It’s no newsflash that flying with tiny tots can be a challenge. But before you get too worked up about your next long-haul flight with the kids, we’ve compiled a list of great travel gear that will, hopefully, make flying with the fam easier, safer, less-germy and/or more fun! From carry-on cases that double as strollers to disposable covers that sanitize airplane trays, here are 13 gizmos and gadgets to make your next family trip a first-class affair.
Go Happy Travel Tray
If you've ever watched your little jet-setter try to play with her toys on an airplane, you know all too well the pain of collecting LEGO or crayons from a dirty plane floor. Enter the Go Happy Kids Tray, a strap-on tray which keeps tray tables covered and toys (hopefully) off the ground. The tray has a raised border on all sides to keep sippy cups, LEGO, crayons etc., from rolling right off mid-flight, and the grippy tray bottom keeps the whole thing from sliding. The Go Happy tray also solves the problem of your child eating snacks straight from the dirty tray table. It can also be used on laps, which means it's just as useful at your final destination as it is on the journey.
Got a long flight planned? Maybe you really need to do the red-eye, but the thought of traveling with restless toddlers has stopped you? It doesn’t have to anymore! The JetKids by STOKKE Bedbox is a ride-on suitcase that converts into a bed in a regular coach seat. Seriously! If you’ve got a baby or toddler, the lay-flat bed feature of the BedBox makes it totally worth the price. For older kids, stick with the basic "Ridebox" (it's the same suitcase; it just doesn't have the bed converting apparatus inside), which'll give your kids a set of wheels (and a suitcase) to zip around the airport. Kids can safely use the ride-on until they're about 77 lbs. Read our review of the JetKids BedBox here.
Cost: $149 for the JetKids Ridebox (which doesn't have the lay-flat airplane bed option); $199 for the Bedbox (which is a ride-on suitcase with the bed)
diono Traverze Super Compact Stroller
Strollers are crucial for transporting small tots around your chosen destination (and can be nice for whizzing around the airport), but they can be so darn heavy! This stylish lightweight stroller weighs less than 13 lbs, it's got a telescopic pull-handle (just like your luggage), a reclining seat and a one-touch break—plus, it's super-stylish and comes in 12 different colors. It's a perfect "to-go" stroller for when you don't want to bring your "big" wheels on a trip but do want the luxury of pushing your child around.
Cost: $199 and up.
Is it a suitcase or a scooter? It’s both! For any parent who has ever had to lug their own child’s suitcase because he is just “too tired,” and for any parent who has felt that fear of missing the flight because of the snail’s pace of airport walking: the Zinc Flyte is your new favorite thing. It comes in three sizes: the mini, for ages two to four; the midi for ages four to eight; and the soon-to-be-released maxi; for ages eight and up. The best part? It actually makes travel even more fun for kids! We can actually see this becoming a thing for kids who walk to school each day. Learn more about it here.
Cost: $79.99 and up
SterilStay In-Flight Essentials Kit
You probably know all about all those microscopic yuckies flying alongside you in an airplane, and all we can say is—Ew. But you can make things a little less icky by keeping the surfaces around you clean. These handy little kits include three antibacterial wipes for hands and surfaces (armrests, tray tables, air vents, etc.), a seat pocket/tray table protection bag (to cover the seat-back tray before you eat on it!), and a headrest cover. So toss a few of them in your carry-on bag and hope that all you'll catch is your flight.
Where to buy: amazon.com
Kids FlySafe Safety Harness
You have a special seat for your kiddo in the car, why not extend that to the airplane? The Kids FlySafe Safety Harness keeps young children buckled up safely with the same sort of four-point harness used in baby and toddler car seats. Consequently, it keeps kids from sliding out of their seats during unexpected bumps—and it can help kids feel more secure in the air (which means they may actually sleep on the flight!). Plus, the whole thing weighs less than a pound and fits in your purse when not in use.
Note: The FlySafe works for kids that weight between 22 and 44 lbs. and who are at least 1 year old.
Cost: $74.95 (on the Kids Fly Safe site)
RELAY Kid Phone Alternative
Getting to your gate on time can be stressful enough, let alone worrying about whether your little traveler is going to wander away amid the busy airport crowds. The Relay is a cell phone alternative helps your kids stay in touch should they stray while you're out and about. The stylish, screen-free device works like a walkie-talkie—you just push a button and talk—but it uses cellular and wireless signals, so you don't have to stay within reach of each other to get a signal. It's super-fun (this writer loved it), and kids will love being able to run around while staying in touch. And, no need to worry about clumsy little hands: it was made to be drop-proof, so hand it over to your little one and give them a little bit of freedom.
Cost: $99 for one relay; $149 for two; $199 for three (plus a $6.99 per month cell charge).
Micro Kickboard Lazy Luggage
Want to give your toddler a super-fun way to speed around the airport—without the need for a stroller? Try this nifty invention that makes getting kids to your gate on time way cooler than walking. The Lazy Luggage carry-on (made by the same company that makes Micro scooters) is just like a regular roller suitcase—with one big difference: The top of the case has a built-in seat so your child can hop on and catch a ride whenever you want to get things going. Rolling your tot around like luggage is way easier than you'd think, thanks to the tripod-style swivel (third) wheel that pops out from the back when your child wants to use the seat. There's also an easy place for your child to prop her feet so that she's perfectly balanced, with no dangling limbs, while in motion.
Note: The seat is designed to fit kids from 18 months to 4 years old.
Airplane Busy Boxes
If you're wondering what the heck you're going to do with your small child on a long flight (besides give them an iPad, of course), you might want to stock up on"busy boxes" filled with activities, crafts and games to keep your antsy little travelers busy while they fly. And while you could hit the Dollar Store and make one yourself, we love this one from Etsy that comes filled with individually packaged surprises that will knock off at least two hours of your flying time. The box we sampled came with beads to string, glue-on paper rainbows, Play-Doh and more. If anything, just unwrapping each surprise (this kit used Easter eggs instead of wrapping paper) works to kill time.
Mifold & Hifold Travel Booster Seats
Want to travel with your toddler but NOT your toddler's bulky toddler car seat? The hifold by mifold car seat is here to help. The hifold is a high-back booster seat that folds down small enough to fit in a small carry bag. Not only is it "the most compact, lightweight highback booster ever," it also meets worldwide safety standards and complies with car seat regulations worldwide. The only bad news? It's only available for pre-order and isn't expected to ship until March of 2019.
In the meantime, if you’ve got older kids—at least four years of age and weighing 40 lbs or more—the mifold the Grab-and-Go Booster is still a great option and is available now. It folds up to roughly the size of a paperback novel (not kidding about this at all—it is 10x smaller than the average booster and just as safe) and can tuck right into your suitcase or purse. It’s tested and meets regulatory approval in the U.S., U.K. and most other countries. We like it for those times when the rental car seat fails or you’re just not sure who is picking you up at the airport! Learn more here.
Headphones are essential for any flight, but what are kids to do when their free airplane earbuds keep falling out of—or not fitting into—their tiny ear canals? Try a pair of CozyPhones! These fleece-encased headphones look like wraparound ear muffs and keep the small speakers right on top of your tot's ears without sliding out or falling off—and without getting so loud the music hurts her eardrums. Plus, they're super comfy (kids can fall asleep without that bulky push of plastic headphones), come in a variety of animal-themed designs, and will keep your kids a little warmer on those long chilly flights. And, they come in grown-up versions, too!
Psst: If your kids are fans of Chase and Skye, check out Cozyphone's new Paw Patrol-themed headbands.
JL Childress Spinner Wheelie Deluxe Car Seat Travel Bag
Lugging a traditional toddler car seat through the airport can be a workout—and checking your beloved seat with your luggage leaves it open to scratches, dings and grime from who-knows-what it may encounter in transit. Not with the Spinner Wheelie Deluxe Car Seat Travel Bag, which works as both an easy roller and protective cover for your kid's car seat. You'll glide through airports, train stations and cruise terminals with ease thanks to the bag's unique combination of full padding and 360-degree spinner wheels. And, if you're checking the car seat, the bag will protect your child’s car seat from damage, dirt, moisture and germs. Additional features include a top carry handle and clear ID card pocket.
Note: The Spinner Wheelie was designed to fit almost all brands and styles of convertible car seats, booster seats and infant car seats.
Micro Kickboard Sprite Foldable Scooter
The Sprite foldable scooter isn't exactly an item you'll use on your flight or at the airport, but we included it on this list because it actually fits in your checked luggage and makes getting around town on vacay a total treat for the kids. It weighs only 5.5 lbs and is suitable for ages eight and up (that means you, too, Mom and Dad!). Folding up the scooter is simple: push a few buttons and both the handlebars and the kickboard fold up. And the included carry strap makes it easy to carry when you or your kids are done scooting.
Psst: It's also great if your kids like scootering to school since you can just fold it up and carry it home after drop-off.
—Melissa Heckscher and Amber Guetebier