My Favorite Family Travel Items from Sippies to Strollers

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I know that most of us value experiences over things, but sometimes the right things can make the experience easier…and maybe even a touch more fun. My husband takes the reins on the techie travel gadgets for the family, but I take the lead on the more practical items such as the best bags, shoes, kid headphones, clothes, and more. Pretty much none of these things are essential for a good trip, but they sure can’t hurt either.

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Since I occasionally get questions on what type of bags, headphones, sunglasses, sippy cups, and other family travel gear we use, I thought it would be handy to put together a list of some of my favorites all in one place.

While some of these items are very affordable (like the kid headphones!), others are larger investments (like our Rimowa carry-on) that we acquired over the years as it became clear that travel truly was a major part of our lives. In other words, I didn’t and wouldn’t go out and load up on all this stuff at once, but if you find yourself in need of one of the items listed, these are all items we have and use regularly on our family trips…and in many cases, we use the same things in our daily life at home, too.

My Favorite Travel Luggage

A decade ago I traveled in a cheap black duffel bag from Walmart or Target. It did the trick and I didn’t know that luggage really mattered until I started traveling more and invested in really good luggage. By far the most expensive (and most loved) piece of travel gear that I have is my Rimowa Salsa 22 Inch Deluxe Cabin Multiwheel Carry-On that always, always, always fits in the overhead bins, even on little regional jets, and has literally taken me around the world.

It isn’t the best on cobblestone type streets, but it is fantastic for smooth surfaces like you would find in most airports and hotels. I’ve had it for about three years now, and while it was painful to purchase, it has been a joy to own and travel with.

However, not every trip requires a roller bag, so the other travel bag that I own and use frequently for overnights or weekend car trips is my Sole Society Duffel. It isn’t real leather, but it wipes clean and is the perfect sized bag for a couple nights worth of stuff. I also used to use it for my pumping gear when I was nursing and traveled without my baby.

Photo by Andrea Bacle

For my girls, we have used the Travel Buddies Luggage for years. My oldest daughter used the penguin for about four years before it finally fell apart last summer in Europe.

We have since been using the parrot version for about the last year. These bags do scuff and eventually did wear out, but it took several years and dozens of trips, so I’m still pretty happy with them.

A final bag that I have recently fallen in love with are the Make-Up Junkie bags that are made by a mom in my area. We use these awesome little bags for everything from make-up, hair accessories, and toiletries to holding computer cords and little craft supplies for my older daughter.

These bags lie flat so they don’t fall over and dump your make-up, have water-proof liners, and just come in really fun colors. We like to load up on them when they do Facebook Live sales of ones with slight defects.

Best Kid’s Travel Shoes

If their feet aren’t happy, they aren’t happy. If they aren’t happy, no one is happy, so it is pretty important to have really good travel shoes for your kids. My favorite for babies and younger toddlers are the Freshly Picked Mocs that are comfortable, cute, and rarely just fall off. They are sturdier than socks, but not nearly as uncomfortable or bulky as regular shoes.

They will get dirty trekking through airports, but I kind of like them even better when they have a bit of character. My youngest daughter has been through several pairs of these. About the time they start looking really worn, she outgrows them anyway. They are still our go-to plane shoe.

Other than the Freshly Picked Mocs for my youngest daughter when we are traveling, our other go-to kid’s shoe both at home and on the road is the Native Shoe brand. These shoes come in tons of colors, are comfortable (as long as you are in exactly the right size), and you can squirt them clean with water. They work in the pool, in the river, on the plane, in the petting zoo, and on the street.

Favorite Family Travel Clothes

I admit that I kind of enjoy clothes. I may mostly wear t-shirts and jeans, but I am picky about my t-shirts and jeans. I know this stuff won’t matter to everyone, but I do have some travel clothing favorites I can really recommend for anyone interested.

For women or teens, I love the Zella Live in High Waist Leggings as they are not see-through, but they are very comfortable and forgiving. I wear these with tunics or dresses on the plane quite frequently. I also like to wear jeans that have some stretch in them so they are comfortable for sitting long periods of time, but they also are higher waisted so you aren’t creating a spectacle when you are bending over playing with or chasing your kids in the airport.

My current favorite in that category are the Hudson High Waist Jeans that I wore in the photo below.

Photo by Andrea Bacle

For my kiddos I love the Tucker Tate Moto Pants that are cute but very soft as well as the Tucker Tate Jeggings that look like jeans but feel like soft leggings. My older daughter is very picky about how soft her pants are, so will only wear pants that she thinks are soft enough. Those Tucker and Tate pants make the cut. If you are interested in any of these pants I have mentioned, all of them are part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale that goes on for two more days. 

Love pants that feel like leggings

While obviously not important, I am personally a sucker for travel themed shirts and outfits for my girls. Mini Boden has some great travel themed kid shirts right now, and I have done well with some from Peek in the past.

If your kids wear sunglasses, the best by a mile are Babiators as they virtually won’t break, and if they do break or get lost they will send you a replacement pair for free as long as you have registered your glasses. We have graduated from the infant, to the toddler, to the big girl pairs and love them all.

A piece of travel clothing that I don’t leave home without when going to cooler destinations are vests, often a Patagonia Vest. I try to scoop these up on clearance at the end of the season, but I have found vests to be handy more often than not when it gets cooler in the evening or even to layer under a jacket when it is really, really cold. I skied with mine as a layer in Norway and wore it with shirts while in Scotland during the summer.

For the girls when it is cold but not freezing I love the North Face Oso Hoodies as they are so soft, easy to pack and wash, and they come in fun colors. Again, I try to scoop these up on end of the year clearance in the next year’s size, but they are discounted on this year’s Nordstrom sale right now, too.

Favorite Kid’s Travel Accessories

A few other family travel odds and ends we rarely leave home without are our Kidz Gear Wired Headphones that come in fun colors, have volume limiters, and have held up well for years for us. These are around $15 on Amazon and we have gotten our money’s worth many times over as the kids listen to their iPads, watch DVDs, use the in-flight entertainment systems, etc.

My first daughter fell in love with a blanket she carried around and chewed on FOR YEARS. However, my second daughter has developed a love affair of sorts with her sippy. Not only does she love it, but we love the stainless steal, BPA-free, plastic-free, colorful Pura Sippy that travels with us as it is much loved by her, and easy to clean for us.

For a travel car seat, we are now on our second Cosco Scenera as it is cheap, light, but safe and reliable. We have heavy and expensive car seats we use in our cars at home, but on an airplane or in rental car, the Cosco Scenera gets our vote. You can get it on Amazon, but sometimes it is even cheaper from Walmart.

Now if your baby is in the infant to one year old range, there is nothing that can come close to the awesomeness and convenience of the Doona. Seriously, I still miss it. It converts from a stroller to a car seat with the push of a button without having to remove your baby. It. Is. Amazing. It is expensive, but I sold mine online for over half the original cost when we outgrew it, so that helped ease the pain a bit.

Happy in her Doona at six months

For a travel stroller, my favorite compromise between a little umbrella stroller and a huge massive stroller is the City Mini Stroller. It has gone on many trips with us, folds up well to be gate-checked, has a sun shade, under the seat storage, and has generally worked well for travel from infant to preschooler. I got mine on a Black Friday type discount for about $180 via Amazon and have used it extensively for close to two years.

If you want to skip the stroller, or at least have an alternative to it, the Ergo is my very favorite baby wearing device once you get out of the infant range as it works well into the heavier toddler age since you can wear them on the front, or on your back as well.

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It’s taken us years to come up with our favorite pieces of family travel gear by reading others recommendations, trying things out for ourselves, and sorting the important from the unimportant. I’d love to hear what pieces of family travel gear you have found to be the most useful, durable, and comfortable on your journeys!

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. We love our Doona for our 4 month old and are dreading when he grows out of it. Which might be sooner than 1 year as he is growing super fast! It will get a real test in a few weeks on his first trip to Europe.

    And now we know what stroller to get for when he does grow out of it.

    • Oh gosh – hope y’all make it a year in it. We did and our daughter is 99% percentile for height. It was sad when we said goodbye to it!

      • Yeah he is 99 percentile too, 19 pounds and 26.5 inches now at 4 months. So I’m glad to hear you made it a year. We will be so sad when we have to give it up.

        It was so easy today going from the airport to the hotel. And now he is napping in the crib in our hotel room’s bathroom!

  2. Might have to look into those Tucker and Tate pants. My almost 7 year old has refused jeans for about 4 years now but would be nice if she’d wear them sometimes!

    • I can tell you it will fit and I’ve taken it on several international airlines, but check the specifics for the airline you have in mind as some come up with crazy rules in attempt to get more $$.

  3. Have you ever used the backpack or hand wrist leash for either of your girls. Looking at Disney in November with a 3 year old.

    • Not mommypoints, but thought you might want someone else’s feedback, too. I feel like 3 might on the cusp of being a bit big, but I guess it depends on the child. My then 2 1/2 year old used it a few times in Disney (we purchased when he was 18 months, and then brought it back again a year later). He was pretty big for his age. But if you have a smaller 3 year old who likes to be independent (aka, run) it could be worthwhile. It only costs maybe $12? So not a huge investment if it doesn’t work out. Buy one and try before your trip. It doesn’t take up a lot of space so there’s really no loss if you don’t use it.

  4. This may not be as relevant for your fam if you predominantly stay in hotels but we tend to go the apartment/airbnb route both domestically and internationally and so we spent a fair amount of time researching travel cribs. We love the lotus. It’s super easy to set up/break down,is pretty compact, and it can be worn as a backpack (or be carried). Or oldest is good going to grow out of it soon and his little sister will inherit it.

    An ergo baby carrier has also been essential for us in these early years.

    • Yes, I really should have included the Ergo. Maybe I’ll do another post on baby specific gear at some point as there is so much more that could be included there.

  5. What a great list. I am going to look into a few of these things for an upcoming trip.

    What do you suggest for a 23 month old for a first trip not as a lap child? We don’t need a carseat where we are going. I am wondering if the seatbelt would be fine or should I go with the cares harness?

    I agree with the Ergo. Worth every penny.

    • Totally agree – I’m gonna add the Ergo now….but as for your question… The CARES harness is a good idea. I don’t love it for kids that age (I like it better around 3), but it is worth a shot.

  6. We’ve been using our Cosco Scenera on flights, but whenever we install it forward facing, the plane’s seat belt buckle is positioned so that it’s digging into our daughter’s back. Is there some trick to prevent this? I’ve tried using a seat belt extender, but the buckle ends up in the same place. We broke down and bought a CARES harness which actually worked well for our tall 18 month old, but it has its own issues (install over the tray table on newer planes with recessed trays). So you need a pretty understanding person in the seat behind your kid if you expect to use it on the whole flight.

    • Hey, this is Josh (MP’s husband). It can be tricky, and I can’t be certain that we aren’t installing the buckle in exactly the same fashion, but I’ve found that by reaching through the installation slot and grabbing the buckle from the far end, I can insert the tab and cinch down with the extended hand pressing the buckle against the seat back. By doing so, and pulling the strap as tightly as possible, the buckle will recess into the cavity below away from the padding, and Little S’s back. So far she hasn’t had an issue with it. I always make sure I’m passing both ends of the buckle through the forward-facing channel, which I’m sure you are doing as well. Hope that helps!

  7. Great list. We recently added the XSS Pockit stroller to our must-haves. Got sick of the options for strollers (check/gate check) which meant we had to wait at a minimum for them to unload it into the jet bridge and at worst hang around baggage claim for it.

    The XSS Pockit folds down to “personal item” size – meaning we can slide it under the seat in front of us if needed, no checking required. Love it.

  8. Hi! Does the city mini fit through the airport security screening X-ray machines? We have a nuna stroller for our every day use but it was too big for the X-ray machine and a tad bulky for flying. We have been looking for something smaller that would hopefully fit through the X-ray screen so we don’t have to wait to get an individual screen. We like the single handle and full canapy on the city mini. Thanks for listing all of your favorite things!!

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