Having the right gear while you’re on the go with your little one is crucial. This is especially true when it comes to baby carriers, as we learned all too well on our most recent trip to India. With so many products available online, it can feel nearly impossible to pick the right ones.
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What Makes a Good Baby Carrier for Travel?
Before diving into the list of the best baby carriers on the market, we figured it would make sense to explain what exactly sets these carriers apart from all the rest. Since becoming parents, we have traveled through three continents with drastically different accommodations. These experiences have largely influenced our thoughts on what makes a good baby carrier.
One of the most important things to look for in a baby carrier is portability. While a carrier will always be easier to haul around than a stroller, nobody wants to have to actually carry a carrier while they aren’t using it. While you can always push a stroller around whether your child is currently in it or not, wearing a baby carrier while your child is napping or walking around is both uncomfortable and impractical. We like baby carriers that can easily fold or roll up to fit in a backpack without taking up too much space.
Different carriers will take up different amounts of space, clearly. But there is one carrier on this list that really stands out from the rest when it comes to portability without sacrificing on other features.
When we first started traveling with our son as a newborn, weight wasn’t much of a concern. He only weighed about 9 pounds, so whether the carrier weighed one pound or five pounds, the total load was pretty light. However, as he has grown into a toddler and his weight has nearly tripled, having a lightweight baby carrier has become increasingly important.
Will this matter when going for a quick walk or a grocery store trip? Probably not. However, if you plan to spend significant time on your feet, like by hiking or exploring a new city, opting for a lighter carrier will be well worth it in the long run.
We like to invest in high-quality items that will last over time. There is not always a direct correlation between price and durability, but it is true that cheaper products tend to wear out more quickly. The three carriers that we currently have are all built to last, and we have no doubt that they will be the only carriers we need until we are done raising toddlers.
From hikes in the Rocky Mountains to tuk-tuk rides in India and everywhere in between, we are always confident that our carriers will be up for the task. While opting for a cheaper carrier may be tempting, we have experienced first-hand how stressful it can be for an important piece of baby gear to break in the middle of a trip.
The best baby carriers on the market allow you to carry your child in more ways than one. While a nice, inward-facing snuggle is optimal for newborns, most toddlers hate it. Some carriers are designed specifically for newborn babies, some are designed specifically for toddlers, and some are designed to carry your child at every stage from birth to several years old. Our son recently started to love being carried on our backs, which is one of the many different carry positions that our favorite carrier is designed to facilitate.
Last but certainly not least, it is important to find a carrier that is comfortable. Different carriers fit different body types in different ways, but the best travel baby carriers all have adjustable straps that allow you to tailor every measurement to your own body. The adjustable shoulder straps and waist belt on our best carrier make the weight distribution in each of the different positions very manageable, and its breathable fabrics make it an optimal choice in warm climates.
Four Different Carry Positions
There are four main carrying positions to look for when shopping for a baby carrier.
- Inward-facing on the chest (front carry position)
- Outward-facing on the chest
- Inward-facing on the back (backpack carriers),
- Hip carry
Any of these positions can be a great option, depending on your child’s age and your circumstances. Different types of carriers will accommodate up to three of these different positions, but hip carriers tend to function exclusively as hip carriers.
Picking the Right Carry Position for Your Baby
The most important thing is that you always carry your baby in a position that is appropriate for their age and weight. It is especially important to protect newborns and young babies from hip dysplasia, which occurs when they are carried in the wrong position and can very seriously damage a baby’s hips. The owner’s manual of any infant carrier will clearly outline the allowed positions depending on the baby’s weight. As a general rule of thumb, inward-facing on the chest is the safest position for a small baby as it provides the best neck support, back support, and hip support.
Our Top Picks for the Best Baby Carriers for Travel
Based on all of the information we spelled out above, there are a few carriers that we think really stand out above the rest. Each of the carriers we mention in this post is a good choice for travel, and we’ve made sure to include just about every type of carrier you might be considering. The best option truly depends on your own circumstances, your intended uses, and the age and size of your child.
Our Overall Top Pick – BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One Air
Purchase on Amazon
The BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One Air is the second carrier that we ever purchased, and we have been nothing but thrilled with it. While it is pricey, it is a great carrier for all ages and might be the best toddler carrier on the market. Its simple design makes it extremely easy to use, and its sturdiness was extra assuring for us as new parents. Our favorite part about the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One Air is its versatility, as it can be used to carry your baby on both the front or the back, and from the newborn phase all the way through the toddler years.
On top of all that, it is one of the most comfortable carriers around. Its comfortable straps are made of breathable mesh, which is great for warmer weather, and the added waist strap is great for lumbar support. The price is very steep, but if you invest in this one, will never need another child carrier.
Our Top Pick for Air Travel – BabyBjorn Baby Carrier Mini
Purchase on Amazon
If you want the reliability of the BabyBjorn brand but aren’t able to shell out the cash for the top carrier on our list, the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier Mini may be a great choice for you.
At less than half the price of the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One Air, this carrier offers many of the Baby Carrier One Air’s perks at a much more attainable price point. While its smaller size means a lower weight limit and no back carry position, it also means extra portability.
Obviously, it is not nearly as versatile or sturdy of a carrier as the BabyBjorn Carrier One Air. But for half the price, it is the best choice of travel carrier for many parents. As long as you only plan to baby wear for the first year or so, this carrier could be the perfect compromise for you.
The Best Carrier for Daily Use – Gooseket Toddler Sling
Purchase on Amazon
As the name makes pretty clear, the Gooseket Toddler Sling is only suitable for toddlers. As it is a hip carrier with no back support, your child must be fully capable of sitting in the sling with little help. However, priced between $50 and $60, this sling couples ease of use with practicality at a great price.
We have found that our son loves to be carried, but not always for a long time. The biggest problem with most baby carriers is that it can take a little while to get your child fully strapped up.
We love carrying our son around. Who doesn’t want to keep their baby close! But now that he weighs closer to 30 pounds, carrying him long distances (and through airport security) feels nearly impossible. The Gooseket is simple, easy to put on, and shifts the majority of his weight from our arms to our cores, which makes carrying him through the airport an absolute breeze.
The Best Sling Carrier for Smaller Babies – Wildbird Ring Sling Baby Carrier
Purchase on Amazon
Ring slings have quickly become some of the most popular carriers on the market, and for good reason. They are comfortable, breathable, extremely versatile, and can be tossed in the washing machine at any time. A ring sling carrier is a type of baby wrap carrier that fully envelopes a child in comfortable cloth. The cloth is then fed through a couple of rings that sit near the shoulder in order to secure it in place.
Ring slings are less suitable for older babies, as they are pretty restrictive which doesn’t go over well with most toddlers. However, if you have a smaller baby, going with this type of wrap baby carrier may be a great option. There is a bit of a learning curve involved with getting the ring sling configured for the first time, but once you get the hang of it it isn’t bad at all.
Honorable Mention- Ergobaby Omni Dream Carrier
Purchase on Amazon
The Ergobaby Omni Dream Carrier is one of the top baby carriers on the market and it is easy to see why. Essentially, it is Ergobaby’s version of the BabyBjorn Baby Carrier One Air. Just like BabyBjorn’s top model, the Ergobaby Omni Dream Carrier is decked out with additional features, like adjustable head support, machine washable fabrics, and breathable shoulder straps. Honestly, whether you buy an Ergobaby carrier or a Babybjorn carrier all comes down to personal preference. Either is going to be a good option as long as it fits within your budget, and the ergonomic design of both brands is sure to maximize your comfort and health while carrying your baby around.
Do you have more carriers to add? Comment your favorite carrier below!
We will try it out ourselves and see if it passes the travel test!