After our our first child arrived, my mother-in-law, bless her heart, brought over a baby carrier she had used with my husband when he was 6 months old. It was the simplest frame pack made out of canvas over a very small aluminum frame. I loved how simple it looked but with no straps to hold our son tightly into the carrier, I felt uneasy about his safety. Yet, I actually took it with us on our first trip to Malaysia with our son who was 9 months old and walked along a tree top walk with him. Let me just say, it was a scary experience to see him reaching out of the pack.
Since that simple device didn’t work out so well, I started out on a quest for the perfect baby carrier. Alas, I discovered that the world of baby carriers is vast and varied. There seems to be a baby carrying deivce in every shape, size and color. Secondly, after buying way too many different types of baby carrying devices, I’ve concluded that there just isn’t one perfect baby carrier. Different carriers work best for different situations. When you’re traveling, you just have to pick the one carrier that will do the best for most of the situations you’ll encounter.
Here’s a run down of the different types of carriers on the market and what situations they work best for.
Multi Position Child Carriers
Mulit position child carriers are my favorite baby carrier in general for traveling with children between 6 months and 4 years old. The Ergo was the first carrier of it’s kind to enter the market and I must say it’s the carrier that I’ve used the most extensively of all the child carriers I own. Of course with a product this good, competitors will naturally enter your space. There are now quite a number of multi position carriers in the market to choose from. They all have a soft structure that allows you to carry your child on your front, back, and some even on the hip. The verstility of carriers like the Ergo means that you can be ready to carry your child in a variety of situations. Furthermore the hip strap distributes the weight of your child away from your back and shoulders allowing you to carry your child comfortably for longer periods of a time. In addition, all the multi-position carriers are constructed to be less bulky than the front carriers and fold up to fit fairly easily into an airplane carry on bag. If you’re traveling with an older sibling who is 4 or 5, in a pinch, these carriers can even carry an older child. If ever in doubt, I bring my Ergo. The main drawback is that these carriers can be hard to use if you’re not traveling with another adult who can help lift your child onto your back.
In a recent discussion on Trekaroo – What baby carrier to use when traveling? – and many parents recommended a multi-position carrier for traveling with kids. Check out what they have to say about the Bebo, Baby Hawk, and Ergo.
Read more about the Pros and Cons of Traveling with a Multi-position Baby Carrier and a comparison of the various brands.
Internal Frame Compact Backpack Carriers:
New on the market are the back only backpack carriers without a frame. These carriers are great for use with toddlers though 5 year olds who can sit safely on your back. They are also really wonderful for a day hike, a trip to a theme park or a long day in the city where you need some sturdy ergonomic straps and a day pack to carry the day’s essentials. Back only carriers like the ones by Littlelife are particularly good in hot weather because the 5 point harness allows for some space between the back of the backpack and your sweaty back.
Read more about the Pros and Cons of Traveling with Back-only Child Carriers and see a comparion of the varoius brands.
There are generaly two different types of slings – adjustable size ring slings and pouch slings. Each have some virtues, but when traveling with kids, my recommendation is to forget about bringing a ring sling. It’s often too bulky for traveling. The only benefit in bringing a ring sling is that it’s the easiest sling to nurse a baby in. Unless you have an infant who is nursing all day and you’re going with a tour group that will keep on an inflexible schedule , leaving you no time to nurse your baby, you can forgo a ring sling for your vacation. (Yes, I speak from experience…I am very thankful for my ring sling that allowed me to nurse my 4 month old while climbing around the ruins of Macchu Picchu.)
You might however consider a pouch sling if your child will mostly be in a stroller, but you need a back up sling that is compact and easy to slip on and off as needed.
Read more about the Pros and Cons of Traveling with Baby Slings and see a comparison of various brands.
A wrap is basically a long piece of fabric that you tie around your body so that you are able to hold a baby in a myrid of positions. A wrap is ideal for traveling with an infant if you’re not going somewhere really hot and humid. It provides incredible flexibility and it’s easy to manage bags with this ultra secure baby carrier. Infants nap really well in a wrap too. Best of all, wraps fold up into a very small bundle that will fit into any bag easily. In addition, if you’ll be carrying your infant for long periods of time either hiking or walking in a city, the wraps are wonderfully ergonomic.
Read more about the Pros and Cons of Traveling with Baby Wraps and see a comparions of various brands.
Front only Structured Baby Carriers
Front carriers are best saved for use when exploring locally for a couple of hours with an infant who isn’t too heavy yet. Dads seem to prefer these over the slings because they are easier to figure out. I would consider a front carrier mainly for a trip where Dad will be doing a fair bit of carrying and your child is still pretty light. If either parent has a bad back, better to skip over these carriers. Instead consider a multi position carrier with a hip strap.
Read the Pros and Cons for Traveling with a Front Baby Carrier and see a comparison of various brands.
External Frame Backpack Baby Carrier:
The frame backpacks are the the only way to go if you’re going on an overnight backpacking trip beause the additional storage on the carrier allows you to carry more along with you. If you’re going to a crowded event, it is sometimes nice to have your child in a frame backpack because they are able sit over your shoulder line and get a good view of what’s going on. Finally, I would consider a very lightweight frame backpack if I am planning to travel solo with a heavier child and plan to do lots of walking around withouth a stroller. Frame backpacks allow you to safety attach a child to you back without assistance.
Read more about the Pros and Cons of Traveling with Frame Backpack Child Carriers and see a comparsion of the various brands.
LiLing Pang is a contributing author on Trekaroo – a reviews site dedicated to exploring and traveling with kids.
Travel with kids to: CA | CO | DC | FL | HI | IL | MA | NC | NY | PA | TN | TX | VA | WA
However, I have a few things to add! I’m not sure what sling is too bulky for travel… my sling is the smallest thing I own (and I have one from Sakura Bloom like the one pictured) definitely smaller than my Moby wrap. And it’s much easier to get on and off quickly than a wrap as well. The only down side is that unless your child is very small the one sided carry over the shoulder can do a number on your back and shoulder after awhile.
Also, I don’t know why people even buy front packs without waist straps anymore. For one thing, carriers that have baby facing out usually put way too much pressure all on baby’s crotch area and for another babies shouldn’t be facing out all the time. It’s too much stimulation with no way for them to get away from it. Baby Bjorn has finally come out with a multi-position carrier, but it’s so similar to the Ergo… just go with an Ergo – they’re much cheaper anyway!
Yay for babywearing!
I wish wraps were not so hot and, sometimes, cumbersome. They are tougher to nurse in and it takes a little longer for everyone to get situated! But I love the various positioning and the security. It also makes it easy to hold a baby “hands free.” However, I’ve only owned a Moby and might do well to try others. I’ve had friends use a towel to tie their baby on their back and also seen wrap-sling combos that I’d love to try.
Thanks for the article!