Maybe the last thing you want to do is lug your giant car seat on the plane if you don’t think you’ll be doing much driving.
Maybe your busy toddler absolutely refuses to ride in a stroller but you know they’ll need a lift from time to time.
If you’d like to avoid buying a second car seat for travel or a specific travel stroller but these are two items you know you might need, here are some LEGAL and SAFE car seat alternatives and stroller alternatives for travel with toddlers and small children.
Car Seat Alternatives for Travel:
If you’ll be doing any amount of driving on your trip at all, you should bring your own car seat. If you’re buying your child under age two a seat on the plane, you’ll need to use one anyway. But if you’re not keen to lug your giant car seat or pick up a second car seat for travel, here are a few car seat alternatives:
If you take a look around the internet, you may come across a number of car seat alternatives that resemble vests or are some kind of crazy harness contraption.
These are not safe and not approved for use anywhere. The only approved non-car seat harness for cars is the Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest. It meets or exceeds US Federal safety regulations, and is “officially” approved for use in most US states.
It can be used via “prescription” in Canada for children with special needs, and is a safer choice for taxi rides anywhere considering you don’t legally need to use anything in most cities.
The Ride Safer Delight Travel Vest is to be used for children age three and older. The small size fits children 30-60lbs and 35-50 inches and the large size fits children 50-80lbs and 45-57 inches.
If you won’t be doing any driving in a car at your destination but you are (wisely) concerned about keeping your baby or toddler safe on the plane, the Cares Harness is the ONLY car seat alternative approved for use on an airplane by the FAA.
Once your kids graduate to a booster seat, travel becomes a lot easier… At least when it comes to lugging a long a heavy seat. However, booster seats are not to be used on an airplane. And, even though they are smaller, boosters are still awkward to pack and travel with if you don’t think you’ll be doing a lot of driving.
The BubbleBum inflatable booster seat is truly a travel godsend for parents whose kids are old and big enough to ride safely in a car with a low-back booster (usually starting around age four). It’s fully approved for use in the United States and the U.K., but not in Canada (yet). The BubbleBum booster deflates and folds down into its own carry bag that can easily fit into a backpack.
Stroller Alternatives for Travel:
One of the benefits of travel with a stroller is having a buggy for all of your stuff. And once your child is out of strollers altogether, trust me, you’ll miss them! A wagon is a great stroller alternative for a toddler who hates them but still needs a lift from time to time. However, most wagons are not exactly compact or easy to travel with… Until now! If your airline allows for the gate-checking of regular strollers, they should take a foldable wagon in its folded state.
The WonderFold Wagon Premium Model weighs 28lbs, can carry a capacity of 165lbs, folds and unfolds easily, and is roughly the same size a a double stroller when folded up. It comes with removable canopy that can be stored in a pocket inside the wagon, and you can upgrade to include removable safety seats with a 5-point harness. A mosquito net is also available to keep bugs out (and toys/bottler/sippys/soothers in).
Our little red Radio Flyer wagon was NOT light or easy to travel with, so I have a pretty big tinge of envy for parents these days now that there’s a Radio Flyer Folding Wagon available. This wagon weighs just over 30lbs and has a capacity of 150lbs, seats with seat belts, and a removable UV canopy. It also folds and unfolds with one hand and is fairly compact in its folded state.
I will admit, I wouldn’t trust my kiddos not to take off or scoot away into traffic if we relied on a scooter as a stroller alternative. But some toddlers may be better behaved than mine were and appreciate the freedom. Because I prefer my children bubble-wrapped, I would also suggest packing a helmet if you go this route.
If your little will be scooting around at home anyway, the Mini Micro Deluxe Scooter would be a great investment since the handlebar adjusts to grow with your child and it’s good until they’re 75lbs. The Mini Micro Deluxe Scooter doesn’t fold but the handlebar pops off, so at under 5lbs (and unassembled) it would easily fit into a suitcase. It comes in 11 fun colours!
Image courtesy VOKUL
The VOKUL Mini Kick is super light at 2.5lbs, comes in five great colours, and is good for kids age two and up. The adjustable handle pops on and off easily for easy transport, and it’s good until your child hits 77lbs. The wheels light up on the Mini Kick which is a cool feature to help you keep your eye on your kid.
Over the years, there have been various iterations of the ride-on suitcase. The Trunki was such a cute idea but it never really performed as we’d hoped and the clasps broke almost right away. These stroller alternatives could definitely help you get through the airport, but you may need to think about something else if you’ll be doing a lot of walking throughout your trip.
The ZincFlyte Kids’ Luggage Scooter comes in two sizes, 15″ and 18″ so they are both small enough to fit into the overhead compartment but might be a squeeze if it’s also your kids’ carry-on bag and needs to fit under the seat in front. They’re super cute, though with a few patterns and characters to choose from. The scooter bit folds up and locks when not in use, and the rider weight limit is 44lbs.
The Micro Luggage is actually designed for adults so the weight limit is 220lbs. They say it meets the maximum requirements to fit in the overhead bin but at just over 8lbs is a little heavy for carry-on if your airline has strict weight requirements. The thought of scooting to your gate is pretty fun, though.
If your toddler will still happily ride in a carrier (and you can take their weight) then this post is a bit moot for you. However, if your carrier days are over but your toddler needs a lift from time to time, these items may help you lug them when you need to without being something overly bulky to lug too.
We’ve often resorted to the piggyback ride and my husband is now proficient at shoulder carries as well. But if your back won’t take it while your toddler enjoys the height and the ride, the Piggyback Rider is a cool gadget that your child will enjoy and your back will be grateful for. There’s a harness for the parent and one for the child to wear, and they clip together as a safety. The whole shebang rolls up into bundle the size of a towel, so you can shove it in your daypack and have it just in case.
I’m only half joking by including the Bebamour Baby Toddler Hip Seat. It kind of looks like a bulky fanny pack, which is not necessarily a good thing. But you can actually store stuff in it and maybe it’s small enough that you could keep it in a regular backpack and take it out and use it if you really needed a bit of support carrying your toddler. I would be too vain to wear this but it might work for you 🙂
Toddler Push Trikes
Most families at home use a push trike as a stroller alternative for their toddler, but those are typically used for trips to the park and around the neighbourhood… Not exactly compact or travel-friendly… Until now (maybe).
Ok, ok, I admit I laughed when I first saw this “baby unicycle” but, the more I think about it, the more I believe the Mountain Buggy Uniride could be a pretty decent stroller alternative. Obviously your child would need a helmet, but you’d have a lot more control than you would with a scooter, and I’m pretty sure most kids would find this super fun. A bonus is your arms would get an awesome workout 🙂
Minimum age for this is two and maximum weight is 55lbs. The single tire is air-filled, so I’d probably bring along a small pump and patch kid just in case. The Mountain Buggy Uniride weighs 6.5lbs, and is easy to assemble and take apart. The handle is not telescopic, but can be easily packed in a suitcase. I’m not sure if it could be gate-checked.
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