Baby, Travel

Minimalist checklist for traveling with a baby

With a third baby here and no immediate plans to update our amazing 1998 Nissan wonder car, (thats correct, three carseats in the back of a normal sized car, Aye Aye) the thought of packing lighter for car trips has been on the mind.  We have been taking so much less “stuff”  traveling with a baby and toddler that has simplified packing for me, eased the unpacking, and is less overwhelming! Overall we pack so much less per kid now than when we were first parents and I want to share how to do this.

Sooo, here is a checklist of what we bring to visit friends and fam, usually for one night up to a week, as well as what we leave now that we used to think we HAD to bring 😉

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click and make a purchase. 

What we have packed for two kids under 3 years, and now a third baby.

  • A breast pump

I have used a hand pump (recommend the one from Medela pictured below), a car battery operated pump(the best!), and hand expression in the car with fully breastfed babies.  This saves SO much time pulling over to nurse.  Our first trip with a two week old I didn’t have one, and we pulled over every hour to nurse(like 20 minutes every time). This lengthened a 7 hour road trip into a painfully long trip, until about half way through I started hand expressi
ng to save time. Get a pump 😉

  • Small bag of baby medicine and syringe.

I have often been traveling and a baby gets sick.  Why such bad timing?!?! Now I always take some baby Tylenol, baby Ibuprofen, a syringe, and a printed out dosing sheet just in case.  It’s easier to just bring it than to have to run stressed out to a store with a sick baby.

  • A blackout curtain

Ok, some of you amazing moms get your toddlers to sleep fine without this!  But, ours have slept SO great in total darkness that I’m afraid of messing up a great nights sleep. A thick blanket or huge dark sheet of fabric from JoAnns will do great along with a few push pins to hold it over a window.


  • Pack n Plays & blankets

These take up the majority of space in our car trunk.  If you are traveling with only one small baby, I highly recommend just taking your cushy changing pad like this one! It works perfectly as a little baby bed, changing spot, and is small! We have traveled without them before and the babies have slept on memory foam on the floor or a blow up mattress.  Also, we have invested in extra pack n plays found super cheap on craigslist to keep at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  This opens up half my trunk for other random things when we make that big trip…it’s soon nice! If you are hoteling it up, always always call the hotel and ask if they have pack n plays and tell them how many you need if they do.  What a treat to have them waiting for you…and I love not hauling in two or three extra to and from the car!

Note: If you have the means to buy a better travel crib, these BabyBjorn travel cribs are the absolute lightest, most compact travel baby crib I know (13 lbs vs pack n play at 23 lbs). Folded up they take like half the space…so nice!


  • One suitcase for clothes… for all of them

That’s right…(the size that fits in an airplane compartment).  This is tough! And assuming you have a washer dryer where you are going 😉 We have cut it down to two pajamas each (in case they pee through), 2-3 pairs of socks each, 1-2 outfits of hardy dark colored play clothes that won’t show the dirt as much, a coat, extra leggings which work for layering or changing if needed. If you are traveling to cold snowy weather, then you can pretty much toss this light packing thing out the window and count on a trunk outrageously full of coats, ect 😉


  • Soft fuzzy blankets and a pillow

You could scrap this…but we don’t.  After taking a two week road trip with a 2 year old and 6 month old…these are what made nights amazing in any new home or hotel.  I put each kiddos blanket on them in the car to save trunk space and helps them nap on the way.


  • A couple toys

I used to bring tons. So dumb! Basically now I bring a couple of things to play with in the car, like a few trains or a diggers, and those usually get left in the car unless there are NO other toys where we are going like a hotel.  They want to play and explore the new things they find more than their old toys it seems, so I keep it simple and don’t pack many.

A couple toys for baby and toddler in the car


Note: Balloons in my purse have been an awesome thing to bring places once baby reaches toddler stage.  They take up no space, are fun to play with when blown up, and can be tossed.


Balloons for toddler play
Easy entertainment for toddler. Zero space taker-upper.
  • Books

I do pack 5-10 books for the car by their feet.  This has been golden, especially after age 2 or so.


  • Extra old iPhone with a white noise app

This helps our babies nap without hearing all the conversation around.  We use a fan at home but an iPhone with a white noise app on it saves a ton of space and works well.


  • Diapers and wipes.

I try and bring only enough for the first day or two and buy more there.  With one baby, I used to combine the suitcase with the diapers.  With two, we found it easier to keep all the clothes in one, diapers in another bag.  With three kids under 4 years, I will be bringing enough for the first couple days and buying them when we get there, to save space.

I highly recommend using target’s free shipping over $25 or Walmart’s free shipping over $35 or Amazon Prime member free 2 day shipping to just ship diapers ahead of time.  I do this a lot!


  • A drinker cup or bottle for each baby/toddlerLife factory Glass Baby Bottles

I love not worrying about spills in the car or at other peoples houses so this to me is worth taking. You can read my review on my all time favorite glass bottles we use here.




  • The “Food Bag”

Ok, I need to chill out on this one and it will have to be the next to get downsized for us.  I LOVE snacking in the car and so do the kids.  So, this bag is way to huge every time and goes at my feet.


  • Umbrella Stroller(for toddler) & Baby Carrier

We only take this small version of a stroller when we know there will be lots of walking involved.  Otherwise, it stays home too. I also throw in either the Ergo, or when our babies are only a few months I’ll take our Moby Wrap.  See my review of the Moby vs. Boba baby wrap here.

Things I don’t bring.

  • Booster seat
  • Loads of toys
  • Lots of extra cute clothes
  • A baby bouncer or swing

You can do it!

Packing lighter is a skill and it gets easier the more you do it! Babies mostly need mama and diapers and a few clothes, with a safe sleeping space. Everything else is pretty negotiable! Leave a comment if you have any tips or experiences to share!

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