Traveling with kids is amazing in so many ways. But kids – especially tiny, just-hatched ones – come with gear that is laughably larger than them. If you’ve spent the last decade living our of your backpack as you explore the world, what are you supposed to do? Stop???
Having kids doesn’t mean you should stop getting out and exploring. Note even close. But to have the most successful travels with a baby you’ll nee to be thoughtful about what you bring. We’ve been together this guide to choosing the perfect travel baby gear – whether you treat yourself to it or not-so-subtly let your loved ones know what you’d like. We’ve tested many of these items ourselves and have found them to be great for traveling with our babies and little kids, while others came out too recently for us so we’ve gotten heaps of recommendations from awesome parents in our Tiny Globetrotters community.
Where should you set up your travel baby gear registry?
If you’re looking for baby registry ideas, we whole-heartedly recommend that you check out Amazon’s baby registry program. We used it when I was pregnant with both of our kids and it was perfect for us for so many reasons:
-Access to Amazon’s huge inventory of baby gear… and Universal Registry button to add items from other stores
-Extended return window
-10% completion discount
-Easy to track who sent what when you’re in a post-partum fog and lose your list
-Free welcome gift
Take a look for yourself!
Travel car seat
One of the few baby travel items you actually need is a car seat. In fact, many hospitals in the US won’t let you take your baby home without one (even if you don’t plan to drive). While you’re shopping for a car seat, might as well go with one that’s travel-worthy, right?
Most families start with an infant car seat. They’re specifically designed to fit tiny babies and are extra-portable thanks to carrying handles and stroller attachments. What are the best infant car seats for travel? Many of them will work just fine but here are a few that offer extra features you’ll love if you plan on jetsetting with your new bundle.
The most revolutionary infant car seat for travel by far is the Doona car seat stroller. It’s an infant car seat that transforms into a stroller in just five seconds! This is perfect if you plan on city living or city traveling since you can safely hop in and out of taxis on a whim. It’s not cheap, but you won’t have to get a separate stroller that’s compatible with your car seat. The Doona is rated up to 35lbs and 32″ (whichever comes first) so it’ll last most babies to a year or more. It is on the heavy side at 15lbs, so don’t plan to carry this one by the handle. If you plan to travel somewhere with lots of sunshine, make sure you pick up the sunshade extender – perfect for naps too.
If you don’t need the features offered by the Doona and want a more traditional infant car seat for travel, we can’t say enough great things about the Chicco Keyfit 30. We used it both at home and abroad without issue. The latest version offers a zip-off cover and ventilated padding, which both would have been game-changers with our messy, sweaty babies!
What makes the Keyfit 30 so great compared to other infant car seats out there? Simply put, it’s one of the easiest car seats to use whether you’re installing with the base or without it. It’s almost 5lbs lighter than the Doona, but it’s also compatible with this awesome travel stroller if you grab the car seat adapter. For a few trips (and often around town) we pushed it around on this and loved the easy fold and huge basket.
When you’re traveling by plane, you’ll probably want to leave the infant car seat base at home. That sucker is heavy! Instead practice installing your car seat without the base by locking the seatbelt. If you’re traveling outside of the US you may encounter seatbelts that you can’t lock, so pick up a cheap, tiny locking clip and learn how to use it in advance.
Another option is start with a travel convertible car seat and skip the infant seat entirely. This choice has pros and cons. The biggest advantage is that you won’t spend money on an infant seat (and your home won’t look like a car seat graveyard in a few years). The disadvantage is that you have to take your baby out if she falls asleep. It’s better not to have them sleep in the car seat for a long time anyway, but it sure is convenient (especially in bad weather) to pop the whole car seat out of the car. Convertible car seats are also often bigger than infant car seats, and only some will correctly fit a newborn from birth.
But if you’re traveling all over the world with your little one, there’s one huge reason you might prefer a convertible car seat. It starts with “L” and ends with “ATCH”. While infant car seats only offer LATCH attachments (those little clips that attach the car seat directly to the car and then have a strap to tighten) on their bases, convertible car seats have LATCH built in and some of them don’t weigh any more than an infant car seat without the base. While you can install any car seat with a seatbelt using a locking clip if necessary, LATCH makes the whole process so much faster and easier.
If you decide to go straight for a convertible car seat, you need to make sure it fits newborns – many of them don’t! Lucky for you, our favorite convertible car seat for travel happens to be perfect for newborns too. The Combi Coccoro is super light, easy to install with both LATCH and seatbelt and extremely comfy and cozy for newborns through toddlers. This isn’t a cheap seat you’ll put in the closet between vacations, it’s the seat you’ll want to use every day because it’s so lovely. I’ll admit, I cried a little on the inside when our younger one outgrew it. You can see more details here, or read our thoughts on other convertible car seats for travel to see if you want to consider a different one for your baby.
Way back in the day, Combi even made a Snap-n-Go style stroller frame for the Coccoro called the Combi Coccoro Flash; as you can see from the photo, it looks similar to other stroller frames. Don’t try to find it, it’s a unicorn. But now you have an even better solution: the Mountain Buggy Nano! The Nano can actually accept any infant seat… or the Coccoro (YMMV on larger car seats), which is shaped like an overgrown infant car seat. Like our top lightweight stroller pick below, the Nano folds up into a tiny backpack that you can take on-board a plane rather than gate checking it. You can see photos here from customers who have used the Nano with a car seat.
Lightweight stroller for travel
I’ll come right out and say it: I’m jealous of all you new parents out there. No, I’m not real eager to be back in the realm of night feedings and exploding diapers. But as an unabashed lover of all types of gadgets and gizmos, especially ones made for little people, I’m majorly envious of the great travel stroller choices at your fingertips!
Way back in the old days, we could mostly choose between an umbrella stroller or a hard-to-push travel system stroller. There were a few other options gaining steam like the one we picked as our main stroller, but today’s popular choices like Uppababy just weren’t household names.
And there was certainly nothing for travelers like you’ll find today. Today you guys have so many amazing options when you’re choosing a lightweight stroller for travel! But we’ve gotten tons of feedback on this topic in our Tiny Globetrotters Facebook group and I have a great solution to suggest for you: the Zoe XL1 stroller.
What’s so special about the Zoe XL1? Like some of the original umbrella strollers, it weighs just 11lbs; however, instead of a long narrow fold (which can be difficult to fit into even some car trunks) the Zoe folds down to a square that’s small enough to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane. That means there’s no chance of the airline losing or breaking it, and you won’t have to wait for an hour on the jetway for your stroller to be brought up – or worse, find out after waiting that the stroller has been sent to baggage claim and you have to lug a sleeping toddler through the airport along with all your bags! #parentingisglamorous
Once you’re on the ground, parents report that the Zoe XL1 has a pretty good push for city travels. The deep recline is perfect once your baby is at least 3 months old and the 50lbs weight capacity should last until the end of your strolling days. A generous canopy will keep the sun off for those inevitable stroller naps on the go.
If you want to use it earlier, you can pick up the car seat adapter to attach one of our favorite infant car seats. You’ll definitely want to buy either the backpack or a set of backpack straps to carry around your Zoe XL1
Ready for one of the coolest features? If you decide to add another baby down the line, you can purchase a tandem seat that hooks on the front and has two of its own wheels to make an ultra-light double stroller! It’ll look like this (if you’re buying gear for your second kid, you can just jump straight to the tandem configuration). When the older one doesn’t need a ride any more, just take the extra seat off and you’re back to a single. Talk about innovation and thinking with parents in mind!
If you only ever want to own one stroller (good luck!) and you want it to be a jack-of-all-trades, you can’t do better than the Baby Jogger City Mini. It’s a little heavier at 17lbs, but it has a roomier seat and pushes easily over any surface.
It lays flat for diaper changes, sits up to use as a high chair and offers the biggest sunshade around. Most importantly, it offers a one-handed, single step folding mechanism – just pull the handle in the seat and the stroller immediately folds itself in half.
We’ve gotten the side eye from many European restauranteurs when we show up with a big American stroller, but they immediately warm up when they see how small the City Mini can fold.
If you’re looking for more traditional options, check out this helpful comparison of travel system strollers
The best baby carrier for travel
An awesome baby carrier is one of our most important pieces of travel gear, and they make a perfect registry item! What makes for the best baby carrier for travel? In my book, the most important features are comfort and ease of use. The last thing you want is to have an aching back or to struggle with long woven wrap tails dragging around airport security! It’s also best to avoid any metal parts so that you can keep baby strapped in while you go through airport security in the US (sadly in some other countries I was forced to remove a sleeping baby!).
As you get more experienced with baby wearing, you’ll probably realize that different carriers are best for different ages and situations. I’ve owned more than a dozen over the years and here are my top picks for the best baby carrier for travel.
Best baby carrier for travel with a newborn
My absolute favorite for carrier for travel with a newborn is the Baby k’tan. It’s a cross between a stretchy wrap (like this one that I also had and loved) and a shirt. All of the parts are soft fabric, so it’s comfortable to keep your newborn snuggled close all the time (as they often demand), even when you’re sitting at a restaurant.
The Baby ktan has two big advantages over a ring sling for travel. First, there’s no metal so you can keep it on through security. Second, the weight is evenly distributed across your shoulders so that you can wear it comfortably for longer. The only disadvantage of the k’tan is that it’s not ideal for babies over 15lbs. Still, it’s fairly inexpensive and serves an important roll!
The k’tan comes in two pieces and they’re both required. It’s best to hop on Youtube to see how it’s used, but the sash it comes with needs to be tied around – and it also has an integrated pocket to store your carrier when it’s not in use!
When you order your k’tan, don’t size up. It should fit snug! If you’re between shirt sizes, go smaller. If it seems stretched out after a few wears, throw it in the washer and dryer to get it back to its original size. The only people I know who haven’t liked the Baby k’tan are those who have ordered a size too big.
And be sure to pick a color or pattern that you like and that matches most of the pants you plan to wear when you have a newborn, as the k’tan will pretty much cover any shirt you want to wear!
Once your baby reaches 15lbs, the Baby k’tan isn’t the right solution. The fabric has enough stretch that it won’t be supportive enough for big babies and will lose its shape quickly. The next step in the best baby carrier for travel is a soft structured carrier, which has a supportive waist band to carry most of your baby’s weight and padded shoulder straps for extra comfort.
I’ll be honest: the ones that are comfortable enough for all-day wear aren’t exactly tiny and compact. But they are quick and easy to use as you roam the globe with your new bundle!
After trying out lots of brands, we’ve become huge fans of Tula baby carriers. They’re well-made, extremely comfortable and gorgeous! We’ve had their original baby carriers and toddler carriers (several of each), but now there are some even better options from our favorite brand.
If I was on the market today, I’d be buying (or registering for!) the new Baby Tula Coast Explore carrier. All of the Coast carriers offer a mesh back panel to keep baby and parent both cooler (trust me, you want this). The Explore series offers a huge range of carrying positions: on the front facing in for little babies (with two different seat widths depending on size); on the front facing out for curious older babies (but with their legs and hips still supported properly, unlike some other carriers); and finally on your back once they’re a year old. The back panel can even extend to offer more support as your baby grows!
The only thing missing from the Tula line is a little more lower back support. As someone with a cranky lower back, it’s rarely been an issue for me. But if that’s at the top of your priority list, Lillebaby has a great option for you! Their new Pursuit All-Seasons carrier is designed for active wearers, with a zip down cover that reveals a breathable mesh back, tons of pockets and high tech fabric. As with all Lillebaby carriers, it offers lots of carrying positions and a massive lumbar support pad on the waist band.
So why isn’t this my top recommendation for a travel baby carrier? That lumbar support pad definitely takes away from the travel worthiness! The Lillebaby just won’t pack down the same way as other carriers, but it could be worth the trade-off if you’re leaving the stroller at home and planning to use the carrier full-time. Another option is to temporarily remove the lumbar pad and leave it at home or stow it in the diaper bag until you need it. I gifted this one to my sister and have had the opportunity to try it out – it’s a great pick!
I did find that as someone with a petite frame, it took a little extra adjusting to get the waist of the Lillebaby tight enough when the lumbar pad was attached. Fortunately Amazon offers free returns on baby carriers (and extra time if it’s a registry gift) so it’s worth ordering to see if the Lillebaby Pursuit All-Seasons could work for you.
If you plan to do a lot of baby wearing in places where it gets chilly, one of the best accessories you can get for yourself and your baby is a babywearing hoodie! This one is amazing because it can function three ways: as a regular fleece jacket, as a maternity jacket (with the extra panel zipped in) or as a babywearing jacket (with the babywearing panel zipped in). The price is a real bargain for the amount of versatility!
Best travel high chair and dining accessories
We’ve had really mixed experiences finding high chairs in restaurants around the world, and they’re rare to come by in many hotels and Airbnbs. So what’s a family to do? There are a few options.
The old standby is letting your baby sit on your lap for meals… which is a sure-fire way to both need a new outfit. If you have a stroller that sits fully upright, you can put a towel (or one of these, even better) under your kid and use the snack tray to feed them. Another option is to buckle your baby carrier around the chair and have your baby sit in that, though YMMV if you have a wiggly one! This one even has a dedicated setting for it.
If you’d rather have a more stable place for your baby to sit for meals, this model is one of the best travel high chair options around. It folds down tiny, especially if you leave the tray at home.
One of our favorite baby travel gear items is this suction placemat. It pairs perfectly with a travel high chair to let your baby eat mess-free. The crumb catcher saved so many outfits for us! It wipes down easily and rolls up nice and small to fit in your diaper bag.
Speaking of messy mealtimes, we’re big bib fans. When you’re traveling light and you don’t have room for three outfits per day, you have to do what you can to preserve the baby clothes for another day! These bibs have always been our favorites since they offer great coverage, clean up easily and pack down teeny tiny. The patterns are also adorable!
Best travel crib
Depending on where you travel, you may have to bring your baby’s bed with you. As you decide on arrangements it’s important to keep these guidelines for safe sleep in mind. Fortunately most hotels are able to provide a pack n play or portable crib for babies. Sometimes Airbnb hosts have one or are willing to buy it (since they can then advertise it to future guests) – if you’re new to Airbnb you can save $40 on your first booking.
What should you do if you’ll be staying at a property that can’t provide a safe place for your baby to sleep? Bring one for yourself! While a regular pack n play is heavy enough to sink the ship, there are some great ultra-light travel cribs that’ll make your life easier when you’re lugging all the other baby travel gear. Most US airlines (and many international ones) will check your travel crib for free as a baby item.
The best travel crib you can buy today is the Guava Family Lotus travel crib. It clocks in at just 13lbs (less than half the weight of some “portable baby beds”) and packs into its own backpack for easy carrying. We had the previous version of the Guava Family portable crib and it served us well for years!
One frequent parent concern with traditional play yards is that curious young toddlers often figure out how to climb out sooner than their parents are ready. With the Lotus travel crib, you can just open the side zipper (or teach your kids how to do it if you want them to know) to avoid this serious safety concern.
The included inflatable mattress was plenty cushy for our kids, but for kids over 1yo you can add the plush sheet from Guava to give an even more padded surface. We did use a waterproof mattress protector under the fitted sheets to give a little extra cushion and protect the mattress from accidents.
If you’re starting from birth with the Guava Lotus, you can even purchase a kit to switch it from crib mode to bassinet mode! That bassinet is perfect for use both at home and on the road and will take care of all your baby’s sleep needs until he hits 18lbs or is able to get up on hands and knees.
Portable baby bath tub
As I’ve written about before, we struggled to come up with the right solution for giving our babies a bath when we traveled. If we were starting over, I’d go straight to the easiest option: a portable baby bath tub.
The Puj Flyte folds down almost flat, weighs almost nothing and works in most sinks to help you bathe a baby that’s too young to sit up well on her own. What more could you want? You can even use it at home and save yourself the hassle of a huge plastic tub that will take up your entire bathroom when you aren’t using it.
Best diaper bag for travel
Our favorite style of diaper bag for travel is a backpack. It keeps your hands free for wrangling kids and avoids the shoulder strain of a heavy bag hanging from one shoulder. But who wants to travel the world with a backpack covered in unicorns or Winnie the Pooh?
The best diaper bag for travel needs to have plenty of pockets to keep you organized. You’ll probably want one area for “baby needs” and another for adults items like guidebooks, water bottles and packable rain jackets. This one does a great job of blending form and function without breaking the bank! Thankfully there are so many more diaper bag options today than there were even a few years ago.
While we’re on the subject of diapering… I recommend that you pick up a “diaper clutch” with a built in changing pad. This is your best friend on an airplane. No matter how awesome your diaper bag is, you won’t want to lug the whole thing into the lav and then try to find what you need while your baby tries to roll off the teeny tiny changing table suspended over one of the most disgusting places in the world.
Instead, have your diaper clutch pre-loaded with a few diapers, a pack of wipes and whatever else you need for a quick change on the go. Grab only that and your baby as your head to the back of the plane. These clutches have their own changing pad, which you’ll definitely want to use since you never know what the status is of those changing tables. We always brought an all-in-one diaper kit like this when we traveled and left the basic changing pad at home.
The last diapering item I recommend is a wet bag. Cloth diapering families will know these well, but the basic idea is to keep wet and smelly items away from… everything else. Even if you use disposable diapers there’s a very high likelihood that, at some point in your travels (or every day perhaps), you’ll have a diaper leak, a spit up covered onesie or other joys of parenting. Do yourself a favor and keep everything else clean, ok?
To cover or not to cover is a source for heated debate in some circles. I won’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. I nursed for a total of four years and during that time did every possible combination of whipping it out in public, nursing under a cover, and even nursing in the carrier while hiking. Every circumstance calls for a unique decision.
That said, while traveling the world there were often situations in which I felt that nursing under a cover was the right choice for me any my baby. I always traveled with a nursing cover when my kids were babies because I could never be sure where would would be when I hungry child demanded to be fed, and I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t take care of my kids because of outside pressures. So there you have it.
My other reason for always having a nursing cover is that it’s sort of a Swiss Army knife of baby products! Sure, you can drape the ring around your neck while baby has a snack (and I promise it stays better than a blanket). But you can also use the neck loop to hang it from the peek-a-boo shade of a stroller like the one we traveled with. Did the temperature drop unexpectedly? Use it as a blanket! And my favorite nursing cover has an absorbent terry cloth patch down at the corner in case there’s some impromptu spit up.
See, there are plenty of good reasons to travel with a nursing cover (and it makes a great registry addition since it’s not as expensive as lots of other travel baby gear). (Pssst… if you tend to run hot, they make a muslin version now too.)
Portable blackout curtains
This final item goes on my “never tried it but wish I had” list. Whoever thought of portable blackout curtains is a genius. I can’t tell you how often – even now – we get to a new Airbnb and put the kids to bed, then hear them up at the crack of down because sunlight is streaming into their bedroom. If your baby needs complete darkness to fall asleep or stay asleep in the morning you’ll want these, I promise.
What do you think are the best travel baby gear items to buy for yourself (or put on your registry)?