There’s no doubt about it. Traveling with kids in tow means more of everything. More planning. More packing. More stuff. But with a few strategic moves and the right travel gear and accessories for kids, you can embark on an adventure that’s also more fun.
Whether you’re boarding an international flight or loading the fam into the minivan for a road trip to the grandparent’s, there are a few pro tips that we’d offer first and foremost.
3 tips for traveling with kids
1. Stash an extra set of clothes for everyone
Stash extra clothes in Ziploc bags tucked into an easily accessible spot. (Yes, yourself included.) Should a mishap occur, you’ve got everything you need to do a quick change and as a bonus you’ve got a disposable way to contain the soiled clothes or part of the mess itself.
2. Before your trip gather a few new mess and travel-friendly toys
Toys like wiki sticks, reusable sticker pads, LCD writing pads, magnetic board games, or hidden picture books. (Another idea? Raid the $1 section at Target or the dollar store.) Keep them stashed until you’re on the plane (or the road!) for maximum boredom-busting effects.
3. Rent what you don’t want to bring!
Why lug 800 pounds of gear you may or may not use? One of the slickest tricks to save you the struggle is to rent the things you need instead! Strollers, car seats, even wagons and toys can be delivered directly to your destination via the pros at BabyQuip. (They’ll even meet you at the airport!) Not only do they deliver it–they set up everything for you, and pick it up when you’re done—all at your convenience. All rental gear is clean, safe and insured so you can rest easy and just enjoy your vacay!
Now onto the gear! Speaking from a collective tens of thousands of miles, we’ve rounded up the best travel gear and accessories for kids that will make getting from point A to B as enjoyable and seamless as possible. Check it out!
The best travel gear and accessories for kids
Filed under: “How did we ever live without it,” the SlumberPod might be one of the best kid travel gear products of all time. Designed to work with playards, mini cribs, toddler cots and even kid-sized inflatable mattresses, this black-out sleep pod creates a dark and cozy sleep space anywhere, any time of day. The tent-like construction assembles just like you’d expect with two poles and clips and simply sits over top of their sleep space. It’s got plenty of ventilation including a fan pocket so even hot sleepers stay comfy throughout their slumber! And if you end up using it at home too, well you wouldn’t be the first parent to do so!
JetKids by Stokke
From cush strollers to sensor-driven bassinets, it’s not hard to be super jealous of the comfort our little ones are afforded. But the BedBox from JetKids by Stokke turns us a whole new shade of green with envy. This 2-in-1 piece of kid-friendly travel gear is one part super cool ride-on suitcase, one part stealth bed in a box that turns any economy seat into a first-class, highly nappable nook. (Yes, they can stay buckled while lying down!) It’s ideal for kiddos ages 3-7 and fits most standard aircraft economy seats.
If you’ve ever tried to make it to your gate with a toddler in tow you know that, 1. you’re not moving very fast and 2. that gate is farther than you think. This genius product is for use with kids ages two and up. Just attach it to your suitcase and they’re ready to roll. Literally.
If your kid can’t sleep without a humidifier and you’re wondering how the heck you’re going to cram that thing into your luggage, prepare to have your mind blown. The Hey Dewy cool mist humidifier is not only smaller than your average water bottle, it’s also completely wireless so you can use it anywhere, any time. Tap water works just fine and on a full charge it will last up to eight hours. It’s whisper quiet and there’s even an optional night light! Honestly, once you use it you’ll realize it’s not just great for travel. Since cool mist is also great for your own skin, set it on your desk while you work or pop it into the cup holder of your car. Your face will thank you!
From road trips to air travel, napping is exponentially more comfortable with a travel pillow. One of our favorites for kids? The BCOZZY. With 360 degree support and an overlapping design, this top-rated pillow is perfect for little ones who always seem to flop forward when they konk out. The flat back keeps their head from pushing forward while the stacked arms provide a cozy place to rest their chin. It’s soft and cozy with a curved surface that conforms to their neck and can be customized to the perfect fit with a touch of velcro. (There’s two sizes and a bunch of fun colors to choose from as well.) Got a carsick (or drooly) kiddo on your hands? No problem. It’s totally machine washable! (Check out our favorite kids’ travel pillows for more options.)
Screen time rules? What screen time rules? During travel, a tablet full of kid-friendly content is nothing short of a total lifesaver. Arguably the most durable kids tablet out there, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids is our top rec. Not only is it relatively affordable and designed with a kid-proof case and built in stand, it also comes with 1 year of Amazon Kids+ (FreeTime Unlimited), and a 2-year worry-free guarantee. You can also download their favorites from Netflix, play educational games (and Minecraft!) or even Zoom with grandma and grandpa.
At the time of writing, this is currently on sale for the lowest price we’ve seen since the holidays. And you can save another 20% if you have one to trade in!
Ok, there is one screentime rule. Headphones are a must. You don’t want to hear Peppa Pig at full volume over the din of airplane engines and neither does everyone else on the flight. These award-winning headphones are our top choice because of smart features like volume control, a foldable design and the ability to tether with another pair and share a single device.
Airplane seats aren’t designed with young travelers in mind. (To say the least!) Dangly legs can use a little support in the form of portable footrest. Just attach it to their tray table to give their feet a little boost and as an added bonus, keep them from kicking the seat in front of them.
Speaking of the tray table, that’s not designed with little kids in mind either. If they’re too little to reach, opt for this brilliant travel tray instead. The soft but structured tray sits across their lap to keep snacks, toys and books within reach. There’s pockets to keep supplies at hand as well as a designated pouch for their tablet when they’re ready to kick back and watch a movie, hands-free. And it’s not just for air travel. According to one highly devoted reviewer who calls it “literally the best purchase ever,” “This item will turn a 12 hour car ride of pure screaming child hell to one of silence and bliss.” We’ll take 12, thank you very much.
For older kiddos who are ready to schlep their own business, the kid-friendly suitcases from State will help them do it in style. The super fun patterns are easy to spot and the design itself provides plenty of space and organization for their flight and destination needs. The best part? Each purchase gives back to kids in need!
Melissa & Doug
You can never pack enough things to keep your kiddo busy during a flight, but you’ll also need to consider that you’ll be in a tight space and wanting to create as little of a mess as possible. Water Wow reusable water painting books for the (mess-free) win!
These sturdy, spiral-bound books come with four reusable pages and a “paint” brush that stores right in the cover. Kids love them, and we promise they’ll buy you at least a few minutes of peace and quiet during your trip 😉
Jet Kids by Stokke
If you have a child in that in-between phase who is too big for a pack and play, but not ready to sleep in a normal bed, the idea of sleeping away from home can cause anxiety—for you and them. Send them off to dreamland in this inflatable kids bed by Stokke. Made specifically for toddlers, its top surface is made of a lightweight nylon which can easily be cleaned with a wet cloth. We love that unlike an adult-sized inflatable mattress, it’s kid-sized (measuring in at 60 inches long) and boasts full-length side bumpers to keep your toddler from rolling off. Best of all? The travel bed folds up to a compact cube that is slightly larger than a lap top, and has an integrated pump so there’s no hauling extra parts to inflate or deflate. All of these unique features have landed it close to 5 stars on Nordstrom, and the Reddot award best of the best 2021 in product concept.
Alternatively, if your child rolls around like sea otter throughout the night, you might prefer the hiccapop Inflatable Toddler Travel Bed with Safety Bumpers. The dual component inflatable design features a plush, removable mattress that nests inside a larger rimmed bed which provides near 360º bumper support. It’s made with super durable inlay-enforced vinyl that keeps it from getting popped by a rambunctious toddler or well-meaning but over-excited dog. We also love that it comes with its own high-speed pump and fits comfortably into an included travel bag. (Not to mention the generous lifetime warranty!)
For kids who are old enough or would rather sleep in a bed, inflatable bed rails are a total travel game-changer. They’re super compact and easy to install on beds of any size. Just inflate (you have to blow them up, but it’s easy!) and slide the silicone-backed flat under the mattress and voila! A kid that won’t go crashing to the floor in the middle of the night.
Once your kiddo hits that magical 4 and 40 pounds mark and can be in a booster, it seems travel will be easier. But then you realize even those boosters are clunky to carry. That’s where the mifold, one of the most innovative booster concepts on the market. Instead of lifting the child up to be in the right position, this design safely lowers the seat belt to meet your child. Most impressively, it’s small enough to fit in your purse (10” x 5”) and weighs under two pounds–small and light enough that your kid can even carry it in their backpack.
Even if they’re not quite 40 pounds, you don’t necessarily have to lug around a car seat. The brilliant RideSafer Travel Vest allows kids as small as 3 years or 30 pounds to safely ride without a bulky booster. Similarly to the mifold, it allows the seatbelt to fit properly, providing a safe and secure ride, and can easily fit into your carry on!
If you’re not quite in the booster seat phase of life and decide to bring along a car seat on the plane (or gate-check it), don’t worry! We’ve solved that problem too. This car seat strap—just a couple of straps and clips— can make it seem like that 20 pound car seat is isn’t even with you. In just a couple moves, you can strap your car seat to the front of a rolling bag (it even works with the super heavy seat and a smallish carry-on bag), and voila, your most annoying, bulky (but necessary) piece of gear feels like it’s barely there.
OK, this may seem a bit extra, but so are our kids, right? If your kiddo has a hard time using a regular size toilet, this handy portable seat topper makes it a little less scary. It’s small enough to fold up into your bag and as a bonus keeps public toilet seat germs to a minimum.
When you’re traveling, keeping track of your own things is a challenge. Add in all the bibs and bobs kids cart around and something is bound to get lost. One easy way to give kids a bit more responsibility for their own belongings is to provide them a designated place to keep them. According to Motherly’s VP of Content Strategy Erin Lem, “We are at the stage where we have ‘cant leave behind, must haves’ for each kid with their stuffed animals, etc. So, I keep each of their things in these bags and they know which color is theirs. When we leave a place they know to put their stuff in these bags.”
Price is for a pack of 10.
Similarly, if you’re packing for multiple kiddos, organization is key. With a color-coded set of packing cubes you can be sure each kid (and parent!) has everything they need without getting things mixed up.
Hoodies are a travel wardrobe must-have for all ages. But what’s better than a cozy hoodie? A hoodie that turns into a loveable, snuggle-worthy pal. The brilliant two-in-one basics from Cubcoats are designed to tuck into themselves, transforming ordinary clothes into toys that are perfect for plane rides or road trips. Not only are too cool to leave behind, but they also make a comfy travel pillow! They come in a bunch of different animal designs in sizes 2T-10.
Why lug 800 pounds of gear you may or may not use? One of the slickest tricks to save you the struggle is to rent the things you need instead! Strollers, car seats, even cribs and toys can be delivered directly to your destination via the pros at BabyQuip. (They’ll even meet you at the airport!) Not only do they deliver it–they set up everything for you, and pick it up when you’re done—all at your convenience. All rental gear is clean, safe and insured so you can rest easy and just enjoy your vacay!
A version of this story was published July 26, 2022. It has been updated.