Best Family Travel Essential (2015)


Sometimes the right gear makes the trip, especially if you're traveling with little ones. Over the past four weeks, we asked USA TODAY 10Best readers to vote for their must-have Family Travel Essential, and the results are in.

  • Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas

    Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas

    One way to spark interest in a trip is by giving kids an engaging guidebook to read before and during a journey. If a multi-state road trip is in order, the National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S Road Trip Atlas points out unusual stopping points, random trivia, wacky roadside attractions and more that appeals to kids so they can be involved in the travel planning process.
    Photo courtesy of National Geographic Store

  • Life360


    Whether at a busy theme park or big city, family travel sometimes involves splitting up to pursue different activities. The Life360 app helps parents keep in touch with the entire family through messaging, a map that shows locations of family members and check-ins for quick updates on everyone's whereabouts, which helps to eliminate the constant question of “where are you?” and keep parents at ease.
    Photo courtesy of Life360

  • Ride-On Carry-On

    Ride-On Carry-On

    Don’t want to gate-check a stroller? Is walking through the airport too much for your toddler? The innovative Ride-On Carry-On converts carry-on luggage into a kids’ travel stroller. The device resembles a folding chair and easily collapses on to the carry-on so they both fit into a plane’s overhead compartment. This handy gadget is also useful as a chair or play table when needed.
    Photo courtesy of Ride-On Carry-On

  • Joovy Hook

    Joovy Hook

    Eating out with baby becomes much easier with a hook-on high chair. Joovy makes an easy-to-clean deluxe leatherette version that folds up with a patented technology for easy transport and storage, without disassembly. The hooks have padded tips to protect tables and the seat keeps baby secure with a 3-point harness. Plus, its stylishly designed, comes in multiple colors and seats babies up to 37 pounds.
    Photo courtesy of Joovy

  • Take 'N' Play Anywhere Magnetic Games

    Take 'N' Play Anywhere Magnetic Games

    Take 'N' Play Anywhere Magnetic Games save family members from chasing loose pieces down tiny crevices while in transit. A number of classic games like hangman, checkers, tic-tac-toe, bingo and more are available in travel-sized magnetic form. The pieces large enough for kids to handle and are stored in thin square tins with sides that serve as the actual playing board.
    Photo courtesy of Patch

  • BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light

    BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light

    The BabyBjorn travel crib easily folds up into a convenient carry bag for sleeps outside the home ranging from short visits to Grandma’s house to longer road trips. There are no loose parts to attach and the crib is easy to move around once set up. Washable sheets fit around a soft, thin mattress which also has a stable base plate to keep the crib firmly on the floor. It weighs only 13 lbs. and is suitable for ages 0-3.
    Photo courtesy of BabyBjorn

  • Cash Passport

    Cash Passport

    The reloadable Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard allows travelers load a set amount of cash before traveling. A card can carry multiple currencies and the exchange rate is locked in at time of load/reload, enabling families to budget more accurately. These cards have chip and pin protection, no links to personal banking details and can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs worldwide. They're perfect for dolling out travel allowance to older kids and teenagers.
    Photo courtesy of MasterCard

  • Fujifilm Instax Mini

    Fujifilm Instax Mini

    Yes, instant film cameras still exist! Kids will love documenting their travels with the FujiFilm Instax Mimi, which comes in multiple colors and prints photos instantaneously. It’s an easy camera for even young kids to use, with the latest versions able to suggest one of four brightness settings so that they can shoot the best pics.
    Photo courtesy of Fujifilm

  • Kidz Gear Headphones

    Kidz Gear Headphones

    In a digital age full of handheld entertainment, headphones are a travel necessity for all. KidzGear makes volume-limiting, wired headphones that are gentler on kids’ ears and come in multiple colors. And because they're built with the same quality audio components as adult headphones, they won't break after one trip. A must for kids in the car or plane.
    Photo courtesy of Kidz Gear

  • Pognae Hipseat

    Pognae Hipseat

    The Pognae Hip Seat 3-in-1 baby carrier distributes baby’s weight evenly around a parent’s body to minimize stress on the spine. Baby can face forward, backward and rest on the hip while in the carrier, and the shoulder straps can be removed so that parents can use just the seat to make carrying baby in their arms a bit easier. Between the moldable shoulder straps and padded waist band, this might just be the most comfortable baby carrier on the market.
    Photo courtesy of Pognae

The winning essential, the Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas, gets kids interested in a trip both before and during a multi-state road trip. This family-centric atlas by National Geographic includes amusing trivia along with unusual stopping points and wacky roadside attractions.

Runner-up for Best Family Travel Essential, the Life360 app helps mom and dad keep tabs on the whole crew, especially during those times when different family members are doing different things while on vacation.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Family Travel Essential are as follows:

  1. Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas
  2. Life360
  3. Ride-On Carry-On
  4. Joovy Hook
  5. Take 'N' Play Anywhere Magnetic Games
  6. BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light
  7. Cash Passport
  8. Fujifilm Instax Mini
  9. Kidz Gear Headphones
  10. Pognae Hipseat

Other nominees in this category included Mad Libs, Trunki Suitcase, Vapur Anti-Bottle, CARES Airplane Safety Harness, YOYO Stroller, Gate Check Bags for Carseat or Stroller, Patagonia Lightweight Travel Courier, Neat Solutions Table Topper, Mom Maps and Postino.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Katie Dillon (La Jolla Mom), Kyle McCarthy ( and Eileen Ogintz (Taking the Kids) were chosen for their expertise in the family travel industry.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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AlertThe Experts

Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz