Planning trips with friends is still high on my list, but it’s time to embrace the present season of exploring. I’m a mom to two bright girls under 4 years old. This changes the game for the bulk of my travels! I don’t find traveling with the kids too intense, but the downside is definitely the amount of gear we need to lug around. But with some tried and true experiments, I’ve found some of the best solutions for our group that works well. From camping and biking trips to city weekend getaways and international experiences, these products should help with them all. We try to offer longer, in-depth reviews for quality items in the guide, as many gifts are an investment for long-term use.
Not to mention, I added a few fun foodie finds at the end to continue the gift giving party that includes everyone. As always (after TEN years of gift guides!), we do our best to include sustainable brands, small businesses, endeavors owned by marginalized communities, and B corp companies. It syncs well with our message that traveling is for everyone, and everyone should always be included! -Eileen
On the go gear
MSR Habiscape Family Tent
I have loved the outdoors my entire life. From hiking & backpacking to kayaking and canoeing – it’s those days out in the wild that I feel most free. Now I want to pass that love of the outdoors onto my children, and make sure we make fantastic memories of our time together. Camping is an activity that kids love – from campfires and marshmallows to getting cozy in a sleeping bag — children love the adventure of it all.
But with a growing family, camping takes on whole new challenges. I used to head off into the backcountry with little more than a tarp, quilt and sleeping pad. Now the challenges are more acute. For example: trying to make sure everyone has enough room — especially with considerably more stuff to assure that we’re safe, dry and warm. Or being able to get up and move around the tent without waking up sleeping little’uns. These challenges can make the difference between a wonderful family trip – or a tired and sometimes miserable outing.
Enter the MSR Habiscape 6-person tent. This is a real family tent. It can easily fit six people — but almost more importantly — it has 77 inches of head clearance! You can stand up and walk around inside the tent — which means it’s easier not to disturb sleeping babies, toddlers, dogs and other members. It’s got a thick and durable fly to keep the rain out – yet has a wide door and vestibule for ease of getting in and ease of storage. It does this all while still only weighing around 14 pounds. For some of your backpackers out there – that will seem huge — but for those of us that have used other family tents that normally come in at 25 to 30 pounds — this is a huge weight and space savings when packed up. That means more room in car for other creature comforts and coolers.
Setting up this tent is a breeze and can be done by one person in about 10 minutes. It’s even easy to set up whilst you have a toddler playing inside of the tent before it’s fully up! It’s littered with pockets inside for stuff – and has spots to put light strings or lanterns everywhere. I’m looking forward to taking our new baby, toddler and dog on their first camping adventure together.
Retail $599.95 -Christian
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack
Cotopaxi is now almost a household name — certainly in houses with REI memberships! The company specializes in products that use leftover fabrics to lessen the environmental burden on the travel industry – but their commitment doesn’t stop there. They use factories that treat their employees ethically, they’re a member of the 1% For the Planet, and they are climate neutral.
But is their gear and apparel any good? Yes is the answer. The Allpa 35L is a suit-case like backpack with ample storage for a trip of around a week. It’s an organized bag with its array of pockets and compartments — perfect for separating out items like shoes and bath bags from other clothes. It’s top outside pocket is great for items like passports, keys, boarding passes and chargers. But, it also fits the matching Allpa 4L waist pack — which itself opens up like a miniature suitcase.
This bag is so versatile — I use it for multi-day business trips carrying items like laptops and clunky brick chargers, as well as road trips and rugged weekends away. One area where this bag really shines is as a larger carry-on bag — especially when traveling with young kids. Its backpack straps allow it to share its weight across both shoulders. And, it’s easily stable enough when chasing a toddler around those long airport corridors. Its aforementioned organizational capabilities allow you to have compartments for kids’ clothing and activities. You can separate out your own items and family travel documents too.
The bag comes in two flavors — a sort of normal flavor that comes in a bunch of colors and has a water repellent coating — but also a Del Dia version that uses remnants of other fabrics and comes in beautiful unique colorways. The latter also has an advantage of being easily spottable on baggage carousels should you check it during a flight. It’s a brilliantly versatile bag that you will use for years of travel.
Retail $200.00 -Christian
Honey Bee Stroller/Trailer
Now that we’re rolling four-deep in this family, we’re having some hot debates. How should we all get around as a crew? I’ve done the bulky, ultra-fancy strollers for a while, but often feel frustrated when it’s time to pack up the car. I love my single convertible car seat/stroller for the baby, but soon I’ll need something for both her and my toddler together as they grow. While the wagons are tempting, I think our on-the-move family needs something a little more versatile and compact. But I still need space for storage to take all the snacks.
The Honey Bee™ by Burley so far has satisfied all our needs, especially for weekends and road trips. It’s a two-kiddo bike trailer that also converts into a walking stroller. There’s plenty of packing space underneath and the whole thing can be folded down for better storage. It’s compatible with both road bikes and e-bikes. The Honey Bee™ has a lot of bells and whistles, but each one deems useful: an aluminum roll bar, UPF 50+ tinted windows, adjustable handlebar, and a 100-pound capacity. My 3-year-old is getting a huge kick out of being a passenger and seems to have plenty of room.
I haven’t packed it for a plane yet, but I can see this being fairly simple, especially compared to other huge and heavy double strollers that aren’t an option for checked baggage.
The only small downside I found is it only comes in a red and black color. That’s a tiny concession, though, against all the state-of-the-art features. They’ve recently made some great upgrades to the current Honey Bee™ model too, including utilizing many recycled materials.
As an added bonus, the Burley company is based out of Oregon and has gear for other traveling scenarios, such as pet trailers and cargo bike trailers for longer trips/rides. They’ve perfected their design over four decades of high-quality gear. I’ve been eyeing some additional storage accessories and off-road wheel kit options too as we evolve alongside the Honey Bee.
Retail $479.95, currently on sale for 20% off -Eileen
Roam Large Check-In Expandable Suitcase
Roam’s luggage is a colorful and customizable suitcase with huge interior volume. Today’s airline ticketing broadly means that the more bags you bring – the more you will have to pay. We’ve seen checked bag fees of over $200 on round trip flights to Europe. Things get particularly tricky when you’re packing for young kids – especially babies and toddlers due to their particular ability to get food and drink all over a clean outfit in seconds flat. This leads to overpacking – especially on particularly long trips. To satisfy those requirements – you need a particularly robust and large suitcase that can handle the heavy loads of full sized families.
This is where the Roam check-in suitcase comes in handy. It’s got two huge compartments without partitions and barriers – we’ve even used it to fit the base of a car seat in one compartment – whilst stuffing the other full of clothes, diapers and formula. Incredible. The suitcase also has optional compression pads that can help flatten squishy loads and it comes with additional pockets to help organize further.
The coolest strength though of a Roam suitcase is its customizability. When ordering you can select from a variety of colors for each side of the shell, the wheels, handles and even the color of the zipper. This makes identifying it on the baggage carousel easy against the backdrop of blah black business bags.It also means you can personalize it in your favorite colors – or those of a sports team, college, etc.
One of the nifty little tricks that I particularly enjoyed is that the handle has a bunch of different settings for height. This means that if your walking a longer distance – such as from a terminal into a parking structure – you can tilt the bag onto two wheels but keep the handle a little lower. It’s a much more comfortable way rather than trying to drag it along with your wrist.
We’re looking forward to longer summer trips into Europe and even further with our Roam suitcase!
Retail $650, currently 25% off luggage sale -Christian
Noshing and reminiscing at home
Jøyus® Non-Alcoholic Wine
I just got back on the sauce after pregnancy, but I’ve certainly slowed down my imbibing over the years. In fact, many times I just want to be a part of the celebration, but not necessarily suffer the side effects of alcohol. This is especially true when I’m traveling for work and love a wind-down beverage at night. Or when I know a travel day with the kids is coming up and I need to be fully on top of my game.
The booze-free market has certainly started to make waves, allowing for inclusivity and delicious drinks enjoyed by everyone. Now I like to have a few alcohol-free beer and wine options on hand at all times while hosting. We popped open a bottle of bubbly Rosé from Jøyus® wines this holiday season and it did not disappoint. Everyone loved having a tipple: the sober ones, the pregnant ones, and those who just love a lovely glass of wine. I found it refreshing and authentic, packaged perfectly, and poured with fun in mind. The start was tasty and the finish smooth. I’d swap it for a regular Rosé anyday: for real.
When you buy the award-winning Joyus wines, you also support the ONLY sober-owned and woman-owned non-alcoholic winery in the country. Cheers to that!
Retail $26.99 -Eileen
Spinn Coffee Maker
Coffee looms large in my travel memories. It’s an intimate part of any trip for me as it plays a huge part in my daily rituals. I can remember meeting my wife (then girlfriend) in Sevilla, Spain. In those days we stayed in expensive digs as close to the city centers as possible. I had arrived late the night before after staying up on an overnight flight and my immediate thought upon waking that morning was coffee. I found an amazing little shop clad in Spanish tiles where their espresso machine breathed new life into me. It was my first taste of Spain – sitting there in the window of the cafe, observing the locals over my cup.
I’ve made side trips to find coffee shops with views of the Med, patiently waited for my little gas stove to boil whilst camping amongst the trees, and driven into the Australian table lands to find high altitude coffee roasters in the same way people seek out vineyards in Italy and France. Coffee is essential.
I then found the Spinn Coffee machine. Intrigued by it’s customizable drinks, and frankly sick of buying capsules for other machines, I instantly welcome the Spinn into my house. The Spinn isn’t like traditional espresso machines, drip machines or pod/capsule machines. It uses centrifugal force to push water through beans. What does that mean? It’s like those rides at carnivals that spin really fast and push you up against the wall. This allows the coffee to saturate the grounds with different pressure and temperature levels based on different rotational speeds. It’s an amazing little machine that can make anything from drip-like coffee, to espressos and nitro cold brews. That’s right – it can make a nitro brew with it’s cloudy, Guinness-like head. It doesn’t stop there – you can make anything from affogatos to espresso martinis. Want to relive that night in Mexico City drinking [insert Mexican coffee drink here]? The Spinn can handle it. Want to buy amazing coffees during your travels and bring them back home to share with friends? This is the machine to do that in. Want to have a machine that can satisfy an entire extended family at Christmas dinner? This is that machine.
My favorite part is that I’m finally free from buying pods and capsules. Not only is that more environmentally friendly, it means I actually get higher quality coffee beans. The Spinn has its own grinder – so you just pour whole bean coffee of your choice into the top. They even have an online marketplace to order coffee. The machine will then know how to best use those grounds for various drink types at different pressure, temperature and time settings. It’s a sneaky genius.
I can’t wait to show it off to my coffee-obsessed family at the next gathering.
Retail $1049.00 for pro bundle, current sale price $699 -Christian
The best thing traveling has done for my palette (and my kids tastes too) is increase our tolerance to spice! We’ve continued the tradition of kicking it up a notch at home. Recently, we sampled some tasty concoctions from Jenkins Jellies. This small batch, women-owned business adds real fire to food with a few spicy varieties.
So far I think the guava flavor is my favorite, but they all definitely have heat! There’s a few new ones we’ll have to try too, like the cranberry pepper jelly for our east coast contingency.
You can definitely get creative: I’ve seen these jellies featured in cocktails, with BBQ wings, and even deviled eggs. Our gluten-free and vegan family and friends loved these the most featured on grazing boards to add something special.
Retail $29.99 for the hot pepper jelly gift set -Eileen
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