If taking a vacation with a baby or toddler feels like a military operation, it's time to streamline your load with gear that's portable and lightweight. Here are some essentials:
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If your day-to-day stroller is the size of a tricked-out Hummer, you'll want to downsize to something much smaller and lighter when you travel. Do not spend more than $100 on a travel stroller. Any sturdy umbrella stroller like the Chicco C6 that (a) weighs less than 12 pounds and (b) can be opened and closed easily—preferably with just one hand—will do the trick. If you're traveling to Europe or any place with lots of stairs or cobblestone streets, you'll want the stroller to be light enough to carry over a shoulder with your child in your arms.
Tip: When traveling by plane, you can wheel your child right up to the door of the plane and then gate-check the stroller. It will be waiting for you when you disembark.
02 of 09
A baby carrier comes in handy for all kinds of travel, but especially air travel since you want to keep your hands free. Prices of carriers can vary a lot, so choose one that's mid-priced and comfortable.
03 of 09
Your little one will need a place to sleep that's comfortable and safe. Most kid-friendly hotels, resorts, and vacation rental companies will provide a complimentary travel crib (typically a Graco Pack 'n Play or similar) and clean linens, so be sure to request one before you pack your own. Think through your child's bedtime routine and pack any small essential items, such as a favorite blanket, stuffed animal or lovey.
04 of 09
If you're in the market for a new car seat, look for one that's light and compact, like the Evenflo Chase (10 lbs., 20 inches wide). If you'll be flying, be sure that your car seat is FAA-approved and narrow enough to fit on an airline seat. Also, make sure you know how to install a car seat on a plane.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Don't feel like lugging a car seat on the plane? If your child weighs at least 22 pounds, she can use a CARES Harness instead. It's light, easy to pack, and takes 15 seconds to install. The shoulder harness loops through the airline lap belt and keeps your child safe and unable to kick the seat in front of her.
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Family-friendly restaurants will have high chairs, of course. But if you are renting a vacation home or traveling internationally, it's a great idea to bring a high chair so you don't have to eat every meal with your child on your lap. Cloth adaptive chairs like My Little Seat, which turns a regular chair into a high chair, are a godsend because they are portable and can be cleaned easily in a washing machine.
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Baby Bath Tub
If you're bringing a newborn on a short trip, you can surely make due with sponge baths. For babies that can sit up on their own but aren't ready for a big tub yet, we love the Munchkin White Hot Inflatable Duck Tub, which is a breeze to blow up and even quacks when you squeeze the beak. When you're finished, just deflate, fold up, and pack in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag.
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Car Seat Backpack
If you're flying with a baby or toddler, lugging a car seat through the airport can be cumbersome. The J.L. Childress Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag is a backpack that holds your car seat so you can keep your hands free. At boarding time, have one parent board first and install the car seat, allowing the second parent to board afterward with the baby.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
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Gate Check Bag for Car Seats
Need a less inexpensive way to protect your child's car seat from grease, dirt and germs when checking it at the airport? Consider the original Gate Check Bag for Car Seats by J.L. Childress. Durable, compact and lightweight, this handy bag fits almost all styles of convertible car seats, booster seats and infant carriers. Plus, its bright red color ensures the safe return of your car seat after your flight.