Traveling with Kids
Heading out on the town with your baby or child can make for fun adventures and great memories, but it can also be quite chaotic if you are unprepared. Many first times out with the little one wind up being learning experiences, teaching you what you should prepare with on your time out. There’s a lot of great gear and accessories that can make traveling with the kids a breeze; study up on the basics, and it will quickly be apparent which ones will work with your lifestyle.
Wearing Your Baby
Cloth and soft-structured carriers designed to allow parents to wear baby hands-free can be a lot less cumbersome and more convenient than bulky plastic carriers. They also keep baby close to you, which is especially good when they’re infants, and can in some cases allow mothers to breastfeed discreetly while wearing baby. There are quite a few benefits that both babies and parents can reap from babywearing, and the ease and simplicity it offers by freeing up your hands alone makes it worth consideration.
If you’re planning on wearing baby, there are a few carrier styles you’ll be able to choose from.
- Soft structured carrier: Made of dense, structured, padded material, soft structured carriers fasten using buckles and straps. Putting them on is pretty simple, though adjustments will be required to secure the carrier to your frame. They’re the bulkiest of the babywearing carrier types, but they’re also the most likely to have storage.
- Wrap: Typically, a baby wrap consists of a large rectangle made of breathable fabric. They’re a very popular carrier style, so it’s not tough to find one that’s stylish. They’re also one of the cheapest babywearing carriers, which means investing in a few colors or patterns is less likely to be cost-prohibitive. Learning to fold and tie a baby wrap takes some practice, and you’ll definitely want to try babywearing with your wrap at home before taking the show on the road. Typically, wraps are machine washable, though it’s usually suggested that they be air dried. As moms who are crafty with a sewing machine might guess, you can also make your own wrap fairly easily by following online tutorials.
- Sling: There are two basic types of babywearing sling; those which are a tube that’s connected at the ends and slips over the head, and ring slings, which use a metal, plastic, or wooden ring to create an adjustable closure at the shoulder. They are a good bit less complex than a full wrap, though ring slings still do have a learning curve as you and baby both get comfortable.
- Mei tai: Hybrid carriers which incorporate the convenience of soft structured carriers with the comfort and small size of wraps, a mei tai carrier uses a pre-formed cloth seat that securely holds baby as well as four long straps which are tied to secure your carry.
- Babywearing shirt: As the name suggests, a babywearing shirt is a top you can quite literally wear baby inside. These shirts usually aren’t designed to accommodate babies beyond infancy, and while most are NOT true babywearing carriers, some meet carrier strength standards.
A Quick Babywearing FAQ(Answered by Experienced Mamas)
What kind of babywearing carrier is best for plus-size moms?
Every kind of babywearing carrier is available in flexible sizes, but not every single product line offers them, so make sure the brand you’re looking at offers options. Many plus-size moms find that mei tai carriers offer comfort and size flexibility along with ease of use, since no wrapping is needed and long straps are great for accommodating wearers of any size. (See our list of the best baby carriers for plus size parents.)
Do dads need their own babywearing carriers?
This is a situation in which your mileage may vary. If two parents are very close in size, they may wish to share and adjust a single babywearing carrier. If there’s a drastic size difference, however, investing in a second carrier to avoid big adjustments each time it’s used will save both parties a lot of trouble.
A few other factors to consider: while mom might love that stylish print, it may not seem as fashion-forward when paired with dad’s outfit. Men sometimes prefer a more neutral carrier (though many are totally unbothered by polka dots and florals, and we love it). Some dads may also have a preference for hiking-pack style structured carriers that place baby in the back — these are great for outdoor adventure, but require baby to be able to support their own head, so they should be reserved for when they’re over six months old. Take a look at this carefully chosen list of baby carriers ideal for dad.
How do I clean my babywearing carrier?
The best practice here is to always follow manufacturer’s instructions, which will be tailored to the style and fabric type of your specific carrier. Slings, wraps, and mei tais are all likely to be machine washable, though putting them through the dryer is not usually advised. Soft structured carriers may be too bulky for the washing machine, instead requiring spot cleanings. Start here for best practice baby carrier cleaning tips.
Car Ride Safety
Car rides with your baby or toddler are an inevitable part of parenthood, and they require safety gear in the form of a car seat or booster seat. Far more is known now about how to keep kids safe in cars than was known when we were children, and the lax rules that were in place then aren’t acceptable now. It’s essential to be aware of proper car and booster seat staging, which could save your baby, toddler, or child’s life in the event of an accident.
The current guidelines are as follows:
- Babies and toddlers should be in the rear-facing position until at least age two, or until they have outgrown the upper height and weight limits of their current seat. If you use an infant car seat and they’ve outgrown it prior to age two, switch to a different rear-facing seat that can accommodate their continued growth. Car seat mirror systems can be especially handy during this stage, allowing you to sneak a peak at your baby and vice-versa.
- Once they reach age two and have outgrown their rear-facing seat, switch to a front-facing seat with a harness. This must be used until at least age five, or until the upper height and weight limits of the seat have been outgrown. If your child reaches two and has not outgrown their rear-facing seat, do not turn them around. They should stay rear-facing for as long as possible.
- Once they’ve reached age five and have outgrown their front-facing seat, switching to a booster seat with a harness that allows the seat belt to fit correctly is essential. This booster seat should always be in the back seat of the car, and must be used until it’s no longer needed for their seat belt to fasten securely. They may need this booster seat until they are as tall as 4’9″ in some cases. Some convertible car seats can switch from a front-facing car seat to a booster seat, saving parents from an additional purchase.
- Even after their booster seat is outgrown, kids should always sit in the back seat, securely buckled, until they reach age 13.
Strolling in Style
When wearing or carrying your baby or toddler isn’t an option, a stroller offers safe transport as well as extra storage that will offload your burden. They sometimes even come with bonus features such as top compartments and cupholders for parental convenience. They’re generally made with fabrics that are easy to spot clean, so it’s not hard to keep them looking nice.
Not all strollers are made equal, of course! While just about everyone is familiar with standard push strollers, here are some other options available to you:
- Best Umbrella Stroller: Great for weather protection, umbrella strollers have top coverage that protects your little one from sun and rain, and can offer some security and a bit of extra privacy when they’re napping.
- Best Jogging Stroller: Ideal for athletic parents, a jogging stroller features extra storage, stability, and sturdy wheels with traction that can handle multiple terrains. They also tend to be umbrella strollers, offering shade and weather protection.
- Best Double Stroller: Good for twins, or two children close in age, a double stroller simply incorporates two seats instead of one. While this is convenient, it can also be a bit harder to store and maneuver.
- Best Sit and Stand Stroller: These are good for kids who are close in age, especially if one is reaching the end of their stroller years. There’s a place for a younger child to sit as well as for an older child to stand and ride.
Other On the Go Essentials
There are a few other items which can simplify life on the go with kids, and we think they’re worth your consideration.
- Backpack: Once kids are walking around on their own, there’s no need for you to tote everything when they can have their very own backpack! Sippy cups, coloring books, toys, and more can be safely stashed, and picks that fasten across the front assure that it won’t fall off or get lost.
- Nap mat: Nap time waits for no-one, which means it still needs to happen on vacation, while visiting relatives, etc. Nap mats provide a clean, secure, comfortable place for them to crash that’s travel-friendly, especially when they’re inflatable.
- Baby bike seat: If getting out for a long bike ride on a sunny day is your cup of tea, taking baby along will be fun for both of you. A secure baby bike seat will fasten to your existing bike, giving them a safe place to sit and enjoy the view.
- Sun hats and Sunglasses: Sun protection is especially important to babies and toddlers, who are sensitive to harsh UV rays. In addition to sunscreen, wide-brimmed sun hats and sunglasses can help to keep little ones safe and comfortable.
- Baby walking shoes: If you’re encouraging your child to walk on their own, consider some comfortable walking shoes to avoid blisters and sore feet. Just as you wouldn’t want to take a long stroll in your dress shoes, neither will your toddler be comfortable walking for long periods in shoes that aren’t designed for it.