Raise Backpackers

How to pack for a baby.

This task might seem overwhelming but practise makes perfect. Give yourself a lot of time to get baby’s luggage together. Here are my suggestions for your carry on and your main luggage.

Nappy bag (carry on luggage).
This comes in two parts, the actual bag and the nappy pouch. Once you have all this organised, take 5 minutes with your partner, mum, older kids or whoever you are flying with to go through it with them. It might seem a little obsessive but the last thing you want is to be shouting at your husband “It’s in the effing front pocket of the black backpack under the blanket in a little pink purse thingy! Moron!” When you are cramped on a plane trying to get a bottle organised for a baby that wanted it 10 minutes ago, you need your assistant to know where to find everything, quickly. Chances are your husband will be packing his stuff an hour or two before you leave for the airport and will have no interest in organising anything else. I’m not a fan of purpose built baby bags, I prefer a backpack.

The main baby bag:

Only you will know exactly what you need for your baby but I suggest the following:

  • Nappies: Work out how many hours you will be flying until you get your luggage, then work out how many nappies your baby would normally use during that time. Take that number and double it, and add one. That is how many nappies you should pack. I believe airlines carry emergency nappies but I have never had to find out for sure. Once our plane was delayed from Vancouver so we missed the connection in San Francisco and had to stay there for 24 hours. They gave us a hotel room but not our bags so we had to make do with whatever was in the carry-on. My kids have used either cloth or biodegradable nappies at home but let’s face it, they aren’t as reliable and convenient as plastic, so I use those for travel. If they take up too much space, put a few in other people’s carry on bags too. 3 slipped down the back of a bag won’t bother anyone.
  • Wipes – a small packet should be enough for a 24 hour plane trip. The bum wipes will be in your nappy pouch but I also like to take a small packet of hand/face wipes too.
  • Plastic bags – fold ’em up really small so they don’t take a lot of space, they are invaluable.
  • Spare clothes – nothing fancy or difficult. 3 or 4 of those Bonds zippies are perfect for a long haul plane trip. They are easy to get on and off and have feet that you can fold on or off. I also take a spare smaller outfit on the off chance the plane is really warm. Also clothing appropriate for the weather at your destination so you don’t have to go through your main luggage.
  • Bibs – if your baby is spewy or if you will be feeding them food on the plane. Consider disposable if it will be hard for you to wash them when you arrive.
  • Food – some airlines can provide you with a baby meal or you can take your own. I prefer just to take the pouches/jars of food. You’ve probably never tried it out, but if you don’t refrigerate those things pretty quickly they get rancid, so take more than you will need because if your baby doesn’t finish it in one or 2 sittings, you’ll have to throw it out.
  • A spoon. I take a cheap Ikea one so I’m not constantly asking for a teaspoon for the baby.
  • “The Bag of Interesting Items” – this is something I made up with Annabelle on her first trip.

    Trying to get her to move with objects from The Bag of Interesting Items.

    She was 6.5 months old so really into holding and studying different things. In the bag I would put small items and pull them out for her to look at. Along the way we collected things like small toys, empty shampoo bottles from hotels etc so we always had a bag of things to amuse her which was constantly changing too.

  • If you bottlefeed then take 2 bottles ready to go with the water in them. You are allowed to take these on the plane. A whole tub of formula takes up a lot of space but that’s the one thing you really, really don’t want to run out of mid flight. You can also get sachets of baby formula which are quite convenient. I also like to take a bottle brush because you won’t be able to run the bottles through the dishwasher on a long flight and it’s hard to get them really clean just by rinsing.
  • Other things your baby might need like a dummy, medication, attachment item, a bedtime story etc.
  • A blanket – nicer airlines on long haul flights will provide blankets but cheap airlines won’t.

The nappy pouch is a small zip log bag that you got when you bought a pillowcase, baby blanket or similar. You usually throw them out. Don’t! I like to reuse them instead of buying a whole packet of ziplock bags, plus they are sturdier anyway with a proper zip.

They should contain the following:

The nappy bag sidekick of essentials.

The nappy pouch of essentials.

  • disposable change table liner.
  • 2 nappies
  • packet of wipes
  • sample size barrier cream
  • small toy (if your baby is over about 3-4 months old)
  • plastic bag/used nappy bag

So it works like this: Baby needs it’s nappy changed. Instead of pulling out the entire carry on luggage or nappy bag and taking it into the plane toilets and balancing it on the toilet and rooting through it while holding a squirming baby, you just pull out the nappy pouch and take it with you. It has everything you need including a small toy to amuse a baby while you change it’s nappy. When you get back to your seat, then you can mess around restocking the bag with another nappy, plastic bag etc. You keep the liner unless it gets dirty then you toss it.

Main luggage:

I’m going to assume you haven’t paid for a seat for the baby. This means the baby has no luggage allowance besides carry-on. If you are allowed 2 pieces of luggage, you have one for yourself and one for the baby. I have 2 older girls so they share a suitcase and the baby has another one so that’s 2 in total for the kids as I have bought 2 seats for them. Or if you can travel light, the baby can share with someone else.

  • Nappies: I like to take a whole packet with me. I have turned up in a few cities before and been nowhere near anything resembling a supermarket where I could get nappies so I had given myself a few days to find one. Try finding nappies at Niagara Falls which is just a

    A packet of nappies taking up too much space.

    conglomeration of hotels, gambling places and restaurants selling ribs. As you can see in the first photo, a packet of nappies takes up about one quarter of your average suitcase. Pull them out of the packet and distribute them in the pockets. In the second photo is the same packet not really taking up any space in the outside pocket.

  • IMG_5290

    The same packet only taking up the outside zip pocket.

    Do your research on the closest supermarket when you arrive at your destination. If you are staying with people this shouldn’t be a problem but if you are staying in the city centre in a hotel it might be hard to find nappies, baby food, baby formula etc. If you think it might take you a while to locate these things, take extra with you.


  • For a baby, I like to take about double the amount of clothes I take for myself. Lucky they are small! Do you plan on shopping for some baby/kids clothes while on the road? Do your research on places to do laundry. Hotels charge exorbitant amounts for laundry so you will need to find a laundromat if you don’t know anyone there. I like to try to wash once a week so I take enough clothes for a week. I avoid white clothes because if you chuck them in the wash with everything else they are not likely to come out as nice again. Make sure all tops match all bottoms etc so you can pair any clothes together.
  • What sort of weather are you expecting? For cold weather layering is best. I always take 2 jumpers even if I’m expecting hot weather (cold after swimming, air conditioning etc) and bathers even if we are going somewhere cold (indoor pools).
  • A small towel (like a hand towel size). Most places you are staying will provide towels but you always need a towel with a baby, so it’s a just in case. They take up a lot of space but a little one will suffice. My kids have all been spewers so I always take 2 terry towelling nappy squares. I also like to take a thin muslin wrap. They are light and small and have too many uses to list!
  • Medicines. My kids rarely have Panadol or Neurofen, but you don’t want to be stuck without it if your baby has a temperature. We didn’t use it for any of our 4 kids on a trip to Malaysia but we were on a tiny island with no shops and a European lady had a little boy with a terrible fever, and guess who had the only Panadol on the island for her boy?
  • Hats, suncream, special soap, sippy cup, teething rusks, toys or gels?

I begin making a list about a month before we leave (for a big trip) and then start packing a few weeks before. This gives me plenty of time to jot things down as I remember them and buy anything I need. If you have your case laid out you can throw things in as you get them, do a trial pack to see how it all fits in and you will get a sense of whether you have too much or too little. Washing bags are great for separating groups of items too.

Are you planning to take a pram? I usually take a small stroller. This is allowed on the plane and is not counted as a bag. You can usually check it in at the gate so keep your baby in it right until you board the plane. It’s another thing to carry of course but I think it’s worth it – you don’t have to carry the baby all the time, it can sleep in the pram for hours if you want to wander around a museum or the shops and you can change their nappy in it if there is nowhere else. Smaller is better for getting in the back of taxis or hauling onto a bus. Mine has a rain cover which I have used many times.

The last item I never leave home without is my Ergo baby carrier. I have hiked through the forest in Washington State and I have shopped up a storm at night in Times Square with my babies strapped to the front of me or their dad. Many times you’ll be pulling suitcases and handling boarding passes and passports so you won’t have free hands to hold the baby. Plus they are great for settling a cranky baby to sleep.

I really enjoy preparing for a long trip! Good luck and please email me with any tips you would like included.

Annabelle helping me pack.

Annabelle helping me pack.