish place to nap in the day, and helped him to settle when we were out and about at night. Not only that, but it’s one-size-fits-all, so we use it loads at home on our ‘normal’ buggy.
Use it as a breastfeeding shield on the plane, a makeshift tent/sun shade/blanket when you’re out and about, a sarong, a stand-in muslin… and whatever else you can think of.
Our Ergobaby was a lifesaver in the hilly, cobbled streets of San Gimignano. Plus, it meant we didn’t have to queue for lifts, or navigate a buggy through busy crowds.
We used Edz Kids – they’re vital if you’re going to a concert or festival, but also handy if you’re just heading out to dinner with baby asleep in the stroller.
If your baby needs darkness to sleep, try the Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind – it’s got suction cups so you can stick it to most windows, and it works just as well at home.
Depending on the temperature of where you’re heading, you might want to invest in a 0.5 or 1.0 tog sleeping bag. Grobag do a travel version that has a two-way zip and a back vent so you can still strap your baby into a car seat or buggy while they’re wearing it.
A double adaptor will come in handy for extra electrical appliances like baby monitors (take it for nap-times if, like us, you won’t be able to relax without it). We found one online with a built-in night-light.
To help your baby to settle in their new surroundings, bring a teddy, a blanket that smells of home, or the musical bit from their cot mobile if that’s what they usually hear before bed every night.
My little boy didn’t get a single bite with these squeeze and stick mosquito repellent patches. We also took a mosquito net – this universal mosquito net by Baby Dan works on the buggy and the cot.
Get the photos taken at somewhere like Timpson’s rather than attempting to do it in a booth – they’ll snap away with a digital camera until you finally get a shot that’s blink/scream/dribble-free.
They do need one of their own, and can’t use yours, so make sure you leave enough time to apply to have them added as a dependant before you go. Bear in mind it’s not a replacement for family-friendly travel insurance, which you’ll also need to get before you travel.
Take a spare to replace the one that vanishes without a trace, plus a pool-friendly one with UV filters.
We started using our Baby Banz a few weeks before we set off to get our little boy used to them. It didn’t work – he constantly pulled them off his face – but it was worth a shot.
They’ll need their own, as it’s specially formulated for new skin.
Pack anything your baby takes regularly, plus the usual suspects if you’ve got space – Calpol, nasal drops, Infacol and the like. Bear in mind, though, you’ll be able to get hold of most things while you’re out there if you need to.
Kids under 2 travelling on Thomson Airways flights get a 10kg luggage allowance of their own. Find out more by reading our FAQs for travelling with infants.
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