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Gear Up for The Holidays – Fat Mama’s Favorite Traveling-With-Kids Gear

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!

Itsy Bitsy has always loved to travel, but having the right gear makes it WAY easier (April 2018)

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!


Sound familiar?


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!


Check Out Binxy Baby's Insta for more great photos!

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.


Itsy Bitsy LOVED the Cart Cover, almost as much as that orange (March 2017)

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!

The Brica Fold N' Go was the BEST mobile napper when Itsy Bitsy was an infant (July 2016)

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!

By Itsy Bitsy's 1st birthday this chair went everywhere with us (June 2017)

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.

Portable and easy to pack the Hatch is a travel MUST.

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!


Great for on the go or on the road!

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.

Snacking made easy for Itsy Bitsy (Nov. 2017)

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.

So helpful to keep kids entertained!

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!

Itsy Bitsy even enjoys using her Travel Tray on the couch (Dec. 2020)

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!

The OXO Tot Potty makes going on the go easy.

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!


Flying Made Friendly


Is there ever a more stressful time during a family vacation then when you are at the airport in on the plane? While I love flying ... by myself ... there is no part of a family vacation I look forward to less then the flight. So here are a few of this Fat Mama's favorite things that will help you overcome some of the most stressful parts of flying with kids.


Splat Mats are now bigger than the one Itsy Bitsy had (March 2016)

Especially in these days of COVID, we parents are trying to do everything possible to limit the number of germy surfaces our little ones come into contact with. This is why I LOVE the Splat Mats by Bumpkins. Like all of their other products, the Splat Mats are machine washable, easily transported, and provide a barrier between your little one and whatever surface you choose to cover. I recommend the tray table!


Pair your Splat Map with a Wet Bag and you’ve got a self-contained airplane germ control protocol all ready to go! The best part is since these Splat mats are reusable, and only cost $20, you can keep a few of them around and cycle through them for the terminal, airplane, restaurant, any other surface that might need protecting … until you can get to a washing machine and sterilize the living DUCK out of everything.


Plus, when you get to your destination, or when you are home between trips, the Splat Mat is super versatile for different projects. Whether you use your splat mat for art time, mealtime (see above photo), or just a fun pattern to entertain your baby, they are a great way to help contain messes and keep germs at bay.


Nap time for Itsy Bitsy and Fat Papa (Jan. 2017)

Probably one of the best investments Fat Papa and I made for flying with Itsy Bitsy was our Ergobaby Carrier. Though Itsy Bitsy outgrew the carrier by the time she was 18 months old, the amount of use we got from it on planes, while traveling, and in our day-to-day lives, made the purchase well worth it. At the time, justifying $180 on a baby carrier when we already had a stroller and car seat was tough. But let me tell you, dear reader, it sure paid off!


For starters, Itsy Bitsy would quickly fall asleep in the carrier while she was an infant. Going through TSA, fell asleep. Taking off on the airplane, fell asleep. Flying over the Pacific Ocean, Fat Papa and Itsy Bitsy fell asleep. It was great because we could be seated, mostly comfortably, on the plane and be able to “hands free” hold Itsy Bitsy. This made plane flights SO EASY.


Fat Mama Tip: One thing I loved about the Omni 360 Baby Carrier All-In-One is how easy it conformed to MY body. Yes, my Fat Mama body. Even better, if I wore Itsy Bitsy in the front, and the diaper backpack in the back, then I felt really balanced and could move around quite easily. I tried other carriers before this one, much less expensive ones, and none of them offered the same body support. None felt as good or fit as well as the Ergobaby.


Anytime you plan to fly with an infant, I highly recommend investing in a carrier, be it the Omni 360 Carrier All-In-One or something similar. Just from a piece of mind and ease factor, there is nothing like moving through the airport with your baby securely strapped to you and having your hands free. Either to hold a double-shot mocha because you have been up since 3 a.m. or to gently push people aside who are crowding around trying to get their luggage stowed and get to their seats. Hands free with a baby is the way to be!


One less thing to worry about in the airport.

Getting through the airport with kids can be difficult in the best of circumstances, doubly so if you plan to bring their car seat on the airplane. The Rakhardts always preferred to fly with their car seat on the plane and enjoyed using straps like the this Car Seat Travel Strap to make things easier.


By attaching their son Codster's car seat to one of their pieces of carry-on luggage, the car seat was easily wheeled through the airport. Codster could also take a ride if walking became too much of a burden or if he fell asleep. This design was great for mad dashes to catch connecting flights and for juggling luggage between home, car, and airport.


Unlike other products that simply add wheels to your car seat, straps like this one help parents of small kids have one less piece of luggage to worry about. By combining the car sear with the wheels you already have on your rolling luggage, two pieces become one (and if you put your kid in the car seat, then three become one)!


I will be the first to admit that this inflatable travel tub might not be the most convenient thing to pack. But I can count on two hands the number of times we have stayed in a hotel with Itsy Bitsy that actually had a bathtub. Not to mention, it’s a freaking rubber duck!

Such a great portable tub.

We loved this inflatable travel bathtub. It was just the right size to fit Itsy Bitsy and it also, almost always, fit in the shower stall at our hotels as well. It was the perfect way to make sure, no matter what the configuration of the hotel, or friends house, or campground, we could make sure Itsy Bitsy got her bath.


Plus, the rubber duck bathtub is so versatile! It worked great poolside and beach side when I didn’t want her going in the water. It also works great without water as a place to keep toys (hours of fun for crawling babies to take things out of and put things back into), and now that Itsy Bitsy is older, you better believe it makes for the perfect doll pool.


So go ahead, splurge on this $13 purchase and stuff someone’s stocking with an extra quacky surprise.


Okay, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. While I am not selling Travel Packs (yet), I do think that having the right backpack and filling it with the right stuff will ABSOLUTELY make all the difference when traveling on a plane with kids.


Traveling is easier when Itsy Bitsy is in a good mood; my Travel Packs help her STAY in a good mood (Sep. 2018)

So how do you choose the right backpack and how do you know how to fill it with all the right stuff?


Check out my blog called Fat Mama’s 24-Hour Flight Essentials Travel Pack and I will walk you through everything you need to know to put together an awesome in flight entertainment bag for you and your kids.

 

So that’s it. Those are my favorite brands and my favorite travel gear for getting through holiday travel with kids. But remember, no matter how much “stuff” you pack, the most important thing that you need is to PACK IS YOUR PATIENCE! I know I sure will!


Keep calm and quack on.


 

No matter how you travel this holiday season, be it a stay-cation or half-way around the world, Fat Papa, Itsy Bitsy, and this Fat Mama are wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and very bright holiday season.


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