Travel Gear I Love and Recommend

Here’s a short list of travel gear that I love and strongly recommend.

The BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier

My favorite baby carrier for travel. It’s very light — and the best for use in hot sticky climates.

Graco Pack ‘n Play

A must for children under 18 months. Regardless of the type of travel bassinet you choose be sure that it has a carry bag and folds easily and compactly. This can be a clean and predictable place to plop the little one when they need a nap or when you need a few uninterrupted minutes to prepare and plan each morning. Many places you’ll stay won’t have the safety features you take for granted at home so the thought of your baby wandering around your non-baby-proofed room in the middle of the night can be a little disconcerting.

The totseat portable high chair for travel and vacation.

The Totseat Travel Highchair for babies and toddlers

Totseat Travel Highchair 

These things are really great – small and compact, easy to fold and keep clean. Perfect for babies and toddlers from 8 months to 3 years. You won’t encounter many highchairs while you’re traveling so getting them to sit in one spot or finding them a good chair to sit in can be a small challenge. The portable highchair at least gives you a good option.

Maclaren Techno XT Stroller

Small and compact. Easy to use and maneuver. Great for quickly folding up and stashing away. The best travel stroller on the market. 

The First Years Secure Sleeper

I think these are terrific – and not just for travel. It carves out a protective space for baby in your bed. My wife and I used it for both our kids. We placed it between us in our bed. It makes for an easy transition to the crib as you can place the sleep directly into the crib so the child feels pretty much what they’ve been used to in your bed. And it folds up quite nicely and is relatively easy to hide away in a bag or suitcase. Sleeping arrangements are one of the biggest uncertainties when traveling with kids, so if you’re not taking a Pack N Play this is a good option.

Powershot S100

I love this camera! It’s far and away the best reviewed compact camera on the market. I’m big on compact cameras for traveling. Great travel photos — especially great family travel photos — are about capturing a moment and a compact camera (that you’ll always have with you) does this best.

Apple MacBook Pro Laptop

Reliability is what you need when traveling, and computers don’t come any better than the MacBook. Sturdy, compact and lightweight (though not as light as the sleek and stylish MacBook Air) with a networking setup that makes connecting to the internet at cafes and hotels a breeze.

40 questions and comments

  1. Natali

    We recently took our 14 mo old to New Zealand for 3 wks. We found our baby back pack was far more useful on the plane and for sightseeing, so we should have left the stroller at home. Although it was handy in the airport, it spent the rest of the journey in the boot of the car…and took up nearly all the space! Highchairs were hit or miss, and we were staying w/ friends w/o children. We happened upon a collapsible chair that attached directly to the table in a baby store for little $$ ($40NZD). We took it everywhere. In some countries, like NZ, you can rent car seats and port-a-cots (pack-n-plays) to reduce the amt of gear you have to haul, so ck it out before you go!

    Reply
  2. Sharon

    Some good advice there but as a former Flight Attendant, I just wanted to point out that the bassinet is NO REPLACEMENT for a car seat, as far as safety is concerned. Usually babies have to be removed from these contraptions during turbulence while a baby in a car seat can be left sleeping. It also avoids the whole “who gets to sit at the bulkhead” deal. A car seat is actually the *only* way to fly safely with a child but air travel itself is so safe so even though the child is not secured, there is little chance of anything going wrong.

    Bravo for mentioning gate-checking. Anyone who has a car seat but not a seat for the baby should do that. NEVER check a car seat as luggage. They get lost and broken all the time by airlines who consider it a delicate, “check-at-own-risk” item.

    Those “belly belts” that you actually recommend to *ask for* are dangerous and therefore banned on American and Canadian companies. They basically turn the child into a human “air bag” with the weight of the adult coming down on the baby. Some airline require them but it’s to prevent the baby flying through the cabin, nothing to do with the safety of the child itself.

    Please mention other baby carriers. The Baby Bjorn is a heavily marketed, poor quality carrier, only hanging the child by its crotch in one uncomfortable position. It holds the baby too low for the parents’ back and is not good for the baby’s back either. Once I got a ring sling, that horrible thing got thrown in the back of the closet, never to be used again. The sling was good to age 3 whereas the Bjorn was done when my son hit 6 months of age.

    Other better-quality carriers include Mei Tai’s, Ergos and Becos. These hold the baby on the front AND back and also go to age 2-3. I liked the sling because I could discretely breastfeed in it, without having to use an awkward coverup or have to bring an extra blanket. It also slid on and off very easily.

    There are plenty of good carrier sites, including Peppermint.com and Kangarookorner.com which have different brands and rate them. A lot depends on the age of the baby, whether they walk, etc. I saw too many parents trying to get through airports with either clingy or sleeping babies in their arms. That wasn’t me! Nothing is worse than a toddler falling asleep about two minutes before touch down.

    Bravo for NOT telling people to make their kids drink or suck on something on take-off and landing. Definitely a myth. I left purely breastfed children in car seats during those times and nothing every bad happened to their ears. I also saw parents unnecessarily wake up sleeping children who had dropped off during taxi. Let them sleep!

    I did take them to the doctors’ soon before leaving to have their ears checked out (just scheduled the “well baby” visit that way) and made sure they didn’t have any infections or other problems. Flying with an infection is both painful and potientially damaging. Not worth the risk with something so easy to “fix”!

    We fly between Europe and California about twice a year, plus other flights, since each child was 4 months old.

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Sharon

      I agree the car seat trumps the bassinet but it requires two things to make it work: one, that you’re willing to take a car seat on your trip and two, that you’re able to get a spare seat for your baby – either through purchase or good fortune. The bassinet requires neither. As I say, it’s like a “free seat.”

      I’m not sure if I understand your problems with “belly belts”. I won’t say I’m an expert on the matter but as the child sits upon the adult and the adult is strapped in – which is pretty much assumed – I can’t see how the adult would come down on top of the child. As for the ‘only thing it does is stop the baby from flying through the cabin’ – this would seem a pretty big plus. Since crashes are so rare, the main risk to passengers is from heavy turbulence and being tossed about the cabin so this seems to go a fair ways to reducing that risk. Though clearly not as safe as a car seat.

      I used the Bjorn with both my kids and loved it which is why I mention it – though really it’s a more general recommendation for a carrier, not any particular one. I used the sling a lot as well but it seems more suited to lounging about the house and taking walks through the park. It really works well when you can lay a sleeping child on a bed after they’ve been lulled to sleep. But it doesn’t seem very well suited to travel and transiting through airports. I have heard very good reviews about the Pikkolo.

      Having said all that, thanks for the very thoughtful and informative comment. I hope you become a regular to My Little Nomads.

      Reply
      1. Matt Langdon (@theherocc)

        After reading about air travel with infants before we travelled, I have paid for an extra seat for my infant and put the car seat in. Every time. If that plane has really bad turbulence or goes off the end of the runway, your kid is basically dead without being strapped into a car seat. I wouldn’t drive my car without a car seat, the same goes for a plane.

        My guess on the lap seat thing is the same as in a car – if the impact is severe enough, it basically folds you in half – or worse.

        I now use a CARES harness for my 2.5 year old. Works great.

        When using a car seat or harness though, make sure you have the documentation with you. An attendent on Aer Lingus forced us to use a lap belt despite us having bought an extra seat for the car seat. She actually made us take our kid out of the seat for take off and put her on our lap. She said the plane would not take off until we did so.

        Reply
  3. Nadine

    The Mclaren stroller is great. I had a cheapo stroller for my first and thought it was fine. No problem, why would you waste that much money on an expensive stroller. And then I got one from my parents for our 2nd child and What A Difference! It’s really worth it. You spend so much time pushing the dang thing. It’s worth it. Never traveled with my kids though. LOL. But starting to think about it and research it. Maybe holiday in Hawaii or Mexico this Thanksgiving. Nadine. Thx.

    Reply
  4. Henna

    The Ergo baby carriers are superb. Compared to the Bjorn it’s better, but the Bjorn is also a fair bit cheaper.

    Reply
  5. A.R. from Hawaii

    I’m always surprised by how rare high chairs are in foreign countries. Where do kids sit? I suppose they don’t eat out like we do. Bring a good quality diaper bag with lots of little pockets. Makes life easier. And sunscreen for sure. We couldn’t find it for a few days in the Philippines and got a bit of a sunburn (Baby was covered.)
    Happy Travels.

    Reply
  6. L.A. just back from Mexico

    The travel cubes are great. Highly recommend. Work in just about any bag and really save room. A cheap rain jacket. It rains eveerywhere and it’s nice to be able to stay dry without getting too warm.

    Cheers.

    Reply
  7. MyBossIsTeething

    I have a very similar packing list! I love the Bjorn as well. I would add the Phil and Ted’s Sport (or ideally, their new Explorer) to the recommended stroller list. We just bought the Explorer and love it already. It is all-terrain, so you don’t need to lift it over bumps. It’s pricey, but worth it. And it has an optional second seat attachment.

    I’m a mommy blogger as well (www.mybossisteething.com). I will definitely be bookmarking your site!

    Reply
  8. Megan in New York

    My packing list would include a sun hat, a baby bath, diaper cream and lots of plastic bags. Thanks for all the good ideas.

    Reply
  9. Tina from St. Paul

    Already received great advice from you on a trip I am planning to Greece with myself and my daughter and am trying to figure out the best strategy for carrying our gear with us. I will be using an Ergo baby carrier when needed for my daughter, who will be almost 2 at the time, and only really want to carry one other bag as a carry on (too many checked bag ‘lost luggage’ horror stories) and will be packing as light as I possibly can. Do you have a travel pack you would recommend? It is likely at times I will be both carrying my daughter and the pack, so I’m assuming I will wear one on the front and one on the back. I’ve thought about rolling packs, but they are heavier and the wheel mechanism takes up a lot of room.
    Any advice you have would be much appreciated.
    Tina

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Tina. If you have an REI store around you then go there and try on everything they have. They can be fairly specific with body type and size, so testing the different backpacks is really important. (And even still you never know what you’re getting until you hit the road and use it in the real world.) I like what you’re thinking. Avoid the wheels and anything you’d have to carry.

      Reply
    2. Kim

      The Ergo actually has a backpack accessory which attaches to the carrier! Just bought two for our upcoming trip to China.

      Reply
  10. Ann

    Love the list. My kids are in elementary school so for long trips I like to take along the Apple ipad. Its a bit expensive (but lighter than a laptop). Also, it has a ten hour battery life. The kids can watch movies, listen to music, read books (that you download). It’s a lifesaver and worth every penny!

    Reply
  11. Patricia from Corona, CA

    The one thing I don’t see mentioned which is absolutely essential is a full pharmacy of baby meds. This is especially important if your child has a health issue (my children have Asthma). When my son was 2 years old he got an ear infection in Hawaii, and the fever hit at night. Fortunately, I had baby Tylenol and Motrin. But we ended up going to the ER anyway next day with a very high fever. My insurance co. told me to go to the ER instead of looking for a doctor as to not waste time, and an ER can handle anything. My son needed to have a clogged ear drained, and it was a blessing to be in the ER. Check with your insurance company for their guidelines before you travel. My hats off to the ER in WAikiki- we were in and out with prescription in hand within an hour! Another time, my son needed Zithromax in Germany, and fortunately we had some (our doctor works with us on travel issues). You don’t want to have a sick child in a strange place in the middle of the night. Travel prepared and pack the meds in a carry on bag. Never put them with checked luggage. We had to endure a 12 hour flight to Germany with a passengers’ sick child that cried and coughed the entire flight!

    Reply
  12. Alison from Golden, BC

    Our first experience travelling with a child was a three week backpacking trip around Ecuador with our (then) 4 month old son, and I would have to say our Ergo baby carrier was by far the best travel item for that trip! It was supremely comfortable for Mom & Dad, you can breastfeed discretely with them in it, and it packs up relatively small for the occasions it is not in use. I also invested in the Ergo backpack that attaches directly to the carrier, and while it was expensive for what it is, it was SO handy having it along. We managed to fit everything we needed for baby into it, strapped it onto the Ergo, and still had both our hands for our own backpacks. It turned out to be an extra good idea to have it attached to the carrier-as it was the only piece of luggage that arrived in Ecuador with us!

    Sunscreen was an issue with a 4 month old, as they all recommend being 6 mos and up on the bottles (as they don’t do any testing on children younger than that.) We ended up using the (L’Oreal) Ombrelle Kids 30, Sensitive Skin formula, as it had the fewest active ingredients and was recommended by the pharmacist. Of course we covered him up, but he didn’t develop a tan on his (sometimes exposed) hands or face!

    In terms of diapers, Huggies seems to have the stronghold on the market in South America, so we only took enough for the first few days then purchased a small pack mid-trip. They were readily available at every pharmacy we passed (most of the small towns as well) so unless you are really going off the beaten track (in SA) there is really no need to transport and entire backpack full of diapers for your little one!

    We are off to Panama in two weeks for a 15 day backpacking holiday with our now 12 month old, and have added to the gear necessary (we think) to take along:

    We will be bringing our Phil & Teds Traveller (sleeping cot) as gone are the days where he sleeps wherever we set him down, as well as our Phil & Teds Wriggle Wrapper (portable high-chair ish thing!) I didn’t intend to become such a slave to this brand (I have their Sport stroller too-its great!) but whenever I went in search of a travel product, they always had something to offer. The sleep cot is fantastic, it weighs in at around 7 lbs and fits into our backpacks for the flights (but is in a nice carry case for other occasions). It also completely encloses (if you want) to keep out the bugs. Its only downside it that it takes a couple minutes longer to set up/take down than your traditional pack & play, and I’d highly recommend practicing a few times before you head out! The Wiggle Wrap has come in handy for car trips as it fits into a diaper bag no problem, and can fit onto ANY chair with a back (or around your waist if there are no chairs around!) It seems that restaurants have a difficult time these days keeping their highchairs even somewhat hygienic, so it is nice to have a backup.

    http://philandteds.com/products/sleep/traveller
    http://philandteds.com/products/feed/wrigglewrapper

    Finally, though I am loath to leave our Ergo at home, we will be taking our Deuter framed backpack to haul our little guy around in this time. Though it is significantly larger, when it is 30 degrees out, having the baby strapped directly to our back will not be comfortable for him or us!

    Apologies for the long winded “comment”, I will update on our decisions once we are back from the trip if anyone wants.

    Now to review the section on “How to entertain your tot on a long flight!”

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      HI Alison. Thanks for the great — and very informative — comment.

      I’d love it if you came back and gave us an update after your travels.

      Have a great trip.

      Reply
  13. Kim

    We are taking 2 Ergos to China to carry our 17mth old twins, with two of the Ergo backpack accessories (which will be our only carry-on luggage on the flight I think, they are roomy bags). Leaving the pram at home!

    I’ve been considering travel high chairs (the cloth ones) but have just come across a photo of the Ergo being used to strap the bub to the chair! You use the waist strap around their waist and the back of the chair, and the rest of the Ergo hangs down in front.

    I haven’t tested this yet, but I think that’s the high chair problem solved!!

    Reply
  14. Misha

    Couple things we have loved on our travels with our 20-month old:
    (1) Brica Fold N Go Travel Booster. Folds completely Flat and easily fits into the pocket of our child carrier.
    (2) Macpac child carrier, for kids too big for an ergo. This thing rocks. We live in the rockies and have a deuter kid backpack which is massive. The macpac was a loaner from a friend. It’s compact, comfy for mom and kiddo and has lots of space for packing weeks worth of diapers and goods in the pocket and under the kid’s seat. This thing has saved us in Hanoi.
    (3) Brought the pack n play but wish we hadn’t. Instead I would have just brought our MamaDoo porta crib travel mat, which we’ve used as a nap mat and cushion for a portable reading/play corner. Only weighs 3 pounds or so.
    (4) REI Vagabond Tour 40 Travel Backpack. We’re in one place for a while so we have some big duffel bags with us, but this compact little pack has been awesome as a carry-on (couple changes of clothes for baby and mom, food, diapers, toys, with a little sleeping back hooked on the outside). This plus our macpac made for 2 great carry-ons. We’ve been using the two for weekend excursions as well and leaving the duffels at home.
    (5) Dell Mini (smallest model). Great for checking e-mail, hunting for hotels and travel tips, and skyping the grandparents.

    Reply
  15. kevin

    Great tips. Parents flying with kids should check out gogobabyz.com. The Travelmate was a life saver for us. Helped keep the kids comfy & content in their own car seats. No more “carry me, carry me”.

    Reply
  16. Marita

    Have to add my support for Phil and Ted brand….we have travelled with two children and used their clamping high chair (although does not work on pedestal tables too well) and their very light weight port-a-cot. This brand is designed for travel and adventure. Cot packs up to the size of a small sleeping bag and weighs only a couple of kg. Paid for itself a we avoided hotel cot hire fees…..and landed ourselves a good dose of flexibility. Love the blog…..planning our next adventures….

    Reply
  17. Anwar

    The S100 I’m sure is amazing. I have the s90 and really like it although having the integrated GPS of the S100 would be a nice feature to have!

    Reply
  18. Paul

    Mate your site is great, we are about to embark on a world tour with our 20 month old around the world and after trawling through your details it has given us a more positive outlook on the tough times ahead as we are under no illusions that they will happen….good times …

    Reply
  19. Lyndel

    Your web site is my daily reading these days. I love it, and thanks for all that you have done to bring this information to us. In terms of a 6 month SE Asia trip with a 3 and 5.5 yr old, what would you suggest to bring for navigating busy markets, crowded sidewalks (usually nonexistent) & roads, & other hot walks from point a to b with them? I was thinking the 3 yr old in a backpack and the 5 yr old in a travel stroller. another idea would be a compact double travel stroller but that prob would be too wide. what do you think? Also wondering about your favorite sleeping option for the 3-4 age range. I have seen the pods and cots, but I would love your opinion.

    I know this is totally off subject but what kind of budget per month would you recommend (in USD) for this kind of trip? If you offer an article on budgeting for this region, please let me know! THANK YOU SO MUCH! your wit and writing are great.

    Lyndel, Boulder CO

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      Hi Lyndel. I’d push you towards not taking any carrier at all. On one trip to Thailand when our youngest was 2 1/2 years we debated whether to take a stroller or not. We decided to take it then the airline lost it in Taipei. After we’d been traveling a few weeks we were glad that they lost it. (They gave us a refund for more than we paid for it.) So I think you’ll be surprised by how active and engaged your kids will be in the markets, streets, shops. Most of everything they see is so new and unique that they want to be up and moving around. (Strollers are great for European art museums when your kids are bored to tears.) Plus, Asian women love to poke, tickle, and grab the cheeks of little western kids, so when they’re strapped in a stroller they’re a bit like a caged animal. If they’re on their own feet at least they have a fighting chance to get away.

      For budgeting a trip to Asia this is a great post:
      With2KidsInTow Budget.

      Cheers.

      Reply
    2. David Post author

      By coincidence, just read this great article that discusses how adults interact with kids in Asia: Don’t Touch My Child! Lessons From Asia.

      “If there is one thing I could take home with me from my experience in Asia, it would be the genuine love and appreciation of children by men and women alike.”

      Reply
    3. with2kidsintow

      Hi Lyndel
      We backpacked around SEA last year for 12 mo with our then 3.5yr old and 5yr olds. I’d agree with David re the no stroller option–it would be a real pain in the neck as 1) the footpaths are often non-existent and 2) if there were foot paths, then the curbing would be high too and 3) the crowds would make it cumbersome. Our kids walked without much difficulty, even though they were quite reluctant to do so before we left for the trip. As David said, the novelty of the new environment was enough to usually distract them and they really surprised us with how long and how far they could walk (the record was 3hrs in one morning in Chiang Mai, covering about 8km, with LOTS of stops!). That’s the thing about traveling with kids–be prepared to take 2-3x as long to cover the same territory as without kids in tow! Naturally, we had to sacrifice some of the harder and longer treks on this trip. to cover more ground, sometimes, we’d take a local bus or tuk tuk, or even hire a motorbike with the entire family on board!

      As for the sleeping arrangements–when we could, we’d get a room with 2 queen beds or queen + single and the girls could squeeze into the other bed (we’d move the bed against the wall and have the younger one alway against it). sometimes hotels will also supply you with extra mattress on the floor (usually with an extra charge). We also carried 2 camping self-inflating/therma rest mattresses with us, and the girls slept on them on the floor without a problem (thus avoiding any extra charges). We had also carried sleep sheets with us for the girls when on the floor, but eventually we discovered we could just ask nicely for extra sheets and pillows at no extra charge (thus saving on us laundering our sleep sheets!).

      We know of people who’ve carried and used peapods for similar aged kids, but the pods are cumbersome to carry and may be a bit small for the kids, especially the older one. not worth it in my opinion.

      the link David supplied you has samples of our daily expenses while in SEA, according to country. feel free to email me directly any questions.

      Jess

      Reply
  20. with2kidsintow

    We traveled with the S90/95 and we LOVED the size and the picture quality. However, for us, after only 3mo continual use (about 5,000 frames) we got the dreaded ‘lens error’, which i’ve now read is quite common to the Canon point-and-shoots. Maybe it was just our bad luck :(

    Reply
  21. Camilla

    Hi

    My main question is only touched upon but not really adressed by anyone – how to ensure the kids are safe on car journeys? We’re actually happy to bring car seats (have strapped a lightweight one to our backpack before) but from previous SE Asia experience, they don’t have three point seat belts in the rear, making it impossible to install them in the cars.

    Any ideas? Going to Vietnam with 1.5 yr and 4 yr old.

    Apart from that, we love our Phil&Ted travel cot, and we never ever travel (even locally) without our Manduca carrier. The best! Similar to the Ergo but more versatile as the back panel extends – for older kids or sleeping kids it’s just great. And you can use it from birth using the built in baby insert.

    Hope someone can help on car safety, may turn out to be a real show stopper for us :-(

    Reply
    1. David Post author

      I doubt you’ll find 3-point seat belts. The best you can hope for are working seat belts that will work with a simple car seat.

      Reply

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