Travelling with Babies 0 - 12 Months

This article focuses on planning a long road trip with a baby between 0 - 12 months. It provides a detailed checklist of items and an interesting discussion of major issues you will need to take into consideration when planning and packing. Written first hand by the ExplorOz Team based on their experiences travelling for 9 weeks solo by 4WD through the most remote areas of Australia in WA and NT with their baby daughter.
Article By: ExplorOz Team
Created: October 2006
Revised: April 2016
Latest Feedback: February 2013

General Advice

The most important tip I can offer is that good planning well in advance is essential. When you’re at home, think about everything you do for baby as you do it and them try to imagine how you’ll cope away from amenities. Whether you’re caravanning or bush camping, you will have to forgo some conveniences, but that doesn’t make it impossible, just challenging. Keep a pen and paper on the kitchen bench for weeks before you head off and every time you think of something, simply make a note of it. You can also keep a list of things to take, which you'll no doubt revise several times, but at least you'll have confidence knowing you've considered everything.
If your child has special dietary or medication needs, take what you need with you. Never assume that you can buy what you need on the road. eg. lactose free formula.

If you’re used to travelling without children, reconcile yourself to travelling at a different pace. Do this before you leave home so that you don’t set unrealistic travel plans. And remember, a holiday should start when you leave home, not when you get 1000 km’s up the road. In our experience, you'll stop far more often and for longer and it won’t hurt a bit! In fact, you may enjoy the slower pace and some of your roadside breaks will may even become very memorable.

Keep a journal of your trip. Baby won’t remember a thing about it but maybe one day, he or she will get some enjoyment from reading about it and knowing that they were a part of it. We often read our trip journal and find it very special every time. You’d be amazed how quickly you can forget even the most “memorable” incident.

Packing for Babies

If you're like most modern families with a young baby, you've got a house-full (and car-full) of baby gear. The very prospect of doing without some of these everyday items may seem a little daunting at first, however as you're soon to experience, so much of what we use these days is completely unnecessary. What's more important when you embark on a trip with your little baby in tow, is providing warmth, food, shelter and ensuring you are able to keep your baby safe. These are the issues that most affect your choices when packing, other than how much space you have available of course. For us, our experiences of camping with our young babies has been without a camper or van and without using caravan parks or campsites with facilities so the challenges for us has been to pack frugally, but also responsibly so that our baby was not at risk of danger, illness or harm.

For people travelling without the luxury of packing space, you will have to think laterally in terms of what items you can do without to conserve space in your vehicle for high-priority items (food, water, shelter). Some of the most obvious things you can leave behind are: high chair, rocker, change mat, and large teddies.
However, there are some items you may not already own that you will find very useful on a camping holiday, especially if you're touring and 4WDing. Such as:
  • a portable cot - for both sleeping and use as a play-pen
  • a backcarrier/papouse
  • a large vinyl-backed camping rug that easily rolls/folds away
  • umbrella pram
  • kids camp chair - add a piece of velcro webbing to create a waist-strap and use a plastic scoop-bib and you've created a "high-chair"
  • a "Jolly Jumper" - a type of play equipment designed to support a baby or child from a doorway jam, you can hang it off a tree-limb to give a little fun/freedom to your pre-walker yet peace of mind for you that they are "safe"
  • a mesh dome-tent is also an option for a freedom/safety zone


The "Windox sox" or equivalent brand of sunshade for covering the car windows is essential for minimising hours of glare. The brightness of the Australian sun, even in winter, in the outback or on long highways can cause baby (and parents) much distress. If you don't get this sorted, you'll be hanging towels on the windows - messy, and dangerous as this also blocks visibility for the driver. Don't do it.

Whatever pram you decided to take, take a mosquito net for it. If you are going to be driving on rough roads, then you're pram is also going to need to be a 4WD model or at least have large wheels - pneumatic tyres are best. Ever tried pushing a pram on a dirt road with rocky stones? You're in for a surprise. You may even ditch the pram idea altogether - that's why we've always preferred to use a backcarrier/papouse.

If like us, you are a very adventurous and have decided you're going to stay in bush camps without any facilities, then sterilisation and bottles etc is still possible - you just need to be organised and patient. We have successfully travelled for months on end with bottle-fed, dummy loving babies in remote deserts, and through rainy, wintry conditions of Tasmania, camping out in tents and swags and without any special facilities to do our washing and sterilising using just open fires and billies. It's all a matter of attitude and planning.

My best tip for sterilisation is to use cold water sterilisation tablets and soak bottles, teats and dummies in solution in sealed plastic containers whilst you are driving. I actually found the "Tupperware - Pick a Del" container ideal for dealing with dummies on the go. In the evenings after dinner when doing the washing up, I'd use hot soapy water and a bottle brush to thoroughly clean the bottles and teats, and then lots of boiling water. Air-drying is more germ-free than drying with the inevitable dodgy tea-towel (much worse camping than at home!), and if the water has been "boiling" it dries very quickly. Drain upside down on sheets of paper-towel.

Rather than buying the costly single-serve formula sachets, we made up own own single-serves in containers each night in small containers ready for the day ahead. We also used a 1L thermos flask containing boiled water for mixing up formula. If you do this, you'll also need to prepare a 1L plastic bottle containing cooled boiled water for mixing up formula (I use a mix of half hot/cold water) to achieve the right temperature and to avoid any need to "heat" the formula on the go - no need for a microwave! I found a nesting set of 4 forumla containers that had a narrow opening, which avoiding spills of powder when transferring to the baby bottles, but if you can't find containers like that, then you can create your own plastic funnel by cutting the top off a soft drink bottle.

If your baby is taking pureed solids, then pack your "stick" blender. If you don't have 240v power available, a 300W invertor installed into your car will do the trick. You'll also find zillions of uses for the invertor (battery charging - camera, mobile phone, computer etc). If you're thinking of using an invertor, please read our Invertors article first for an in-depth technical overview and loads of practical tips.

Most people we know that don't travel, dread any time over 5 minutes in the car with their young kids and marvel at our our kids didn't drive us crazy on all the years of day-long driving we endured together. There is no trick, we didn't dose them up on fenergen, and we didn't hire an entertainer. We did however, create 1 "car" toy bag - containing a few "favourite" items and a few "new" items. The bag contained things like books, teething rings, small teddies, and items that could be strung together and hung off the back of the car seat and we immersed ourselves in nursery rhymes and classical music (all kids respond well to music if carefully selected and used appropriately).

For efficient packing, we also created 1 day-bag for babies daily essentials - nappies, change of clothes, bibs and cutlery. Easy to grab, small and practical for on the go driving days. Of course, this was backed-up with a secondary bag of clothes/spare linen packed in a less accessible area.

For camping out in inland Australia, you'll have to be prepared for warm days but freezing cold nights. This means lots of layers of clothing and for babies, because it is so hard for them to communicate if they're cold or hot, you'll have to experiment a bit. The best item I've used camping in the outback in winter with my babies is the baby-sized sleeping bag. These are like a front-zipped romper but with a sleeping bag foot. I have always been wary of those outfits and bags with a hood - for fear of suffocation so avoid those altogether. Same with beanies etc - you can't ever be sure the beanies will stay on whilst a baby sleeps so even though they seem cold with their little naked heads exposed - never cover up a baby's head when sleeping. Just like adults, they will stay warm best if you can cover up their feet and perhaps hands in mittens. I experimented with portable cot bedding and found no sheet or blanket would stay on the baby so ditched worry about it. In the evening, I would change baby into appropriate light pjs and when ready to laydown to bed, I would slip her into the zippered-sleeping bag. I also found the zipper the easiest for undressing during night time nappy changes.

All the little necessities should be packed in small "themed" bags for easy use. eg. one bag could contain nappy rash paste, infant Panadol, sunscreen, insect repellent, extra nappy wipes, extra nappy sacks, bath soap, and 1 large and 1 small universal sink plugs - in case you find a laundry tub you can bathe baby in, but find no plug!

Clothing for Babies

We took a wide range of clothing because we encountered temperatures ranging from 0 - 35°C. We didn’t need to worry too much about play clothes or crawling pants etc because baby wasn’t yet mobile. However, despite the fact that baby hardly touched the ground other than on a picnic rug, she still got pretty grimy. With the car, trailer and everything else including ourselves constantly covered in a thick layer of bulldust, it was impossible to keep her spotlessly clean. My advise is, don’t even try! I quickly learned to rotate the same few outfits, which I threw out at the end of the trip. A good sun hat is imperative, as were a beanie and mittens as we encountered some very cold nights.

Disposable Nappies

Forget about using anything but disposable nappies whilst you’re away and remember to take plenty of nappy sacks with you. Depending on where you’re heading, it could be days before you can dispose of them properly.

Plastic Pull-ups

Make some plastic pull-ups (elastic waisted) pants to pull over clothes when crawling in the dirt. You'd think someone would have thought of this idea and they'd be available commercially, but no - this is one item granny will love to make!

Beanies

Babies at this age love hats of all types and what better place to teach them good habits that will last a lifetime. Beanies are great for changing outback temperatures and a must if going inland during the winter months.

Cot Linen

It's hard to be frugal here but you'll find that the tent isn't as cold as you might think. Buy, or make, a sleeping bag with arms from polar fleece and dress them in a jumpsuit underneath if cold. Take just one waffle blanket. I often draped this over the edges of the mesh side of the portable cot to keep out the draught.

Overalls

The best clothing item I took was a pair of Osh Gosh overalls. Seems ridiculous to use the best quality clothing for crawling over the Gunbarrel Hwy, but it was the only clothing that survived. Overalls are durable, and convenient. The fabric usually doesn't absorb the dirt too readily and can easily be dusted off.

Food for Babies

Babies 0-6 months

In the early moinths, our baby was mainly formula fed, supplemented by small amounts of pureed food. For ease and convenience, we made the decision to use ready prepared tinned baby food during the trip and baby cereals. I rarely use pre-prepared baby foods at home, having adopted the adage that “fresh is best”, but for the trip, we figured that 4 weeks of tinned food out of a lifetime wasn’t going to hurt. Our baby required about 5 or 6 bottles in a 24-hour period. Our biggest dilemma was how to warm them quickly and easily and this was easily solved by using a thermos flask.
Each morning and evening, we boiled water and filled the thermos with hot water that lasted for the duration of the day or night. We also filled a plastic bottle with cooled boiled water. As well, we carried 4 very small plastic containers with lids that we filled morning and night with single serves of formula powder. Using the hot and cold water and dropping in a single serve of formula, we were able to have a bottle prepared to the right temperature within seconds.

Which brings me to another point…As our baby was still required to use sterilised bottles etc, we took along a cold water sterilising unit which basically consisted of a 4 litre bucket with a lid to which was added 2 Milton sterilising tablets a day. We carried this unit, along with all of baby’s other food requirements in a readily accessible plastic crate. Not only did it keep everything together, it protected the interior of the car or tent from any possible spills etc. Bottles, dummies, everything remained in the sterilising solution until we needed to use them.

Babies 7-12 months

This will vary depending on where you're baby is at, however keep in mind that breastfeeding is the by far the least hassle and convenient of all. If using bottles, there is no need to take a special sterilising unit, although there are cold water systems available where you place one tablet into water and immerse the bottles overnight. Boil up extra water in the billy when you make coffee and drop the bottle(s) into it for a few minutes soak.

Tinned and Jarred Foods

For solid food eaters, keep in mind that tins and jars are bulky to store and then pose a significant rubbish disposal issue. If driving on major roads, and staying in caravan parks access to rubbish bins may not be a difficult issue, however in more remote areas you will need to take this into consideration. Tins can be crushed and therefore use less space when holding onto rubbish for days at a time, however jars have the advantage that they can be resealed for keeping leftovers.

Dry Foods

Dry, packaged cereals are handy such as rice cereal & powdered custards which are easily made up with a bit of water or milk.

Formula

For small amounts of formula you can use "stick packs". We have found these available all over Australia, even Kalumburu! Great for making up just one bottle at a time.

Bread

Keep in mind that bread is rarely available in outback areas in any form other than what we call "fairy bread" - sliced white loaves, usually frozen. Babies tend to choke more on white bread because it goes doughy when wet, whereas wholemeal or grains hold the bread together better. Consider making your own bread at night in the camp oven or use alternatives. A great alternative to bread is crispbreads such as Rice Cruskits.

Corn

Corn cobs are great for babies with teeth and are quickly cooked and cooled ready for eating in 5-10minutes. Encouraging self-feeding with hand held foods is actually quite easy when camping so this age is quite fun to take camping. Dropped food is great on the ground, and better than on your home floor that needs cleaning up!

We found a plastic bib with a scoop served as a tray table to hold food and catch drops. Perched on a kids camp chair that you've adapted with a waist strap and you've got yourself a little highchair that works great!

Water

I can’t stress enough the importance of carrying plenty of good quality water. To satisfy babies needs alone, we needed about 8 litres a day. His sterilising unit used 4 litres daily, but we reused this water for washing up etc. We also used babies leftover bath water to wash ourselves. Our main concern was obtaining good quality drinking water for his formula. We kept a separate 20 litre jerry can of water for just this purpose and we topped it up whenever a good supply could be obtained. We also made sure that his formula water boiled for at least 5 minutes.

Washing for Babies

As we were rotating babies outfits, I regularly rinsed them out by hand. In the northern sun, they dried very quickly either pegged out or laid flat on a towel in the back of the car as we travelled. Occasionally, I dried things by the fire. Sure they sometimes smelled a little smoky but they were clean.

Baby was bathed every evening no matter where we were. In the bush, he settled for a sponge bath lying on the picnic rug and a towel on the tailgate of our trailer. Only a small amount of hot water is required to warm the water and this we either boiled or took from our solar shower. When at caravan parks, baby got a proper bath in a sink but in just about every place, we had to supply our own plug.

Nappies for Babies

Take the best quality, super absorbent type. Blowouts in the car seat when water is limited is not something you want to contend with in the middle of the bush.

Around the age of 9mths most babies get very upset about lying on their backs - and nappy change times can be a nightmare. Hopefully, you'll have two pairs of hands, one to pin the baby down, the other to do the changing. We found the back tray of our vehicle doubled as a great change table, but I also laid down the portable change mat from the nappy bag. We also covered the tray with an old vinyl tablecloth so it was easily wiped clean.

Dirty nappies went straight into the Nappy Sacks (peach coloured, perfumed plastic bags) and then at the end of the day all nappies went up onto the roof rack in a vinyl-lined waterproof laundry-style bag. This bag held all our rubbish bags and was sufficient for our longest break between rubbish pits or bins that was 5 days.

Comfort for Babies

Entertainment

Kids from 0-1 usually don't need any special entertainment as life is just so interesting as it is. However many don't like travelling for extended periods in the car seat especially if they are the active type. We found the car toy bag to be ideal, with a combination of small toys, teddies, soft books and linking chain rings in a bag that could be zipped closed or left open for baby to grab as required. We used one of the red, white and blue striped bags that you can pick up for $2 from a junk shop, and found the long-style handles useful.

Jolly Jumper

The Jolly Jumper is a type of play equipment designed to support a baby or child that is over 6 months. This is great for keeping them interested and exercised in the outdoors and works as a restraint if needed while using the fire or setting up camp. Some safety tips for this apparatus include:
  • Only use a jumper when your child is able to sit up unaided

  • Choose a jumper that is appropriate for your child’s height, weight and age

  • If using a second hand jumper, ensure that all its parts are intact and in working order

  • Carefully select a supporting structure that can support much more than the weight of the jumper and child

  • Follow manufacturer instructions when installing the jumper

  • Check that the clamps and straps are properly secured before placing your child in a jumper

  • Teach siblings not to push or pull the jumper while a child is in it

  • When not in use, remove the jumper from the supporting frame

  • Always supervise your child when in a jumper

Music

Kids this age, also seem to love music so tapes in the car or simple instruments for the outdoors is good entertainment. Recorder, guitar or harmonica (depending on your talent!) is fun for everyone (except for people camping nearby). Our baby learned to clap hands and to clap things together and you'll find toy plastic stacking cups or wooden blocks handy to encourage this.

Bedding

We made the decision not to take a portable cot on this trip. We had enough room by our bed atop the trailer for the little man to sleep across our heads. However, we were conscious of suffocating him with our pillows and as he could roll around, we rigged up a partition for safety. The real advantage of this arrangement was that it was cosier for him on cold nights and we could also get to him in the night without getting out of bed ourselves.

Many babies have a habit of kicking their bed covers off and ours was no exception. We purchased a zippable miniature size sleeping bag for him and this we found absolutely invaluable. We wrapped him in a receiving rug before placing him the sleeping bag so he was a snug as a “bug-in-a-rug”. On really cool nights, we put the throw rug over him as well. His style of sleeping bag also had a flap behind his head, which could be zipped across the top of his head to form a kind of loose hood for extra warmth. He had his bedtime bottle wrapped up like this and if he woke in the night, we didn’t need to unwrap him unless he needed changing.

And baby seemed to like this arrangement quite well. He slept better and longer on this trip than at home!

Protection for Babies

Sun Protection for Babies

Most "kids" sunblocks contain a chemical that is absorbed by babies and can be harmful. You must check the label careful and only use those products that clearly state that they are designed for children under 12mths or are free of chemical absorbers. Most "kids" block outs and insect repellents are only for children aged over 2yr old.

Sunblock

I found a sunblock from the Chemist made by "Ego" called Sunsense Low Irritant. It is free of chemical absorbers and has a high SPF.

Insect Repellent

And I found an insect repellent at the supermarket called "Repel ". It comes in a yellow aerosol can. It isn't specifically for the under one's but is ok for over that age. I decided it was worth having.

Back Carrier

I did use both products, however I preferred to use hats, cover-ups and "taught" our baby to leave her hat on. Our back carrier also had a sunshade that worked extremely well.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses are a personal choice, and personally I think there is too much danger of little babies taking them off and poking out an eye with the arms. You can use a neoprene strap to keep them on if you must have them. Around about 12mths kids become ok with sunglasses.

First Aid Kit for Babies

We always take two first aid kits. One is in the car and is for the quick fix, (such as small cuts, bites and headaches) and the other is in the trailer (if towing) or in the back with larger items, and is for a more serious fix such as snake bite, burns, falls, major bleeding.

Adding a baby to the travelling team, we put together her own first aid kit, containing the following:
  • Selected band-aids to suit small fingers/toes

  • Homeopathic baby-safe insect repellent (mix one drop citronella and one drop lavender essential oils into a small jar of Vaseline). Used direct on bites to relieve pain, inflammation and swelling caused by mossies and even sandflies. Can also be used as a repellent. Lavender soothes, citronella repels. Works very well!

  • Baby Panadol (liquid)

  • Bayer Teething Relief and Bonjela teething gel

  • Pedialyte (glucose and electrolyte powder) helps restore fluid loss and prevents dehydration in vomiting and diarrhoea. Powder comes in sachets and is dissolved in 200ml of water. Can be stored reconstituted for up to 24hrs. I wouldn't travel without it

Of Greatest Concern

These fall into the following categories: snakes bites, falling into the campfire, crocodile attacks, drinking bad water causing sickness, choking and other medical emergencies. Please refer to our First Aid article to learn more.

None of this has ever occurred to us and is all I can say is if you worried too much about these things you would never leave the house! Just use your common sense.

Comments & Reviews(13)

Post a Comment
You must be registered and logged in to post here.



Registration is free and takes only seconds to complete!
Loading...

Article Resources

Related Products (10)