Even the most vacation-savvy among us know that traveling with little ones is a balancing act of patience, preparation, and perseverance. Traveling with kids takes twice the organization of an adults-only trip, and you’re met with approximately 100 times the chaos.
We’ve had our ups and downs when traveling with children but, through some trial end error, have come to rely on a few key products to help quell the chaos to make for a more enjoyable getaway. Each is problem-solving and many do double duty, to help you minimize non-essentials and streamline packing to lighten your load. Here are some of our favorite troubleshooting must-haves to make traveling with babies and toddlers a breeze.
1. A smart backpack and carrier in one
It’s always a good idea to economize space when traveling. This genius product is not only a 4-in-1 baby and toddler carrier, it includes all sorts of smart stash-spaces for your must-haves that need to be accessed immediately. At the waist belt there is a small fanny pack-style satchel to keep necessities like a cell phone, an ID, and hand sanitizer. Then, opposite of whatever side you’re carrying your child, is a clip-in day pack. This smart feature makes for a perfectly proportioned diaper bag or backpack that’s comfortable to carry and that does away with having to wrangle with numerous unruly straps for purses and daypacks.
2. A traveling baby and toddler bed
A vacation should be restful. Help ensure you actually get some decent shut-eye on your getaway with a pop-up baby and toddler bed that will keep them cozy and safe, while also giving them their own sleep space. This multifunctional piece by KidCo is streamlined and simple, and will make you wonder why anyone ever put a pack and play on their baby registry.
Instead of a big, bulky piece that weighs a ton, this streamlined sleeper is under 3 pounds and packs up small enough to fit in your carry on or in a beach bag. The mesh siding, and the sun-protective top ensure that its usefulness doesn’t end in your hotel room. It’s a multifunctional piece that also works as mosquito protection when hanging out outdoors and as sun protection during a day at the beach.
3. A ride-on suitcase and toddler bed hybrid
You can’t put a price on a well-rested pint-sized traveler. If you’re prone to taking red-eye flights, or hitting the road post-bedtime, this smart piece of kids’ luggage is a must-have. BedBox is a ride-on suitcase with airline carry-on dimensions that kids can either scoot on top of, or be pulled by way of a leash-style carrying strap. In addition to being a fun and practical ride-on suitcase, this genius product converts any car or airline seat into a cozy bed within seconds for kids to to snuggle up and get some much needed shut-eye.
Sturdy and durable, this smart travel product has a cradled seat at the center, foot rests on the side, and shock absorbing swivel wheels for a smooth ride. It also has an easy-access top compartment to keep all of your kids’ immediate must-haves at their tiny fingertips.
4. Their very own backpack
Toddlers love any modicum of independence they can get, so giving them a backpack they’ll love will not only get them excited about their upcoming getaway, it’ll lighten your load considerably. Toddlers love having their own backpacks that they can fill with all of their favorite must-have toys that they can access at their every whim, so be sure to outfit them with one that’s just their size.
The best backpacks for kids aren’t just shrunken down adult backpacks, they should be ergonomically designed with children in mind. Our favorite packs have added comfort features such as padded shoulders and well-positioned chest straps, and have a just-right number of pockets for easy accessibility of important items.
5. A bento box filled with snacks
Gas station snacks are filled with sugar and salt and airport treats are wildly expensive. Instead of relying on less than healthy prepackaged snacks, come prepared with a kid-friendly bento box filled with a healthy assortment of their favorite snacks. These well-priced bento boxes seal up well, and have lots of small compartments to fit an assortment of healthy snacks. Leak-proof, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free, they are also super sturdy and come in an assortment of kid-friendly colors.
6. A reusable water bottle to help keep them hydrated
A thirsty kid is a cranky kid. Minimize pit stops and make sure you have a well-chilled water bottle at all times. We’ve tried over a dozen kids’ water bottles to find the absolutely best for little kids. The Hydro Flask Kids and the Simple Modern Summit are our favorite picks for well-insulated bottles that are leak proof, easy for kids to manage on their own, and that hold up well to drops and tumbles.
7. A tasty lollipop designed to combat motion sickness
These ginger, lemon, and honey lollipops give relief from an upset stomach that may come from motion sickness, in the air or in the car. These all-natural lollipops are gluten-, nut-, and dairy-free and only use natural forms of sweeteners to create yummy pops that are formulated to ease the discomfort associated with nausea and motion sickness. These also aid in digestion, which can sometimes get a little out of whack when traveling, so it’s nice to have a few on hand at all times.
7. A cozy blanket/stuffy combo
Traveling can sometimes be scary for little ones. These adorable and cuddly stuffies are not only great to cuddle with, they transform into a cozy blanket that is just right for naps.
When you’re short on space, sometimes a favorite stuffy has to go into the checked bag. This cute stuffed animal and blanket combo lets kids bring a cuddly and cute buddy with them even when you’re short on space. Even better, because it folds up neatly you don’t have to worry about it dragging on dirty airport or gas station floors when they still want to clutch it post naptime.
8. Toddler-friendly headphones
Whether it’s watching movies on an airplane, or blocking out the sound of their siblings while they sleep, a good set of headphones is a must for jet-setting (or daytripping) littles. It’s crucial that whatever set of headphones you buy has volume control, to protect against noise-induced hearing loss, which can start occurring in even young children.
Not all volume-controlling kids’ headphones are created equal, however. For an affordable pair with cute designs, our testers recommend Sakar. They’ll help keep ambient noise out, while keeping their ears safe from high volumes.
9. Good walking shoes
A good pair of shoes that are flexible, quick to dry, breathable, and offer loads of support are just what you need when taking in the sites, and burning off some post-nap energy. We love the new Keen Newport shoe just for these reasons. They are a new spin on Keen’s classic kids’ sandal, but as an enclosed shoe they are more versatile for travel. Still just as adjustable, breathable, and rugged as the original Newport sandal, they are great for hiking and tide-pool splashing, but then they wipe down easily to pair with socks for when the temperatures dip a bit. Best of all they don’t get soggy when met with splashes and sweat.
10. A kid-friendly booking
Back in the day we used to search for AirBnBs with hot tubs, a sound system, a stocked bar, and a game room. These days our necessities have changed and, thank goodness, AirBnB has heard our cry for baby- and kid-friendly features. When you search under “trip type,” the online booking system now allows you to search for listings that are “for families,” which will filter down results to homes that are welcoming to children.
But just because an owner says their listing is “family-friendly” doesn’t mean that it is equipped to be safe for a baby or toddler. A smart way to prepare is to look at the listing’s amenities. Hosts can now indicate that their home comes with family-friendly features, such as blackout blinds, safety gates, changing tables, and even children’s books and toys.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.