Let’s face it. A stroller can only do so much. There are just some places that are not appropriate for strollers. And babies are heavy. Packing a good baby carrier is essential for travel. Even if you only really need it one time… when you need it.. you really need it. So what kind of carrier should you pack?
The Pros and Cons of Hard and Soft Baby Carriers for Travel
A lot of things will influence your decision on whether to invest in a hard or soft baby carrier. Some things to think about when making your decision are:
- What ages will you be traveling with your baby?
- What weight is your baby?
- Will you be using the carrier for long periods at a time?
- Do you need a carrier with good back support?
- How much storage do you need with your carrier?
- How much space do you have in your luggage?
And by the way – both carriers retail at around the same price range… so don’t let price be a deciding factor.
Soft baby carriers
When I talk about soft baby carriers I’m talking about things such as the BabyBjorn or the Ergo carrier. These carriers are easy to come by and our sold in most baby stores all over the world.
Soft baby carriers are great with younger children. Some varieties can be used from birth and offer lots of support. The carrier keeps the child close to the parent and allows the child to look out on the world, as well as sleep up against it’s parent. If you are traveling with a young baby, then a soft carrier might be ideal for you.
Soft baby carriers back down very small. You can shove them into any part of your luggage. If you don’t want too much bulky luggage, than a soft carrier is ideal.
You can take a soft carrier onto planes. This is great if your child is flying on your lap. It allows you to navigate the airport and airplane with much greater ease.
Soft baby carriers usually just carry the baby and nothing more. There is very little storage included in the carrier for all those things that a baby needs when it is out and about.
Many soft carriers have nice wide shoulder straps to ease the weight on the parents back, but few of them come with a proper weight distributing waist strap. Without this, no matter how good the shoulder straps are, your back will start to ache after a while. If you are going to be on the go all day long, or hiking, then you might not want a soft carrier.
Hard baby carriers
Hard baby carriers have metal frames inside them, and are most often sold in hiking and outdoor stores. They are less common than soft carriers, but still readily available if you look in the right places.
Hard baby carriers have lots of support for the parent. The waist strap distributes the weight of the child across your hips and takes the strain from your back. This is perfect for hiking or with heavier, older children.
Hard baby carriers are very versatile and can be used with children up to around 20 kilos.
Hard baby carriers usually have a fair amount of storage. We have a Kathmandu hard baby carrier and it has enough storage in the back that is pretty much fits all the baby gear that we travel with. Since most airlines let you take baby equipment for free, it is almost like getting a free small suitcase.
There is less head and neck support with hard carriers, so it is not suitable for young babies.
Hard baby carriers are bulky and take up a lot of space. When trying to pack for a road trip, the carrier takes up as much space as a small suitcase.
You have to check it at the airport, which means you wont be able to use it on the other side of security.
Which baby carrier is right for you?
For us, it was the hard baby carrier. We started traveling when our son was 5 months old and we did a lot of hiking and walking so we needed the more heavy duty carrier which would be kind to our backs. Also when traveling carry on only, the free checked carrier secretly stored about half of our luggage allowing us to take more gear!