What to look for when purchasing a toddler carrier for travel
Toddlers often act like they have boundless energy, running and playing for hours, seemingly fueled by nothing more than hugs and goldfish crackers. Sometimes as parents, we can take this for granted until all of the steam seems to fizzle out suddenly.
In the middle of the grocery store. On a walk. At the airport. On vacation. When your hands are full with basically anything else.
It’s precisely in situations like these when a toddler carrier will quickly become one of your most prized possessions, and the good news is, most toddler baby carriers are made to accommodate your growing child.
We’re here to guide you on your journey to finding the Best Toddler Carrier. In this article, we’ll explore:
- The differences between carriers and hiking backpacks
- Features to look for in a great toddler carrier
- Differences between baby and toddler carriers
- Positions to wear a toddler carrier
- Best toddler carrier options on the market
This post is part of our Tried & Tested essential gear series – learn more about all our favorite baby & toddler travel products
TL;DR Best Soft-Structure Toddler Carriers For Travel
- We summarise all our favorites here but read on for the important features we look for when buying a toddler carrier for travel
- If you’re seeking a structured carrier for hiking, jump over here to our toddler hiking carrier guide
|Toddler Carrier Name||Product Weight||Max Capacity (incl gear)||Recommended Age/Weight||Key Features|
|LÍLLÉbaby Ergonomic Baby and Child Carrier||1.6 lbs||45 lbs||7 lbs to 45 lbs||Six carrying positions, extendable waist belt, padded carry straps|
|Beco Toddler Carrier||2.25 lbs||60 lbs||20 lbs to 60 lbs||Cotton & performance mesh option; wear crossed or straight straps, detachable sleep hood|
|BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air||2.81 lbs||33 lbs||Birth to 3 years||Lightweight & breathable, padded shoulders and waist, teething bib included|
|Baby Tula Explore Baby Carrier||2.69 lbs||45 lbs||Birth to 4 years||Adjustable width support panel, padded neck support & shoulder straps|
|LÍLLÉbaby toddler baby carrier||1.75 lbs||60 lbs||20 lbs to 60 lbs||Padded two-way straps, lumbar support in beathable mesh|
|Ergobaby Omni Breeze||2.29 lbs||45lbs||Birth to 48 months||SoftFlex Mesh for air flow, adjustable cushion shoulder straps, vented waist belt|
What to Look for in a Toddler Carrier For Travel
Carriers v hiking backpacks
The most common toddler baby carriers are either soft structured carriers, front-or-side buckle carriers, or framed backpack-style carriers. Each style comes with its own pros and cons, which we’ll discuss below.
Features to Look For:
Lightweight: When you’re carrying around your bub for any length of time, it’s important to find a toddler baby carrier that doesn’t add unnecessary pounds to what you’re already carrying.
Durable, easy-to-clean material: You’ll want to choose a toddler carrier with machine-washable fabric, or at the very least, fabric that can be wiped off. It’s much easier to toss a carrier in the washing machine than having to scrub something that can only be hand-washed.
Breathable fabric for warm climates: Few things are more miserable than carrying around another human being when both of you are hot and sweaty. Look for carriers for toddlers that have breathable, easily washable fabric. We separate look at the best baby carriers/toddler carriers for summer travel over here.
Multiple Carrying Modes: Different situations call for different carrying modes. It’s helpful to find a toddler carrier adaptable to your needs.
Adequate padding and support structure for both wearer and toddler: The best toddler carriers for any type of travel have a high-quality support structure in place. Look for a carrier with padded straps to distribute weight evenly across your back and hips.
Additional features: Everyone loves getting more for their money, and added features like cup holders and sunshades can be quite enticing. I would recommend ensuring that these additional features don’t add much to the overall weight limit to what you’ll already be carrying.
Differences Between Baby Carriers and Toddler Carriers
The main difference between baby carriers and toddler carriers is the size, height, and structure of the support panel. While baby slings and other carriers are made to cradle the baby, toddler carriers require more room for movement and a more reinforced panel for supporting posture.
Toddler carriers are also made to be worn in ways other than the traditional chest-hugging position of baby carriers. This is as much for the wearer’s comfort as the child’s, an essential requirement in the event of extended walks and hikes. Few things are worse than carrying a heavier child without the proper support.
Best Position to Wear a Toddler
Most toddler carriers allow children to be worn forward facing, on the hip, or on the back. However, which position is the best one? It really depends on the situation at hand. I recommend that you choose a carrier that has multiple options or works best for the activity you do the most.
Forward Facing Position: Most buckle toddler baby carriers allow children to be worn on the chest facing inward or outward. By the time your child is a toddler, they’re much more interested in the outside world and want to see as much of it as possible. This position works well for shorter outings, such as through the grocery store or as an alternative option when taking a walk.
This may not always be the best option for extended wear, as straps can strain your back over time, and sometimes little toddler legs can bang into your own, depending on their size.
Hip Position: The hip position is made to mimic one of the most common natural ways I have carried my bub, but with additional straps and panels. This allows better weight distribution; mom or dad can move the bulk of the weight from the front, relieving pressure on the back. As with the forward-facing position, this is more suited for shorter walking and standing periods.
Back Position: If you’re looking for the best toddler position for hikes and extended walks, I would recommend carrying your toddler in a backpack carrier. This is achievable with both buckle carriers and backpack-style hiking carriers, and we’ll explore options for each.
Best Toddler Carriers For Travel – The Details
So now we know what we’re looking for in a great carrier for toddlers, let’s jump into the exact specs of some of our favorites and why we recommend them for travel:
Best Overall Toddler Carrier: LÍLLÉbaby Complete All Seasons Six-Position 360° Ergonomic Baby and Child Carrier
Why we love it: The LÍLLÉbaby Ergonomic Baby and Child Carrier is truly a carrier for all seasons. The front panel zips down to reveal breathable mesh fabric underneath to help control your toddler’s body temperature. This carrier grows with your bub, allowing you to use it for longer. Toddler carrying positions include front, side, and back, and this toddler baby carrier offers unbeatable lumbar support for both mum and dad.
- Product Weight: 1.6 lbs
- Recommended Age Range: Babies and Toddlers ranging from 7 lbs-45 lbs
- Max Capacity with Gear: 45 lbs
- Comfort Features: Six carrying positions, zip-down panel for warmer weather conditions, extendable waist belt, and padded carrying straps
- Material: 100% Cotton and Breathable, 3D Mesh
Best Storage Toddler Carrier: Beco Toddler Carrier
Why we love it: The Beco Toddler Carrier can be thrown in with a regular load of laundry, making it convenient and quick to clean. The zippered bag is ideal for extra storage, and it’s also available in a performance mesh option for warmer climates as well as traditional cotton fabric. The design allows for your larger, heavier toddler to still be carried with comfort.
- Product Weight: 2.25 lbs
- Recommended Age Range: Children ranging from 20-60 lbs
- Max Capacity with Gear: 60 lbs
- Comfort Features: Padded adjustable shoulder straps can be worn crossed or straight, comes with a detachable sleep hood
- Material: Available in both Cotton and Performance Fabric/Mesh
Possible Cons: This carrier for toddlers only has two carrier positions (front and back), so it’s not as versatile as other options. The weight of the product itself is also double that of other carriers.
Best Carrier From Newborn to Toddler: BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air, 3D Mesh
Why we love it: The BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One Air is an excellent choice if you are worried about posture. It has been certified by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute and has four ergonomic carrying positions for infants up to 36 months. Incredibly soft mesh fabric is well suited for warmer climates, and the durable fabric is machine washable and easy to clean.
- Product Weight: 2.81 lbs
- Recommended Age Range: Birth to 36 Months
- Max Capacity with Gear: 33 lbs
- Comfort Features: Lightweight, super-soft mesh fabric keeps both bub and mum/dad cool and dry, padded shoulder straps and waist belt, absorbent teething bib included
- Material: Machine-washable polyester and cotton
Possible Cons: Although the actual age range extends to 36 months, the maximum weight capacity is only 33 lbs. This, along with the high price point, can be limiting for many families.
Why we love it: Not only does this Tula toddler carrier come in many beautiful and eye-catching designs, it also has an innovative expandable panel with three width adjustments. The breathable cotton material in this soft structured carrier is machine washable and extra soft for your young kids.
- Product Weight: 2.69 lbs
- Recommended Age Range: 0 months to 4 years
- Max Capacity with Gear: 45 lbs
- Comfort Features: Adjustable width support panel, one-size-fits-all waistband, padded neck support and dual-padded shoulder straps
- Material: Machine Washable Cotton
Possible Cons: Some customers said that the buttons on the front make it complicated to switch your bub from outward to inward facing position. It is also on the high end, price-wise.
Best for Bigger Toddlers: LÍLLÉbaby CarryOn Airflow 3-in-1 Ergonomic Toddler and Child Carrier
Why we love it: The LÍLLÉbaby toddler baby carrier is ultra-customizable, with a wider and taller torso and adjustable side panels to provide comfort for both you and your toddler.
Carry your toddler in front, as a hip carrier, or on your back with this breathable baby carrier for toddlers. With overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon, this is a definite contender for small children, as it will work for toddlers up to 60 lbs.
- Product Weight: 1.75 lbs
- Recommended Age Range: Babies and toddlers ranging from 20-60 lbs
- Max Capacity with Gear: 60 lbs
- Comfort Features: Padded two-way straps, lumbar support, and breathable mesh
- Material: Cotton
Possible Cons: The price point on this infant carrier is high, making it an unaffordable option for prospective buyers, and some reviewers mentioned that they experienced back pain and discomfort during prolonged use.
Best Toddler Carriers For Hot Climates: Ergobaby Omni Vreeze All Carry Positions
Why we love it: The Ergobaby comes in many different designs, but for travel, we are currently loving the Omni Breeze for many reasons. The Omni Breeze is a great option as it can be worn in 4 different positions; it has adjustable waist and shoulder straps, so you can easily change between adults carrying (up to a waist size of a whopping 55.25″ – great for your larger parents who still want comfort).
But this toddler carrier really stands out because of the SoftFlex Mesh, which allows maximum airflow.
- Product Weight: 2.29 lbs
- Recommended Age Range: 0 to 48 months
- Max Capacity with Gear: 45 lbs
- Comfort Features: Adjustable padded shoulder straps, regular or crossed, vented waistband.
- Material: Cotton with SoftFlex Mesh
Possible Cons: Parents looking for something that will last from birth through to the toddler years, do note that for all Ergobaby products, you will need to add an infant insert as well which adds to the cost.
It is ideal as a baby-to-toddler carrier if you only want to invest in one item to see you through several years of travel, this is a great choice.
Remember to pop over here for our guide to hiking backpacks for 3-year-olds
Whether you’re looking for the perfect hiking backpack carrier for your toddler or a standard toddler carrier for shorter walks, we hope that this article has helped provide insightful information and affordable options that fit your family’s needs.
Simply put, the best toddler carrier for you is the one that makes your bub the happiest and is versatile enough to fit multiple stages in your child’s life. Now, what are you waiting for? Go explore!
Looking for more toddler travel inspiration, hiking tips and gear reviews?
You may also like to check out these articles:
- 20 Toddler Travel Essentials – the most important and useful items we have packed travelling the world with our toddlers.
- Toddler Camping Essentials – our top recommended items for a camping trip with toddlers + sanity-saving tips
- Toddler Sleeping Bags – why you may want to invest in a specialised toddler sleeping bag on your next camping trip.
- What’s in my toddler’s plane bag? Packing for a flight with a toddler? Here’s what we bring to keep little ones entertained.
- Does my toddler need a sleep device for the plane? Explaining what exactly a sleep device is, when they’re allowed on planes and why you might need one to help your toddler sleep on a plane.
- Best waterproof baby carriers Looking for a carrier you can wear in the water? Check out our comprehensive guide to ring slings, wrap carriers, and other top baby carriers for wearing at the pool or beach.
- Best wetsuits for toddlers – ideal for those cooler days at the beach, a wetsuit will ensure your little one can still enjoy some splashing good fun no matter the weather.
- Essentials for Hiking with a Dog – don’t forget your fur-children too! If your family dog will be joining you on the trails here are some further considerations and packing items to think about.
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