Best Carrier for Compact Travel

Don’t Leave Home Without a Ring SlingToddler riding in ring sling wearing an Octonauts party hat

  • What: Ring sling for traveling
  • When: Birth to three years
  • Why: Compact, lightweight, versatile
  • Where: Amazon

Got some holiday travel with a little one in your future? Throw a ring sling into your carry on bag, and you won’t regret it. You can purchase one of these versatile carriers for less than half the price of their bulkier cousins (I’m looking at you, Ergo!) and they work even better in tight spaces like the middle seat of an airplane.

I can’t rave enough about my ring sling. Even if you use another carrier the rest of the time, a ring sling packs up so compactly and has so many uses on board an airplane that I never leave home without it. Not only did it allow me to keep my hands free to fold up a stroller on the jetway and board the plane, but it doubled as a nursing cover during takeoff and landing to prevent pain in my children’s ears from changing air pressure. The long tail provided plenty of shielding from any prying eyes when I couldn’t move myself. The tail also doubled as a wipe, when I didn’t want to disturb a sleeping baby to grab a cloth or disposable wipe from my bag, and a napkin for older kids and myself. I could easily wear it underneath a jacket or any other layers, and keep it on even when I took my child out (if I got lucky enough to pass them around, for instance). I didn’t have any buckles to poke me or my kids and it adjusted infinitely for a variety of circumstances from feeding, to sleeping, to playing.

Baby sleeping in ring sling

Keep your hands free on board even while holding a sleeping baby

You can easily attach toys within your child’s reach to the metal rings of the sling, especially using a couple links. The long tail on the carrier also helps to shield kids from too much light either from open windows or changing cabin conditions.

The shoulder padding on mine made a big difference. I got my ring sling handmade locally, and sadly the store has since gone out of business. But you can find a variety of fabulous patterns and colors to suit any style. I personally preferred the patterns to hide any spills or other unfortunate baby by products.

Ring sling folded up compactly on the floor

My ring sling fits easily inside most bags and weighs less than some board books.

Ring slings also work great if you travel with multiple kids and no other adults. You can put one kid in the sling, another on a Bedbox or in a stroller, and still have a hand free for hauling luggage and other things. On board, keeping your lap child in the sling gives you more freedom to move around and hand out snacks and entertainment for siblings.

I personally favored putting my child on my lap facing me on board airplanes. I could let the fabric out to allow some space between us to prevent overheating, and we had ample room to play with small toys and finger games. If my youngest dropped their bottle, toy, or snack, the sling kept it from falling on the floor, and saved me from having to shuffle everyone while I bent over scratching around trying to feel for the dropped item.

Infant riding in ring sling on board airplane

The sling makes it harder for little legs and hands to grab strangers seated next to you.

Ring slings fold down so compactly that even if I don’t think we need a carrier, I often take it along anyway. I can wear it and not have to mess with putting on or taking off a carrier in the middle of a meltdown. I can also carry a ring sling easily over one shoulder or underneath even the smallest stroller for easy access. I’ve also been known to toss other loose items in the pouch of the sling if my kid isn’t using it to get off a plane faster.

Even with my youngest at four years old, I keep holding onto my ring sling because I find it so useful for travel.

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