My Favorite Travel Gear + Tips for Families
Hi all! I've been getting questions from friends and readers re: taking kids on a trip. A lot of you have done it before, but for some of you, it's your first time. Keep reading for my must-have items for making travel easier with kids and babies. Make sure you also check out this post, which highlights all kinds of ways to keep a toddler/child busy on a plane (we just took our 1-year old and 5-year old to Europe a few months ago and somehow survived, woot woot).
The tips below will vary based on the age of your baby or child. Keep in mind, you know your babe and what she/he will like best, and this is just what has worked well for us. There is a little bit of trial and error involved when traveling with kids. Oh joy!
There are two places you can check your stroller and carseat, or both: 1) at the baggage check-in counter, or 2) at the gate once you're through security.
- FIRST, when you check-in, it's usually worth asking if the flight is full. If you're traveling with a free lap child (under 2) and there are empty seats, sometimes its easier to actually take your carseat with you onto the plane and so wild-toddler can be strapped down for the flight. The check-in people will usually assign them a seat at this point (for free, if there are open seats) in which you can plunk down their carseat and strap 'em in, so all hell doesn't break loose. This rule mainly applies to longer flights - I can usually endure a lap baby for a 1-2 hour flight, hah. We took Ella to the Turks and Caicos though, when she was six months (not crawling yet which was key), and on all the flights they gave us an empty seat for her. At this point she still was sleeping quite a bit, and slept very well in her carseat. One option for carrying that huge carseat all the way to the plane is this, or this!
- If you're traveling alone (like without hubby/wife), do yourself a favor and think about whether you really need a stroller / carseat on the trip at all. My goal is to just have baby in the Ergo and ONE small bag (with snacks, toys, diapers, etc) on me for the flight. When I visit family, I often borrow a stroller and carseat on the other end, so I can pretty much just walk on the plane with my babies. But if you have to bring your own, then ditch as much stuff as possible before security. You can check your stroller and carseat at the baggage counter at check-in (it's free!). And an even better option is curbside check-in in the departures terminal. Some airlines/airports have this, and some don't. If you can get away with carrying your child in an Ergo, or letting them walk happily then you're a good candidate for ditching the stroller!
- If however, you love having the stroller along so you can haul all of your SH$T....then you can also check it right at the gate before walking on the plane. Just walk up to the counter and they'll give you a little gate-check tag to put on the stroller handle. The only hassle is getting the stroller through security, because you have to fold it up, hoist it onto the conveyer belt (yep, it'll make you reconsider that 28-pound Bob stroller) which is just really annoying with a baby strapped to you!
- Side note: If you check your carseat/stroller with your luggage, both of these items will usually come out at baggage claim in a different area, called "oversize luggage". Don't freak if you don't see them with your suitcase!
- Borrow whatever you can, and try to bring as little as possible! Hotels usually have pack-n-plays and cribs available (call ahead to reserve one), and if they don't or you've rented a house through Airbnb or something, you can rent any baby gear through a service like Baby's Away. They deliver whatever you need and have it all set up for you at the place you're staying, then take it away when you're done. Genius! Anything from bins of toys (clean and sanitized), to full-sized cribs, to strollers! Pretty much anything you'd ever want for baby. I have a friend who's baby sleeps terribly in a pack n' play, so she orders a real crib when they travel. Kinda awesome!
You can travel through security with milk/formula/baby food.
- I used to pump on trips and then travel back home with whatever I'd saved so I could freeze it. A lot of breast pumps have little ice packs inside the bag, so I found it was easiest just to pack it all together. If you're a breastfeeding mama, or even if you carry formula with you in a bottle...beware, they will probably have to open any bottles and test them at security. Just store it somewhere that is somewhat accessible. And don't be alarmed when security people have to dip their test strips into the milk.
- Even now, I always pack along a whole bunch of food puree pouches, just for easy quick veggie snacks for the girls when we are on the go.
And now let's talk about some of the best - but, not only the best - let's say, the most HELPFUL, USEFUL baby and kid travel gear out there. Because you're gonna want it!
Sanitizer wipes - Wipe down that plane, fierce mama. Get it good. I get on there like the germ freak that I am and I go to town with my sanitizing wipes...the seats, the headrests, the trays, the windows, the walls...do a quick swipe of it all. More often than not, a flight attendant will come by and say something like, "You're a smart woman. You don't even want to know what's on there!"...so I feel oddly validated in my crazy routine.
Baby Bjorn travel crib. This little guy only weighs 13 lb, and sets up in like two seconds. I'm not even lying. We've tried a few travel cribs and this one is by FAR the very best - Lola sleeps so well in ours! Also the mattress is super comfy - not a hard block of wood like most of them! Dear God, would you want to sleep on that?! Heavens!!
Nuna Pip carseat. I don't have one but I've used my mother-in-law's and it's the BEST in terms of latching in and out, also it's sleek-looking! I also adore the full mesh cover that comes down for when baby is napping. SIDE NOTE: If you bring along a carseat, look for the airline-approved sticker on the side! Once in a blue moon a flight attendant has asked to see it (and if they don't see one, they can refuse you to use it on the plane....and that can really suck).
Bugaboo Bee stroller - We love this stroller because it's lightweight and easy to unfold / fold. Also a giant carry basket underneath so you can stash all your stuff, and a big sun canopy. Both our 1 and 5 year old can ride in it. We loved for walking all over the place on our Europe trip!
Bugaboo Wheel Board - This saved our butts in Europe! Ella was able to stand behind the stroller and ride along, or even sit on this little scooter-like contraption! It goes over bumps nicely and was super easy to fold up when we weren't using it. This was designed specifically for the Bugaboo strollers. If you have another type of stroller, check out the Lascal Buggy Board, or another wheel board, and just double check it's compatible.
Video monitor - Depending on where you're going and what the sleep set-up is...a basic baby monitor like this one can give you more freedom to wander from baby while sleeping. For example, in Palm Springs we love to put the kids to sleep in our hotel room and then sit just outside our room on the patio with cocktails or even dinner. They are only feet away, but since the door is closed we can safely keep an eye on them.
Uppababy G-Lite stroller - only 10 pounds and you can fold up and carry on your shoulder. It holds a baby from 6 months to 55lb. I adore the removable seat pad that you can throw in the washing machine! We carried this thing all over the Caribbean, and Ella loved the giant sunshade (it basically covered her whole body LOL). Seriously a great lightweight umbrella stroller.
Ergo 360 - Again, we've totally gotten our $$$ worth on this baby item too! I use it constantly, Lola loves that she can face in OR out, or ride on our backs too. It's comfortable and pretty lightweight so you don't sweat to death. Zipper tucks away a little canvas cover which is also great for covering baby's head during naps. :)
Pura sippy cup / bottle - It's still safe even if it gets hot, unlike most plastics, and you can switch out the sippy straw for a nipple and use it as a bottle! We adore these cups!
Little Giraffe blanket - I adore this blanket. My nephew had one as a newborn and I wanted to steal it from him so I got one for Lola, haha. It's sooooo soft. She sleeps so well with it (wouldn't you sleep well on silky clouds?!!? :).
Nursing cover / carseat cover / light blanket - I just saw my friend had one of these, and it's pretty perfect for travel. This stretchy loop of fabric is very thin and lightweight, doubles as a nursing cover, scarf, or carseat cover. This would be super helpful to have along if traveling with a tiny baby. I also adore muslin swaddle blankets, as they are thin and lightweight, and do all of the things listed above quite well too.
Lugabug - This little contraption looks amazing, doesn't it?! It straps onto your carry-on and your child (up to 60 lb.) can ride along!
Small rolling / ride-on suitcase - anything your child can easily drag along, or better yet - ride on (and you know your child best. If they are going to struggle doing this, then just pack everyone in 1-2 big bags that can be checked!). And if you're going on a long international trip, you might want to invest in this one - me oh my, I wish I had had this along when we went to Europe. A ride-on suitcase that quickly converts to a full on bed for the airplane!
Velcro shoes for your kiddos (...because being able to take them on and off quickly is key on a trip!). FYI kids under 12 do not need to take off shoes through security either.
Booster Seat (for car trips!) - this you might not want to take on the plane....but it's super lightweight, and easy to clean and strap onto any chair.
Water Wow (see more ideas on activites here) - Kids can color with a small pen you fill with water and then twist shut, and colors appear! My girls love it just as much as coloring with marker, and there's no risk of mess or coloring on someone's expensive handbag or suit jacket (that would never be us of course).
Portabrella (full-size beach umbrella that folds up nice and compact for travel)...if you have kids, you're going to a beach destination, and you plan to visit any other beaches outside of your hotel/resort, then this is a must-have!! It's so easy to throw into your suitcase. Great to have your own along because I swear beach umbrellas rent for like a million dollars a day.
Snack cups - Get something you can stash a bunch of snacks in so you're not caught in a hangry moment with your kiddos! #theworst
This is just a small list of ideas for you, but you can always check out these posts if you want more travel tips and fun stories about traveling with littles!
Email me or comment below if you have any additional questions, friends!