When travelling with babies and young kids, being able to count on good travel gear is essential. Over the course of the years, we have selected some products and brands that worked exceptionally well for us. This is our list of family travel essentials with our favourite and best travel gear for babies and toddlers.
The other day I was chatting with a friend of mine who recently had a gorgeous new baby. She is an expat and was telling me about her plans to fly back home to introduce the new arrival to the extended family. She was looking forward to it but also had all the doubts and fears that the first trip with baby stirs up in pretty much any new parent.
Her main concern was gear: what should she travel with? Should she pack all her baby gear or buy specific things for her time away? This post is my reply to her.
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- Baby travel gear: do you really need it?
- Best travel gear for babies and toddlers
- Baby travel gear: moving around
- Baby travel gadgets: feeding essentials
- Baby changing essentials for travel
- Baby Sleeping solutions for travel
- Favourite Family Luggage
Baby travel gear: do you really need it?
Before spending money on any gear, I ask myself: do I want it or do I need it?
Getting the latest gear and being all kitted out is an easy way to feel prepared for parenthood but let’s be honest: the vast majority of ‘must-haves’, especially when it comes to travel, are not must haves at all.
I believe that if you already have good gear at home, this gear will most likely work for you when you are on the go to. However, travel does pose some extra challenges and if you are not happy with what you already have or are looking into your first purchase, it is worth checking how fit for travel the product you have in mind really is.
What to look for when choosing travel gear for baby
The best travel accessories for babies are the ones meeting these characteristics:
- Versatility: Nothing kills the joy of travel more quickly than lugging around too much stuff. You want your gear to work hard for you so you can use it in many different situations. Pick one good item you can use over and over again.
- Comfort for both you and your baby, especially when it comes to baby wearing items and carriers
- Easy to clean materials
- Gender neutral colours This has nothing to do with the gender of your kids but with your partner! I fell in love with a baby carrier in a gorgeous shade of hot pink but just before buying I realised my husband wouldn’t be seen dead wearing it – I switched to a neutral (and beautiful) green colour and suddenly we were able to share baby-carrying duties.
- Sturdiness travel can put a strain on gear: select things that will last heavy use as anything flimsy is likely to leave you stranded
Best travel gear for babies and toddlers
Baby travel gear: moving around
Infant travel gear: Baby carriers
I am fond of baby carriers for travel. They are excellent for city exploring and hikes in nature and one of the most efficient ways of swiftly pass security controls in airports.
Our favourites are:
Baby Bjorn carrier, original: perfect for young babies and small children.
- Pros: Easy to buckle and unbuckle,
- Spread the weight evenly across your shoulder and back creating no strain
- Hugs baby snugly
- The gender neutral design makes them good for sharing with dads too
- Suitable from birth to 11kg according to manufacturer’s instructions
- Cons: none, except the need to change carriers once the weight limit is reached
- BEST FOR infant and young babies
Ergo baby organic baby carrier. One of our best purchases to date, an excellent carrier that we used with our youngest and then gave on loan to two friends. Three kids later, it is still ging strong!
Pros: very comfortable to wear thanks to large straps and waistband
- Many positions: facing mum, facing forward, on the hip, on shoulder
- Organic, easy to wash material
- Con: very few, although buckling up does require a little bit of practice.
- BEST FOR Toddlers (if using with babies and very young kids, it is advisable to buy the baby insert)
For hikes and older children, we are fond of the Deuter Kid Comfort baby carrier, which you can see in use by Little Ms E in this photo. It sits comfortably on the parent’s shoulders and we found it particularly good for hikes and outdoor activities.
Top tip: When choosing a travel baby product, make sure it is fit for purpose. When selecting a back carrier for hiking, for instance, make sure they are built for the outdoors: some city-carriers look the same as sports one but do not offer the same level of comfort
The best travel gear for babies and toddlers is the one that keeps being useful at home. A good baby carrier both parents can use is an invaluable aid not just on the go but also for local excursions and days out.
A word about non-structured, wrap-around slings. My first baby wearing purchase was a wrap around sling, a long piece of soft, beautiful material with no buckles or straps that I could simple wrap around myself and my baby.
It was a good purchase and one especially Mr M adored when he was very little and I thought it would be perfect for travel since it folds easily and has no metal to trigger security system in airports. However, I do not recommend slings for travel for a couple of reasons:
- When passing airport security, a wrap-around sling is likely to require two hands to do and undo (you need to pass in under the screening devices, just like you would with a jacket of buckled on carrier). This means you would need to rely on someone else’s help to hold your baby – hardly ideal!
- Especially in hot climates, I found slings too prone to get both myself and my baby overheated. A buckled carrier, such as the ergo baby, allowed for more passage of air and, for me, made for a much better baby wearing summer experience
Best travel Pram /Stroller for babies and toddlers
I don’t believe it is necessary to purchase a stroller specifically for travel, but there is no doubt that some pushchairs are better than others when it comes to lugging them onto a plane.
Over the course of the years, we have tried many strollers (so much for being minimalists: we had 4!) and our favourites are Pliko, by Peg Perego, and Maclaren quest.
What I loved about these is that they were sturdy and suitable for older toddlers too. I find many light strollers too hard to push with a toddler on. A sturdy, solid frame makes for a better experience and protects you back from strain.
If you already have a pushchair and are wondering whether it is good for travel, I recommend you look at how easy it is to fold, how much it can recline and how much storage space it offers. Be aware than when passing security in airports you will have to empty the stroller and fold it so easy manoeuvring is essential
Be aware than when passing security in airports you will have to empty the stroller and fold it so easy manoeuvring is essential! The 4 below are among the best travel strollers on the market in 2017
Baby travel gadgets: feeding essentials
I am very fond of travel high chairs, especially the foldable ones that occupy virtually no space and can be attached to almost any sort of chair. They make a huge difference to how hard or easy mealtimes are: many restaurants are welcoming to kids but not equipped with seats for them and a travel high chair means your choice of establishments widens significantly.
The ones I like most of all and found the best for travel are made of fabric, easy to wash and tiny when folded. You can see the type I mean here. While not as sturdy as a full on high-chair, they can be attached to most chair shapes, turning almost any restaurant into a child-friendly one.
I was very fond of ours not just to travel but also for days out in town.
With the exception of the travel high chair, I never bought specific feeding equipment for our travels. Rather, I made a small box of essentials (bibs, baby spoons, bottle and sippy cups) with all my kids’ favourite things: I find that the comfort of what they know went a long way to ensure reasonably straight forward mealtimes!
If you are still in the sterilising phase, you may also find handy to look at portable sterilisers: we have always been using the Avent products and found them to be excellent albeit a bit bulky for travelling.
Baby changing essentials for travel
I have never been a huge fan of changing bags (or diaper bags as they are also called).
While some of them are truly beautiful I do find in most cases they are bulky and just not versatile enough for travel, a situation that more often than not requires some creative thinking when it comes to changing babies!
Rather than a full bag, I have always preferred compact solutions that allow easy access to essentials such as changing mat, nappies, wipes and muslin cloths.
A brand I really like is ‘skip hop’, which has not just a clever portable changing station but also some matching wet/dry bags (several colours and patterns available)
Baby Sleeping solutions for travel
Travel cots and bassinettes
One of the best presents we were given, as new parents, was a travel cot.
Travel cots come in all shape and sizes and depending on the type you choose they can also double up as a baby playpen, something extremely useful especially in unfamiliar surroundings when you may need to enforce some ‘containment’ strategies while you secure your room or vacation rental.
We are particularly fond of full-size travel cots (like the one in the photo) but I heard many parents being extremely happy with the BRICA Fold N’ Go Travel Bassinet. It is a smaller object and it does indeed look perfect as a sleeping solution for babies: you can check a variety of models and solutions here
Portable black-out blinds
My kids have never been great sleepers (understatement of the century!) and the two things that helped to make their night better were ensuring that their room is dark, especially in the early hours of the morning, and that they had music to fall to sleep onto.
For darkness, we found an excellent solution in with the portable gro-bag blackout blinds.
They fold easily and attach to any window thanks to easy to use suction cups, while for music we simply brought with us our home baby monitor.
Favourite Family Luggage
Considering all the gear and bits that you need when travelling with kids (don’t forget that on top of you travel essentials you need your usual, daily baby stuff – see our full packing list below), choosing the right luggage for travel is a priority.
We are light packers and are exceptionally fond of the following items:
- Osprey travel backpack (for me)
- Lowe Alpine travel backpack for Philip (we have two different brands simply because we liked the different looks, they are both excellent),
- Trunki ride-on suitcase for kids (see my full trunki review here) and
- Deuter Kikki Backpack for the kids.
What we love about the travel backpacks is that you carry them like a standard backpack but open up as a traditional bag, so horizontally, rather than vertically. This makes a huge difference in terms of comfort as it means you don’t have to fish out from the bottom of the rucksack what you need, sprawling objects across the floor as you go!
In addition to this, the backpacks we have chosen are carry on size, which means they can come with us in the plane cabin, allowing for faster check-in and arrival airport procedures
I hope you find this list of travel essentials useful and it will act as a handy buying guide for you. if you are already in packing more, I also prepared a full list of what you may need on travel: it’s a pdf and if you click on it, you should be able to print it out and tick items as you go.
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