This article about Finding the Best Toddler Carrier for Travel was written by toddler travel expert Celine Brewer and may contain affiliate links.
I don’t enjoy buying unnecessary stuff for my kids, so I wondered if I needed a toddler carrier for travel, or if I should just continue to carry my toddler in their regular baby carrier for travel. I can now speak from experience when I say, if you still carry your toddler frequently you won’t regret getting an appropriate toddler carrier. They are wider and taller making it more comfortable for both you and your toddler.
I’ve had plenty of experience with baby and toddler carriers over the years. I have used a Baby K’Tan, Ergo Original, Ergo Performance Original (with & without the infant insert), Onya Baby Nexstep, LILLEBaby CarryOn Toddler Carrier, Deuter Kid Comfort III, and the Piggyback Rider. I have also rented a Kelty backpack carrier, but I’m unsure the model. We’ve used our carriers for around the house, hiking, city sightseeing and everything in between.
What I love most about traveling with a toddler carrier is that I can bring it along just in case my toddler gets tired. I let him walk when he has the energy, but it’s also super easy to throw him up on my back when he gets tired.
Two of the best toddler carriers for travel below even have a maximum weight that goes to 60+ lbs! So even though it seems like you might not get as much use out of a toddler travel carrier, with a max weight that high you still have plenty of time to use a toddler carrier!
My Top Picks for the Best Travel Toddler Carriers:
I know you don’t always have time to read, especially when you are raising a busy toddler! So here are my top picks for the best toddler carriers for travel:
Best Overall Toddler Carrier for Travel:
LÍLLÉbaby Carryon Toddler Carrier – A versatile toddler carrier with adjustable features, lumbar support, and the ability to carry children from 20 to 60 pounds. I loved the wider and taller shape of the LÍLLÉbaby Carryon and found it so much more comfortable for both toddler and parent.
Best Toddler Carrier for Long Use:
Tula Carrier – Toddler Size – designed for children weighing 25 to 60 pounds, the Tula Carrier is stylish, easy to adjust and comfortable to wear.
Best Toddler Carrier for Hiking:
Deuter Kid Comfort toddler backpack carriers – We liked the Deuter backpacks so much, we bought one for each kids. My kids were happier for so much longer in the backpack carrier. They sat up higher, could see more and were cooler. We used them for both hiking around home and many international trips.
What You’ll Find in This Article on the Best Toddler Carriers for Travel:
Best Toddler Travel Carriers
Types of Toddler Carriers for Travel
There are so many different types, brands and models of toddler carriers available in the market, that picking the right one can be quite the task. With no “one size fits all” approach to this, it depends on us to choose the right type of toddler carrier that will suit all our individual needs the best.
Understanding what those different types of carriers are is the first step to narrowing down your choices to a few options:
Wraps are the most basic form of carrier, best known for being the most versatile. They’re made from a variety of materials, come in a wide range of styles, and are essentially long pieces of fabric that you tie around your body to secure your toddler safely in place.
I have found that wraps are most ideal for carrying your toddler around when you are doing simple chores around the house. Since they are very adaptable, they can be tied around your body in different ways to best suit your preferences, needs and body type.
Getting a hang of the specific tying technique that is most comfortable to you can take some time, but I’ve learned that with practice, it gets easier! Keep in mind that wraps made of sturdier materials like cotton, hemp, wool and linen are best used for carrying toddlers and older kids who weigh more on the back, while stretchy wraps are used for newborns.
Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers or buckle carriers are carriers that come with padded waistbands and shoulder straps. This type of carrier is easy to use, adjust and can generally be worn in a variety of different ways as well; you can use them on your front, back and even your hip. It is due to these reasons that they are ideal for parents who love spending time in the great outdoors, hiking, camping and doing other active things. (Which is why I loved mine so much!)
Most of the best baby carriers for toddlers allow you to use the same soft structured carrier from infancy right into toddlerhood without any problems. Depending on your child’s weight, switching to toddler specific carriers may give you both more comfort.
Mei Tai carriers work great for toddlers, because they are a hybrid type that combines the best features of both the buckle carrier and wrap style carrier. It has two padded shoulder straps, two straps that tie around your waist, and a long piece of fabric that ties around your body. Because it uses ties in the place of buckles, it provides infinite adjustability.
Toddler backpack carriers are great for parents and toddlers who enjoy going on outdoor adventures together. This style of hiking carriers comes with a lot of heavy boning and additional padding to secure your toddler safely in place. However, this additional security tends to add weight to the carrier, resulting in it being heavier to carry than the other types.
They are also only made for carrying toddlers on your back, so if your little one is not comfortable sitting up on their own just yet, this one might not be for you.
Keep in mind that while the best toddler backpack carrier is amazing for hiking, you can also still use it for travel! We used our two Deuter backpack carriers extensively for both hiking and travel. We did find them a bit bulky for city sightseeing but flying with a hiking backpack carrier will be worth it if you plan to do a lot of hiking.
Benefits of Using a Toddler Carrier for Travel
I can admit that using a toddler travel stroller definitely has its benefits, but there are also many benefits to using toddler carriers for travel.
- There may be places that are easier to sightsee around without a stroller. Especially places like Cinque Terre with a toddler.
- If you enjoy hiking, having a back carrier for toddlers will enable you to go on all your adventures with your kids. Having a proper toddler carrier enables them to walk when they feel like it, and get carried when they don’t.
- By using a travel carrier for toddlers, you still have free hands to chase your toddler instead of pushing a stroller.
- Snuggled in close to mom or dad helps some toddlers sleep. You will also be especially grateful when you glance down and see them snoozing, saving you the time and effort you would have otherwise had to spend trying to get them to sleep in an unfamiliar location.
Picking the Best Toddler Carrier for Travel
Since there are so many options for toddler carriers in the market, choosing the best one comes down to your budget, lifestyle, body type, and last but not least, your toddler. I recommend you consider the following factors before deciding which toddler carrier to purchase.
Prices for toddler carriers vary significantly from model to model. Models that come with all the bells and whistles available in the market can easily cost you up to $400 or more. Other models with more basic features can cost no more than $50. Just make sure that price isn’t the only factor in your decision. Always remember to verify the carrier’s comfort, safety, and fit before making your purchase.
Always consider the weather conditions of your destination when making your toddler carrier purchase. For example, if you are traveling to a warm climate, choose one that’s made of lighter fabric as some others can get a little warm when it’s hot out.
Instead of buying a one-size carrier, consider buying a carrier that’s adjustable. Look for an adjustable model so you can make the necessary adjustments as your child grows.
Features to Look for in a Toddler Travel Carrier
Based on my experiences with a variety of toddler travel carriers, here are the top features to consider before buying:
Child Comfort and Safety
Choose a carrier that provides good head and body support for your child. Make sure the leg holes are loose enough for your toddler’s thighs, but not so loose that they feel they might slip through.
The carrier you choose should fit your size and body type, and allow you to carry your toddler without strain. Look for one with padded shoulder straps, as they provide a firmness that is both comfortable for the wearer and also sturdy enough to carry the weight of the toddler. Other things to keep an eye out for are waist belts and sternum straps. These help reduce the pressure on your back by evenly distributing your toddler’s weight across your lumbar region.
Added Extra Features
Some toddler carriers like soft structured carriers and backpacks offer a bunch of extra features like additional storage options, sunshades, rain covers, and toy attachment loops for practical use. While these features can seem cool, not every parent toddler duo needs them, so factor in your exact needs before making your purchase.
Ease of Cleaning
Children can be messy. That’s why it’s best to choose a carrier that is machine-washable. While most carriers available in the market today are machine-washable, some can still only be washed by hand or dry-cleaning, so be sure to double-check!
Pick carriers with fasteners that have complex clasps or buckles, so that it is difficult for your child to undo them. Since the straps and buckles are the primary safety features of a toddler carrier for travel, it’s important to ensure that they are made of the best quality materials.
Toddler Travel Carrier FAQs
How do you carry a 2 year old?
You can continue to carry a 2 year old in much the same way you carried a baby. While most baby carriers will continue to work for toddlers up to 45 lbs, a toddler specific carrier will have a wider seat and longer torso for added comfort for both you and your toddler.
Can you put a 3 year old in a carrier?
You absolutely can put a 3 year old in a carrier. For 3 year olds, a toddler specific carrier or a backpack carrier will be your best options.
What is the best toddler back carrier?
While there are more budget friendly options, the best toddler backpack carrier is either the Osprey Poco Child Carrier or the Deuter Kid Comfort Child Carrier. Both come with a Pro version, the Standard version and a Lite version to suit the needs of parents. The different versions will vary in price, weight and other features.
How is a toddler carrier different from a baby carrier?
Toddler specific carriers are different from baby carriers in that they have a wider seat and longer torso to ensure the added comfort of both toddler and parent.
Do I need a toddler carrier?
Depending on the weight of your toddler, you may start to hit the max weight on your favorite baby carrier. If you want to continue to carry your toddler past 45 lbs, then a toddler carrier is the perfect option. The best toddler carriers have a max weight of 60 lbs.
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This post was written & edited by:
Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.