Many claim that formula adds a new level of stress to travel, as you cannot just whip out a boob and feed your baby whenever. I will say don’t stress as many like to overexaggerate, because flying with formula isn’t that complicated.
My babies were exclusively formula fed and I traveled with them every other week, often alone and we took numerous international flights between 8-16 hours long when both kids were formula fed. If you prepare, it’s pretty easy to travel with baby formula and flying with a baby will be a breeze (because babies are the easiest to travel with, unlike toddlers).
First, let’s answer all your questions about traveling with baby formula, and introduce you to useful gadgets and tips on formula feeding abroad as well.
How do you bring powdered formula on a plane?
Let’s dive into the most important question: Should you bring the formula with you on your trip? No matter what, your baby will need to eat during your journey so you simply need to have at least some formula with you.
You can opt for buying formula abroad (I’ll discuss this further down), but you need to assume that your flight might be delayed, you might not find a spot to buy it instantly, and so on. Very few international airports have fully stocked pharmacies where you can purchase baby formula and even if they do, they don’t operate 24/7 either, so have a formula for at least 24 hours ahead.
Does TSA allow water for baby formula or liquid formula?
In the US you can bring your water for formula or liquid formula or milk through airport security. You can also bring water or juice for a toddler, it doesn’t need to be strictly for formula.
Be sure to let the officer know before you go through security that you have liquids in excess of 100ml/3oz for your baby, as they need to go into a separate special bin and be extra screened. Usually, they unscrew the top for a vapor test, as they are not allowed to stick anything into the liquid.
This is why if you’re in a rush I recommend not bringing a pre-mixed formula through TSA and just buying a bottle of water for formula once you’ve passed security, and asking any Starbucks or restaurant to fill your thermos with hot water.
The amount of liquid you can bring that’s considered reasonable is left up to the TSA officer. I’ve seen plenty of people being questioned about their milk, so save this page on your phone in case you need to show the officers that you’re within your rights. That’s the US though.
Outside of the US rules seem to vary, but the general rule of thumb is that you can bring liquids for a baby under 12 months of age. Over 12 months it sadly depends on the mood of the officer, but I can assure you that if you’re flying from London Heathrow Airport or Stockholm Arlanda Airport your liquids will be thrown away, often with the bottle or sippy cup itself which is terrible, so keep this in mind.
IMPORTANT: TSA recommends that formula and breast milk be transported in clear, translucent bottles and not plastic bags or pouches. You might have heard that officers “destroyed” a lot of breastmilk pouches when the mother was traveling without her baby. This wouldn’t have happened if the milk was packed according to their guidelines.
Can you take a can of formula on a plane?
Yes, you can. You can bring a can of formula with you in checked luggage or carry on. When the kids were babies we actually brought a suitcase full of formula back from Mexico as we prefer European formula that’s not available in the US.
Can you bring formula if you’re traveling without a baby? Yes, you can as long as it’s in a powdered and not liquid.
Just remember if you’re bringing formula in your carry-on: powder substances greater than 12 oz. / 350 mL (along with water for baby) must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. TSA will open your liquids to test them, but they don’t contaminate them.
How do you keep formula warm when traveling?
Many will tell you to get your baby used to room-temperature formula. It’s a great tip, as you don’t need to warm anything up and I’m always very much into making things easy, but let me tell you: this worked just fine with my second child, but never with my first. Unless the formula was warmed up he just wouldn’t drink it.
We know that formula shouldn’t be reheated after a few hours, especially not at room temperature, so your best bet is to keep the formula and water separate until you need to feed your baby. To warm your water you can either use a bottle warmer or bring a thermos with hot water – which you can get anywhere at the airport (just ask for hot water for the baby) or even ont he plane (ask the flight attendant to fill your thermos).
Must Have Items for Traveling with Baby Formula
Powder Formula Dispensers
These handy containers are perfect for any on-the-go parent for excursions to the park, but are extra useful when traveling. You don’t need to think about anything because you can pre-measure it.
I made the mistake of not bringing a bottle brush a few times and it sucks. No matter how easy to clean your bottles are they need a scrub once you get to the hotel.
Obviously, you don’t need it with you on the plane, but even with a few bottles, you might run out on very long flights. Considering that the water isn’t drinkable, my tip for washing bottles at the airports and on planes is to use water from the sink to rinse it a few times, then wipe it down, then either ask a flight attendant or nearby Starbucks to give you hot water and basically rinsing it with hot water.
Your bottle won’t be 1000% disinfected and clean, but it’s the practical and realistic way of cleaning the bottles on the go.
Some people bring sterilizing bags but you only need to sterilize bottles before their first use (and this can be done in an old-fashioned way by cooking them in a big pot) and perhaps periodically thereafter. If you don’t sterilize your bottles while traveling you will be all right, unless your baby is immunocompromised or premature and under 2 months old. Plus, these bags require a microwave, and hotel rooms never have it unless it’s a suite with a kitchenette.
Bottle Warmer or Thermos
A bottle warmer is a useful gadget. It’s not a must, as there are ways to live without it, but if you want to get one it will make your life easier for sure.
If you don’t want to get warmer, you can get a thermos where you’ll store hot water on the go. It’s easy to ask for hot water even on a plane or any cafe at the airport.
Tips on Formula Feeding Abroad
Should you bring formula for your trip? Is tap water safe for baby?
We traveled with our kids the second they were born. In fact, they were both born in different countries and traveled at 2 weeks old abroad and by 2 months they were already on 3 continents. We often traveled to remote places and had to adjust to “local lifestyle” and while it might seem stressful, it made our kids more flexible and adjustable.
While you can bring your own formula for a week-long stay somewhere, it becomes a pain if you need to bring a whole month’s supply. There are some people out there who bring their own formula, their own diapers and wipes, or even laundry capsules (or even those who drag their Snoo with them) to make it exactly the same as at home for the baby, but these people usually give up on traveling with kids very early on, because it is a pain in the butt to drag that many things with you.
I recommend bringing a supply of formula for some time. If you can bring a larger can of formula, then do it but don’t stress if you run out either! Babies all over the world are fed, so you will be able to find formula for them.
If it’s a completely new formula your baby might fuss at the first feeding, but eventually get used to it. We switched formulas based on the location and we were never left without anything.
Trust me, I even found multiple perfect cans of European formula at a little grocery store in the extremely remote desert town of Agadez in Niger or at a market in Nuku Hiva island (if you don’t know where these places are that’s exactly my point – even at the most remote locations there is always something).
Is tap water safe for baby when you’re traveling with baby formula? It honestly depends on the country, but I’m not a true fan of tap water regardless of the destination so we always opted for bottled water. If you have no choice and must use safe tap water boil it.