What extra gear should you really pack travelling with children (and what to leave at home!)
Whatever your family is up to this summer – from hiring a rental home to camping in the great outdoors, we’ve been scouring the Net to come up with some of the most original and fun new pieces of travel kit that you need to take on your summer journey (and the items we think are a complete waste of time!). Packing space is precious on holiday’s so we only recommend items that we really think will benefit you in your travels, come take a look!
In this post we cover
- Flying Essentials
- Guide to kids leg pillows and sleeping devices
- Infant flying products
- What to save your money on
- Stroller Essentials
- Ultra-compact plane-sized strollers
- What to look for buying strollers
- Protecting your gear on planes
- Road Trip Essentials
- Most popular travel boosters
- Protecting your car seats
- Sleeping Essentials
- Toddler Sleeping
- Portable cots
- Blackouts and sleep aids
- Baby Essentials
We all know that sleeping on long haul flights is crucial, the quicker and easier you can get kids comfortable, the more chance they’ll sleep and you’ll all arrive refreshed. There have been plenty of new entrants into this market, so why not try one of these for size?
Kids Leg Pillows for Planes
|Product Name||Image||Style||Weight||How it Works||Where to purchase|
|Leg Rest Travel Pillow by 1st Class Kids||Inflatable Leg Pillow||0.5kg (1.1lbs)||Can be rolled or folded. Inflate my mouth or from ceiling air vent||Amazon US (in stock from Mid-June) or if overseas check distributors|
|Fly Tot||Inflatable Leg Pillow||1kg (2.2lbs)||Folds flat and inflates with a foot pump - this adds bulk but saves time||Available on Amazon US Amazon US|
|Plane Pal by The Happy Travel Co||Inflatable Leg Pillow||1.2kg (2.6lbs)||Folds or rolls into its own bag, can buy with or without the foot pump||Exported from Australia You can now also buy Plane Pal Full Kit on Amazon US and Amazon UK(pillow only)|
|Bed Box by Jet Kids||Hard Box / Ride on Suitcase||3kg (6.6lbs)||Versatile as a kids ride on suit case as well as leg rest with mattress - our full review coming this summer||See Full List of International Distributors|
Important things to consider with a leg pillow / flying mattress
- How easy is the item to transport? Can you easily slip it in your existing carry-on (size and weight) or use it as an alternate kids carry on item?
- How quick and easy are they to inflate (and will they stay inflated) – or is a hard box with mattress better?
- Will your airline allow the item to be used? Whilst the manufacturer’s websites for these products might claim they are safe for use, some individual airlines have now banned their use – you can see which airlines in this post.
Infant Flying Products
If you are looking to travel hands-free, the SkyBaby Travel Mattress might be the go. We had our reader trial one of these last summer and she reported back that although she ended up with a bassinet seat, it made life much easier for lifting baby in and out during the flight and gives you more flexibility to use your hands. The design is ultra lightweight (0.3kgs/0.66lbs) and can simply hang off your carry-on baby bag.
The mattress attaches to your infant loop seat belt provided by the airline or can be rested on your knees. I went to use with my then 8 months old and decided he would be too big so I would suggest appropriate up to 6 months.
Our best advice with a baby is to always try and get the bassinet seat. This is the seat in the bulkhead that has a wall immediately in front of it which you can hang a bassinet from. If you are worried about the disruptions, try a CoziGo bassinet cum stroller cover (formerly called a Flybabee). Not only are these great for on the plane but it doubles a sun cover on your stroller too.
Have you read our infant ultimate guide to baby bassinets? essential reading for baby flying
What to save your money on
Another one you may have seen doing the rounds for a number of years as the “must-have” buying accessory is the Infant Airplane Seat. It does look handy, but honestly, given our extensive long-haul flying experience, I can’t see this being much more than very short-term help. Maybe on a short domestic flight where you know seat in front won’t be reclined and your baby is under a few months old?
On the plus side, it can also double as a chair wrap for feeding but I must say, after trying several different versions of these wrap-on feeding chairs, none of the Globetrotters have ever enjoyed using them – seriously save your money on this one folks!
Travel Stroller Essentials
The “in thing” for infant travel is to take your stroller with you – not just checked at the gate, but ON TO THE PLANE! Now how do I do that I hear you say?
There’s a new elite class of ultra-compact travel strollers that can do so much more these days, folding small enough to fit in the overhead compartment of a wide-bodied aircraft. The leading brands currently in this field (for both comfort, quality and looks) are Mountain Buggy Nano, the BabyJogger City Tour and Baby Zen YoYo.
You can see a full comparison of these stroller products here, but also take a browse below at our favourites – click on the images for current Amazon pricing (Pricing may differ with local distributors).
What to look for buying travel strollers
- See our complete guide on how to choose the best travel stroller for your needs here
- The biggest thing you give up in choosing a compact stroller over a traditional stroller is wheel size. If you think you will be off-roading or on rough surfaces, just think if a compact will be suitable for all your travel needs or are you just buying it for that airport convenience?
- The ultra compacts only come in singles so far. If you have two children who might still need a stroller, this might not be appropriate for you at this stage
Protecting your Travel Gear
If you are checking in your stroller or car seats for flying, I thoroughly recommend putting it in a protective case to prevent damage. I always look for this as an added perk when purchasing a stroller. The branded ones will, of course, fit best, but otherwise look for a generic cover like these:
What to save your money on
Have you seen those wheely suitcase chairs, you know the one you attach the car seat to (see below)? Look, each to their own. I will admit I am NOT a fan at all of taking the car seat on the plane – firstly because I object to paying for the extra child’s seat ticket! But I honestly think there are more comfortable ways for my kids to sleep on the plane as we’ve mentioned above with bassinets then graduating to plane pillows. Use that bassinet for as long as they’ll fit – then get tactical – here are our favourite flying strategies.
Road Trip Essentials
We are slowly graduating to a stage where the big bulky car seats do not need to come with us on every trip, depending what sort of car we’ll have at our destination and local laws (NB if hiring a car in some countries, like Australia you will need to comply with local car seat laws which require boosters to have a back. These rules are flexed in taxi’s but not if you are hiring).
Most Popular Travel Boosters
The best new travel booster product I have seen come on the market is the mifold Grab & Go Booster Seat – reviewed in detail here by Mum on the Move.
They are the absolute slimmest and most compact travel product I have seen and will genuinely fit in your bag. You can use the belt guide to adjust for different sized children – suitable from 100-145cm.
Another popular entrants we are eyeing up this year too is Trunki BoostApak. Yeah, yeah I know I’ve paid out a little on poor old Trunki in the past, but honestly it’s just an age and stage thing with the suitcases. Their BoostApak is a combination car seat and backpack and looks perfect for longer adventures.
Some parents have noted though they really are slightly heavier than a kid would be willing to carry, but their small advantage over more compact models is they do have little arm rests that some kids get used to. They also come with a variety of colourful covers which kids will love and encourage them to carry!
And our final contender, although not that new on the market, is the reliable Bubble Bum.
The Bubble Bum is an inflatable seat that rolls very flat to fit in its own drawstring bag that kids can easily carry or hand bag size. Suited for 4+, 15 to 36kgs and up to 150cm.
Another cool product from the makers of Bubble Bum is The Sneck Pillow. Perfect for little ones to wrap around their seat belt and get cosy (velcro straps), or just wrap around your neck instead. When they are transitioning from a car seat to booster this is essential for a comfortable ride.
You can see more car seat comfort ideas on our Kids Travel Pillow page
Protect your car seats
See our note above about car seat covers, if these are coming with you on a plane before undertaking a road trip, make sure they are well protected to prevent damage in baggage handling, unfortunately an all too common occurrence.
The other thing we do to keep car seats protected is to use a Piddle Pad– accidents can still happen on longer road trips, this will help you rest a little easier about making it to the next toilet stop.
Have you discovered The Shrunks yet? Especially if you have only recently transferred from cot to be or not sure how your tot will handle sleeping in a new place these are a superb solution to your infant travelling woes! The are inflatable so fold fairly flat in your luggage. Being low to the ground infants can’t roll out too far. The handy side rails attach by velcro.
If I’m perfectly honest though, if its infants rolling out of bed you are worried about, try putting some pillows or towels around the side of the child’s bed – tucked under the fitted sheet if possible. If pulling the mattress on to the floor isn’t possible, pack items around them. (They can escape from a pillow barrier alone – we have had more than our fair share of middle of the night thuds!)
Portable infant cots
If you want something a bit more substantial for your tot with sides, we’ve tried and tested the Phil & Teds Traveller, one of the most lightweight infant sleeping solutions. It is also closely compared with the Lotus and the Baby Bjorn which we have heard equally good things about. Good for indoor use or outdoor camping, they all come with optional sun covers for over the top too. I would choose these types any day over the much heavier “pack and play” style travel cots – just for the size and weight alone!
See pricing for the Traveller,& the Lotus and baby bjorn cot
Black outs and sleep aids
We also have a lot to thank of the years for helping us with toddler sleep and recovering from jetlag to the Gro Company. An awesome range of goods that help train kids on day and night. The gro clock is a trusted favourite. If you need help adjusting for jet lag and time differences, getting them to trust in their Gro Clock really helps. We’ve also found making the room as dark as possible really helps especially for summertime travel. It’s so important for getting sleep cycles in check its one of the things I now always check before booking accommodation – or take a black out option with you.
Another soothing aid to help little ones adjust to a new environment is a white noise machine. Now available in some really handy portable models you don’t need to worry about wattage and plugs – just remember the batteries!
International travellers tip; Always check wattage when travelling with electronics! You could save yourself some valuable packing space if your electronics wont work overseas
Baby Travel Essentials
Don’t forget to check out our more extensive list of baby essentials for travel over here – we talk you through our tried and tested travel items that you MUST pack – and a few you might just want to save your luggage space and keep at home.
If you are heading anywhere hot, you may also want to check out our guide to helping baby keep it cool in the summer, we give you our best sun protection advice by age group and how to keep that delicate skin protected, as well as avoiding other common heat annoyances like dehydration and rashes.
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Have you seen any other new and innovative travel products this year? We love reviewing and testing any gadgets that help your travel journey with kids!
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