The right gear and gadgets go a long way toward making a family vacation successful. These new products make traveling easier for families by doing away with such common “trip-ups” as bored kids, lost dogs, cramped tents, too much to carry and not enough luggage.
Pick the right travel stroller for planes and trains
Forget about gate-checking a stroller at the airport and then wishing for three arms when boarding the plane with your tot. Designed for tots 6 months old to those weighing 33 pounds, the Babyzen YOYO, released in North America in March, rolls down the plane — or train — aisle with your child in it. A luxury version of the classic umbrella strollers, the sturdier YOYO comes with a padded seat, storage, sun canopy and five-point harness. The pièce de résistance: the ability to hold your tot while you release a lever with your free hand to collapse the YOYO in thirds, creating a 20.5-inch-by-17-inch-by-7-inch package that fits in most carry-on bins.
To reconfigure the folded stroller, use one hand to shake it open like a rolled-up scarf. This may take some practice, since the YOYO, while relatively light at 12.8 pounds, still requires a certain amount of strength to unfurl. Use the convenient shoulder strap to wear the YOYO like a big purse when you must carry baby and her gear up and down stairs and escalators.
Use one stroller for city and country adventures
A sister to Indie, Bumbleride’s popular jogging stroller, the more compact Indie 4 ups the utility to create what Bumbleride calls a “crossover stroller.” No need to pack two baby buggies, one for city jaunts and one for jogging. Because of the air-filled, over-sized tires — yes, tires — the Indie 4 rolls easily on sidewalks and maneuvers through dirt, gravel and grass. That means it can handle pebbly lakeside trails as well as unpaved national park paths. The adjustable handlebar has enough positions so that short and tall partners can find their sweet spots for running, hiking and shopping.
The included bassinet stretches your budget by making the Indie 4 functional for infants. The fabric is easy to wipe clean, the seat reclines fully for kiddie naps and the attachable bar enables the stroller to carry some car seats. Although the Indie 4 folds up to 29-inches by 24.5 inches by 15 inches, collapsing the 22-pound stroller takes practice.
The Indie 4, available in early June, costs $599 and accommodates kids weighing up to 55 pounds. bumbleride.com.
Fire kids’ imaginations
En route to your destination, keep your kids busy with the XO Tablet, created by the charitable organization One Laptop per Child (OLPC). The tablet lets them dream about what they want to be. When youngsters choose one of 15 career options — mathematician, teacher, athlete, artist, engineer — kids get a screen with a brief biography of a famous person and a list of apps. The games build skills that support grown-up ambitions. Young math majors, for example, shoot down rockets to learn subtraction and budding teachers follow clues to figure out how to plot graphs. Kids can also access the 100+ apps from a list.
Discovery Communications, Oxford University Press and TED are among the organizations that contributed material. Many of the apps engage youngsters though some, developed by lesser-known companies, may bore tech-savvy kids accustomed to gee-whiz programming.
At 7.6 inches by 4.6 inches by .4 inches, the XO Tablet fits nicely into small hands and makes a good first tablet, especially for ages 4-10, although OLPC targets it to ages 4-14. A big bonus of the XO: the ability to switch between English and Spanish, making it effortless for kids to pick up phrases in a second language.
The first commercial venture by OLPC, the XO became available to the public in August 2013. Buying an XO helps your kids do well and also allows you to do good as proceeds support One Laptop per Child’s mission of educating poor children.
Target, Amazon, Walmart and Toys R Us sell the tablet for $80-$130. xotablet.com.
Make room for more stuff
Kids are born collectors, but you don’t want to purchase another suitcase to tote home their buckets of gathered seashells or the flippers and goggles from your family snorkel outing. Eagle Creek’s Morphus delivers two bags in one. The duo, a wheeled base with a removable backpack/shoulder bag, improves upon traditional zip-offs. At 2,925 cubic inches, the detachable gear bag is roomy, has a sleeve for tablets and pockets for cell phones. Uncoupled, the “mother” bag expands to hold another 2,875 cubic inches of souvenirs. Durable, water-resistant fabric covers both pieces.
Bundled together, the F13 Morphus 22-inch, carry-on bag weighs 7 pounds, 14 ounces and costs $395. The F13 Morphus 30-inch costs $470. Available July 1, the new F14 Morphus carry-on adds an exterior foot stand for added stability, weighs 2 ounces less and costs $395. The F14 Morphus 30-inch bag costs $470. eaglecreek.com
Keep the dog safe
To make sure that your dog is not one of the 2 million canines stolen each year, don’t leave your pooch unattended. Foil dognappers and prevent your four-pawed pal from wandering by using Safespot Locking Leash. The adjustable collar and lead made of steel cable that’s difficult to cut has been for sale at Orvis for about six months.
The locking collar unspools so that it can fit dachshunds to Dobermans, although the collar would feel heavy on a miniature breed. Then you wrap the other end, which also has a lock, around a tall post or other immovable object. Even though the leash is too short to allow Newfoundlands and other giant breeds to lie down while tethered, Safespot will keep your dog sitting right where you left him.
Safespot Locking Leash is available for $69 from Orvis. orvis.com.
Fit the family in one tent
Family hikes go better after a good night’s sleep, something difficult to obtain when cramming your child, your spouse and you into your old two-person tent. The redesigned Mountain Light XT 3-person tent from L.L. Bean features a lighter frame, more durable fabric and a price that’s $50 lower than the previous versions. At 90 inches by 72 inches, the interior shelters three people and comes with space to stow some gear. The no-see-um mesh canopy helps keep bugs out and the two vestibules reduce the crawling over and waking up of your tent mates when someone has to use the “facilities” after bedtime. Rolled-up the XT is just 23 x 8 inches and weighs 5.12 pounds, light enough for your junior camper to carry.
L.L. Bean’s Mountain Light XT 3-person tent sells for $249. llbean.com.