In my last decade plus of travel with kids, I found it was often hard to pack light – especially with younger ones in tow. Nevertheless, I made it my mission to travel with less whenever possible. One of my secrets to traveling lighter without leaving behind essential kid gear is taking along space-saving versions of items we use daily. If it can fold up, collapse, or inflate, it is probably high on my list.
The space-saving products that have come out since my oldest was born – both in terms of quantity and quality – are impressive. So many of these products are perfect for travel, even on many airlines where checked bags now usually cost you a pretty penny if you have to travel with full size gear.
If you are looking to travel light too, there are so many really innovative space-saving products for traveling with children. I’ve personally purchased and used the vast majority of the items on the list – some of them more than once for my second kid or as gifts. I have included a few well-reviewed extras that have caught my eye or come recommended by friends and family, especially since several of my favorite small businesses specializing kid gear didn’t survive the closures of the last few years.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the gear. Here are a dozen super smart and creative baby, toddler and kid gear products designed with space-saving and travel convenience in mind.
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12 Best Compact Kid Travel Products
Baby carriers are travel essentials if you have infants or toddlers. The Bitybean carrier is as small as it gets without sacrificing comfort – it’s the size of a bottle of water and held up well in my family even for a Grand Canyon hike with a squirmy 18 month old.
Unfortunately, it looks like Bitybean is no longer manufacturing new inventory, so it’s getting harder and harder to find the remaining carriers for sale. For now, snag one at Walmart while you can but when those go, the next best alternative is the Boba Air.
Check out my full review of Bitybean for more details and photos.
Once your child reaches that magical age of 4 years old and magical weight of 40 pounds, you can leave behind the bulk of air travel with car seats and use a booster instead. And although low back boosters are pretty travel-friendly, you can go even smaller when needed.
The BubbleBum is the original inflatable travel booster seat. It’s small enough to fit in a carry-on or front pocket of a checked suitcase deflated. And it’s even small enough to throw in a large purse, backpack or day bag – perfect for carrying around while you are taking cabs and Uber/Lyft rides with kids at your destination.
It has become our family’s most-used kid travel product, hands down.
(Editor’s Note: For a long time, the main competitor to the BubbleBum was the mifold foldable booster seat. That seems to be gone now for good!)
If you have a younger child or even just a restless one who can’t quite be trusted to sit property in a booster seat, you may want to look at the Ride Safer Travel Vest instead. This product is another helpful and compact restraint for use in cars. It can be used for kids as young as 3 and a minimum of 30 pounds.
The concept is pretty simple but innovative – instead of lifting a child up like a booster so an adult seatbelt fits, it brings the seatbelt down to fit. It’s pricey though, so this is a product best saved for families who travel frequently and/or who live in urban destinations where they might be ridesharing a lot.
Beware that there are dozens of knockoff product on Amazon and other retailers that are made to look like this vest. The giveaways of the fakes are usually the cute colors and cheap prices, so don’t be led astray (the link above is to the authentic product!).
My kids have loved making use of sand toys on our beach vacations. But carrying them along can get bulky fast – certainly for air travel but even on road trips where trunk space is at a premium.
I always investigate first whether our vacation destination has an activity desk that loans out sand toys (one of our favorites, Disney’s Aulani does!). But if not, we have tried to bring a few items instead of buying and throwing away more plastic each trip.
A number of companies now offer collapsible silicone sand buckets perfect for packing flat for travel. They increasingly have some with patterns and designs now too – way more than the basic bucket that first came on the market when my oldest was little.
The PeaPod is the most compact toddler travel bed on the market. It’s similar to a small sun tent with a very thin padded mattress that sits underneath the tent.
It has a variety of travel uses as well. We have used our PeaPod for naps at friend’s houses, at the beach to keep a crawling baby contained, and even as a backup travel bed if we are staying in hotels where we are unsure if a crib will be available. Our son was able to use his well past his 4th birthday, so we got several years of use out of it before passing it down to a cousin who continues using it today. We definitely got our money’s worth!
Note that the PeaPod is only approved for 12 months and up, so you’ll need other solutions for safe sleeping for the youngest infants.
For slightly older toddlers and younger kids, this toddler air mattress is a comfortable extra bed solution for hotels, vacation rentals, or grandma’s house. Why pay those expensive rollaway bed fees in hotels if you don’t have to?
The Shrunks Travel Bed has bumpers along the side to keep toddlers from easily rolling out. While there are a number of inflatable mattresses on the market, this one is more compact because of its toddler size, but can still be used well beyond the toddler years. Our daughter slept in it even as old as 10 years!
This isn’t exactly a kid product, but it’s a product that travelers with kids may find quite helpful. I often find I need an extra bag as a trip goes on – our family picks up souvenirs and snacks and our while we get lazy about packing our bags as efficiently as we did at the start of a trip.
The bago Lightweight Small Hiking Backpack is super-compact backpack and is a great option for luggage overflow or simply to use as a daypack on excursions or family outings.
Unless you want to dine with a toddler on your lap at all times on vacation, having a highchair or travel booster is a nice thing. There are some smaller hard sided booster seats that are road-trip worthy like the Nuby Easy Go Safety or the hiccapop ErgoBoost.
But if you are getting on a plane, you need something even more compact than that. The Cozy Cover Easy Seat is a super-small cloth harness that functions as a travel highchair for restaurants or in hotels and condos on vacation. It fits over the back of a standard dining chair and secures older babies and toddlers in the regular seat. Check out my full review for more details.
I was never very good at nursing my kids without a positioning pillow, but all the nursing pillows on the market were so bulky on airplanes. Luckily, this product came out in time for my second child and I took it with me on several long flights during my nursing days.
It inflates in seconds and makes nursing so much easier, especially at the infant stage where babies can’t hold their own heads up. When I wasn’t traveling, I kept this in my trunk for nursing while out running errands. Highly recommended!
When traveling with babies and toddlers, the work of cleaning sippy cups, bottles, and breast pump pieces doesn’t stop. This little drying rack with included bottle brush is compact and provides a clean, self-contained space for your items to dry.
Both of my children spent a lot of their pre-crawling days in bouncy seats – so much so that we bought multiple seats for different places we traveled often. The idea of creating one that could fold flat didn’t come to real life fruition until after my kids had graduated from the bouncer, but the products that are on the market now are impressively convenient.
ComfyBumpy has created a basic model that folds completely flat for travel. At just 5.5 pounds, it can easily be thrown in your trunk or even packed in a suitcase for your next trip.
My kiddos loved their exersaucers and jumperoos back home, but face it – those are way too large to take on a trip. Summer Infant has come out with a portable stand up play station that folds similar to a folding camp chair. At just one pound, it’s far lighter than previous portable products that attempted to provide the same functionality.
This is a particularly useful tool to contain your baby or toddler while you need to take a shower in places that might not be childproofed like a hotel room or at grandma’s house. I can also be a safe place to keep a baby corralled at outdoor destination thanks to the partial sunshade too.