Holidaying with babies and toddlers can involve dragging along a ton of equipment, from buggies and bottle sterilisers, to a travel cot and toys. Here we pick out our best buys so you won't waste an inch of boot space or an ounce of baggage allowance.
First, our general tips about what to buy (and what to avoid) for your family holiday:
1. Before coughing up for a travel cot, check whether your accommodation can provide these. Most even vaguely child-friendly hotels and self-catering apartment/cottage/villa owners do. Likewise restaurants in typical holiday destinations here and abroad will usually have some sort of highchair.
2. Whether they'll be in good condition and clean is another matter...if this worries you, you might still want to take portable ones of your own. You can see our recommended buys here.
3. Think carefully before splashing out on expensive travel items if you will only use them on trips once or twice a year before they're outgrown. Could you borrow from a friend instead or look for good second-hand gear?
4. Bathing younger babies away from home can be a headache as baby baths are too large to take and even the folding ones can still consume a fair bit of suitcase space. An alternative is to use a washing up bowl if you're self catering or you could carry your little one into the shower (although with some babies this will end in tears!)
5. A week or two's supply of nappies is annoyingly bulky to pack, particularly if you're flying - they use up so much luggage space. Take a few days' worth only and then stock up at your destination.
Rest assured that unless you're truly off to the middle of nowhere, most popular tourist places will have the main brands you're used to or equivalents at the supermarket or chemist's. You could always keep a small pack of your usual ones from home for night times (and the journey back), if you don't want to risk trying a new brand overnight.
6. Disposable items aren't very eco-friendly and can work out pricey if used often but they can be convenient on long journeys. You'll find disposable feeding bottles (try Vital Baby), changing mats (Pampers' ones are excellent, widely-available and can be re-used quite a few times if they aren't soiled) and bibs, online and in larger nursery shops or Boots.
Travel best buys
NSA Deluxe Travel Centre, £89.50
Travel cots aren't always as portable as the name suggests. Dragging a huge 10kg+ number about isn't so bad if you're just going to the grandparents' in the car (although it'll still take up an annoyingly large chunk of the boot) but for anything more intrepid, or even a flight to Europe, they're just too cumbersome. This pop-up model is considerably more practical – weighing only a shade over 3kg and packing down exceptionally small. It doubles as a sun protection tent for the beach and is super-easy to assemble (it pops up straight out of its carry bag).
Pushchair that's suitable from birth:
Britax B-Agile, £229.99
If you're taking a younger baby on your trip, most of the very lightweight 'holiday buggies' won't do as they're not suitable from birth. This pushchair from Britax provides a fully-reclining, supportive seat and yet is still light and nimble at just 8kg. It folds easily and compactly in case you're on and off different forms of transport. A superb buggy for everyday use back home too.
Super-light pushchair for older babies/ toddlers:
Maclaren Volo, £90
Brilliantly nippy little holiday buggy that weighs only 4kg, folds quickly and easily and has a carry strap, so you can fling it over your shoulder.
Of course being so uber-lightweight means there have been compromises – there's a limited seat recline making it only appropriate for babies over six months and it won't be ideal if your child is going to need to nap out and about in it.
Pushchair sun shade:
Outlook Shade-a-babe, £29.99
We're not going to mince our words here - most pushchair parasols are absolutely rubbish at providing protection from the sun. The problem is that as you push the buggy around, the direction of the sun changes, so the parasol needs moving all the time. This shade provides welcome UV protection all over, or you can unzip the lower, mesh section to leave the large hood behind. It doubles as an insect net and cuts down distractions at nap time.
Babybjorn Original Baby Carrier, £64.99
Baby carriers come into their own in places where pushing a pushchair will be a liability. Think crowded tourist sites, busy shopping centres or around airports and train stations. They're also ideal for walking on terrain where most buggies struggle, such as a pebbly beach or cobblestoned streets. Pop your little one in a carrier and you can walk about unencumbered and enjoy extra closeness at the same time.
This classic Babybjorn is easy to use as carriers go - none are a doddle if we're honest but this is better than most and has clear instructions. We're sure you'll find it worth persevering once you get the hang of it.
Also consider: The Ergo Stowaway Carrier is superb for older babies and toddlers who've outgrown a front-only carrier. It can be worn on your front or back, where it comes into its own as it's considerably more compact than the backpack style equivalents. This newly-launched 'Stowaway' version, £94.90, is similar to the standard Ergo but packs down smaller, making it especially suited to holidays.
Bondie Bird Playwrap, £29.99
Any parent who's endured a flight with a baby on their lap will appreciate this innovative toy which is worn like a scarf but features tons of bits and pieces to keep babies busy. And better still at your destination, it can be used in all sorts of other ways – including attached to cot bars or a highchair tray/ table, on the floor, or in a car seat. Not cheap but you should get your money's worth from this!
Travel sleep bag:
Sandcastles Travel Grobag, from £19.99
This 0.5 tog Grobag sleep bag provides a comfortable, lightweight alternative to conventional bedding whether at home or away. It features harness slots to allow it to be kept on in a pushchair or car seat, making it easier to move a sleeping baby about if you're travelling at night or they doze off in a restaurant sitting in their buggy.
Medela Quick Clean Microwave Steriliser Bags, £12.49 for five
Sterilising bottles and feeding gear is made easy thanks to these clever steri-bags which do the job in minutes in a microwave. Each can be re-used up to 20 times and fits two bottles at a time. If you won't have access to a microwave at your accommodation, your best bet might be good old cold water sterilising tablets and a Tupperware type tub (which you can store bottles or other items in for the journey, so it won't be wasted space).
Green People Sticky Hand Sanitiser, £9.45
A must-have for families on the move – clean up their mucky mitts before meals, or yours after nappy changes when there's no sink and soap to hand. This one's more expensive than most but lasts ages and is made with organic ingredients that are particularly gentle for sensitive skin.
The brand's mineral sun cream is also worth the extra money for parents who prefer organic products – unlike most natural, mineral suncreams it doesn't leave an annoying white residue on skin.
JoJoMamanBebe Swim Float, £15
This colourful swim seat, allows babies to splash about and have fun securely in the water.
Available in sizes for 0-12 months, 12 to 24 months. Jojo Maman Bebe's excellent range of UV protective swim wear is also worth a look.
Liat Hughes Joshi is author of What to Buy for Your Baby