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Travel looks quite different these days. And while hopping on an airplane or even crossing state lines is unlikely, the summertime feelings of wanderlust don't necessarily dim in the midst of a pandemic. Being cooped up since spring has taken its toll on everyone and mini road trips and close-to-home adventures have become the go-to family vacation.
That said, the stress of packing hasn't changed a bit.
Let's face it: Traveling with little ones is daunting even without the added layers of concern.
To get you on the right packing path, we've put together a list of vacation must-haves that will make your next trip a whole lot easier. Whether you're road-tripping or renting a beach house a couple of hours away, you're going to need an arsenal of baby-proof products to make the journey seamless and fun.
These are the 13 items you don't want to leave off your packing list!
When you’re away from home, finding a safe, comfy spot for baby to sleep is key. It’s also key to find a travel crib that’s lightweight, easy to carry, compact, and doesn’t take a PhD to open and close. Enter the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light: our absolute favorite travel crib, ever. Yup, it’s that good.
Weighing in at only 13 pounds, this crib is perfect for any family adventure. Setup is super easy (truly—once you get the hang of it, it takes about one minute), and the mattress is much more comfortable than any other travel crib on the market that we’ve tried.
The mesh sides allow for great air flow, and the crib works for kiddos up to 35 lbs. And best of all? The travel cribs folds up easily into a tiny carrying case, making it perfect to take on the go.
Have you ever been out in the wild with a toddler who has to go potty? There’s no “hold it for a few minutes, honey.” Nope, they need to go NOW. Which is why a portable potty is a must. We love the BABYBJÖRN Smart Potty for the many times it comes in handy in-transit and once you’ve set up shop.
We love that it’s got a shield that prevents splatter and that the seat is perfectly sized for tiny hineys. And at 18 ounces and 10- by 13-inches, it’s not going to weigh you down. And a pro tip? Line the insert with a plastic bag while on the road for quick and easy clean up.
For hands-free baby carrying, or for when a stroller isn’t an option, we love the ease and portability of a baby carrier. Carriers offer a great spot for babies to get a birds-eye view of all the sights and sounds around them, and are also the perfect place to snuggle up next to mom or dad for a nap on the move.
For summer travel especially, the Baby Tula Explore Coast Carrier is our carrier of choice. The Explore will keep baby comfy with multiple carry positions, and mom or dad comfy with a wide, padded waistband and a soft mesh fabric that allows for breathability and air flow for those sticky summer days. The Explore works from seven to 45 pounds (from newborn to toddler!), so it will be around for lots and lots of family adventures. Bonus: The carrier has been acknowledged as “hip healthy” by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.
If there’s one universal truth about motherhood that we can all agree on, it’s that babies come with a lot of stuff. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re away from home is not having a change of clothes or a stash of snacks on hand (can we say 4-hour traffic jam, anyone?), so you’re going to need a roomy, comfortable place to store all of those emergency must-haves and a back means you’ll be hands-free, which is KEY when you’re on the go with little ones.
Enter: TWELVELittle’s Companion Backpack. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, this backpack is roomy enough to hold all the extras (wipes, pacifiers, blankies, sippy cups, you name it!). We love the two exterior side pockets because they’re deep enough to hold a bottle, the front zipper pocket (perfect for your easy-access items like your phone and wallet) and the detachable interior pouch—ya know, for those times when little pookie happens to puke on the plane. Bonus: Its quilted nylon fabric and luxe hardware don’t scream “mom bag!!!”
Whether you’re bottle feeding with formula or breastmilk, finding a reliable way to warm it while on the go is the kind of logistical nightmare that wakes mamas up in a cold sweat. This innovative system safely heats at the touch of a button to the temperature of your choice without compromising nutrients or leaving dangerous hot spots. For formula feeding mamas, the convenient on-the-go dispenser makes prep simple and mess-free– one push equals one scoop of formula.
Protecting your little one from the sun is so important—but so is keeping them safe from harmful chemicals. Although choosing a natural sunscreen can be daunting, we’ve landed on Vivaiodays Turmeric Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, which we think rocks for lots of reasons.
It uses only natural mineral barriers (including Non-Nano Zinc Oxide); it has no potentially irritating chemicals; it offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB skin protection; and it’s very highly rated by EWG. And, unlike lots of Zinc-based sunscreens, it’s easy to apply and doesn’t leave a thick, white coating behind.
If your baby is still teensy—too small for the above crib—consider this Delta Ultra Compact Travel Bassinet. Surround by an exterior of breathable mesh, the bassinet is the perfect place to lay babies age infant to five months old. Our favorite features are the washable fabrics and the electronic pod that emits sound, vibration and a soft light (if you want it during late-night feeds!). The bassinet weighs just 10 pounds and folds flat and can be carried to and fro via the included travel bag. Whether you’re traveling to grandma’s house or a hotel, this is your most portable bet for a baby bassinet.
If you employ a sound machine at home… then you better be bringing one on the road! We love the Hushh—it’s the mini, on-the-go version of our favorite Dohm sound machine from Yogasleep. Packing an equally masking sound in a much smaller package, the Hushh can be attached to your stroller for an on-the-go nap or place in a travel crib for a good night’s sleep.
Just 3.5-inches in diameter and 3.8 ounces in weight, the Hushh takes up zero space… but it will be a lifesaver when you find yourself in a noisy restaurant or a foreign hotel room that baby simply is not having. It offers up three sounds (white noise, deep noise and ocean) and can operate all night long on one single charge. Amen to that!
There are so many travel stroller options out there, but this one totally nails it.
At 13 pounds, it’s not the lightest on the market, but the featherweight strollers on the market are not going to cut it on gravel or bumpy sidewalks! Joolz’s no-puncture tires and maximum suspension give the ride of a bigger, utilitarian stroller, while the one-hand fold, carrying strap (a travel bag also comes with the purchase), and its ability to fit in most airplane overhead bins solidify it’s positioning as a travel stroller. It also comes with a UPF 50 sunshade canopy, rain cover and an ample storage basket.
Our editor-in-chief tried the WAYB Pico Forward Facing Carseat while flying cross-country with her toddler, and, let’s just say she’s now a huge fan. “We’ve gone through several travel car seats and this is by far my favorite one,” says Karell. “It’s the lightest (only 8 pounds!) and the least complicated to set up. I especially love the travel bag because it makes the folded up car seat like a backpack you can just schlep around with you to your next adventure. I can’t stop recommending it to all my mama friends.”
Summer is the perfect time to relax on the beach or spread out for a family picnic. To keep everyone mess-free (and sand-free!), we absolutely 💜Gathre mats. Made from a soft bonded leather that’s water impermeable and easy to wipe clean, they’re a beautiful place to, well…gather!
Whether you need a spot on the beach, a place for a family meal, or your stuck at an airport gate due to a weather delay, the uses for these mats are truly endless. And have we mentioned they are absolutely gorgeous? You’re going to have trouble choosing between the huge assortment of modern colors and prints.
If your little one is eating solids, tossing your high chair in the trunk of your car for your next family vacation probably isn’t going to fly. The Phil & Ted’s Lobster chair is a safe, easily portable solution for families on the go.
Featuring a 4-point safety harness with padded shoulder straps and super strong ‘lobster claws’ with rubber grips, the Lobster is quick and easy to clip to any stable countertop or table. It’s also easy to open, close and store—it folds up and slides right into its own carrying bag.
The chair’s fabric slides out of the frame for cleaning, and it even comes with a dishwasher-safe food tray that slides between the clamps to keep those gross restaurant germs off of baby’s tiny hands. And it’s safe for babies up to 3 years old and 37 lbs.!
This one may not seem like a must-have, but trust us here. We can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve gone on vacation and realized we didn’t have anything to clean our bottles or straw cups except for the dingy sponge sitting next to the sink at our beach rental house 🙈 Was it the end of the world? Definitely not. But remembering to throw the OXO Tot On-the-Go Drying Kit into our suitcases would have made things a whole lot easier.
We love how the brush comes apart and fits securely into the carrying case (which also doubles as a drying rack for bottles, nipples, or even breast pump parts—genius!) and comes with everything you need to keep bottles and cups clean while you’re away from home. The whole thing is top-rack dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean before you pack it away for your next adventure.