Summer is in full swing and that means that family vacations are on the horizon for many of you! I know from 10+ years of experience traveling with kids just how much gear family travel can require. I’ve made it my mission to try as many travel-friendly products as possible, both to make my own travel life easier and also to give you solid advice on what you really will need and use.
If you are planning summer travel with kids in tow, here are 11 useful travel gear recommendations for every age and stage.
(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links. See our full disclosure policy here.)
Best Travel Gear with Babies & Toddlers
1) CARES Harness ($70.00)
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. And sometimes you don’t need one at your destination so bringing one on board is overkill indeed.
How do you keep your child safely restrained? The CARES harness is a more compact safety device that turns an airplane seatbelt into a 5 point harness. It’s FAA approved too. We have used one with son during the toddler years, 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.
One word of warning: there are a number of non-FAA approved cheap knockoffs for sale on Amazon that look like this product. Be sure to only purchase the real deal – linked here – to keep your child safe!
2) Portable Changing Pad from Cozy Cubs ($16.95)
Changing diapers in tiny airplane bathrooms and in airports can be tricky, but I’ve found having a compact changing pad to be a big help. You can take it to the bathroom with the essentials in it instead of a giant diaper bag when space is tight. It’s easy to wipe it down if it gets messy (no laundering needed). Best of all — the price of this model is about half of what the name brand portable changing pads cost.
3) Bitybean Baby Carrier ($49.95)
Many travel destinations aren’t very stroller-friendly so putting your baby or toddler in a carrier keeps your family from being slowed down and inconvenienced. The problem is that many of the best baby carriers aren’t as compact as travelers really need. 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 in situations where I didn’t expect a carrier would be helpful or necessary. I have a full review of the Bitybean with video if you need more details.
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 often don’t make bringing it worthwhile. The KidCo 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. The Peapod is recommended for ages 1-3, but we were able to use it even a bit longer with our son. See my full PeaPod review.
Best Travel Gear with Young Kids
1) Bubble Bum Booster Seat ($29.90)
Made for children who are at least 4 years old and 40 pounds, this inflatable travel booster is a major-space saver. Flying to a destination and then renting a car there? The BubbleBum works well and packs light. Taking an Uber with kids in a big city and don’t have a car seat? The BubbleBum is the perfect solution so you don’t need to lug around a car seat or bigger booster for the day. See my full BubbleBum review, where I explain why this is probably the kid travel product we’ve used most in our family.
2) Skip Hop Zoo Little Kid Luggage ($26-$34.99)
Once they are big enough to carry a small bag, kids love having their own luggage. These SkipHop roller bags are just the right size for preschoolers and younger elementary age kids and come in a variety of cute animal shapes. Both my kids have loved theirs over the years. The bags have held up extraordinarily on many dozens of trips, especially considering the very reasonable price.
3) Kidz Gear Wired Headphones ($12-18 depending on color)
A little screen time is often very necessary during travel with kids. 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 7+ years of use and we’ve even purchased a second pair for our son a few years back that is still working well. This model uses a traditional headphone jack so consider opting for the Bluetooth wireless version ($19.99) for even more device compatibility.
Summer Travel Gear for the Whole Family
1) Jackery External Battery Pack & Charger ($19.99)
There is nothing worse than a dead battery when you need your phone for travel directions or your tablet to entertain a cranky kid. A portable charger or two is a necessity these days with as many electronics as we depend on, but finding one that isn’t poor quality can be hard. Our family has used several Jackery portable chargers with great success and found them to be one of the best brands on the market. This particularly charger 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 ($22.99)
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) Anker portable USB outlet and power strip ($35.99)
Hotels, airports, and cruise ships 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 Anker power strip is perfect for travel because it has a space-saving design. The devices has 2 electrical outlets, 2 USB ports, and one USB-C port to accommodate a variety of devices.
4) Amazon Basics 5 Way Headphone Splitter ($9.49)
As a parent, I know all too well the battle that happens between siblings fighting over a single tablet with the “good” movie download on it. Using a headphone splitter is an easy solution to this common travel conflict. Family members can share a single device while each listening on their own set of headphones.
What other travel products have been lifesavers for your traveling family? Share your recommendations in the comments.