If you’ve been a reader (or an Instagram follower) for a little while, you know I absolute love travelling as a family. Yes, it brings along plenty of challenges but also so many amazing and rewarding experiences. My favourite part of travelling with young kids? Seeing the world through their eyes. Travelling with young kids is this amazing icebreaker that lets you experience a whole new level of interaction with a country, its culture, and its people. My least favourite part? All the stuff you need to bring. Strollers, car seats, travel crib, carrier, and so on and so forth. As kids get older, it becomes easier and easier to leave things behind and hopefully we’ll be able to travel completely carry-on one of these days. I know there are folks out there who can manage that with babies and toddlers, but I haven’t quite gotten there… yet.
With all the travelling I’ve done with my kids (12 countries and counting since Isabelle was born), I’ve gone through my fair share of gear to find what works best for us. I tried to narrow it down to my top 10, but alas I got stuck at 14. So here you go, my 14 essential items for travelling with young kids. We don’t always travel with every single one of these items, depending on the destination, how long we’re staying, and what we have access to once we get there (e.g. access to a crib when we visit family in Germany.) That said, these are the items we absolutely use the most and have helped make life on the road that little bit easier.
Also: there’s an amazing giveaway featuring 9 of the items listed here (over $1000 worth of travel goodies!), so make sure to stick around until the very end!
[ 1 ] Lightweight travel stroller
A good travel stroller is an absolute must in my books. Something that can be folded down easily, is light enough to carry up and down stairs (especially in NYC where most subway stations don’t have elevators), narrow enough to weave in and out of pedestrian traffic (hello Europe!), and has a big enough storage basket to carry all your gear. I’ve always been hesitant about umbrella strollers because of that last point, but the Uppababy G-Luxe has made me completely change my tune! We were able to fit a baby carrier, our giant diaper bag and a few extras in the basket. It’s also really lightweight while still being heavy on the features like a good recline, adjustable footrest, and an extendable sun canopy. The handlebar is also nice and high for taller parents, which is another common issue I’ve had with umbrella strollers.
[ 2 ] A good baby carrier
Along with a lightweight stroller, a lightweight but supportive baby carrier is another must have. If your baby loves being worn you might even be able to skip the stroller all together (although I’ve never done that and never regretted bringing a stroller along). I’ve tried a lot of carriers in my day and my personal favourite is the Ergobaby. We used to have the Sport (but I may or may not have burned a hole in that one by hanging it to dry on a lamp that I then turned on), and now we have the tall version of their original carrier. Both of these have been a little longer for our tall kiddos (and us tall parents!) and I love that there aren’t any frills. Lots of features are great at home but for travel I’m all about less weight, less volume (but still being really comfortable for all-day wearing).
[ 3 ] Universal ride-on board
If you’re in that age where your oldest still doesn’t walk long distance but a double stroller no longer makes sense (especially for travel), I love a good ride-on board. It gives those tired little legs a break and also allows you to cover more ground in a big city with lots of walking. The Guzzie + Guss Universal Hitch is amazing in that it can adapt to fit any stroller including umbrella strollers! It comes with a strap to hold it up and out of the way when you don’t need it and can easily be removed when you need to fold down your stroller.
[ 4 ] Carry-on sized, lightweight travel crib
There are three options when it comes to sleep whilst travelling: co-sleep, use a crib provided by your accommodations, or bring your own. I’ve done all of the above and prefer either co-sleeping or bringing our own crib, depending on the age. Nicolas is a crib sleeper through and through (he refuses to even snuggle with me for 2 seconds on a bed), so a crib is a must for him. It’s also good for peace of mind since it keeps baby contained. I researched baby cribs like crazy before we had Isabelle and the Guava Family Lotus Crib was (and still is) the best option out there, in my books. It’s light, compact, but still easy enough to assemble and disassemble in minutes (less if you don’t attach the mattress to the crib). It has a zippered side if you have trouble putting your baby in from the top or if you need to lay next to them for a little while to help with falling asleep (which was the case with Isabelle). It also comes in a convenient travel bag that has both carry handles and backpack straps and is small enough to be considered carry-on luggage for most airlines.
[ 5 ] Toddler bed rails or travel bed
For toddlers that have outgrown a travel crib, I love, love, love The Shrunks sleep accessories. When we know the bed will be wide enough for all adults as well as Isabelle, we co-sleep and use their inflatable bed rails on any open sides or before the adults go to bed. Or if we have multiple beds, we’ll put Isabelle in one surrounded by these bed rails. They also make a great divider when co-sleeping with a night-time mover and shaker (read: flailing limbs everywhere). What I love most about them is how light and compact they are. They take up hardly any precious luggage space.
When we’re short on bed space, the toddler travel bed is a fantastic option. It fits a standard crib sheet and has built-in inflatable side rails to prevent rolling off the bed. We brought this with us to New York and Isabelle loved it so much! It’s also great if you want to get the kids in a separate room that doesn’t have a bed. In other words, when you stay at a fashion blogger friend’s place and his second bedroom has been turned into a giant closet. Haha!
[ 6 ] Convertible diaper knapsack
A diaper bag for me needs to be backpack style. Running after two kids means I need both hands completely free and can’t be worrying about a shoulder bag sliding off at any given time. However, there are times when a backpack just doesn’t work. Like when you’re babywearing on your back or if you’re already carrying something on your back through the airport (car seat, travel crib, etc.) and most likely have a certain someone (hello baby) in a carrier in the front. For those times, you need to have a messenger style bag that can be worn on your side – yes you’re basically a hot, sweaty mess of a mule, but solo travel with kids necessitates these sort of logistical strategies. My favourite convertible diaper bag is the Fawn Design. Lots of room, really comfortable as both a backpack and messenger, beautifully made, stylish, and the prettiest colours to pick from.
[ 7 ] Ride on suitcase + travel bed in one
If you’ve got a toddler or preschooler, you’ll know that they always insist on bringing a suitcase of their own. And then, once at the airport, they’ll decide they’re too tired to pull along their suitcase and instead want you to carry it (as if you aren’t carrying enough already). Enter the ride-on suitcase. Such a great invention! Gives your little one a fun ride through the airport (and, incidentally, they’re so much faster on a ride-on suitcase), plus it allow them to bring along a few of their things. I absolutely adore these Jet Kids Bedboxes because they also turn into an in-flight travel bed! (Seriously, any and all travel gear must serve multiple purposes.) The suitcase lid can be flipped over and lifted up, and you then place the rolled up mattress (with little bed rails, no less) on the seat to make a little lie-flat bed. Our New York flight wasn’t long enough to use it for napping, but this is great for oversees flights when sleeping arrangements become a nightmare (or when you put your baby on the floor and get yelled at by the flight attendants lol).
[ 8 ] iPad and headphones
Flying is not the time to be anti-technology. Whatever you need to do to keep yourself as stress-free as is possible, that’s the way to go if you ask me. Once your toddler reaches a certain age, make use of their love of the iPad and let them play games, download some kids shows, etc. In-flight entertainment is great as well, but not all flights have it (case in point: out WestJet flight to NYC) and Isabelle can last so much longer when she’s got games to play instead of just a random show to watch. That photo up there? Yeah that’s my hubby having a little snooze while Isabelle plays games. Pretty good setup, if you ask me.
[ 9 ] Water-resistant picnic blanket
Lots of walking means tired little legs that need lots of breaks. So bring a long a picnic blanket so you can sit down anywhere and everywhere. I love the Skip Hop Central Park blanket as the bottom is water-resistant so you can use it even when the ground is wet. It’s also really lightweight and folds up into a convenient carry case so you can hang it from your stroller handlebar.
[ 10 ] Snack container
Snacks, snacks and more snacks! Well fed babies are happy babies so I always bring a multitude of snacks whenever we do full travel days. In fact, the first thing I do when I get to a new place is go to the grocery store for diapers and a buttload of snacks. We’ve used Skip Hop snack containers since Isabelle was a baby – I love the little containers for rationing your store-bought snacks into manageable quantities for the day, plus there’s extra room to add some squeezies and bars into the storage bag.
[ 11 ] Diaper change mat
I don’t get grossed out by too many things, but bathroom change tables are an exception. Just, no. Also: so many places don’t have change tables to begin with, so you’ll need to change your baby or toddler on the dirty floor. Skip Hop’s changing station is another item I’ve used since Isabelle was born – I love how it keeps everything in one place and, once your toddler gets really long, the extra length of this change mat that comes from the wipes and diaper pockets means their head doesn’t have to be touching the dirty floor. Plus I can open this baby up and close it again all with just one hand. Very important.
[ 12 ] Extra stroller storage
You can never have too much storage, right? Light and compact strollers generally have less stroller storage than their full-size counterparts, so if you need a bit of extra room, this Skip Hop saddlebag is amazing. It seriously fits a crazy amount.
[ 13 ] Travel sleep clock
We’ve been using a sleep clock for Isabelle at home for about a year now and it’s been such a game changer in getting her to stay in bed both for the duration of her “nap” time (which is just her relaxing in the bed with some books) as well as in the morning so she doesn’t call for us at 5am. I love this Claessens Kids one for travel since it’s super light, folds closed, and is battery-operated.
[ 14 ] A good spinner suitcase
With all that baby gear, you’ll need a suitcase to transport it in. For me, a good spinner is an absolute must. When I travel solo, I have one hand pushing a stroller, and the other hand pushing a spinner suitcase (pulling a suitcase becomes way too heavy and awkward). We recently got this Heys Cronos Elite set and I’m seriously so impressed. The double wheels spin effortlessly and the lightweight yet incredible durable shell (made in Germany!) means it can hold up to all the abuse of modern travel. I usually travel with one checked bag full of all of our gear (less weight to transport through the airport) and then I’ve got a stroller, travel crib, and a carry-on knapsack or messenger bag that holds our electronics and other in-flight items.
Okay, now onto the good stuff (GIVEAWAY CLOSED!):
One lucky winner will get the chance to win this entire prize package (worth over $1000!):
- Uppababy G-Luxe stroller in the colour of your choice (MSRP $280)
- Guzzie+Guss Universal Hitch ride-on board (MSRP $90)
- Guava Family Lotus travel crib (MSRP $250)
- The Shrunks Indoor Tuckaire toddler travel bed (MSRP $110)
- Fawn Design diaper bag in the colour of your choice (MSRP $160)
- Skip Hop Grab & Go stroller saddle bag in black (MSRP $25)
- Skip Hop Central Park outdoor blanket and cooler bag in grey feather (MSRP $45)
- Skip Hop Pronto signature changing station in grey feather (MSRP $30)
- Skip Hop Grab & Go complete mealtime set (MSRP $20)
To enter, leave a comment below with your favourite family travel destination (either where you’ve been or where you would love to go). Make sure to enter a valid e-mail address (don’t worry, only I can see your e-mail), so that I can contact you if you’re the winner. To double your chances, head on over to my Instagram and enter the giveaway there as well. Good luck! Giveaway is open to residents of Canada and USA and ends Sunday, April 16th at 11:59pm EDT. Winner will be announced here and notified by e-mail or Instagram DM.
Note: MSRP is listed in USD. The Uppababy G-Luxe is only available to a Canadian winner. Should a winner from the United States win the prize package, it will include everything but the G-Luxe stroller and I will pick a separate winner for the stroller.