Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Top kid travel gear: Ergo baby carrier

Over the years, we've found -- and continue to find! -- plenty of gear that makes traveling with kids infinitely easier. Top travel gear, for sure.

One item that tops this list is our Ergo baby carrier. Really, the Ergo isn't just travel gear; it is possibly our most-used piece of baby gear in our three and a half years as parents. Well, the crib has probably gotten more use, but the Ergo is a close second.

We purchased it when Littles was 3 months old. (If you want to use the Ergo with a newborn, you can purchase an optional infant insert, but I found it easier with both kids to use an alternative carrier, such as a Moby Wrap, until they were big enough for the Ergo on its own.) Here she is during her first trip with the Ergo, October 2007 (3.5 months old), in Playa del Carmen, outside of Cancun, Mexico:

We still use it with her today. This was taken on our trip to Colorado last October, 3 years almost to the day after the picture above:


Why are baby carriers so great for traveling? They allow you to safely contain your baby (or toddler, or preschooler...) while keeping your hands free. So you can tote luggage around the airport or grab a quick bite to eat without having to shuffle your baby from hip to hip, or chase after your toddler.

They're a lot smaller than a stroller, so you can travel light. They also go where strollers can't. Such as down -- and up! -- all 328 steps at Uncle Tom's Trail, on the south rim of the Yellowstone River (September 2008, 15 months old):

Uncle Tom's Trail

Or on the beach in Newport Beach, California (April 2008, 10 months old):

Or through the amazing Ancestral Pueblo ruins at Bandelier National Monument (January 2009, 19 months old):

2009-01-22 New Mexico 156

We love to get out and be active during our travels, so the ability to go anywhere our feet can take us is really important.

A baby carrier can also work as a nice spot for a nap :) This was on the same visit to Bandelier National Monument:

2009-01-22 New Mexico 177

I've even used it to "rock" Littles to sleep at night when we're on the road and don't have access to our usual glider!

We love our Ergo, but there are tons of other great baby carriers out there. Here's Noob on our trip to Colorado last October (8 months old) in a mei tai from Wallypop:


I have friends who have used various Beco carriers, Babyhawks, etc. and swear by them as much as we swear by the Ergo. They all share a variety of features that make for a good baby carrier (for traveling or for around town!):

  • The ability to wear your child on both your front and your back. I like having my kids on the front when they are small, but around 15-20 lbs, they start getting pretty heavy to wear on the front. That's when it's handy to be able to pop them onto your back.
  • A high weight limit. Even at age 3, it's still very handy being able to carry Littles. The Ergo has been tested up to 90 lbs! I think our backs will give out before the Ergo does :)
  • Straps that distribute the weight across your hips as well as your shoulders/back. If you're going to be wearing your baby for hours while wandering the airport, hiking, etc., you want even weight distribution! (Many popular carriers, such as the original Baby Bjorn, put all the weight on your shoulders/back.)
  • No bulky metal frame. We (gasp!) forgot the Ergo on a trip to Banff National Park just before Littles' second birthday and ended up renting a metal-framed backpack for hiking. We found that it was no more comfortable than the Ergo, and a whole lot bulkier. When traveling with kids, we look to cut down on bulk whenever possible!
  • Something that Hubby won't mind using, either. I actually have a couple of different baby carriers that I use in addition to the Ergo, such as the mei tai pictured above, but Hubby says they're too "girly" :). He doesn't mind the Ergo, though, so it's nice being able to switch off!
  • Easy to adjust for different shapes/sizes, if you do plan to switch off kid-toting duties with a spouse or other traveling partner.
  • Something that is comfortable for sleeping in. You can see in the picture above of Littles sleeping in the Ergo that it comes with a "sleeping hood," which keeps the baby's head from flopping around as she sleeps. This is especially important when your baby is on your back, since you can't just hold his/her head steady yourself!

Baby carriers seem expensive at first -- I paid over $100 for our Ergo -- but a good one is well worth it, especially for frequent travelers!

Updated pictures!

July 2011: Noob (almost 18 months old) in the Wallypop mei tai on the beach in Panama.


January 2012: Noob (just shy of 2 years old) in the Ergo at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Noob was in the Ergo a lot on this trip. We took public transportation just about everywhere, and the Ergo was way more convenient than a stroller on a crowded subway. Noob is a mama's boy and insisted that I be the one to carry him most of the time, and it was still quite comfortable, even though he was approaching 30 lbs and I was 3 months pregnant!


January 2012: Littles (4.5 years old) in the Ergo on the Great Wall of China. Hey, she got tired, and carrying her in the Ergo was way more comfortable than carrying her in our arms! This is another place where strollers simply cannot go...


Monday, February 7, 2011


When I flew as a kid, I remember my parents milking the pre-boarding for families with "small children" for quite a while :) After all, it sure was nice to be able to get onboard and settled in as soon as possible!

Getting onboard early to stow your stuff is even more important these days, with airline baggage fees encouraging travelers to carry on as much as possible. But many airlines have dropped pre-boarding for families with small children.

Fortunately for us, Hubby and I both have lifetime Gold elite frequent flier status on American Airlines. (Lifetime Gold is given for 1 million miles earned. Unlike many airlines, American counts bonus miles, credit card miles, etc. towards million miler status, so we were able to earn it pretty easily with just a few years of heavy travel -- pre-kids, of course.) One of the benefits of elite status is that we can always pre-board. Gold is the lowest level of status, so we board after first class and the two higher levels of status, but that still allows us to get onboard before most of the other passengers.

Still, we've found that pre-boarding with really small kids isn't always a benefit. Pre-boarding means 20-30 more minutes stuck with a squirmy child in a small seat inside a metal tube. Not. Fun.

So when Hubby and I travel together, we divide and conquer. He pre-boards with most of our stuff. This allows him to secure overhead bin space and get the car seats installed (if necessary). I wait with the kids in the terminal until the very end of boarding. This allows them to burn off a little more energy prior to the flight!

When I fly alone with the kids, I still try to board towards the end of boarding. I don't have a ton of carry-ons when traveling alone, because I physically can't carry that much! So overhead bin space isn't a consideration. I leave enough time to get the car seat installed, but that's about it.

So, if you're flying with small kids and your airline doesn't allow pre-boarding, it's not the end of the world :) Take the opportunity to let them run off a little more energy before you board!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Road trip gear

As you may have gathered from my previous posts, most of our travels with tots involve flying. But we do take the occasional road trip. This past weekend, we went to visit Hubby's best friend, who is about a 4-hour drive away.

Driving is so much easier than flying because you don't have to jam everything into a suitcase. We have a whole set of baby gear that we use when flying (which I'll get around to reviewing here eventually) -- for that stuff, we look for things that are as compact as possible. When driving, we don't have to place such a premium on small size, so we bring along a different set of gear that is less compact but more functional.

Eating: We don't bring anything for Littles. She does fine in a regular seat for a few days. For Noob, we bring a Fisher Price Healthy Care booster seat. This is one of our all-time favorite pieces of baby gear. It's only about $25 and it's super easy to clean (a very important feature of any high chair!). We use it daily with both kids at home -- Noob still uses the harness and the tray, while we've removed the harness for Littles and push her up to the kitchen table instead of using the tray.

So it's a great seat in general, but as a bonus, it also folds up for travel. It's a little big to fit in a suitcase for plane trips (although we have done that in the past!), but it's just perfect for eating out around town and for road trips.

IMG_0035 (2)

Sleeping: Noob sleeps in a pack-n-play. It is way too bulky for plane travel, but works well for road trips. Ours is a very basic Graco model. It cost about $35 on clearance at Babies R Us.


When visiting Hubby's best friend, Littles has typically slept in bed with me. (I sleep in his friend's son's twin bed, while Hubby sleeps on the couch in the living room.) But for this trip, we decided to bring along the nap mat that she uses at preschool. It worked out well! I sewed this myself (details are on my sewing blog), but you can also buy similar nap mats.


Playing: For road trips, we have room for plenty of toys! We usually bring a pretty wide variety for both kids. Hubby's friend also has kids of her own -- they're a little bit older, but Littles, in particular, loves following them around and playing with all of their toys. That means we don't have to worry too much about what we pack for her.

One absolute essential piece of gear for Littles is the DVD player. She'll happily watch DVDs for the entire drive. Noob doesn't do DVDs yet, so he's a lot harder to entertain on long drives. He's not a real fan of the car seat for extended periods of time. On this trip, I found myself counting the days till he's old enough to watch DVDs, too... :)