Of all of the places in the world to travel, the US might be my favorite. I’m biased as an American, but there’s so much diversity here in terms of landscape, people, and food, you can find almost anything to suit your desires. As a new mom, I’ve loved traveling the USA with my baby, especially since there are so many baby-friendly things to do here.
Traveling with a baby comes with its own unique set of challenges, and knowing some of the important differences in the US and ways to prepare is key to having a safe and enjoyable trip. Here’s everything to know about traveling in the USA with a baby.
Navigating US airports with a baby
One thing you’ll notice when traveling in the USA is that airports don’t usually have a dedicated line for families with young children. It’s one of my biggest sources of shame when traveling in a US airport since so many other countries do! However, they do have family bathrooms, which can be a real lifesaver when you need a private space for diaper changes and feedings.
To breeze through the airport experience:
- Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to check in, pass through security, and get to your gate. Babies have a way of making everything take longer than you expect.
- Gate-check stroller and car seat. You can bring your stroller and car seat all the way to the gate, where they’ll be tagged and stowed under the plane. This is a convenient way to have them available until you board. You can also check a car seat to hold luggage for free. Just be sure to bring a car seat travel bag in order to keep the straps and buckles intact.
- Security screening. The US tends to screen more than any other country I’ve traveled through. Let the agent know before you go through that you have liquids over the 3oz/100ml limit. You’re allowed to bring baby food, formula, and milk over the limit, but it will probably be subject to extra screening. They are not allowed to put anything into the liquid but may perform a vapor test or put it through an extra machine. Be prepared to fold up your stroller and send it through the X-ray machine as well. Keep in mind that you’ll need to carry your baby through the metal detector, even if it means waking them up from their stroller nap to do so.
- Family bathrooms. Take advantage of the family bathrooms. They provide a private, clean space for diaper changes and feedings.
Traveling around the US with a baby: crafting the perfect itinerary
Now, let’s talk about planning your itinerary, which is crucial when you have a little one in tow. Here are some tips to help you create a well-balanced schedule.
- Flexibility is key. Babies have their own schedules, and you need to be ready to adapt. Plan activities around their nap times and feedings and you’ll all be happier. Some babies are totally fine sleeping in a car seat, and others need dark rooms. You know your baby best.
- Shorter stays. Instead of rushing through multiple destinations, consider spending more time in fewer places. This allows for a slower pace and more in-depth exploration.
- Rest days. Incorporate rest days into your itinerary. Use this time to relax, explore your accommodation, and recharge for the next adventure.
- Research family-friendly activities. Look for attractions that are well-suited for babies. Museums, parks, and gentle hikes are often great options.
- Stay central. Choose accommodations that are central to the activities you plan to do. This minimizes travel time and makes it easier to return to your lodging for breaks.
- Car rentals. The US is HUGE and in most places, you’ll need a car to get around. There are a few key US cities that are well connected with public transportation, but outside of those, almost everyone drives. This means you’ll need to bring (or rent) a car seat. I’ll mention some destinations below where you don’t need a car in case you’d prefer not to drive.
10 of the Best Places to Travel with a Baby in the USA
San Diego, California
Known for its perfect weather and stunning beaches, San Diego is a fantastic destination for families with babies. Explore Balboa Park, take a stroll in La Jolla Cove, or visit the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. This was one of the first trips we took my son on and is one of the most family-friendly cities in California!
Asheville, North Carolina
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers a laid-back, artsy vibe and a range of family-friendly activities. Don’t miss a visit to the Biltmore Estate and the family-friendly trails of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you visit in the fall, the foliage can be gorgeous.
A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, I love Seattle as a jumping-off point for a Washington road trip with so many beautiful National Parks. You’ve got a great mix of mountains, rainforests, and lakes to choose from.
Charleston, South Carolina
Steeped in history and charm, Charleston provides a relaxed atmosphere for families. Explore the cobblestone streets of the historic district and spend a day at the renowned Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. If your baby is anything like mine, the sand at the beach will be one of their favorite things!
Red rock landscapes, hiking trails, and spiritual vibes await you in Sedona. I love that it’s such a great place to just rent a vacation home and relax at any time of year. Opt for baby-friendly hikes like the Bell Rock Pathway or relax at the Sedona Community Pool.
The Windy City is an excellent choice for families. Take your little one to Millennium Park, Navy Pier, or the Lincoln Park Zoo, where they can meet animals from all over the world. Keep in mind it can get COLD in the winter, so consider this for the spring or summer.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
An iconic destination for nature lovers, Yellowstone is perfect for introducing your baby to the great outdoors. Drive around the park and keep an eye out for bison, geysers, and accessible walkways. One of the best things about the US national park system is that they always have trails that are paved and accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
Our nation’s capital can be fun for both parents and little guys. Explore the National Mall, visit the Smithsonian museums (which are free!), and don’t forget to snap a family photo with the cherry blossoms if you happen to be visiting in the early spring. If you’re intimidated about driving while visiting the US, D.C. has a great metro system.
New York City, New York
Believe it or not, the Big Apple can be baby-friendly! Take leisurely strolls in Central Park, visit the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and enjoy a family ferry ride to see the Statue of Liberty. New York is another city where you don’t have to drive.
Utah’s National Parks
We did a Utah road trip with my baby when he was about 8 months old and between the hiking backpack carrier and planning during low season, it was an easy, enjoyable trip that we could just do on the fly. Zion National Park had just received a blanket of fresh snow, and it was nothing short of magical.
Picking the right accommodation when traveling with a baby in the US
Hotels in the US can vary in price and amenities. If you’re traveling in the summertime, prices will be the highest as that’s when everyone else is traveling, too. If you can manage the off-season, booking will be easier, and prices will be lower.
Although hotel rooms are great if you want access to a refrigerator or kitchen, vacation home rentals can be a great idea.
When using a platform like Airbnb, you have the option to search only for places that have cribs. You can do the same on most major hotel booking platforms as well. Most major hotel chains have cribs, and there are resorts all over the US, particularly in Hawaii or Orlando, that are specifically designed for families.
Where to stock up on baby essentials in the USA
When traveling with a baby in the USA, thankfully it’s easy to find baby items.
Major cities have a plethora of options, such as Walmart, Target, and local grocery stores. You’ll find diapers, baby food, formula, and just about anything you could need or think of at these big box stores. If you forget anything at all, you can find toys, strollers, baby carriers, playpens, bottle warmers, and travel cribs at these stores. Rental services like Babyquip can also be great, which allows you to rent directly from local parents wherever you are in the US. It’s like the Airbnb of baby gear!
Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are also great for baby needs and over-the-counter medications. Although grocery stores usually also have diapers and baby food, they don’t always have formula.
You may notice that baby formula and diapers in the US cost more than at home, depending on where you’re from. Consider bringing formula from home to avoid the high costs here.
Staying safe and healthy
The United States may be a land of adventure, but it’s also home to an expensive healthcare system. To ensure a safe and healthy trip, get travel insurance.
Consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers your family, including your baby. It’s a safety net just in case.
If you do need to visit the doctor while you’re here, your best bet is to look up urgent care facilities. You can also go to any hospital’s emergency room.
In the USA, dial 911 in case of an emergency. You’ll be able to use Google Maps to identify any hospitals or pediatricians if needed.
Make sure your baby’s vaccinations are up-to-date before traveling. Also, consult your pediatrician for any additional recommendations, and bring along any medications your baby might need. Pharmaceuticals, like our medical system, are most likely more expensive here than they are in your home country.
Keep in mind that theft can be a problem in some bigger cities in the US. I recommend leaving nothing of value in your rental car and always locking the door to your accommodation. Don’t walk around at night in big cities, unless you’re in a walkable city like New York, and be aware of wildlife while driving.
Final thoughts about traveling around the US with a baby
Traveling with a baby in the US is an experience that is truly one of a kind. There’s no other country where the arctic tundra of Alaska, tropical beaches of Hawaii, and skyscrapers of New York are all under one country code.
While it comes with its share of challenges in a country this vast, a well-prepared adventure can be smooth and rewarding. So, pack your bags, and explore this diverse and beautiful country with your little one. I will always cherish the photos and memories of our trips around the US with my little guy, and the best part is, it’s all only just beginning!
Author Bio: Kristin Addis is the founder of Parenthood Adventures, a resource for adventurous parents who still want to travel the world with their little ones. She’s been a travel expert for over a decade, leading adventure trips and spending several years as a nomad. Now, she’s showing her baby the world.
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