Our favorite (essential) Baby and Toddler Travel Gear
This was my favorite and easiest post to write because I just had to list down my go to set of baby travel products. It has changed a lot with our son becoming a toddler with evolving needs and with baby girl on the way, I expect it to become an even solid resource for traveling families. We have gone from a traveling couple to a traveling family for 3 years now and boy the change has been tremendous. For starters, our luggage and bags has almost doubled for every trip. I never imagined that the tiniest person would need the biggest bags, did you?
Traveling with babies and toddlers is a different ballgame all-together. We know many people who stopped traveling when they had kids because it was more stressful than sitting at home. In our opinion the key to stress-free travel with kids is to first accept that it’s going to be different and second pack the right travel gear. In preparation of our travels with our son, we have tested dozen different types of baby products belonging to different categories.
Tips for buying and packing baby and toddler travel gear:
1. To efficiently use our money we prefer purchases that last through the infant to toddler stage. That means you get a minimum use of anywhere between 2-4 years per child. We expect to reuse several items that our son has outgrown for our baby daughter. We recommend purchasing expensive but quality items that can be used through different growth stages and have longer warranties.
2. We usually buy items at least 2-3 weeks before our trips. That gives us enough time to test it for its intended purpose and also gives our toddler time to get adjusted to the new item. That makes him excited enough to actually use the item during our trip than be overwhelmed by its newness at our destination. And heaven forbid, if the travel gear is faulty, we have time to return it and buy new gear.
3. Speaking of returns, we recommend buying from trusted sellers that have long return periods. That means if anything goes wrong on shorter trips, we can return the item after coming back home. One of our favorite sellers is Amazon, I especially love their friendly return policy with easy returns.
4. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we highly recommend Amazon Prime membership for frequent travelers, especially families. So many times have I remembered to buy some must travel gear days before our flight and have it arrive on time due to their 2-day shipping. On my last India trip with my son, I discovered folding potties a day prior to traveling, I requested expedited shipping for free (they happily agreed!) and I had the potty on my steps 4 hours before we were due to leave for the airport.
5. I also recommend checking in-depth real reviews of travel gear by real users on the seller website for quality and usability. I love Amazon for this reason as well, Amazon reviewers tend to leave very detailed reviews with pros and cons for most items.
6. Don’t make the mistake of thinking babies and toddlers travel gear as frivolous and non-essential. Sometimes (scratch that, most times) the correct travel gear can mean all the difference between a hair-raising trip and a memorable trip. My go-to baby travel essentials have saved me a lot of trouble and allowed me to keep my sanity many times.
7. Packing baby and toddler travel gear becomes easier with time. You may not think so now but it’ true. So don’t worry and just enjoy your vacation.
And without much further ado, I introduce our favorite (essential) baby and toddler travel gear:
Best lightweight travel gear for babies and toddlers
Lightweight ultra portable car-seat plus stroller AKA travel system
The only item I splurged on for baby gear is our Graco ultra portable travel system with car seat and stroller. My criteria for choosing this particular travel system for our baby registry was the high quality baby car seat which we could use for a long time and the extremely light weight. I can easily fold it with one hand which has proved to be a lifesaver. The big wheels of the jogging stroller mean we can easily use it on cobbled streets, sidewalks, grassy areas, and on easy hikes.
Car seat cover
Initially I thought a blanket would suffice for a car seat cover. I spent the first two months pinning the blanket to the handle of the car seat and always checking if its covering my baby perfectly and peeking in between to see if he is sleeping. Then my friend gave me the infinity car seat cover that she no longer used for her toddler. Needless to say, I fell in love with the cover. The cover allows easy airflow and I can always check on my boy but he doesn’t have glaring lights disturbing him. The best part is it can be used as a nursing cover/scarf/shawl etc. I still wouldn’t say that the cover is a necessity but it is definitely nice to have.
Umbrella stroller for travel
For a long time our Babies R Us umbrella stroller was our absolute favorite. However it finally succumbed to repeated throwing around on long haul flights and I had to search for a new one. We jumped the gun on this Summer Infant one, and love it from the start. It is extremely lightweight, folds easily and my favorite part is its price. At just $50, it is a steal.
The first time I saw a stroller fan was in 2012 and I remember thinking, that’s too much. Who needs stroller fans?! Turns out, babies like my son who should be ideally living in an igloo for most times. He is always feeling hot and when the temperature is pleasant for us there are little sweat beads on his tiny nose and forehead. His hair gets wet with sweat when it is hot and our little stroller fan is an absolute lifesaver. I love this stroller fan we have due to its long battery life and its usb charging capacities. I have also used it interchangeably as a car seat fan and it has worked quite well.
I have tried about every kind of baby carrier with my son. I received 4 different ones during my baby shower including the expensive and durable Ergo carrier. My favorite carrier when he was a baby and just started holding his neck was the wraparound carrier by Boba Wrap. I used it for daily walks, weekend trips, and traveling around the city. My second favorite which I used a lot during my India trip was the Infantino baby carrier. It’s just under $30 compared to over $100 for the pricier ones. I found it especially useful while standing in immigration lines at airports. I also used it for shorter hikes.
I have a short torso and our son soon got tall and heavy for our $30 Infantino carrier and I was unable to carry him for longer periods of time. We were also traveling to Easter Island at the same time and planned to hike extensively on the island. So we decided to invest in a sturdy hiking carrier. We loved this Baby Back Pack Cross Country carrier, it was much cheaper than the Deuter baby carriers and very comfortable for long hikes. I haven’t used it all that much since my husband carries our son in it but he can’t keep raving about its load transfer capabilities. He didn’t have a single shoulder ache when wearing it for days together. The waterproof screen is great when it rains and our son loves sitting in it and getting a 360 view from high up. This carrier saved us when we were stranded at the Miami airport during Hurricane Irma and had to stand in the check in line for 4 hours. Our son went to sleep in his carrier and didn’t complain even once.
Best lightweight baby and toddler sleeping gear for travel
I was a strong proponent of carrying minimal gear till we sleep trained our son. After that I’m willing to carry everything that he needs as long as he falls asleep on his own and sleeps through the night without any fuss. Enter travel beds. Our first trip since he was sleep-trained was to the Florida Keys and we didn’t carry any kind of travel bed. I regretted that since he regressed a bit on his sleep training and needed a week to get back to normal. Then we were traveling to India and Qatar for almost two months and I knew I needed a travel bed to maintain his routine. I searched for different travel cots, travel cribs but the thing that suited us the most turned out to be this sleeping pod by Kidco. We have used it on several trips including Chile, Easter Island, another India trip, and China. My son loves it and even wants to sleep in it while at home for fun. Like most things we own, the sleeping pod can be used till the age of 5 and we look forward to using it for a long time.
Our son is used to reading his picture books before sleeping and missed it a lot whenever we traveled. So we went ahead and bought this owl nightlight for him. He has been able to put it on and off since he was 2 years old and in case he forgets, it auto shuts off after 15 minutes. The brightness level is just perfect for reading picture books and my son loves his grown-up reading light. I have also used his night light for nighttime diaper changes and found it super convenient.
Travel Blanket or pajamas
Early on, I liked wearable blankets for travel as they made sure my son was not shivering in the cold and slept comfortably. However as he has grown older, he hates the restrictions of wearable blankets so we have switched to wearing fleece and cotton pajamas depending on the weather. Both the blankets and pajamas come in full sleeves and ensure that my son is never cold or bitten by mosquitoes or other insects.
Best lightweight baby and toddler feeding items for travel
If you will be traveling mostly to developed countries and staying in hotels you won’t be needing a travel highchair. However, if you are going to be traveling to Latin America or Asia or going camping in the US, a light foldable travel high chair will make mealtimes easiest task of the day. We have the Summer Infant travel high chair and used it extensively during our month long India trip. We also used it for camping in Florida and love it’s ultra portability.
Travel dining set and spoons
We love the First Years take and toss spoons, bowls, and glasses for travel. We have them in multiple packs, however we have never thrown one away. I just wash it somewhere on the way or stow it in plastic bags and clean them when I get the chance. We also have the silicone mats and Munchkin suction cups but didn’t use them that much. I always preferred reminding my son not to lift his plate or bowl than purchasing things that he couldn’t lift.
Travel water cups
We have over a dozen different types of water cups for travel. We have plenty of straw ones, sippy cups, and 360 cups by Munchkin. By far my favorites are the straw cups and 360 cups as they allow my toddler son to drink on his own without any spilling.
If you want to pack light, you need a good travel bib. Trust me on that one. By a good travel bib I mean one that your baby or toddler can’t pull off and something that completely covers his hands and neck. I prefer one with a catch-all tray to save his pants from getting dirty. We have a variety of such travel bibs including the one from Ikea but the one I use the most is the silicone one that can be washed anywhere.
Nursing scarf / cover
I used these extensively when outside with our son. The best thing I love about them is that they are multipurpose so I used them as a scarf for myself, as a blanket for my son, as a nursing cover, and as a headwrap in Qatar. I have also used it as a wrap on domestic flights (what’s the deal with them anyway, why are flights always so cold?). I have about 3 different infinity ones – all in fancy prints and colors. One even has a pocket for my cell phone. I highly recommend getting one of these even if you are formula feeding or not traveling as much.
Best lightweight travel diapering essentials for babies and toddlers
A thick, light, easily foldable diaper pad is a must when traveling with a baby. A good diaper pad converts any surface into a changing table: I have even used it on the floor of a restroom when in Qatar and my baby boy’s back and bum was nicely cushioned due to the pad. I have also used it to change him in the trunk of our car and in his car seat when there weren’t any other options available.
Travel Wet Bag
In spite of everything that we do, accidents can and will happen. That’s why I always pack along wet bags while traveling. I have multiple large wet bags from Planetwise that I bring on long trips. I use the bags everyday at home too since we cloth diaper our son. While the ones that I have at home are the largest size available, I also have a couple of medium and small sized ones that I use for day trips or weekend outings. They are great for everything: diaper leaks, food spills, wet swimsuits, occasional rainstorms, and as laundry bags. They are excellent at sealing in water and smells. I strongly recommend these wet bags for everyone even for a day at the zoo or the park.
Foldable travel Potty
Once you start potty training you child, these little folding potty’s are the best purchase ever. I have two different ones and keep them in our two diaper bags. Using them is as easy as whipping them out, unfolding them and placing on the regular toilet. Even my son can easily fold them (he’s currently 2.5 years old) and place them on the potty and go on his own. They come in their own bags and cover so that everything remains clean.
Best lightweight bathing items for traveling babies and toddlers
So when would you need an inflatable bath tub? If you are planning long term travel anywhere in Asia or in developing countries, you might want to consider purchasing an inflatable bath tub. When our son was an year old, I was taking him to India for almost two and a half months. I would be traveling extensively to many of my relatives, friends and for fun. Most homes in India, especially the older single family homes, do not have bathtubs. Our son absolutely hated showers at that time (still does, I can’t really understand why) and so I chose to take the inflatable duck bathtub by Munchkin to make my life easier. Our son enjoyed splashing in it, and by not making major changes in his routine I ensured that he enjoyed the time we spent in India.
I always carry our son’s toiletries in his own pouch. That way I can just give his towel, pouch, and clothes to his dad or grandparents and anyone else can bathe him. I also use his travel pouch to pack basic first aid items including fever medicine, nasal spray, and band aids among other things.
Other fun lightweight travel gear
We also recommend buying new gear that can be used in multiple ways like a travel playpen or travel booster seat.
Travel playpen is actually useful for just a couple of months from the time your baby starts crawling to the time he/she starts walking but damn it’s a lifesaver during those months. We have the Summer Infant portable playpen and used it literally everywhere – in our living room when I needed our son to not follow me, in the backyard when we had grilling parties, at the park, and on road trips when our son wanted to stretch his legs by crawling around. Once he started walking, we switched places and I worked inside the playpen while he played around me. Yeah, parenting can get a lot crazy. Nowadays we use it as a ball pit. However we look to using it again in a few months time since our baby girl is one the way.
Travel pool float
We have a pool in our backyard and so we ordered the infant pool float right away when temperatures started getting high here in Texas ~ and by that I mean February! I was looking for a travel float that had a canopy for shade, was extremely stable even when the baby moved, and was a good size for my son who is on the smaller side. We chose this float by Swimways mainly for its awesome reviews and used it extensively over two seasons. It’s still in great shape and we hope to use it with our daughter as well. It is very easy to fold down and pack for travel and we have taken it to Atlanta, Dallas, Florida and many other places on vacation.
Our son is crazy about books and loves reading his picture books. We always have multiple books stowed away in the backseat of the car, in diaper bags, in my purse, and in his stroller. I preferred small board books when he was an infant but now also take along regular books for him. We also have an indestructible baby book which was a gift, but I believe more in gently reminding my son to not eat or pull his books than buying indestructible ones.
The key to happy travels with my son is having a variety of things to keep him occupied in case he gets cranky. In addition to half a dozen books, I have a few travel toys that I always keep in his diaper bag. Few of my favorite travel toys include the buckle toy, baby brain quest books, and hotwheel cars.