The Best Toddler Carriers For Travel
These days, babywearing has become so popular that figuring out the best toddler carrier feels almost as important as figuring out which high chair or car seat you want. Add traveling with your toddler to the mix, and you’ve got a whole new set of needs to consider when buying a carrier.
As a former full-time travel family, finding the best toddler carriers for travel was essential to ensuring we had an easeful and tantrum-free time on our trips. When choosing a toddler carrier, there is a multitude of possibilities ranging from wrap carriers, backpack carriers, shoulder carriers, ring slings, and soft structured carriers.
The options are bound to make you a little crazy! After sifting through countless toddler carrier reviews and a lot of personal trial and error, we feel like we’ve finally got a hold of the best child carriers for travel.
Here’s our guide to help you choose the best baby carrier for travel to suit your personal needs. I’ve started with our top picks, plus a short guide to toddler carriers and how to choose one that’s right for you. Feel free to use the table of contents below to go straight to the toddler carrier reviews.
OUR TOP PICKS
Here’s a quick peek to see our top picks for the best toddler carriers for travel.
Types of Toddler Carriers
A baby wrap is the simplest of carriers for toddlers and is most often used for newborns or infants. It is essentially a long piece of fabric that you wrap around yourself and your child. Just because it’s simple in its design, doesn’t mean it’s the easiest! The complexity of tying the wrap can turn some people off. A woven wrap, as opposed to a stretchy wrap, is the safest and best option for a younger, lighter toddler.
Soft Structured Carrier
The most popular type of toddler carrier is the soft structured carrier. It comes with heavily padded shoulder straps and a padded waistband with a soft pouch to support your child. The ergonomic design and adjustable fit generally make them the most comfortable of all the carriers. You can wear the carrier with your child forward-facing or on your back.
Toddler Backpack Carrier
Backpack carriers are the gold standard for hiking trips, but can also be used for long days strolling through the city. Backpack carriers have a framed seat that your child sits in on your back. The build of a quality backpack carrier allows for proper weight distribution, so your body isn’t in agony after a day of walking around.
Shoulder carriers are toddler carriers that allow your toddler to sit on your shoulders safely with the support of a small seat and leg straps to keep them secured (and to stop them from kicking you!). They are great for theme park days or exploring a city. The shoulder carrier is perfect for active toddlers who aren’t content being closely strapped down to you or for toddlers who like to be able to see everything around them.
Baby Carrier Vs. Stroller
Although everyone likes to espouse the virtues of babywearing, choosing between a stroller vs. baby carrier is ultimately about personal preference. If your child does well in a toddler carrier, then using that for your travel needs is going to be the best choice due to carriers being lightweight and easy to pack. For us, our son is an extremely agile, high-energy kid who isn’t content being strapped onto us for too long. Often we needed a stroller as a backup to get us through tight connections in airports or long trips at an amusement park. We always opt to pack both a lightweight umbrella stroller and a toddler baby carrier, which I understand isn’t ideal for most people. Here’s what you should think about when deciding if you want to bring a baby carrier or a stroller.
- Where are you traveling? If you’re traveling to Europe, you’ll probably want to opt for a carrier, so you don’t have to contend with uneven cobblestone streets. If you’re going to Disneyland, a stroller might be more comfortable, so your child can easily hop on and off as needed.
- How many kids are you traveling with? Carriers are ideal for families traveling with multiple kids so you can have your hands free to deal with runaway toddlers and such.
- Lastly, and I think most importantly, how does your child do in a baby stroller vs. a carrier? Every kid is different, and while people would swear up and down to me that babies LOVE baby carriers, my child refused them from the beginning, and it wasn’t until we started doing shoulder carriers that he wouldn’t squirm to get out. So, how does your child do in a toddler carrier? What do they prefer? It took a lot of trying out different baby carriers to find the one that ultimately worked for our son.
If you don’t know what they prefer, I suggest you make use of a store like Amazon that has a generous return policy so you can test out what works best.
Benefits of Using a Toddler Carrier For Travel
- Lightweight and a space saver – Toddler baby carriers can be easily worn through the airport or can be stuffed into a suitcase for when you don’t need them.
- Handsfree – The benefit of being handsfree is gold when rushing through the airport with luggage, navigating more than one child, or just plain old saving your arms from having to carry a toddler around all day.
- Easy to wash– Most carriers are machine washable so you can easily clean them when you’re back from your travels. Traveling through subways, airports, and populated hotels ensure your carrier is going to get dirty. The ease of washing it and knowing it will be germ-free when you get home is a definite perk.
- A place to fall asleep – If your child easily falls asleep in a carrier, it can be a great way to navigate sightseeing while still getting a power nap in.
- Nursing on the go – If you are still nursing your toddler, most carriers are built so that mom can nurse while still wearing the carrier.
Traveling with kids? Check out our guides
Choosing the Best Toddler Carrier
When deciding on the best baby carrier for toddlers, there are a few key things to consider.
- Comfort– You’ll want a carrier that has a breathable material like 100% cotton or mesh. In addition, for the soft structured carriers, you’ll want one that offers extra-thick padding in the shoulders and waist.
- Hip Healthy Design – Look for a carrier that holds your child in a way that is optimized for keeping their hip joints healthy. You want to look for something that puts their legs in a frog-like or m shape position. Most high-quality carriers are built with the health of your child’s body in mind.
- Size Limitations– You’ll want to check the size limits for each carrier to ensure it can fit the size and weight of your child.
- Machine Washable – Toddlers are messy beings. You’ll want a carrier that’s easy to wash and ideally machine washable.
- Lightweight – The less you can carry while traveling the better, so you’ll want a carrier that isn’t a burden to have on you when you don’t have your child in it.
- Price Point – Most high quality baby carriers are going to range from $100-$200. You can get cheaper versions, but often at the sacrifice of comfort and support. Considering that you can use a carrier for 3-4 years, it’s a worthwhile investment to get one that’s well made.
- Uses for the carrier – Consider what kind of travels you will be doing and how you will be using the carrier. If you’re an adventure family doing long hikes or long days sightseeing, a soft structured carrier can’t hold up to the build and frame of a shoulder or backpack carrier. If you’re lazing around the beach and doing short excursions, a large framed backpack carrier might be overkill.
- Expectations – Baby carriers are fantastic tools to help free up your arms and distribute the weight in a more supportive way, but no carrier can erase the fact that you’re holding 20-40 pounds of squiggly weight.
Best Soft Carriers For Travel
Ergobaby Carrier 360
Best all-around carrier. Great for hot weather vacations and for someone wanting versatility in wearing options.
The Ergobaby toddler carrier is a popular choice that remains a staple amongst the toddler wearing crowd. I think the Ergobaby 360 Carrier is superior to the original Ergobaby, because of its cool air mesh design that allows for the child to be more comfortable and subsequently the parent. It can be worn with your toddler facing in, facing out, piggyback, and in a hip carry. Its range of positions means you can easily find the fit that will work best for your toddler. The mesh lining feels particularly helpful for travel days in warm climates where overheating is a factor. There’s also a tuckaway SPF 50 hood that you can use to cover their face when it’s too bright. The extra padded shoulders and waistband ensure the most comfort for long day outings.
It’s a great all around carrier that can be used at home and on your travels.
- Carry Positions: hip, back, front facing in, front facing out
- Extra wide waistband and padded shoulder straps
- UPF 50+ tuck away hood for sun and wind protection
- Holds 12-33 pounds
- Toddler is held in natural M position
- Machine washable
Pros: Mesh design allows for maximum airflow, offers a variety of carrying positions
Cons: If traveling somewhere cold, you might want a more insulating material than mesh.
*Another option is the Lillebaby Carry On Airflow. We chose the Ergo rather than the Lillebaby since it’s more affordable, but the Lillebaby is great for bigger toddlers.
Tula Ergonomic Toddler Carrier
Best for parents who have bigger toddlers and for those who want a selection of cute pattern choices.
The Tula Ergonomic Toddler Carrier is a popular baby carrier brand that wins for being the cutest looking carrier. It may seem silly to those who want a carrier for utilitarian purposes only, but for someone who wants to look and feel good in their carrier, the Tula Toddler is the one for you! They offer a variety of prints, and personally, I couldn’t pass up on the carrier with a navigation exploring theme. It’s 100% cotton, so it offers breathability for long days out and is a decent option for short hikes.
If you live or are traveling to a cooler climate, the Tula Toddler Carrier will offer more warmth than the Ergo Carrier.
The toddler version of the Tula Carrier is designed specifically for the toddler age range. The toddler Tula weight limit starts at 25 pounds and goes all the way up to 60 pounds. The higher-weight capabilities make it superior to the Ergo Baby Carrier for anyone who has a larger toddler.
- Carry Positions: Back, front-facing in
- Holds 25-60 pounds
- Toddler is held in the natural M position
- 100 % Cotton
- Carrier weighs 1.5 pounds
- Extra thick padding on shoulders and waistband
- Machine washable
Pros: A wide variety of cute patterns, better for bigger toddlers.
Cons: No forward-facing option.
*If you love the Tula and want the option to forward face your baby, you can get the Tula Explore which offers that option.
Best Shoulder Carrier for Toddlers
Best toddler carrier for sightseeing, theme parks, short hikes, and for kids who like to see everything around them.
The Minimeis is a fantastic addition to the different toddler carriers out there. Time magazine agrees and listed it as one of the best new inventions. This is the toddler carrier we use the most simply because our son is the happiest in a shoulder carrier. We have a high-energy kid who wants to see everything that is going on around him. Of all the different types of carriers, the shoulder carrier offers the most unobstructed view for the child. If you have a child that wiggles around in a soft structured carrier and is always trying to see what’s going on, a shoulder carrier could be the best option for you. Our son loved being in the carrier and would gleefully look around while being toted on his dad’s shoulders. He also liked the added bonus that he could play with his dad’s ears.
What I love about the Minimeis, is that anyone who has tried to hold their child on the shoulders knows that it gets uncomfortable (and dangerous) once they start to move around and shift their weight. The Minimeis keeps them in place and offers the child great back support. There are also ankle straps to keep them secure and to stop them from kicking you. It’s also more comfortable for the parent, since the Minimeis is structured in a way that the brunt of your child’s weight is evenly distributed through your body making it easier for you to carry all that extra toddler weight.
I also like that you have the option to buy a matching backpack that can hold the carrier when you’re not using it or be worn with the shoulder carrier. The carrier folds like a laptop and can be stored in the backpack making it fantastic for air travel or road trips.
Generally speaking, shoulder carriers are going to be best for someone who is strong-bodied. While my 5’2″ frame can hike in it for an hour tops, my husband can go much longer than me. Most shoulder carriers are marketed solely towards dads for that reason. Of course, it goes without saying that a woman can comfortably use the carrier as well, but whoever is wearing it will need to be strong to wear it for a long period of time.
- Carrier weighs 2.2 pounds
- Holds up to 48 pounds
- Optional add ons like a sunshade, backpack, and pouch
- Spot clean
Pros: Detachable backpack, comfortable and fun for the kid, superior structural design, fun additions, great for short stints.
Cons: Ideal for strong-bodied people.
Best Backpack Carrier for Toddlers
Deuter Kid Comfort Pro
Best toddler hiking backpack for someone who is looking to invest in the highest quality and will use it a lot.
The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is the premium choice when looking for a hiking backpack to carry toddlers. The carrier is designed for maximum ventilation so you can use it for long periods without overheating. It also comes with a lot of nice add ons like a mirror so you can see your child behind you, a detachable day bag, sunroof, and a soft pillow to allow for naps. Details are always lovely, but ultimately, what you need is a carrier that won’t leave you feeling like you need a chiropractor and a massage afterward. The Deuter Kid Comfort Pro delivers with its lightweight design and proper weight distribution. The backpack carrier is big and doesn’t fold up to a compact size, so it would need to be gate checked if taking it on to an airplane. The high price point may turn some off to the carrier, but for anyone who enjoys hiking and wants a quality carrier, the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro is a great investment.
- Holds 16 to 48 pounds
- Carrier weighs 8 pounds 4 ounces
- Fits torso lengths: 15-21″
- Comes with a detachable day bag
- Comes with sunshade
- Spot clean
Pros: Great ventilation system, superior comfort, nice add ons, good storage space, best for long hikes
Cons: High price point, doesn’t fold up to a compact size.
*If you love the Deuter Kid Comfort Pro, but the price point is too high, the Luvdbaby Premium Baby Backpack Carrier is a great highly rated option as well.
Best Toddler Carrier For Water Days
Waterland Baby Carrier
Best lightweight toddler carrier for a trip that will include a lot of time spent at pools or at the beach.
The Waterland Baby Carrier is the lightest carrier in the bunch, weighing in less than a pound. Its neoprene material makes it not only lightweight but crushable. The wetsuit material makes it the perfect choice for hanging out at the pool or the beach and for introducing your little one to the water.
It can be stuffed into a backpack or suitcase, making it great for travel. Its quick-dry material means you can hang it up over a chair, and it will be dry in no time. I like that it comes in an array of bright colors and with a convenient carrying pouch.
Since it’s not as padded or structured, it’s not ideal for long days exploring a city but for casual walking on the beach.
- Carry Positions: front facing out, front facing in, hip
- Holds 3-25 pounds
- Toddler is held in a natural M Position
- Hand wash
- Neoprene material
- Carrier weighs less than a pound.
Pros: Lower price than standard carriers. Lightweight, easy to travel with, can get wet, quick-dry material
Cons: Not built for long outings.
Best Toddler Wrap
Hip Baby Wrap
Best for someone who is already used to wrapping their baby and wants something easy to pack.
The Hip Baby Wrap is a great woven toddler wrap carrier that you can use from the newborn phase to toddlerhood. It’s 100% cotton, allowing for breathability and comfort. The woven quality of the wrap gives it extra support for animated toddlers. In all honesty, there isn’t much difference in the basic structure of the various woven baby wraps you can choose from. I mostly like the hip baby wrap for its fun colors and pretty design.
If you’ve been wrapping your child since they were a baby, getting this sturdy woven wrap is a fine option for their toddler years. I don’t suggest trying out a woven wrap for your toddler while traveling if it’s your first time using a wrap. There is absolutely a learning curve and you don’t want to be spending time in your hotel room or in the streets of a foreign city trying to adjust and re-wrap for the best fit.
While many parents swear by wrapping their toddlers, I never found it to be a good option for my child. He would move around too much and would fight against the wrapping. Ultimately, I would only suggest a woven wrap for a smaller toddler who is used to being carried with a wrap.
Pros: Most affordable, lightweight, easy to pack.
Cons: There can be quite a learning curve, not enough support for bigger toddlers, not great for warm weather destinations.
Have any questions about finding the best toddler carriers for travel? Drop a comment below and we’ll be happy to help steer you to the right place. Happy travels!
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