Even the most seasoned travelers tend to overhaul their trip planning when it comes to traveling with a little one. Rather than overpacking to anticipate every worst-case scenario, the best preparation involves products that are streamlined, multipurpose, and make the whole experience a little easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
Here are some of our favorite essentials to help make the journey (and final destination) that much smoother when traveling with babies and young kids:
1. An easy way to avoid a suitcase explosion
Packing cubes are a frequent flier’s best friend, keeping belongings organized, clean, and wrinkle-free when packed correctly (we’re partial to the roll method). I’m personally partial to this six-piece set that includes four transparent cubes, a toiletry pouch, and shoe bag. It comes in seven colors so you can coordinate by family member—especially useful when sharing luggage. Plus, there’s something so satisfying about opening up your suitcase and knowing exactly where everything is.
2. A do-it-all stroller that fits in an overhead bin
If you want something more compact than our favorite everyday stroller, spring for a lightweight, foldable stroller that’s perfect for families on-the-go. With clever features like a one-handed fold and attached carrying strap, Colugo’s stylish Compact Stroller checks off all these boxes and more.
Weighing a solid but totally manageable 16 pounds, it rides smoothly and feels sturdy enough for everyday jaunts and lengthy sightseeing tours alike. And unlike some of its counterparts, it has a deep, roomy storage basket and an expandable UPF 50+ canopy that provides ample shade—and even includes a separate carry backpack and rain cover for all kinds of adventures. Best of all, it folds up to fit into the overhead bin—which is key when you’re juggling an active new walker and several carry-ons.
3. A gadget to help everyone sleep
They say travel broadens your horizons, but some things are too sacred to change while away—like a baby’s bedtime routine complete with white noise. This portable version of one of our favorite white noise machines runs through the night on a single USB charge and offers three soothing sounds to block out ambient hotel chatter or anything else that penetrates non-soundproof Airbnb walls.
4. The most portable high chair
The only thing worse than waiting for housekeeping to bring a high chair for a hangry toddler is finding out that the local must-visit restaurant doesn’t have child-friendly seating.
Enter this Pop-Up Booster seat that’s as portable and functional as it is easy on the eyes. True to its name, it pops open and locks in place to transform almost any chair into a secure, sturdy seat for little kids and then folds down to the size of a tablet for effortless transporting.
5. A simple solution for screen sharing
Perfect for road trips, long-haul flights, or any other occasion where screentime limits go out the window, this splitter connects up to five pairs of headphones, making it easy for siblings to watch their favorite shows together on one device without disturbing mom and dad—or fellow passengers.
6. A trusty way to stay hydrated
Bringing a reusable water bottle is a great way to help your child stay hydrated while out and about, and we love that this insulated stainless steel and silicone version uses zero plastic parts and keeps beverages warm or cold for up to eight hours. The best part? All tops are interchangeable, so it really lasts as your baby goes from bottle feeding to sippy- or straw-drinking and beyond.
7. A packable just-in-case bag
Ideal for everything from farmer’s market visits to last-minute souvenir shopping, a lightweight backpack is also helpful in lightening the load for a suitcase that’s in danger of going over the weight limit on the return trip. This one folds down to practically nothing so you can stash it in your diaper bag or luggage without weighing it down. Bonus: It’s sustainably crafted out of recycled plastic water bottles.
8. A versatile accessory to keep you cozy
A scarf that doubles as a blanket (for you or your little one) is at the top of any packing list for obvious reasons. This one from Lululemon has snaps along the edges to give you endless ways to wear it, including as a wrap, cardigan, and more.
The French terry fabric is stretchy-soft and moisture-wicking, making it comfortable to wear through all the temperature fluctuations that come along with air travel. Plus, it’s machine-washable, a must when kids are involved.
9. A multi-purpose, solar-powered smart light
Solar-powered, waterproof, and dimmable, there’s almost nothing this inflatable “smart” light won’t do—it even charges your phone. With unlimited color and brightness options that can be timed and controlled through an app, you can use it as a night light, flash light, or reading light when you want to stay up past baby’s bedtime while sharing a hotel room.
10. The best way to organize any bag
Pouches are a parental lifesaver when vacationing, doubling as a clutch or toy/snack/gear organizer for the large abyss of your carry-on. And when they’re made of splash-proof Tyvek like this one from Aloha Collection, you can use them to keep wet swimsuits or exploding toiletries from messing with anything else in your bag. Just turn inside out and give a quick wash for a fresh start after a particularly chaotic journey.
11. The most basic item for keeping things clean
It may not be the most exciting item to pack, but trust us—this is ideal for keeping bottles, pump parts, or straw cups clean while traveling. There are two different brush heads to fit every awkward nook imaginable (here’s looking at you, duckbill valves), and the whole thing breaks down to fit neatly into the dishwasher-friendly, drying rack-turned-carrying case.
12. A towel that won’t weigh you down
Incredibly absorbent, quick-drying, and weighing only one pound, this is much more than a beach towel. It’s super soft, yet practically repels sand and packs down to a mere 3.5 by 7 inches, making it perfect to take along for tropical getaways, family camping trips, and everywhere in between.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.