Find the best baby carriers for travel with kids of all ages. From snuggly wraps to adjustable soft carriers to sturdy hiking packs, you’re covered for your next adventure!
Have you been wondering what the heck is the difference between a soft structured carrier and a framed hiking pack? Ever heard of a Mei Tai or a ring sling? Curious which carriers are best for newborn and which are ideal for older toddlers?
And which is ideal for your baby, your own body, and your style of adventure. Maybe there are a couple of carriers on your radar that we can help narrow down for you.
We’ll share the best baby carriers for travel of all sorts, carriers that are worth the splurge, and top budget buys as well. If you’re just starting out, we’ll also break down six different styles of baby carriers so you can start from scratch!
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Why Babywear While Traveling
Before we get into the various styles of baby carriers or the best baby carriers for travel… why even babywear on vacation!? Let’s take a look at the reasons why baby wearing is great for travel and why a good carrier is one of my top baby travel essentials:
Airports and Airplanes
- If you’re checking your stroller you can still keep baby stationary at the airport.
- You’ll be hands free to check luggage, get it through security, and load it on the plane.
- TSA will almost always allow you to walk through security with baby still strapped to you – no more begging your toddler to stand still!
- Babies nap great in their carriers, including on the flight (though you have to unstrap for taxi, take-off, and landing!
- You can skip your stroller altogether if you wish.
- You don’t have to worry about stroller accessibility, like in old cities like Rome, major cities like New York, or river cities like San Antonio.
- Take subways and trains without worrying about getting the stroller on board.
- Museums and attractions are a breeze.
- Baby can nap when needed and you can enjoy your trip.
- No need to store a stroller at a restaurant, plus the carrier can be used right at the table if needed.
Choosing the Right Carrier For You
There are a couple of things to consider when choosing the right carrier for your next vacation or adventure, especially if you’re looking long-term. You don’t want to just pick anything from any best baby carriers for travel list, you want to consider your comfort, activity level, your baby’s needs, and more!
Size and Age of the Child
The most important thing to consider is your baby’s size, weight, and age. A six week old cannot fit the same carrier (at least the same way) as a six month old. A small baby and a toddler have different needs as well.
We’ll cover specs below, but for smaller babies especially, knowing which carrier is right for which baby comes down to safety. Newborns need hip, neck, and head support. Older babies need a proper fit. And toddlers need to fit within weight restrictions. Always make sure the carrier you like is appropriate for your child’s size and ability.
Are you tall or short? Will the carrier be used by you, or will you share it with your broad shouldered spouse? How long is your torso? Do you have achy shoulders or a bad back? These are all comfort considerations when searching for the right carrier for your adventure family.
I always recommend trying on a carrier if you can. Baby wearing groups often run round tables for this, or you can head to your local baby store and see what’s available. For hiking carriers, definitely get properly fitted at an outdoor retailer, like an REI.
Type of Adventure or Vacation
What types of activities will you be doing with your carrier? If you’re a hiker, your needs will be quite different than someone wanting to explore a couple of cities on a road trip.
You’ll also want to think about whether you simply want baby nestled close or if you want them looking out at the world during your fun family adventures.
Weather can absolutely be a consideration, especially if you plan to be outdoors frequently in wet or snowy weather. You don’t want to be stuck hiking in the rainy Northwest in a stretchy cotton wrap.
The Best Baby Carriers for Travel
A wrap is a long piece of fabric that you stretch and wrap to nestle your baby on your chest. Ideal for a newborn or younger baby, they provides ample head support and are super comfy for both mama and baby – my kids always loved being nestled close in their cuddly but stretchy wrap. It also adjusts easy as you’re wearing it / it begins to stretch.
Wrap carriers are ideal for staying hands free or bringing baby on leisurely walks in the early months. They are a great option for major cities where you’d want to avoid using a stroller. My older son loved being carted around New York City in his Moby wrap until about nine months.
Typically made of cotton, wraps are comfortable, but not ideal for long hikes and strenuous exercise. You don’t want to be sweating in one of these, plus the extra moisture will make adjusting the carrier as it stretches out difficult. Depending on the weather near you, wrap carriers can run warm; make sure to choose a lightweight one if you live somewhere hot!
Here are a few top choices for wrap carriers:
Suitable for babies 8 pounds and up, the MOBY distributes weight across around the back and shoulders. Though it can be used up to 30 pounds, I find it most suitable from birth until around 9 months. The material is thick and sturdy, but very comfortable. Shop now.
The Baby K’Tan Breeze is designed for babies 8 – 35 pounds, but, like other wraps, is most comfortable for younger babies. The K’Tan differs from others in its structure; simply order your size and fit the cross wrap around you without adjusting or tying it off! It’s basically fool-proof. The K’Tan Breeze is mesh and is more breathable than others if you live in or are traveling to a warmer climate. Shop now.
A ring sling is a long piece of fabric that is fitted as a carrier using two metal rings. The cloth is fed through the rings to create a “seat” or “pouch” for your baby. Instead of distributing the weight across the back and shoulders, the fabric is worn around the torso and one shoulder as baby sits off to one side.
Ring slings are easy to get on and off, and to adjust on the go, since the rings are easily accessible. Because they’re typically made of linen, they’re the most breathable, as well, making it one of the best baby carriers for travel (or living) in hot weather. This is especially important for newborns, since they cannot regulate their body temperature. Lastly, breastfeeding in a ring sling is much easier than in other carriers
Here are a few top choices for ring sling carriers:
Lillebaby is one of the most popular child carrier brands, and their ring sling is no exception. Made from quality linen, the wrap is comfortable and breathable, yet easy to adjust. It should fit a newborn through a toddler. Though it’s great all year long, I especially loved using this ring sling for summer walks or at the beach. A removable zipper pouch makes carrying a few essentials a breeze, too. Shop now.
Wild Bird entered the market a few years ago with their hand sewn linen ring slings. Not only are they made by a team of Utah based seamstresses and mamas (so you know your money is going to support other moms), they come in the most gorgeous neutral inspired colors and patterns. If you’re looking to accessorize your instagram game, or simply own a gorgeous sling, this is it. Shop now.
Meh Dai (or Mei Tai)
Meh Dai carriers are one of the most simple to use. With a large panel and long sashes that are woven and tied around the parents body. It’s quite simple to tie the bottom sash around your waist, then fit the panel and top sashes to a child any size from newborn to toddler. With very little practice, they’re the easiest carrier to master.
They make for some of the best baby carriers for travel with multiple kids, too, because they are easy to adjust. In just a minute, I can swap out my baby for my toddler without doing anything other than re-tying the top sashes. You can front or back carry in a Meh Dai, as well.
Here are a few top choices for Meh Dai Carriers:
I used and loved my Infantino Sash Wrap for over three years with two children. It’s by far the easiest carrier to adjust and it served us very well on moderate hikes, long walks, and to traverse major cities, like New York, via public transportation. At its low price point, it’s an unbeatable carrier for the money. Shop now.
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers are exactly how they sound: carriers that are soft and comfortable, but still provide structure. An ergonomically designed panel will secure baby to your body using a couple of straps and buckles that are fully adjustable.
Soft structured carriers (SSCs) are some of the most popular and best baby carriers for travel because most can be worm on your front, facing out, or on your back. if baby wants to enjoy the scenery facing out is a must!
I have also hiked up to six miles in a soft structured carrier, though I think for mileage that long a framed carrier would be better (we’ll discuss those below). That said, SSCs are a great option for travel if you don’t want to pack a bulky hiking pack. They can easily transition from airplane to hiking trail without additional equiptment.
Here are a few top choices for soft structured carriers:
Líllébaby’s Complete Airflow carrier can be worn in six positions and a zip down front reveals mesh paneling to regulate your child’s temperature. These features make it ideal for warmer climates and even hikes. Shop now.
A versatile, breathable carrier, the 360 can be worn in all carry positions and is suitable for children 7 to 45 pounds. This makes it an ideal carrier for both babies and toddlers. Shop now.
Appropriate from 12 to 40 pounds, the Infantino Cuddle Up Carrier is a great SSC at a much lower price point. I purchased it after forgetting my Meh Dai on a trip and have used it almost daily since. Know, though, that it cannot be used facing out (baby must be front facing on on your back). Shop now.
Framed Hiking Packs
Adventurers won’t deny that hiking packs are absolutely the best baby carriers for travel. If your family trips look something like ours – outdoors, on the trails – you absolutely want to invest in a framed hiking pack.
There’s no denying that they are costly; but framed hiking packs are in a class of their own when it comes to carriers. They’re typically made of a durable aluminum frame and a nylon seat that’s completely adjustable to fit baby. Most hiking carriers can be used from six months through the toddler years.
Unlike soft carriers or wraps, hiking packs are fitted to disperse 80 percent of your packed weight in your legs (like a traditional hiking pack). This takes pressure of your shoulders and back, while allowing for more elevation and mileage. Baby sits up a bit higher than with other carriers in order to enjoy the trail views, too! There’s also a ton of built in storage for a water bladder, first aid kit, gear, and even backpacking supplies.
Here are a few top choices for hiking carriers:
One of the most popular kid carriers, the Osprey Poco Plus has a ton of built in storage and is adjustable for children six months (16 lbs.) and up. It has a total weight limit of about 48 pounds (including gear and the pack) and a built in sun shade. We personally use this pack because Osprey is ideal for both slimmer and stocky builds (which is great for my broad shouldered hubby). It’s easy to adjust the torso length, as well, if you’ll be switching out who’s wearing the pack. Shop now.
Deuter is on par with Osprey with regards to quality. With similar specs, there are only minor differences between. Deuter is engineered for slimmer builds; if your hiking party isn’t broad shouldered, Deuter is a top of the line carrier. Unlike the Osprey, the bottom kickstand does not need to be out to use the bottom compartment, as well. Shop now.
There are slightly less expensive versions of both the Osprey Poco Plus and the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro. The Osprey Poco (no plus) and the Deuter Kid Comfort (no pro) both have slightly less storage and a few less features. We opted to purchase the Poco Plus because we hike a lot and plan to use it backpacking with our boys, as well.
There are less expensive carriers on the market but you absolutely get what you pay for and if you’re a seasoned hiker or plan to hike a lot, you’ll want quality and a proper fit. If you want to save money, search second hand. Know, though, that resale on these packs are actually quite good; I’d buy it new myself and resell down the line.
I would expect to see a lot more shoulder carriers hit the market soon after the MiniMeis carrier was named one of Time’s 2019 inventions of the year.
The MiniMeis Shoulder carrier was invented by Norwegian dads who wanted an easy way to explore with their kids safely on their shoulders. It can be used for children six months until about 48 pounds. It has a weight distribution system to keep it comfortable for your shoulders, safety fasteners for your baby, and packs up small, making it convenient for travel.
Though we haven’t personally used one we’ve seen and spoke to others with it, who have all provided positive feedback.
What would you add to our best baby carriers for travel list? Are there any that you’re eyeing?
We’ve obviously used our fair share of various carriers, but I’d love to know what you use, and what you consider worth the price point. For us, the best baby carriers for travel and adventure didn’t have to come with a heft price tag. With the exception of our hiking carrier, we’ve fared very will with inexpensive wraps and soft structured carriers.
Which carriers are you eyeing for your style of adventure? Let us know in the comments.