Summer is quickly approaching and that means that family vacations are on the horizon! Travel with kids can require lots of gear, and I’ve made it my mission to try as many travel-friendly products as possible so I can give you solid advice on what you really will need and use.
If you are planning summer travel with kids in tow, here are 12 useful travel gear recommendations for every age and stage.
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Summer Travel Gear with Babies & Toddlers
1) CARES Harness ($69.95): We all know car seats are the safest place for babies and toddlers on planes, but they are so bulky and frustrating to carry through airports. The CARES harness is a more compact safety device that turns an airplane seatbelt into a 5 point harness. It’s FAA approved and quite compact. We have used ours with our toddler son and it works well for restraining squirmy little ones during takeoff and landing (see my full CARES harness review). Kids have to be able to sit upright and be a minimum of 22 pounds to use the CARES harness. Our son was able to use it starting at about 13 months.
2) Cozy Cover On-The-Go Changing Pad (varies; $12.75): Changing diapers in tiny airplane bathrooms and in airports can be tricky, but I’ve found having this changing pad to be a big help. The price is right, you can wipe it down if it gets messy (no laundering needed), and you can take it to the bathroom with the essentials in it instead of a giant diaper bag when space is tight. Check out my full review of the Cozy Cover changing pad for more details.
3) Bitybean Baby Carrier ($59.95): Many travel destinations aren’t very stroller friendly so putting your baby or toddler in a carrier keeps your family from being slowed down. The problem is that many of the best baby carriers aren’t exactly compact. I love the Bitybean because it is the size of a water bottle, so I throw it in my diaper bag or day pack to have just in case. It has saved me more than once! I have a full review of the Bitybean (with video) if you need more convincing.
4) KidCo Peapod Portable Bed ($69.95): Traveling by plane and don’t have a crib at your destination? While a Pack N Play works well for road trips, it is too big for air travel – the bag fees alone don’t make it worthwhile. The Peapod is the most compact travel bed on the market for little ones. My family has also used ours for a beach sun tent or to contain an active little one at an outdoor music festival. Note that the Peapod is recommended for ages 1 and up.
Summer Travel Gear with Young Kids
1) Bubble Bum Booster Seat ($29.99): Made for children who are 4 years and 40 pounds, this inflatable travel booster is a major-space saver. Flying to a destination and then renting a car there? This works well and packs light. Taking a taxi in a big city and don’t have a car seat? The Bubble Bum is the perfect solution so you don’t need to lug around a car seat or bigger booster for the day.
2) Skip Hop Zoo Little Kid Luggage ($29.99): Once they are big enough to carry a small bag, kids love having their own luggage. The SkipHop bags are just the right size for preschoolers and elementary age kids and come in a variety of cute animal shapes.
3) Kidz Gear Headphones ($19.99): A little screen time is often very necessary during travel with kids, so earphones are a must-have to shield fellow airplane passengers (or just mom and dad in the front seat of the car) from the noise of kid movies and apps. The Kidz Gear brand earphones are durable and cute with a reasonable price to match. Our family’s first pair is still going strong after 4+ years of use and we’ve even purchased a second pair for our toddler son now too.
4) VTech Kidizoom Connect Camera ($30): Kids love taking photos during their travels but it always makes me nervous handing over an expensive smartphone or DSLR. This camera allows the little ones to take their own photos without risking the expensive equipment.
Summer Travel Gear for the Whole Family
1) Jackery External Battery Pack & Charger ($24.99): We all carry a lot of electronics these days and there is nothing worse than a dead battery when you need your phone for travel directions or your tablet to entertain a cranky kid. Our family has used several Jackery portable chargers with great success. This model holds enough juice for about three charges of an iPhone, so it is great for families with multiple devices to share.
2) Zojirushi Stainless Steel Travel Mug ($25.99): Whether it be keeping your coffee hot or your toddler’s milk cold, there are lots of travel uses for a spill-proof thermos during travel. Zojirushi makes an excellent quality product at a reasonable price. The mug is available in both 12 and 16 ounce models (16 ounce size is a few dollars more).
3) Monster Outlets to Go power strip ($11): Hotels and airports don’t quite keep up with our power needs by providing ample outlets, so a power strip can come in handy for families with lots of devices to charge. This Monster power strip is perfect for travel because it has a space-saving design that fits four outlets into the space that most power strips use for only two.
4) Highview iPad hanger ($24.99): On long car rides (and even on planes), it is useful to have a device that holds the iPad for your child when watching movies. Otherwise, my toddler messes with the touchscreen too often, requiring lots of my time and attention fixing erroneous swipes. This device allows you to mount your iPad on the pack of a headrest in a car or plane and is a great tool when kids need to share a single device.