There’s a slow but steady movement taking place within the retail world, one that sees consumers placing higher value on a brand’s ethical standards while shopping. When it comes to kids’ gear, parents and caregivers want what’s best. Best can mean anything from sustainable baby products that use responsibly sourced materials, to brands that give back to communities in need.
Unlike fast-fashion-type companies—some of whose exposed social and environmental malpractices have raised awareness—there are many brands that take a more “quality over quantity” approach, including with sustainable travel gear. This quality most often comes with a higher price tag, but there’s always a price to pay. For example, buying the cheapest stroller increases the likelihood of you having to replace it over time, especially if your family travels a lot.
Great Sustainable Baby Gear
Rest assured there are still ways you can save on premium and sustainable travel products. Buying items like strollers and baby carriers that are gently used is one option, though you should avoid certain pre-owned items—namely car seats and standard cribs—that have more stringent safety requirements and lifespans.
Other money-saving options include stores that sell “open box” and overstock travel gear for toddlers and babies as well as display models at significantly discounted prices. My favorite place to snag these types of deals is Rebelstork, an online marketplace that sells new and used baby products that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill.
For conscious travelers in need of big-ticket baby and toddler items, below is a mini-family vacation packing list of my five favorites—all from brands you’ll feel proud to support.
1. Austlen Entourage Stroller
Shopping around for a travel stroller? Allow me to let you in on a little secret: The best stroller for travel is the one you use at home. For this nomadic parent, that stroller is the Austlen Entourage.
Travel strollers are not my jam for a few reasons. They lack adequate storage space, are not as durable, definitely aren’t as comfortable for your kid(s), and don’t provide as smooth of a ride on varying terrains. You’ll end up paying extra money just to have something that’s more lightweight and might be able to squeeze down an airplane aisle—but it won’t last as long as your regular stroller.
My favorite everyday + travel stroller is the Austlen Entourage. This single stroller easily converts to a double, either with a second seat or sit-and-stand platform. The best part, however, is its ability to expand and create a cargo rack that can stow luggage (up to a whopping 150 pounds, including your little ones) as you navigate the airport.
Other standout features include a primary seat with a built-in bassinet and five-position recline, including a 90-degree upright position (a rarity, when it comes to double strollers); compatibility with all major car seat brands; additional storage in a collapsible market tote; and a quick, easy fold. Thoughtful weight distribution in the Entourage’s design also negates center-of-gravity maneuverability issues that are common with other tandem strollers.
Did I mention it’s also airport friendly and is on the list of Disney approved strollers?
If you’re worried about the Austlen Entourage taking a beating at baggage check, rest assured its solid frame can withstand more than many strollers, especially when protected by the brand’s travel bag. In the rare event that any serious damage is incurred during air travel, as long as your travel bag is registered, Austlen Baby Co.’s Travel Worry-Free Guarantee will cover you whether the stroller was checked at ticketing or the gate. This added peace of mind combined with all its features make the Entourage arguably the best double stroller for airport travel.
More Reasons to Love this Brand: A female-founded company, Austlen Baby Co. donates 10 percent of all profits to underrepresented entrepreneurs including people of color, LGBTQ+ and those with disabilities. The company also supports families with special needs through a donation system that helps parents whose children must have medical equipment on hand at all times.
2. Petunia Pickle Bottom 2-in-1 Provisions Breast Pump & Diaper Backpack
Meet the 2-in-1 Provisions Breast Pump and Diaper Backpack by Petunia Pickle Bottom, but don’t let its name fool you. This bag—although designed with nursing moms in mind—is a “one size fits all” essential for parents at any stage, from nursing or formula feeding, to toddlerhood, to multiple kids, and even for those venturing out with no youngsters in tow.
Its crown jewel is a generously sized, insulated, antimicrobial compartment at the bag’s base. This space is designed to fit all major-brand breast pumps and supplies, snacks and drinks—or even stuff that doesn’t need to be temperature-controlled like spare outfits, shoes and accessories. Intermix packing cubes, sold separately, are also made to fit in this lower compartment for more organized storage.
Other features that make this the best diaper bag for airplane travel and everyday use include a no-frills, zippered main compartment with adequate space for all your necessities (unlike some other bags’ deep compartments that seem to swallow small items like a black hole); smartly placed exterior pockets; a durable yet comfortable material; a padded laptop sleeve; and a trolley strap to easily attach your bag to wheeled luggage.
Aside from its hard-to-beat functionality, the 2-in-1 backpack—like all bags from Petunia Pickle Bottom—are just downright adorable. Fun brand collaborations and patterns, such as its “Winnie the Pooh Friendship in Bloom” series, open up even more options for parents to find a bag that fits their style.
More Reasons to Love this Brand: Petunia Pickle Bottom’s story began more than 20 years ago in a small California town, and has since evolved into one of widespread philanthropy. The company gives back to charities both big and small—from March for Babies to Haiti Made—whose efforts directly impact children in need and their families. They also support military families as well as various schools and non-profit organizations across the country.
3. Nuna Sena Aire Travel Crib
By the time my son turned two, he’d flown 20 times and slept on more pack-and-plays than you can count on both hands. Early into our family adventures, though, we dropped a pretty penny on the Nuna Sena Aire travel crib. This investment was mainly for staycations, road trips, and any fly-to destinations where suitable sleeping arrangements for him weren’t available.
(Note: Most hotels provide pack-and-plays gratis, but they’re harder to come by in vacation rentals. Also, while buying previously owned cribs is not recommended, used pack-and-plays are generally considered OK as long as you inspect them thoroughly before purchasing.)
To this day, the Sena Aire remains the best travel crib we’ve ever used. It’s larger than the standard pack-and-play, so you’ll get more use out of it as your child grows. The extra room also gives your little one more space to spread out while they sleep, without constantly bumping up against the edges. Other highlights include an elevated bassinet insert for peace of mind, quick setup and foldability (among the easiest of all the travel cribs I’ve used), and a sturdy design that doesn’t sacrifice on coziness using soft, environmentally friendly materials.
Nuna does make a slightly more compact, dedicated travel crib called the Cove Aire Go. However, I still consider the Sena Aire to be the best portable crib for its versatility and ability to grow further into toddlerhood. Despite its larger dimensions, the Sena Aire also is two pounds lighter than its travel-sized counterpart, and just as easy to carry with the complementary travel bag.
More Reasons to Love this Brand: The Dutch-rooted company is definitely on the high end of kids’ gear, but its commitment to sustainable baby products and safety makes it a worthy value. The Sena Aire is among eight Nuna products that are Greenguard Gold-certified, while the company prioritizes the use of alternate fuel sources, like solar-powered energy, and recycling programs for its packaging. Furthermore, Nuna partners with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to advance child road safety education globally.
4. Ergobaby Aerloom Baby Carrier
Simplicity is key, when it comes to staying organized while traveling with kids. Ergobaby meets this demand with its lightweight and ergonomic Ergobaby Aerloom—ranked as one of the seven best baby carriers for traveling the world with little ones. What this carrier lacks in “bells and whistles” a la multiple pockets, expandable features, and extra padding, it makes up for with a less bulky, equally comfortable fit for both wearer and baby.
Parents and caregivers can still enjoy intentional features like lumbar support, adjustable shoulder straps, built-in airflow, and the ability to carry youngsters in all positions that come standard with the company’s other carriers. A plethora of color options adds a splash of fashionable fun.
What makes the Aerloom the best baby carrier for travel specifically, though, is its ultra-lightweight, form-fitting design, and compact foldability, making it a breeze to pack. A unique combination of materials stretches to hug the contours of your body while on the move. And since 87 percent of its fabric comprising recycled plastic bottles, this carrier earns a spot among my favorite eco-friendly travel products for babies.
More Reasons to Love this Brand: Non-profit organizations whose values include parent-baby bonding, as well as healthy and informed pregnancies and births, are at the core of Ergobaby’s charitable efforts. One of these organizations is Carry the Future, which provides baby carriers to refugee families on their journeys to asylum. Volunteers hand-deliver carriers while providing instructions on proper use.
5. Pico Travel Car Seat
Flying with your baby or toddler in a portable car seat is safer than holding them in your lap. Still, airlines offer the option to travel with “lap infants” under two—a policy initially enacted to avoid revenue loss, by negating the need to purchase a separate seat for kids under two. Once a child reaches two years old, they’re required to be a paying passenger.
Most infant car seat brands are approved for air travel, but finding a suitable restraint for bigger kids (generally those who weigh more than 22 pounds) is a bit trickier, as many are not FAA approved car seats. In addition to compliance, you should factor in ease of use. A cumbersome seat is the last thing you want to lug through an airport while simultaneously trying to rein in your kids. The seat also should be easy to install and not too bulky so your child has adequate leg room (for their comfort and to avoid kicking the seat in front of them).
Passing all U.S. safety standards for airplanes and motor vehicles (a bonus if you plan to rent a car), the Pico weighs a mere eight pounds, folds in half for an easy carry, and installs in a jiff. It also sports a sturdy design yet is still comfortable enough for kids to doze off into a 36,000-foot slumber, thanks to its supple mesh fabric and familiar five-point harness system.
(Note: You’ll still need to verify the Pico is compliant with international carriers’ policies.)
More Reasons to Love this Brand: Wayb’s B Corp Certification is a symbol of its commitment to the environment and using responsibly sourced materials. When a car seat reaches the end of its life, 100 percent of the components get recycled, and those materials eventually end up back in the supply chain. A small but mighty leader in sustainable baby products, Wayb also partners with CarSeatRecycling.com to offer an incentive and easy-recycle program for owners of Pico seats that are no longer usable.
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The article 5 Travel Must-Haves from Brands That Make Sustainable Baby Products and Toddler Gear was originally published on HumbleBoots.com.