Holidays with a baby: your guide

You’ve decided to head away for a trip with your little one. We look at how to prepare and what to consider when it comes to packing

One look at social media and you’d think family holidays were all brightly coloured ice cream and filtered selfies. The reality - sun cream battles and toddler meltdowns - can be very different.

Here are our tips for making a family holiday as good as it looks on social media.

Travelling with a baby: planning the journey

Many parents swear by lists. A good starting point might be to write a list of everything you think you’ll all need.

Start your list with daily essentials and vital travel documents then go through a ‘What if…?’ list. What if the journey takes longer than planned? What if they’re sick on the plane or train?

That way you’ll hopefully cover – and be prepared for – all eventualities. You know your child best and what they enjoy. This can be very different depending on whether you have a baby or toddler (Which? 2018a, b). It’s worth asking friends for their top tips when it comes to travelling with a baby too.

Health and immunisations

Talk to your GP about any vaccinations or health precautions you might need for your destination. For up-to-date travel advice by country, visit the official UK Government website here.

The formalities

Your baby will need a passport from birth for any trip where you leave the UK. Find out more about how to apply for your baby’s passport

Don’t forget to apply for European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) or other valid health insurance plus general travel insurance for the whole family (Fit For Travel, 2018; GOV.UK, 2018).

On the move with a baby or toddler

Travelling with a little one is not quite the same as travelling on your own. Whether it’s by plane, train, bus or car, we have lots of tips to make the journey as smooth as possible.

For more information on how to protect babies from sun, check out our guide to keeping babies and toddler safe here.

Going abroad with a baby: water and sterilising

If you’re formula feeding, it’s a good idea to take enough supplies of formula milk, bottles, teats and sterilising equipment. You might not be able to get what you need in the country you’re headed to.

The quality of tap water also varies a lot between countries. In many places, it might not be safe to drink. As a baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed, they’re more susceptible to infection. It's therefore vital to use water that’s safe to drink.

When travelling with babies, using bottled water is a safer option to make infant formula feeds, but bear in mind:

  • Bottled water may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate. Check the label to make sure the sodium (also written as Na) level is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre, and the sulphate (also written as SO or SO4) content is not higher than 250mg per litre.
  • Bottled water is not usually sterile so boil it first.
  • Always check the seal on bottled water. If it’s broken, don’t use it.
  • Visually check bottled water too. If it looks dirty, it’s probably not safe unless treated first. Check out this guide for more information on water purification.

(NHS, 2016; Fit for Travel, 2018)

Baby and toddler-friendly accommodation

Some parents go for self-catering apartments or villas so they can stick to their own routine when it comes to feeding and nap times. It also means you’ll have somewhere to sit and relax once your baby’s asleep rather than hiding out in a hotel bathroom.

Check in advance what equipment they provide and what you might need. It can reduce your stress (and luggage) if you don’t have to pack everything but the kitchen sink for your travels. Many places will provide equipment like high chairs, stair-gates or cots but always check ahead.

There are so many options so do a bit research and ask other parents for their tips and recommendations too.

This page was last reviewed in June 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Fit for travel. (2018) Travel health advice. Available at: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home [Accessed 15th October 2018]

GOV.UK. (2018) Apply for a European Health Insurance. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card [Accessed 15th October 2018]

NHS. (2016) Can I use bottled water to make up baby formula (infant formula)? Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/childrens-health/can-i-use-bottled-water-to-make-up-baby-formula-infant-formula/ [Accessed 15th October 2018]

Which? (2018a) Top 10 baby and child travel tips. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/travelling-with-children/article/travelling-with-children/top-10-baby-and-child-travel-tips [Accessed 15th October 2018]

Which? (2018b) Baby products to take on holiday. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/travelling-with-children/article/travelling-with-children/baby-products-to-take-on-holiday [Accessed 15th October 2018]

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