Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Over the last nearly six years of traveling with Itsy Bitsy, I feel like I have become a bit of a pro at kids' travel gear, especially because if any piece of tech or gear has promised to make my life easier, I have probably bought it and tried it out!
Does this mean that I have a master packing list that I have assembled? Sure! Does this mean that I use it and follow it to a "T" every time? NO! In fact, I inevitably forget something every time and Itsy Bitsy is always quick to ask in her whiniest most pouty voice, “But Mama, why didn’t you pack me a straw?”
I don’t know? Probably because I had to pack a kid, a husband, myself, get the house ready to go, arrange for the pet and house sitter, organize the house, clean out the fridge, plan and book the vacation while all you had to do, my sweet little darling, was grab your stuffed animals, blanky, and buckle yourself into the car seat!
If this is what travel around the holidays sounds like at your house, or perhaps your adult kids’ house, or you hear these tales from your friends, who unlike you have to travel half-way around the world just to be “home for the holidays,” then maybe consider an early holiday present for them from this Fat Mama’s list of Favorite Traveling-With-Kids Gear.
Each and every item on this list has been tried and true by me, my family, and friends. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, is paying me for my opinions or fantastic reviews. Believe me I wish they were. As of posting this blog, I'm not even making any affiliate link money. Sad, I know, but at least it keeps me honest.
Like I was saying ... I, and almost every parent I know, all love and swear by the items on this list. I personally can assure you that each item has played a huge role in making travel life with a kid, from infancy to the present Five-Know-Everything age, so much easier.
To keep the items organized and make browsing easier, I have divided the list into three categories:
I’ve done my best to include items for infants, toddlers, and kids in each category. These items are all parent-related, so no toys. Each of the items in these lists are designed to make travel easier for parents by addressing specific issues, situations or needs that arise while traveling with kids. Though, I will admit, they don’t all pack super well.
Everyday Travel Essentials
Whether you are out running errands, are heading to your in-laws house for a holiday meal, or are out for a fun day-trip, the following essentials will make the everyday travel that you do so much easier! I have used all of these products, or similar ones, and absolutely love them!
This mini hammock that slings across your shopping cart was a HUGE life saver for me as a new mom when I was trying to get grocery shopping done with a newborn. While you can find a ton of different brands, even “homemade” ones on Etsy, and there is every pattern imaginable under the sun when you search for them on Pinterest, I really like Binxy. Check out their website, read independent reviews, they come highly rated and recommended!
Plus, the hammocks even fit Costco size shopping carts.
While the Baby Hammock is a little pricy at nearly $50, it is worth every penny. Plus, once baby out grows the hammock, it still makes a nice grocery divider for your fruit and other delicate items that you don’t want crushed in the bottom of the cart.
When your infant begins sitting up, rolling over, or otherwise outgrows the Shopping Cart Hammock, Bixby Baby has got you covered for the next stage of shopping cart errands with your little ones! Especially in these days of COVID, no parent wants to put their small child in a dubiously “clean” shopping cart. Bixby Baby’s Shopping Cart Covers are the answer to this dilemma.
Machine washable, durable, and absolutely adorable, these shopping cart covers give parents the piece of mind that their little ones, who let’s be honest lick and touch everything, are going to be kept germ free while out and about running errands. With places to attach toys, a safety harness, and even a place to put your phone, this shopping cart cover keeps little ones safe and entertained.
While the Brica Fold N’ Go Bassinet is a departure from Munchkin’s kitchen and bath dominated line of infant/toddler/child essentials, it is a very welcome one! Aunty Coco was the one who introduced me to this product, and it just might be the baby travel item that has gotten the most use in our house!
Easy to fold and carry, durable, and a snap (literally) to assemble, this mobile bassinet is a MUST HAVE for any new parent who is constantly on the go with their baby. Whether used as an additional bassinet at home so baby can sleep while you get work done or as an on-the-go napper, you will love the ease, portability, and functionality of this product.
Also, once Itsy Bitsy outgrew her Fold N’ Go Bassinet, we started using it to store her dolls and stuffies. Now she uses it as a toy so the $45 investment was WELL WORTH IT.
While I think that EVERY kid who is big enough to sit up but too small to sit in a normal size chair needs one of these seats when eating out at restaurants, as parents it gets tiring always having to lug everything around. That is why I was SO HAPPY when my in-laws purchased us one of these seats and kept it in THEIR car for us!
At the time most of our eating out was with them. This was all pre-COVID, they live about 10 minutes from us and almost every week we all would go out to dinner. So it made sense that my in-laws were the keepers of the chair.
But I really cannot say enough good things about the Chicco Hook-On Chair. They make a few different models; ours was the one with the attachable tabletop but not the swivel, and Itsy Bitsy LOVED IT!
The hook-on chair meant that she could be right up at the table with us, at the correct height, without having to adjust any chairs. Only once was the table unbalanced, thus flipping over, with her in the chair. BUT, because the chair is designed so well and there was nothing on the table, Itsy Bitsy was fine and we got a different table. Again, that only happened once in the three years of using this chair.
I really love the portable design, easy installation, and how easy it is to clean. We loved the chair so much that we ended up buying one to keep at my parent’s house and in both our cars. It really was worth it to never be without the hook-on chair. Such a great product.
This one has been the answer to so many bedtime prayers! It has also been able to grow, adapt, and change with Itsy Bitsy’s evolving bedtime routine. So while it will set you back between $60 - $90, it will also last you for years, and I do mean years, of nightly use.
The Hatch Rest is one of my all-time favorite kid gadgets for home and travel because when used every night at home, it provides an element of consistency while traveling. Hatch Rest is a completely programmable nightlight, sound machine, and clock that provides visual and audio cues to your baby/toddler/child about when it is time to sleep and get up.
Itsy Bitsy had a terrible time with waking up in the mornings … that is to say, she would try to wake us up at 5 a.m., thinking it was time to start the day … until we got a Hatch. By programing the Hatch to play nocturnal nature sounds at night and glow red, she knew it was time to sleep. In the morning at 7 a.m. (still too early in my opinion, but Fat Papa is a saint and gets up with her), the light turns green and the sound changes to a babbling brook. The change is subtle so if she is still asleep, it doesn’t disturb her, but if she is awake, she knows she can now get out of bed.
The Hatch does require wi-fi to use any programed content but has plenty of pre-set modes that can be accessed without the included app. For the rare times when we have forgotten to pack the Hatch (OMG what were we thinking?), we have used the Rainy Mood app on our phone. The app provides a similar audible cue without the nightlight. Overall, the Hatch provides a great sense of consistency and security to Itsy Bitsy, making bedtimes easier; which is a BIG PLUS on any trip.
Road Trip Must Haves
Between school, daycare, work, errands, Girl Scouts, playdates, birthday parties, and you ... life ... I feel like I practically live in my car. But, the gear that makes my mini van a perfect hub for all my essentials on the go is TOTALLY different then the gear Fat Papa and I load it up with to make road trips with Itsy Bitsy easier. Between 2018 - 2021 we have managed to wrack up over 75,000 miles on our mini van alone, and that's even with staying home during the COVID lock down.
So take my miles of experience and enjoy these road trip must haves as much as I do!
I feel like no matter what stage of life you are in, whether you travel with kids, pets, solo, or with a man-child, EVERYONE has run into a situation where they just needed to store something wet until they could get home to wash it. Well Bumpkins has got you covered so you don’t have to carry around single use plastic bags or search for an old grocery bag buried in the trunk of your car.
Machine washable, durable, and easily stored (like say in your purse or a diaper bag, or yes, the trunk of your car), these wet bags are perfect for storing life’s little accidents. Available in a WIDE, nearly never ending variety of styles and patterns, you will soon find countless wet and dry uses for these awesome bags. I have found ours most useful not only to keep used diapers in until I can dispose of them but also soiled clothes, swim suites, and muddy shoes … but also these bags have helped me organize Itsy Bitsy’s clothes for packing her suitcase, toys, and snacks for the road. The possibilities are endless.
I am a sucker for storage solutions, and doubly so for food storage solutions. So when Itsy Bitsy started eating solid foods, I needed something that could not only hold her snacks, but that she could use to feed herself. The solutions … Munchkin’s Snack Catchers.
These little handled cups with rubber perforated lids make it easy for little hands to access delectable munchies but difficult for said munchies to spill out. INGENIOUS! Plus, the fun colors they come in means that if you ever forget the purple one, WATCH OUT, a meltdown is sure to follow.
Itsy Bitsy LOVED these snack cups because it gave her the freedom and independence to feed herself and I loved them because I could fill them up and toss one to her in the car, at the grocery store, waiting in the TSA line, wherever, and it kept her happy.
While these are FANTASTIC for everyday use, I particularly LOVE using these snack catchers in the car for road trips. I mean, it is inevitable that your car is going to be filled with crumbs and goldfish crackers by the end of any trip, but the snack catchers go a LONG way towards containing the mess. Even though Itsy Bitsy is nearly six, I still use these in the car; they are just that convenient.
This is another road trip product that really is ideal for any traveler, at any age, and any length of car ride. If you are a busy person who, like me, stores way more stuff than you need to in your car, then a car organizer is a must. IF you ALSO take road trips and want your kid to be able to find snacks, toys, books, and entertainment on their own so you don’t CONSTANTLY have to be turning around shuffling trough stuff … then this is ONE OF THE BEST PURCHASES YOU CAN MAKE.
Now, I will fully admit that this product does work better in a not-mini-van vehicle. While I have made the Lusso Gear Car Seat Organizer work for us for years, it definitely works much better on a bench seat then between two bucket seats. That being said, it still beats random toys and snacks rolling around on the floor. Also, now that Itsy Bitsy is tall enough to be out of the 5-point-harness kid's seat, she can now reach all the stuff in the organizer regardless of it being in my mini-van or Fat Papa’s sedan.
I really like how well this organizer fits in our vehicles, the number of compartments, and the versatility of use. We have used it on road trips, grocery shopping trips, to organize car equipment, hide electronics, etc. Overall this is just a great car companion for everyday driving as well as family road trips.
So, you’ve got your car organizer and filled it with all sorts of great stuff for your kid to do in the car, but now what? I cannot recommend the Kenley Kids Car Seat Travel Tray enough!
Compatible with most car seats, this tray clips into place around your child and provides a flat, mostly, stable surface in the car for eating, playing, and entertaining. The adjustable storage, side pockets, and clips make the travel tray easy to use and configurable for nearly any situation.
I highly recommend using the travel tray in the car for any road trip, especially if your little one, like Itsy Bitsy, enjoys switching things up between an iPad, books, coloring, and toys. Road trips are definitely easier now that she has everything she needs at her finger tips. Also, using the travel tray for her iPad helps with her posture, no more sore neck after 4-hours of binge-watching Paw Patrol.
While the travel tray certainly can work on an airplane, and we have flown with it before, I recommend thinking through your travel day first. Yes, this is a travel tray, but it is not the most portable thing. Ours lives in the car for a reason. It was great on the plane, but a bit of a hassle to carry through the airport. If the tray had a collapsible design, then this would be ideal for flights.
This is going to be the BEST $21 you EVER spent!
As soon as Itsy Bitsy started potty training, we purchased two white/pink OXO Go Pottys and have been SO THANKFUL that we did! We have one potty in each of our cars and Itsy Bitsy has used each one numerous times.
From parking lot pees to road trip wees to nature calls in Yosemite National Park, when you gotta go, you gotta go, and if you are 5 that means NOW!
Complete with disposable bags and a carry bag, when paired with baby wipes, the OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty means you NEVER have to sweat it when your little one says “I need to go” five minutes after you leave the rest stop. This is seriously one of the best things you as a parent can buy OR you as a friend can buy for your friends with kids!
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