When it comes to vacationing with children and teens, preparedness is key. As every parent knows, packing for a family trip can be a serious challenge. Like climbers attempting to ascend Mount Everest, parents aim to pack only what is necessary for a successful trek and nothing more.
For the family that’s always on the go, advice on the latest gear — or on other parents’ tried-and-true favorites — can be priceless. Following are a few items that will deepen a parent’s travel toolbox, as well as some top picks by fellow moms and dads who work in the travel industry. Go ahead and share these items with your clients — they’ll be thanking you for years to come.
Bed in a Bag
When baby has grown out of the hotel crib and sleeping between mom and dad won’t do, consider toting along the Indoor Tuckaire Toddler Travel Bed by Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Shrunks. Designed for kids as young as 2 years old, the inflatable bed keeps wiggly sleepers low to the ground and secure with its moat-like rim. It also fits a standard crib sheet, comes with its own storage bag and can be stowed inside a larger suitcase. Besides, a good night’s sleep may be well worth leaving some of mom and dad’s clothes at home.
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There’s nothing worse than trying to soothe a child to sleep while guests in an adjacent hotel room are making a ruckus. Sleep Pillow, an app designed for Apple products, provides users with 70 ambient sounds and mixes to help restless kids and grown-ups fall into a deep slumber. Lullabies, ocean waves and a crackling fire are among the relaxing options, but there are a few quirky choices as well, such as the sounds of a hair dryer, a vacuum and a fan.
Phone Protection for Mom and Dad
Face it: Letting children play on their mom or dad’s iPhone is a disaster waiting to happen. But luckily, parents can invest in the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Case for iPhone and iPod Touch devices. The handles on this durable case are easy for little ones to hold, while a clear film protects the screen. Parents can even cover the home button to prevent accidental calls or posts.
It can be difficult to keep a squirming baby comfortable during a long flight. That’s where FlyeBaby comes to the rescue. This baby sling gives parents (and their knees) a break, and the five-point harness system hammocks the baby between the parent and the seat in front, allowing for face-to-face interaction. Just tell clients to check with specific airlines beforehand to make sure it’s approved for use.
Touted as taking a mere 15 seconds to set up, the Lotus Everywhere Crib from Guava Family is a great product for families traveling near and far. The mesh fabric is breathable, and it’s also clear enough for parents to keep an eye on their tots. Packing up is easy too, since the crib folds into a backpack.
For Budding Shutterbugs
VTech’s line of Kidizoom digital cameras encourage little ones’ creativity, and at $30 to $60, prices are reasonable. Additionally, the products are extremely sturdy, with rubber handles for a better grip and the ability to store hundreds of photos. Users can add silly effects or animated borders to photos and film footage, and there are a few games on each model, as well.
Price varies; www.vtechkids.com
I Gotta Go
Whether on an airplane, on a train or in a car, dealing with toddler restroom breaks can be difficult, which is one reason many parents cite Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus as a lifesaver. This trainer seat and portable potty keeps kids’ bottoms sanitary and folds flat to fit inside a backpack.
Only recently available for purchase in the U.S., the Doona Infant Car Seat is a hit with parents because it packs a two-for-one punch — its integrated wheels and adjustable handlebar allow for a quick transformation from car seat to compact stroller. When in car-seat mode, it snaps right into a car base or can be strapped into a taxi or shuttle with a seatbelt. The Doona is built for infants and children ranging from 4 to 35 pounds.
What Frequent-Flying Parents Recommend
We asked a few parents — who also happen to be travel-industry pros — for some of their top gear picks:
This roomy backpack features a built-in charging brick so parents never have to deal with a dead phone. — Lisa McElroy, Family Travel Writer
Seagate Wireless Plus
This portable hard drive can be filled up with endless amounts of television shows and movies that can be streamed off multiple devices at the same time, keeping kids well-entertained during a flight or long car ride. — Neal Tornopsky, Associate Publisher, Digital, Travel Weekly and TravelAge West
Price varies depending on storage capacity, $129.99–$199; www.seagate.com
Teens are a hard demographic to please, but a great way to keep them engaged is to give them tools for documenting and sharing their experiences on social media — and that’s where this sturdy adventure camera comes in handy.
— Michelle Rae Uy, head of content, MiniTime
Prices vary, $129.99–$499.99; www.gopro.com
This small Bluetooth tracker and app can be used to keep tabs on phones, cars, keys and wallets, but it works just as well for keeping track of kids in theme parks or busy airports. — Mimi Cassidy, Co-Owner, Moraga Travel
Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light
Another light and easy bedding option, this family favorite provides a sturdy and familiar bed for infants to sleep in while traveling. — Rebecca Tobin, Managing Editor, Travel Weekly and TravelWeekly.com
Price varies, around $250, available through multiple online and retail stores; www.babybjorn.com
Ecorox Bluetooth Speaker
This waterproof, USB-chargeable speaker is the perfect addition to campfire sing-a-longs and hikes. It can also be attached to stand-up paddleboards with a suction cup or bikes with a loop, so you’ll never need to leave it behind. — Jim Pickell, President, HomeExchange.com
Axial Two-Tone Bluetooth Sport Earbuds with Inner Earhooks
Earbuds are essential for kids watching movies and playing games so that they don’t distract parents who are trying to drive or snooze. Plus, these are wireless, which means no tangled mess of cords. — Samantha Davis-Friedman, Family Travel Writer
This device lets parents load children’s books, movies, apps and more, saving lots of luggage space. — Keryn Means, Family Travel Writer and Founder of Walking On Travels
Price varies depending on model, $49.99–$199.99; www.amazon.com
Yep, the old-fashioned, easy-to-learn addictive card game will get kids and parents to put down gadgets and play together as a family. — Frank Marini, President, Yankee Leisure Group