Sensapolis (Germany) in the southern part of the country is the largest kids indoor playground…
The Best and Most Useful Travel Gifts for Kids and Families
It’s almost time for the holidays! Are you all set with the shopping or are you still looking for gift ideas for kids, or maybe your husband or wife? Sometimes we wrack our minds to try and come up with something that will be used, and for kids, something they won’t just toss aside. Many toys go unused quickly and adds to the clutter.
In this gift guide you’ll find our top picks for travel gifts for families with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, to older kiddos in the 6 to 12 range and a few gifts for teenagers and some gifts for parents as well. You’ll find the best gift for kids at home, while traveling, and gifts they can use any other time as well. And very important, travel gifts that parents need while traveling with the smaller ones.
Parents With Small Children
We need the gear. The good stuff that will make our lives easier when we go through the airport with our kids. The right stroller, travel car seat, what about the plane ride? Ahh! We’ve got you covered.
The Travel Stroller
Here is the dilemma we face sometimes with the stroller. If we have one child and want a good jogging one, but one that is lightweight, we don’t know what to pick. What if we have two kids and we need it to fold well for the plane? What about just one stroller that fits in the overhead compartment of the plane. Here are our recommendations for each situation:
Lightweight stroller (fits in the overhead compartment of a plane!)
For the lightest and most compact stroller on the market, Babyzen Yo-Yo is it. It is super easy to open and close with just one hand, and when folded it is so compact you can put it in the overhead compartment of a plane. It comes with a carry on bag for the plane so you can just toss it over your shoulder after you fold it.
Stroller For Two Kids (Or Even Just One)
There is the great debate of a side by side stroller or a tandem stroller. While we find that we love our side by side Bob Stroller for jogging and movement around outside, it isn’t practical for travel. In Europe, door frames are a bit tight, so very few side by side strollers will make it past the door.
We love our Phil and Ted Classic Double Stroller. The all terrain wheels on this are amazing, the bottom basket is huge and has a button to open it to fit more, well, stuff. And if you have a wee little one, the front part also has a buckle where you can lower it to a flat position and let your baby or toddler sleep while you are out and about. If you just need it for the one kiddo, the back seat comes out with a press of a button on easy side. Easy peasy.
The Jogging Stroller
The Bob Revolution Stroller is a beast. It is a multi purpose stroller for jogging, carrying your groceries at the bottom, being tossed around the cargo hold of a plane, and carrying up to 6, yes 6 carry ons. When we moved to Germany many moons ago, we were allowed quite a lot of carry ons, and we stcaked them, one by one, on the Bob. And boy did he do a good job. It is one of the toughest, sturdiest strollers on the market and is all terrain so you’re pretty much set anywhere you go. It’s not the lightest or most compact though, so keep that in mind when traveling.
The Baby Carrier
We have gone through them all. And it’s really a personal preference. We have found a few to be more ergonomic than others and friendlier for your back, shoulders and spine. Our favorites are the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons, Tula FTG and Toddler Tula.
Lillebaby is the absolute best from the time baby is born. Why? Because this is the only carrier I successfully breastfed in, and it was so discreet no one ever noticed on our travels. It has a zip on the front with an extra flap depending on how warm it was. And the hood was great to get my baby to sleep. It has 6 different carrying positions so it’s a good one. Weight range for this one is 7-45 pounds.
We also use the Tula Free To Grow (FTG). This one was our back up carrier that we used quite a bit. You can use the FTG Tula from birth all the way up until 45 pounds, so if you don’t want more than one carrier, this ons is for you. Weight range is 7-45 pounds.
For when those tiny feet start causing a ruckus, the Toddler Tula has been our savior. We found this to be the best for our backs and bodies even on extremely long hikes. Weight range is from 25-60 pounds.
Plane and Car Travel
For a lot of parents there are two big areas of stress on the parents at times: the plane travel portion and the arrival at destination, traveling with your kids in the car portion. Figuring out what you may need isn’t always that easy. Here are some things that we use and have helped us.
Car Seats and Harness
A travel car seat is a must. A lightweight one is even better. We started with the Chicco Keyfit 30 bucket seat for our daughters until they outgrew it. It worked for airline travel as well and we typically had no issue getting the car seat into the airline seat. A lot of moms go straight to a convertible seat as they aren’t always fans of going through two car seats, which is great and a money saver. The major reason we didn’t go this route was the inability to have a handle to carry a convertible car seat when the baby was sleeping, thus the bucket seat, which has carrying handle.
After outgrowing the Chicco, we got a recommendation from an awesome mom to purchase a lightweight travel car seat, the Evenflo Sonus Convertible car seat and have loved it, it’s super lightweight and easy to install.
We also use the CARES Harness from age 2 on the plane. It is simple to use, affordable and FAA approved. A few years ago when we started using it, we noticed some of the European airlines weren’t that familiar, and we had to show them that it was approved for flight. We got pushback on occasion but times have changed and more airline attendants are familiar with it now.
Booster Seats and Restraints
We have also switched over to the Rider Safer Travel Vest (where use is a minimum of 3 years of age and 30 pounds). We highly recommend purchasing one with a tether. We do still pair the travel vest with a backless booster seat or the Bubblebum. Since we travel with the J.L. Childress cushioned car seat travel bag, we are able to fit both the baby’s seat and our older daughter’s booster and vest in it.
We have switched on and off from the Bubblebum, which is super handy and compact, to grabbing the bottom of our Graco backless booster seat (which we use for travel only). We use other car seats for our regular car travels at home.
Backpack Diaper Bag
YOU NEED THIS if you have a baby. It doubles as a travel backpack, if you get the right one. You can find one with hot/cool compartments, places to store your laptop, cell phone, and ones with an unbelievable amount of pockets.
The best way to get organized with all the little ones, packing cubes will change the way you pack. We are minimalist packers, even with a baby in tow. The cubes will keep you organized. These cubes are great as they come in one size, so you are limited in what you bring for each person, or you can get cubes in different sizes as well.
Travel Gifts For Parents
We need things too. Here are some of our favorite things that we love.
GoPro HERO 7 Black
This is our go to camera. It is so easy to use, waterproof, and it has amazing stabilization. That basically means that you could be running or surfing and you aren’t going to get that wobbly movement, but instead a pretty smooth movie like feel to it. You can use it for so much: underwater, snorkeling, bike rides, running through a forest, or just going through a city, the GoPro HERO 7 Black is tiny, and you can strap it to your wrist or mount it on your bicycle or even around your head as you go underwater.
Gifts for Babies
Babies are fairly easy travelers for the most part. Up until about the age of 12 months, they mostly sleep, eat and play and start the cycle all over again. Babies don’t need very much, but moms and dads certainly do. Here are some ideas on what a baby might want on a long plane or car ride.
Our little teething babies sure drool a lot when they are getting those teeth in. I always had a silicone teething necklace handy. When I wore it around me neck or just gave it to one of my daughters, they would love it. I think it was also the texture of it they liked.
This sensory teether was the very first gift my husband brought to the hospital for our newborn. At the time we knew nothing and of course she couldn’t even hold it, BUT when she got older she had some fun with it, mostly chewing on it and it lasts for a while as a good teether.
We also like this Baby Einstein musical toy and it seemed to keep both girls fairly happy on long car rides. The only downside is this toy can get a bit annoying for the parents if they leave it on and just keep pressing the buttons. But the babies are happy!
This spin toy has always been a hit. It has a suction at the bottom so you can tick it to a tray table, it spins and inside there are beads that spin along with it so it;s fun to watch.
The joy a baby gets out of making funny faces and sounds with hand and finger puppets is funny. You can really get into character with some of these and babies (and toddlers) love it! Super lightweight and easy to pack.
Gifts For Toddlers
Toddlers are busy bees. Always on the move and sometimes wrecking a bit havoc. A few things have helped keep our two happy and busy on our travels. We do always pack crayons and notepads, regardless of the age.
The busy buckle is the real winner in our family. This toy has seen a few countries, that’s for sure. The tiny little hands grasping at the buckles and trying to push and click them together leads to quite a lot of busy time.
I admit that my little one has tried to suck the water out of the brush end, and succeeded. BUT, she grew out of that (for the most part) and has a lot of fun scribbling over the pictures and giggle as the colors change. Water Wow is a good way to keep her busy and her sister likes it too.
These are always fun for toddlers. Especially if you get puffy stickers. They like to press on them for some reason and it’s great fun for them. You can even use them to make little scenes with your kiddos in a notebook.
Window Cling Stickers
These Melissa and Doug Reusable Stickers are the ones you want to take if you get a window seat. Kids love sticking these to the windows. And they are reusable, and fit nicely in a small backpack.
Backpack or Rolling Case
Toddlers are capable of carrying around a little backpack or a small suitcase they can pull. For backpacks, ensure it is not too heavy and has a chest clip. These are the two we use as they are both lightweight enough to pick up at the airport if necessary. A Jack Wolfskin Rucksack and a Skip Hop Luggage with Wheels. CLICK on the image to see the reviews on Amazon.
Gifts For Preschoolers and Gifts For Kindergarteners
As kids get older, their interests change a bit and sometimes you need something a bit more for them to do. Whether it’s finally taking their own backpack or carry on or taking some pictures, they love feeling as if they are helping.
Backpack or Roll Suitcase
We love the backpacks, but our little one loves a rolling suitcase, so we’ve used both. Fill it with things they would like to do. Crayons, blank papers, snacks and a few toys.
For the backpack, find one with a chest clip if you can, it makes it so much easier for them to carry it without it slipping off their shoulders. This is the age where we have gone through backpacks that were picked more so for the looks than practicality. We have some sequined bags, an Osprey and a Frozen bag. This Trunki is also a super popular choice among kids in this age group.
This is another deviation from the roll case, but luggage scooters are fun because the bag turns into a scooter. Kids loooove to use this in airports. And there are also so many options to choose from.
Waterproof Kids Camera
For our then preschooler and our now little one, we loved the Vtech Zoom Camera. It has the ability to take pictures, and play some very simple games. You can flip the camera lens around so you can technically have your little one take a selfie, win for us.
For our older daughter we bought her a more durable camera that isn’t for play anymore but one where she can actually take pictures. The Fujifilm XP is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and pretty much kid proof.
We always have crayons and paper. On every flight. This is a winner because it can keep the kiddos busy for a while. Younger ones can scribble, older kiddos can draw and write as they please.
Sticker sets where kids can put together entire scenes has always been fun once the kiddos get older. The Melissa and Doug reusable stickers are great fun. Only downside is that depending on which ones you get, they are pretty big so you won’t necessarily be able to put it in the kids bags. I have managed to fold it down a bit and put it in my own backpack or roll on suitcase.
I’m not that big on using tablets, however it’s almost necessary especially when traveling you might be traveling alone (which I do quite a bit) AND one of the kiddos needs to be occupied while you tend to the other one. We’ve switched off between two. A Kindle Fire Kids and an iPAD. We have used both for different reasons and both have worked equally well.
These are best for about ages 4 and up. The numerous times that we said, hey look at that and half the time my daughter had no idea what to look at. Well, bring on the binoculars. They are small enough to fit into a backpack and they work so well for nature or even just out in a city. Kids can whip them out and zoom in on things, it seems to be a big hit with kids around this age. You can get budget friendly binoculars or more sturdy ones. We prefer quality items so we have purchased more pricey binoculars since we know they will be used for a long time. Here are a few options:
Too many headphones to pick from. But we have our favorites. Cozy phones is our preferred brand. They are easy to travel with and barely take up and space since the wires are all in the band and it fits perfectly around the head. They can typically be used from around age 2 or 3. We have also tried our hand at JLab wired headphones. They also have a bluetooth version.
We travel everywhere with our reusable Hydroflask water bottles. It’s a must. Both girls have their own kids sizes in their preferred colors. You can drop it from the top of the stairs as you’re getting off the plane (whoops) and it will get dinged but survive.
We have teenagers in the family so asking them what they would prefer when they travel was easier than I thought. We are getting together requests from traveling teens and will be posting some fantastic gift ideas for teens very soon!