We’re only a week into the official start of summer but vacation plans are already heating up thanks to less restrictions and increased access to sunny spots near and far. Whether you’re heading out of the country or just to the beach, travel with your kids needs to be as stress-free as possible to be enjoyable (or, at the very least, bearable until you get to your destination). That means parents need to engage in a little strategic shopping to entertain their fidgety jet-setters for long flights or car rides. To make your transit easier, we’ve rounded up 10 tried-and-true travel essentials to help keep your little ones (and you) in good spirits.

The Car Seat You Can Actually Carry

black car seat
Pico Portable Car Seat, Wayb ($380)
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If lugging your everyday car seat through airport security with your kid in tow sounds like a marathon event, that’s because it is. (Trust us, we’ve had the soaked shirts to prove it.) For your next journey, skip the sweat with the Pico, a portable car seat that weighs only 8 pounds—we’re betting it’s lighter than your carry-on—and folds up small enough to wear like a backpack when paired with its dedicated travel bag. At $380, it’s a bit of an investment, but the Pico is both plane- and car approved and breaks even with what you’d pay in car seat rentals after just two or three trips. 

The Suitcase-Turned-Seat

baby blue roller suitcase
JetKids BedBox, Stokke ($199)
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We always feel a tinge of jealousy every time we pass by those fully reclined passengers in business class on the way to our economy seats. But our children can have a similar experience with the JetKids BedBox. The ride-on suitcase makes it easy to maneuver little ones through the airport, then transforms into an extension of your child’s seat once you’re on the plane, enabling them to nap lying down instead of contorting themselves into uncomfortable positions. Our only wish is that they made one for adults!


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The Oversize Card Deck

go fish card deck with whale illustration
Go Fish: A 3-in-1 Card Deck by Oliver Jeffers, Amazon ($13)
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A deck of cards can provide hours of entertainment without all the bells and whistles that drive neighboring passengers crazy. (It also takes up very little room in your carry-on, so you can keep loading up on snacks before boarding.) We especially love this pack adorned with art from the best-selling picture book Stuck, by one of our favorite children’s book authors, Oliver Jeffers.

The On-the-Go Pool

caramel leopard-print inflatable pool
Leonore Inflatable Pool in Caramel, Smallable ($48)
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A summer must-have that should be a travel essential, an inflatable pool will be the MVP of your vacation, allowing for endless hours of entertainment at the beach, the park, or even the patio of your Airbnb. But don’t settle for a garish drugstore find. Liewood’s Leonore inflatable pool is the stuff of Instagram gold and—best of all—it will fold down to the size of your jeans, so it’s a packing no-brainer.

The Tricked-Out Wagon

packable blue and black kids wagon
The Wagon, Joey ($689)
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A stroller is usually the transportation mode of choice, but don’t underestimate the value of a wagon. It lets riders sit face-to-face, which allows for more interaction between siblings or friends, and gives them 360-degree views so they don’t feel so confined. If you have only one child, the extra room is great for bags, groceries, toys, or the family dog. Joey’s version features a car seat adapter, a cup holder, a removable mattress pad for nap time, and a retractable canopy, which are all sold separately so you can customize your build to your needs.

The Toy Corraler

panda-shaped activity bag opened up
Lulyboo Travel Activity Tray and Backpack in Panda, Amazon ($45)
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Those fold-up tray tables on airplanes are often too small to be useful—just ask any parent who has had to reach down approximately 135,823 times to pick up loose Lego pieces off the floor. Lulyboo’s activity tray ensures everything stays corralled in one place, with multiple pockets to keep markers and toys organized and zip-up edges that make for easy cleanup and prevent teeny items from falling into the void.


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The Foldable Crib

foldable bassinet
Lotus Bassinet Kit & Travel Crib, Guava ($350)
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Figuring out sleeping arrangements can be tricky while on vacation, but safe snoozing should always be a priority. A portable travel crib can help you re-create your child’s bedtime routine on the road so that everyone can rest comfortably. Whether you need a crib or a smaller bassinet, this kit is easy to assemble and can be folded up into an airport-friendly backpack. Just note that only one (either the bassinet or crib) can fit into the backpack, not both. 

The Snack Organizers

trio of pouches in green, pale blue, and brown
Go Pouch Set in Fountain, Baggu ($39)
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It’s our belief that bags within bags is the only way to travel. Similar to using packing cubes for your clothes, pouches just keep everything from cables to snacks to first-aid kits organized and ready to grab. We stand by these Go Pouch sets because they’re durable and hold up in the wash. And Baggu is known for its punchy colors and vibrant prints, which helps to distinguish the bags from one another in touch-and-go situations.

The Headphones That Stay on Little Ears

headband speakers with green frog theme
CozyPhones in Green Froggy, Amazon ($18)
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You’ve brought out the iPad for the last leg of the trip, but your tyke’s headband keeps slipping and now they don’t want to wear it anymore. Stop endlessly readjusting and try CozyPhones’s audio headband, which slips on without the bulky cushioned cups and plastic gear. The piece is specifically designed to protect little ears, so the speakers only go up to 90 decibels to prevent hearing damage.

The Mini Suitcase

color-blocked green, navy, and orange suitcase
Mini Logan Suitcase, State ($185)
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Experts agree: School-age kids should take responsibility for their own travel items with a suitcase sized specifically for them. We love State Bags for its backpacks and lunch boxes, so we knew its mini Logan suitcase wouldn’t let us down. The 360-degree spinner wheels enable easy maneuvering, while the exterior front pocket lets you organize pens and notebooks in a snap. Inside, the interior compartment is equipped with a strap to hold everything in place; the other side can be fully zipped to keep things separate and condensed. And the fun colors and patterns make it easy to spot on the carousel if you decide to check it. 


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