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Whether you were an avid traveler before having kiddos and don’t want to give that up, or you just love the idea of showing your little ones the world, I’m here to tell you it’s entirely possible to jet set with them in tow. The caveat is that it’s vastly different from adventuring without them For starters, traveling with kids requires more planning and packing (yes, you can still be team carry-on, but it will take some creativity). Tots — tiny as they may be — simply require more stuff: diapers, bottles, toys, clothes, modes of transport (spoiler alert: I will dive deep into the benefits of strollers and carriers) and other miscellaneous gear.
While I’m certainly not suggesting that first-time parents have to run out and spend thousands of dollars on pack-and-plays, convertible blackout shades, state-of-the-art travel strollers and every little trinket that promises to keep kids busy, stocking up on a few go-to items will make your life a lot easier while traveling. Trust me, I’ve taken our little guy along on dozens of different adventures. From quick weekend getaways to Cape May to a month bopping around Portugal, it’s forced us to get creative with on-the-go naps and turned the act of transforming a hotel room into a baby-friendly sleep sanctuary into second nature. These essentials for traveling with young kids easily get my stamp of approval.
Colugo The Compact Stroller
Finding the perfect travel stroller took a bit of trial and error, but we finally landed on The Compact Stroller from Colugo. From a portability perspective, it wins points for being lightweight, compact, folding down with the press of a button and coming with an awesome backpack that makes bringing it everywhere when not in use a breeze. The biggest test is whether your toddler likes it — and mine does.
BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light
While most hotels and resorts will supply some sort of crib or pack-and-play if parents request it in advance, that doesn’t guarantee your child will actually want to sleep in it. Some kids (like adults) are just picky and prefer the comforts of home. The BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light is lightweight and folds up into this little suitcase that’s easy to tote around on travel. Plus, it’s comfortable (I’ve personally slept in it on multiple occasions — don’t ask) to the point that our little dude used it as his primary snoozing setup for months by choice even at home.
Yogasleep Hushh Portable White Noise Sound Machine
Sure, you could save the money and just play baby white noise on repeat from your phone, but that requires the device to stay in the room with the sleeping tot. While that might work all right for some parents, I often need my iPhone to go for walks (while my husband hangs back with our sleeping bub) and so I much prefer this easy-to-pack little device.
BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One Air
This might be a hot take, but sometimes it helps to ditch the stroller — especially for destinations that are mostly cobblestones, stairs or sand. We went to France and Italy for six weeks when our son was 15 months old and only brought the BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air. It’s super comfortable and cozy to wear for long stretches (even in the heat) and made us way more agile.
Tula Toddler Carrier Moonlit Forest
Ultimately, our little dude outgrew his baby carrier, which maxed out at 33 lbs. I did a ton of research before sizing up. The Baby Tula Ergonomic Toddler Carrier had the best reviews online. Having used it to carry him around cities, coastal trails and everywhere in between, I’m confident we made the right decision. There’s also a range of colors and patterns to choose from.
Away The Bigger Carry-On FlexThe Bigger Carry-On Flex
Having a little one, I find myself making lengthy packing lists and trying to squeeze every “must have” into my suitcase. That does not, however, mean that I’ve resigned to being a checked-bag person all the time (especially with how airlines function these days). Instead, I invested in the Away The Bigger Carry-On Flex, which supplies ample space for clothes, books, toys, diapers and snacks. I also really like the durable hard shell, and the 360° spinner wheels for ease of movement while chasing a toddler through the airport.
Calpak Packing Cubes 5-Piece Set
I’ve espoused the virtues of packing cubes in the past but simply won’t pass up an opportunity to do it yet again. This five-piece set from Calpak is so clutch for keeping baby clothes (separating clean and dirty garments), diapers, books, toiletries and toys with far too many tiny pieces organized while jet setting.
First 100 Words: Sticker Book
I’m not embarrassed to say that we’ve purchased this sticker book no less than five times. Not only is it fun, colorful and engaging for little travelers (and wallet-friendly), but it’s also the perfect mess-free activity for times when kiddos need to sit in one place — whether that’s a flight, train or dinner at a restaurant.
Serenity Kids Grain Free Puffs
Anyone who doesn’t think of snacks as essential items for travel doesn’t have young kids. Being hungry on a flight or a long car ride is the worst. When your offspring starts to get hangry, it’s a thousand times worse. I like to keep my bags stocked with portable, healthy sustenance. The toddler-approved Serenity Kids Grain-Free Puffs, which come in a spill-proof container, taste great (especially the pumpkin spice flavor) and are fun to eat, so they keep our little guy entertained a lot longer than a pouch or an apple.
People have super strong opinions about the Slumberpod — which, for those not familiar, is basically a tent that goes over a crib or pack-and-play and blocks out the light entirely. Many parents swear it’s the difference between sleeping on vacation and being exhausted the whole time. In my experience, it’s been particularly useful while spending time in Europe during the summer when the sun stays up well past baby and toddler bedtime.
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