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Best Gear for Travel with Babies & Kids

November 2016

Hitting the road or flying the friendly skies? Don't leave home without these travel must haves hand-picked by our editors — from lightweight strollers and car seats to travel cribs to travel-friendly toys. Your luggage (and your fellow passengers) will thank you for it!

JUMP AHEAD:

Note: We developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.


Travel strollers

Value pick: Summer Infant 3D Lite Convenience Stroller

If you’re looking for a cheap but durable stroller that you won't mind getting tossed around by baggage handlers or leaving outside rides at Disneyland, the 3D Lite ($90) is for you. It weighs less than 12 pounds and folds up into the typical umbrella stroller profile. It has fairly easy, three-step fold and comes with attached carry strap for ease of transport. Overall, it provides a comfortable ride with four different recline settings and comes with a small sun canopy and under storage basket.

Everyday pick: Baby Jogger City Tour

Baby Jogger’s recently released City Tour ($200) takes everything that's great about Baby Jogger's ultra-popular City Mini, and strips it down for travel. It weighs only 14 pounds, folds up small enough (22 x 18 x 9") to be taken as a carry-on on an airplane, and comes with a backpack-style carry bag. It has a decent sun canopy and storage basket, especially for a travel stroller; offers front-wheel suspension and near-flat recline; and also sports Baby Jogger's signature one-hand/quick-fold. The ride is comfortable enough that it can even be used as an everyday stroller for city families and other families who value light weight and portability. Note that it's not the best choice for tall parents, as it sits quite low and the handlebar height is not adjustable. Also, it's not suitable for newborns as there is no car seat adapter available; it can be used from 6+ months.

Premium pick: Mountain Buggy Nano

A parent favorite in the travel stroller category is the Mountain Buggy Nano ($250). It’s lightweight (13 lbs.) and folds up small enough (22 x 20 x 12") to be taken as a carry-on on a plane. It has a deep recline (improved in the 2016 model), a pretty good sunshade, rear-wheel suspension, and a modest but serviceable basket, and comes with a carry bag. One thing that sets this stroller apart from others is it has a built-in infant car seat adapter, and a lie-flat option is also available when paired with the Mountain Buggy Cocoon ($70, sold separately). The biggest drawback is perhaps that the fold is two-step and requires two hands.

Premium pick: gb Pockit/Pockit+

Another great travel option is the gb Pockit ($249), which burst onto the scene a year ago to rave reviews. It weighs only 9.5 lbs. and folds up insanely small (14 x 12 x 7", the most compact fold of any stroller on the market ) and can easily fit in a plane overhead compartment. The fold is super simple, but does require two hands. If you don't need to buy right away, consider waiting for the upcoming release of the new Pockit+ in 2017. The Pockit+ will weigh only a pound more than the Pockit and will be only marginally more expensive, yet will have a wider seat, recline, and accommodate an infant car seat.

Splurge pick: BabyZen YoYo+

The BabyZen YoYo+ ($495) is a premium option, also popular with city parents as a lightweight, compact option for everyday use. It weighs only 14 pounds and can be taken as a carry-on on a plane (folded dimensions are 20 x 17 x 7") — it comes with a padded shoulder strap for easy carrying. It has a sleek look as well as plentiful features including a seat that reclines to 145°, one-hand fold, 4-wheel suspension, and machine-washable fabrics. The 6+ model (the "6+" stands for "6+ months"; $495) is just the normal stroller, while the Complete version ($720) also includes a bassinet-like lie-flat nest for newborns. The latest 2016 Yoyo+ model has a higher (40-pound) weight limit, improved suspension, 60% larger storage basket, extendable canopy, and more seat padding as compared to the previous "Yoyo" model. Available accessories include a carry bag, a sun parasol (!), and infant car seat adapters for a very limited number of higher-end carseats (including Cybex and Maxi-Cosi) are available.

Car seat stroller pick: Go-Go Babyz Travelmate

The Go-Go Babyz Travelmate ($80) is a popular accessory that allows you to turn your convertible car seat into a stroller to roll baby through the airport with ease. It is compatible with most convertible car seat models and is easy to store when not in use. It’s a great option if you only need a stroller for walking around the airport, and don't need one at your destination.

Travel car seats

Most infant car seats are by definition travel-friendly, so we'll just focus on convertible car seat and booster picks here. Note that the travel booster options below are appropriate from age 3 or 4; any younger and you'll need to bring (or rent) a full-size car seat.

Convertible - value pick: Cosco Scenera Next Convertible Car Seat

If you want a low cost convertible seat for very occasional use, the Cosco Scenera Next ($46) is a great choice. This parent favorite is super lightweight (under 10 lbs.); will fit most babies (except tiny preemies) from birth and will last most kids rear-facing to 3 years old (or older); is narrow and compact (fits 3-across in most cars); and is easy to install. The fabric is also removable and washable. It's definitely a basic seat in terms of features & mdash; the shell is just hard plastic (no energy-absorbing foam), and the padding is limited — but it totally does the job for the occasional trip. It accommodates children rear-facing from 5-40 lbs (19" to 40"), and forward-facing 22-40 lbs (29" to 43") and at least 2 years old.

Convertible - everyday pick: Evenflo Tribute LX

A little bit of a step up from the Scenera is the Evenflo Tribute LX ($57). It's also "low frills," but gets the job done as an affordable travel or second-car seat. The Tribute LX has a touch more padding than the Scenera, contains some energy-absorbing EPS foam, and has an upfront harness adjustment and buckle release for easy adjustments (though it's a rethread harness). The fabric cover is machine washable. It's narrow and lightweight, at just over 9 lbs. It accommodates children rear-facing 5-30 lbs. (19-37" tall), and forward-facing 22-40 lbs. (28-40" tall).

Convertible - premium pick: Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat

The Japanese-made Combi Coccoro is our premium pick because while you will be paying a higher price ($240), you get the benefits of nice everyday car seat with comfortable padding, while still getting something lightweight (10 lbs.) enough to travel with. It also has a small footprint, making it perfect for smaller cars. The main drawback is that the small size of the seat means that your child will outgrow it sooner than other convertible car seats. It accommodates children 19 to 40 inches, and from 3-33 lbs. (rear-facing) / 20-40 lbs. (forward-facing).

Booster - value pick: Bubblebum Inflatable Booster Seat

The Bubblebum is a great and affordable ($30) travel booster option. It is inflatable, folds into its own travel bag, and weighs just over a pound. You inflate it with your mouth via a valve. Note that it may not be the best choice for longer drives, as some kids complain about comfort. It is appropriate for use with kids 4-11 years old / 40-100 lbs. (If you are shopping for a 3 year old, check out the RideSafer below.) At only 13" across, it fits easily three-across in the back seat.

Booster - everyday pick: Mifold Grab and Go Car Booster Seat

The innovative Mifold ($40) (pronounced MY-fold) is a clutch-size booster that is 1/10 the size of regular booster seats (measures 10 x 4.5 x 2"!) and weighs less than two pounds, yet meets the same federal safety standards. Get this: regular boosters lift the child up to level of the seat belt, but Mifold brings the seat belt down to the child. Genius! It's so small that it can easily fit into a backpack or purse, making it a great choice not only for travel, but also for taxis, car pools, etc. The Mifold is designed for use with kids 4-11 years old / 40-100 lbs / 40-57" tall. (If you are shopping for a 3 year old, check out the RideSafer, up next.)

Booster - 3-year-old pick: Ride Safer Travel Vest

The Ride Safer ($159) is another booster seat alternative that works great for rental cars, taxis, or hopping in a friend's car. As compared to the Bubblebum and Mifold, it's a bit more bulky, but may provide greater peace of mind for kids who usually still ride in a five-point harness at home and who may not be large enough or sit up adequately to ride in a tiny booster seat. It would also be a better choice for a 3 year old or smaller 4 year old, since the Bubblebum and Mifold are designed for kids at least 4 years old and 40+ pounds. The RideSafer size Small fits kids 3-5 years old, 30-60 lbs. and 30-50" tall; size Large fits kids 5-10 years old, 50-80 lbs. and 45-57" tall.

Airplane pick: CARES Harness Airplane Travel System

The CARES Harness ($70) is the only FAA-approved harness-type restraint for toddlers on an aircraft. It provides an alternative to bringing a hard-backed car seat on board the flight, or holding your child in your lap. It attaches to the airplane seat and safety belt to create a safe harness for your child. It stores away compactly when not in use. It's a great choice if you don't need a car seat at your destination, or prefer to check your car seat to avoid having to carry it through the airport and deal with it on the plane. It is intended for kids ages 1+ who weigh 22-44 pounds.

Carriers

If you plan to do a lot of babywearing on your trip (e.g. you aren't bringing a stroller), we recommend a full-featured baby carrier, since the incremental comfort will make the extra bulk well worth it. If you've already got one at home that you're used to, that one will work! However, if you're only bringing a baby carrier on your trip for backup use, you can also consider bringing a specialized travel/ultra-lightweight carrier to slim down your luggage.

Workhorse carrier pick: Tula Ergonomic Baby Carrier

The Tula ($150) is one of our favorite overall Soft Structured Carriers, so is our top choice if you're in the market for a new carrier and have a baby over 6 months old. A Toddler size is also available for older kids. For more top carrier picks (including specialized picks for newborns and toddlers), see our Best Soft Baby Carriers guide.

Lightweight carrier pick: Phil&Teds Airlight Travel Baby Carrier

If you just want a backup carrier "just in case," our top pick in the super portable category is the Phil&Teds Airlight. It's ultra-lightweight carrier (14oz.), packs up super small (8 x 4 x 3"), and is self-storing. It can be worn as a front or back carrier, and can be used from birth with the included newborn insert. It is made from Oeko-tex cotton blend fabric and has breathable mesh sides, so it would also be a great choice for hot weather. Weight limit 26 lbs. If you’re looking for an even lighter option and your child is at least 15 lbs., the Boba Air ($65, 0.7 lbs.) is another great travel option.

Travel cribs/beds & sleep aids

Travel cribs - overall top pick: Guava Lotus Travel Crib

The Guava Lotus ($198) is our top pick for airplane travel, thanks to its light weight (13 lbs.) and ultra-compact fold (23 x 12 x 8"). It collapses down to a large rectangular backpack size. It has a dome-shaped zip-up door which makes soothing or nursing your baby to sleep easy. It is also the only travel crib Greenguard Gold certified for low chemical emissions. Fitted sheets ($20-30) are sold separately. A conversion kit to transform the Lotus into a bassinet is also available.

Travel cribs - comfort & easy setup pick: BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light

The BabyBjorn Travel Crib ($240) is a little pricier than the Lotus, but is even easier to set up, comes with a cushier mattress, and has really high build quality. It also comes with an organic fitted sheet. The main drawback vs. the Lotus is that the BabyBjorn folds up a bit bigger: 19 x 23.5 x 5.5” (more like a small suitcase than a large backpack). The weight is the same, at 13 lbs. This would be a top pick for car travel or for use as a secondary crib at home, however. You can see our comparison of the BabyBjorn vs. the Lotus here.

Travel cribs - super portable pick: The phil&teds Traveller Portable Crib

If you're looking for the most compact and lightweight travel crib available, the phil&teds Traveller ($200) is the one. It packs up super small (27 x 10 x 8") and weighs only 7 lbs. (a full 6 lbs. lighter than the Guava and BabyBjorn!). The Traveller accomplishes this by including an inflatable mattress (think camping mattress pad) rather than a foam mattress. It also has a huge zip-up side door (one entire side of the crib folds down), which is awesome if you need to soothe or nurse your baby to sleep. On the downside, some parents complain that it can be hard to set up, especially the first few times.

Ultra-portable toddler bed pick: KidCo Peapod/Peapod+ Travel Bed

If you’re looking for a sleep solution even lighter weight than a travel crib, we suggest the KidCo Peapod ($70 at Amazon, 2.5 lbs.) or Peapod+ ($90 at Amazon, 3.5 lbs.). These lightweight travel beds are designed for either indoor or outdoor use, pack into a car visor-size disc, and come with their own carrying bag. The sides are a breathable mesh and the top panel has UV protection for outdoor use. The Peapod is designed for ages 1-3, while the Peapod+ is a bit bigger and fits ages 1-5.

Preschooler pick: Regalo My Cot Portable Bed

The Regalo My Cot Portable Bed ($25) assures that even your older children have a safe and comfortable spot to sleep when you travel. It's basic, but kids love sleeping on it and seem to find it comfortable enough. It folds up fairly small, to the size of a rolled up camping air mattress, and comes with its own carrying case. For this price, it’s a great piece of gear to have on hand for sleepovers and camping as well.

Sweet dreams pick: Marpac Hushh for Baby Portable Sound Machine

The Marpac Hushh ($35) is compact and attaches to anything to take with you on the go, yet offers the same soothing sound as your machine at home. It has three sounds that help soothe your baby and recharges with an included micro-USB cord.

More baby containment devices

Here are also a few more options for containing your baby during the day, either in your hotel room or on the go!

Portable exersaucer: KidCo GoPod Portable Baby Activity Station

If you've got a kid at exersaucer stage (~4-12 months), the KidCo GoPod ($32) provides a handy place to stash him where he won't get into any trouble. It’s designed for indoor or outdoor use making it extremely versatile and packs into its own carrying bag.

Portable playard: Summer Infant Pop N Play Portable Playard

The Summer Infant Pop N Play ($63) is an easy to set up playard with has a water resistant bottom that can be used either indoor or outdoors. It’s lightweight and folds into its own carrying case.

Portable baby gate: North States Supergate Portable Travel Gate

The North States Supergate ($35) is handy for babyproofing your hotel room or Grandma's house. It folds up into its own carrying case and fits most standard doorways.

Travel high chairs & booster seats

Ultra-portable high chair: Mountain Buggy Pod Clip-on High Chair

The Mountain Buggy Pod ($60) is our top pick for travel high chairs, thanks to its incredibly light weight (2.2 lbs.) and super compact fold. The fabric zips off for easy cleaning, and a carry case is included. It's also cheaper than much of the competition! The clamp design will accommodate most tables (though not tables over 2" thick or with a large lip).

Portable high chair: phil&teds Lobster High Chair

The phil&teds Lobster High Chair ($90) is also a great choice for travel. It weighs under 4 lbs., folds up compactly, and comes with a carry case. It comes with a tray insert (though parents groan that it doesn't attach securely to the seat), and (with some effort) you can get the fabric seat off the frame for easy hand washing. The biggest drawback is that, due to the clamp design, it won't work with tables with any kind of lip, so you will probably find that you can't use it some places. That said, it will work with tables much thicker (up to 3.75") than the Mountain Buggy Pod. Some parents complain that the seat is too low for younger/smaller babies.

Portable booster: Munchkin BRICA GoBoost Travel Booster Seat

The BRICA GoBoost ($25) is ideal when eating out with a toddler because it folds easily, has its own carrying strap, and even has its own zippered storage to hold cups and utensils.

Bath & potty

Portable bathtub: Munchkin White Hot Inflatable Duck Tub

The Munchkin Inflatable Duck Tub ($11) inflates easily and even has a white dot feature that will let you know when the water's too hot. Great for traveling, and even practical for regular home use if you’re tight on space.

Stink containment on-the-go: Arm and Hammer Diaper Bag Dispenser and Bags

Arm and Hammer's diaper disposal bags ($4) are a lifesaver when you’re out and about and need to contain the smell of a dirty diaper. These bags come with a dispenser and are large enough to hold several diapers.

Mess-free diaper cream: Grovia Magic Stick All Natural Diaper Ointment

The Grovia Magic Stick ($14) allows mess-free application on the go (or at home!). It contains organic and all-natural ingredients.

Portable potty: Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus Portable Potty Toilet Seat

If your little one is potty learning (or learned), the Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus ($15) is an essential for travel or on the go. It can be used either a potty set on the floor, or as a toilet seat reducer on top of the toilet. It's easy to collapse and folds up pretty compactly. Disposable liners and reusable liners are available. We also like the very similar OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty.

Wetness/odor containment on-the-go: Itzy Ritzy Travel Happens Sealed Wetbag

A good wetbag like these favorites from Itzy Ritzy ($15) are travel essentials to store wet or dry items. The PUL lining keeps wetness and any odors contained. It's great not only for cloth diapers, but also soiled baby clothes, wet swimsuits, cosmetics, or toiletries.

Feeding

Portable pump: Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump

If you aren't planning to pump frequently during your trip and/or need something really compact and lightweight, the Medela Harmony ($30) is perfect. It's a manual, but very easy to use. It is even designed to enable two-phase expression: faster, shallower sucks to stimulate let-down,and longer, deeper sucks for after your milk starts flowing. Note: If you won't be traveling with baby and anticipate needing to pump more than once a day, you'll probably find it worth your while to bring your usual double electric pump instead.

Portable nursing pillow: My Brest Friend Inflatable Travel Nursing Pillow

The My Brest Friend Inflatable Nursing Pillow ($19) brings all of the comfort of a nursing pillow while you’re traveling but is easy to pack and store in any bag or purse. Just be careful not to puncture it!

Portable cleaning station: OXO Tot On-the-Go Travel Drying Rack with Bottle Brush

This on-the-go drying rack from Oxo ($15) is compact, durable and comes with everything you need to clean and dry bottles when you’re traveling.

Travel-friendly bib: Happy Healthy Parent Silicone Bibs

When you’re out and about with a baby or toddler, a bib that wipes clean and rolls up for storage is a must have. Our favorite so far is this silicone bib from Happy Healthy Parent ($19 for 2), which features a crumb catcher with reinforced corners so it will actually stay open. It is durable, easy to clean, and great not only for travel but also for home use. A cheaper alternative is the Tommee Tippee Explora Easi Roll Bib ($6 for 2).

Leak-proof straw bottle: Thermos FOOGO Phases Stainless Steel Straw Bottle

The Thermos FOOGO straw bottle ($12) is our top pick for toddlers and preschoolers. It's made of stainless steel (one of the safest materials possible, yet still lightweight), is insulated to keep drinks cold throughout the day, and has a convenient pop-up top that is impossible to lose. We've used these for years, and they do not leak!

Space-efficient snack stack: ZoLi On-the-Go Travel Formula & Snack Dispenser

This formula & snack dispenser from ZoLi ($16) keeps your formula or snacks separated in four individually-sealed containers that efficiently stack on top of one another to take up less space in your diaper bag.

Leakproof food storage: EasyLunchboxes Bento Box

EasyLunchboxes ($14 for 4) have three compartments to store food and snacks and seal with a tight-fitting lid. They're an easy and affordable way to organize and store food during any trip. If you prefer avoiding plastic and have a bit more budget, we also love the PlanetBox Shuttle.

Travel-friendly serveware: The First Years Take and Toss Feeding Line

The First Years' Take and Toss products ($15 for a 28-piece set) are perfect for traveling because they’re no frills, easy to clean products that are so affordable that if you lose a piece it's no big deal. You can buy them as a set (containing no-spill sippy cups, forks, spoons and bowls with lids) or buy any of the components individually.

Travel-friendly placemat: Modern-twist Kids Mark-Mat Coloring Silicone Placemat

The Modern-twist Mark-Mat (MSRP $18, or $25 including 4 markers) is a unique placemat that not only folds easily and compactly in your diaper bag, but can also be colored on with dry-erase to keep your kids entertained! We've had one of these for years, and it still looks brand new.

Travel-friendly toys and books: Babies

Indestructibles Books by Amy Pixton

The Indestructibles books ($5) are perfect for young infants because they are made of a very strong woven material that is truly "baby-proof”! Even the most determined baby won't be able to rip them, and they're easy to clean too.

Jellycat Soft Books

The Jellycat soft books ($17) are suitcase-friendly (lightweight & squishable) fabric books that entertain your baby with different textures, feelings, and sounds.

Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Take-Along Shape Sorter

The Melissa and Doug Take-Along Shape Sorter ($13) is a well-done travel version of the classic baby toy. Nine textured shapes come in a zippered, padded case that has a shape sorter on one side and a flap activity on the other.

Travel-friendly toys and books: Toddlers

Tiger Tales My Little World Sticker Books

My Little World Sticker Books ($4) are thin, paperback sticker books that provide at least several hours of fun each. The stickers are reusable, so they can be rearranged several times before they lose their stickiness.

Melissa & Doug Water WOW!

We're not sure how parents managed before these Water WOW! mess-free coloring books ($5) were invented, but thankfully you won't need to find out. Just fill the leak-proof pen with water and let your child “color” away, and his strokes will reveal colored pictures. The reusable coloring pages dry after a short period of time, so they'll be ready to color again minutes later.

Buckle Toys Interactive Buckle Toy

This interactive buckle toy ($25) allows your toddler to buckle, snap, click and zip away while you’re traveling. These toys feature different learning and allow young children to practice coordination skills. If you don’t have space to pack it away, you can use one of the buckles to securely snap it to the outside of the diaper bag or carry on.

Travel-friendly toys and books: Preschoolers

Wikki Stix

These bendable Wikki Stix ($5) provide hours of entertainment for children. They are a no-mess toy and easy to pack.

Aquadoodle Travel Doodle Mat

The Travel Doodle ($17) is a no-mess, thin, and reusable drawing mat that only requires a little water to provide children with hours of drawing and creative fun.

Preschool Color and Activity Book by Roger Priddy

The Preschool Color and Activity Book by Roger Priddy ($6) is an all-in-one activity book that contains stickers, puzzles and other activities to keep your preschooler engaged for a long period of time. Most of the activities are appropriate from age 3 or 4.

Headphones

LilGadgets Premium Volume Limited Wired Headphones with Shareport

The LilGadgets Headphones ($30) are volume limited for safety, which is a helpful feature in a kids' headphone. What really sets this option apart from others, however, is the Shareport feature, which is perfect if you have multiple children and just one device. Recommended for kids ages 2-8.