Welcome to the third annual edition of the NowboardingWithKids Holiday Gift Guide! This year the holidays will be particularly exciting for us, as we will be welcoming the fifth member of our family just a couple weeks before Christmas! Being what we consider a “travel blog”, we would be remiss not to address the elephant of the coronavirus in the room which squashed many of our travel plans over the last year. Thankfully, we’ve taken advantage of the extra time at home explore our province here Southern Spain a little more and also dial in some of our future plans when this pandemic nightmare is finally over. We do think there are brighter skies on the horizon for 2021 and we have been busy making plans for a bunch of amazing trips soon.
No matter where you live, it’s been our experience that there is always something cool to explore right around the corner. Whether you or your loved ones are planning for big trips ahead, or just want to make everyday life a bit easier, we’ve got you covered. Over the past few years we’ve personally used every item on this list and found these ones in particular to stand out and either make travel easier or more enjoyable. We’ve also included a few of our favorite books/educational materials for the kids to help them get excited to travel, see new places, and meet new people.
We’ve tried to include items from several different price points, but we always try and focus on quality, durability, and usefulness. We promise every single one of these items has been battle tested and survived with flying colors.
If you are interested in getting any of these items for YOUR friends or family, we would really appreciate if you use our links to click through. We are an affiliate for multiple websites, and your support will help us continue working on Nowboardingwithkids. Thanks!
Enter, our 2020 Holiday Gift Giving Guide!
This is NOT your full function fancy stroller with cup holders and a skateboard attachment for your other kids. It’s NOT a stroller that you are going to load down with 50 lbs of shopping bags. It’s also NOT a stroller that you are going to be snapping your baby car seat into. What it is, however, IS a stroller that folds so small you may forget that it’s in the back of your car. It’s also a stroller that easily fits in even the smallest overhead compartment. From bringing it on trains in Japan to having it constantly stashed in the back of our car here in Spain, this stroller has definitely changed the way we travel. Light enough to carry up stairs when no elevator is in sight, small enough to bring onboard that flight, and big enough to even carry our 7-year-old when the kids want to trade off. At the core we are more “baby wearing parents” but, sometimes you just don’t want to have a hot kid on you (or your kid refuses to be on their hot parent). Because this little guy folds down so compact, we have found ourselves bringing it along on WAY more trips than even our other “umbrella” type stroller.
To put it in context, we like this stroller so much that we are actually on our second after United Airlines forced us to gate check it one time (we still aren’t sure why the folks at the gate were so set on this as the stroller is smaller than most carry-ons and is lighter to boot) and subsequently lost it on the way. *Insert unhappy face here* Thankfully, we got reimbursed for it…but it’s one of the few times that the money went right back in to buy a replacement. Yup, it’s that good. There are very few things that we will buy twice, but this is one of those rare items.
Get yours here.
As much as we like to see new places, not everything about the travel experience is our favorite. In particular, we hate to pack. It’s tedious, it’s time consuming, and as your family grows it just gets more and more complicated. It’s unfortunate, because a little extra time spent planning and packing before a trip can make all the difference. That’s all the more reason we were drawn to the Trivago 4-in-1 travel bottles. Having a toiletry bag mostly packed and ready to go makes packing WAY faster and simpler, and we’ve found the easiest way to do that is to rely on these little beauties.
Each one has four slide out pump dispensers which you can load up with your soap/lotion of choice. The kids have their own (with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and kids’ toothpaste), and Britt has her own (with her own fancy shampoo/conditioner, face wash, and toner). Dom is a combined shampoo/conditioner/body wash-kind-of-guy, so it’s not as useful for him, but for everyone else they work great and prevent us from buying travel sized toiletries or bringing big bottles everywhere we go.
Get yours here.
Along with a lot of other families during the pandemic, we suddenly found ourselves as a homeschool family in March when schools closed due to COVID. We’ve embraced it and despite some growing pains, decided to keep on the homeschool train after moving to Spain. After struggling to keep colored pencils sharp for different activities, we stumbled across these little cuties several months ago. We are now on our third set, because they are are mess-free, easy for kids to use, and negate the need for a sharpener. Plus the retractable pencil lead makes it so you avoid all those tiny colored dots in your pencil case…no, that doesn’t bother you? Just me? Mmmkay.
On top of home school, these are the perfect to take on the road or a plane as they won’t melt, are easy to clean, and won’t find their way onto clothes, car seats, or everything else (like crayons markers). They are a little more expensive than crayons or regular colored pencils, but in our opinion are well worth it.
Get yours here.
We’ve gotten quite a few questions over the past few years on our approach to car seats when traveling. You may have noticed however, that we’ve mostly avoided the topic. Thats primarily for three reasons: 1) like politics, people tend to be VERY opinionated about car seats. 2) When we ware in Asia, most places we travelled were simply not conducive to bringing or traveling with a car seat (try and picture a car seat in a tuk tuk…its just not gonna happen). 3) Travelling with car seats is cumbersome, slow, and is frankly a pain in the butt.
We found a passable solution for a lightweight travel booster seat, the Mifold Booster which we still use fairly frequently and continue to be mostly happy with (for its size). That doesn’t help with smaller kiddos, however, so now that we are in Europe (read…not exactly zooming around in Tuk Tuks) we had to go to the drawing board to figure out a solution. After much research, we settled on the Pico. It checks all of our boxes, with a full harness, back tie down strap, and meets all federal safety ratings. Of note, in 2019 they did have a recall on a piece of the headrest, so if you end up finding a used one make sure it has had the (free of charge) fix! A full review will be coming soon, but in short, its the best solution we’ve found to easily traveling with a safe car seat for our toddler. We got the carrying case (which doubles as a backpack), and can easily fit the Mifold booster in there as well. It’s definitely more than what we brought in Asia, but we’ve found it to be a compact and relatively lightweight solution for Europe and the United States.
Get yours here.
Like most parents, we struggle with finding the “proper” use of screen time. It’s a constant work-in-progress, but as the kids have gotten a little older, we actually rely on the iPads quite a bit less than we used to. This is partially because our kids are a little better a self-entertaining, partially because we’ve found other activities they like, and partially because as they get older they enjoy reading themselves. The Berenstein Bears books by Mike Berenstein, have always been some of our favorites because of the lessons they try to teach as well as the stories themselves. Our kids loved reading about the bears travels and comparing them to trips they have made themselves. Recently Miles finished a small study on Italy as we have been working through a Europe Unit in homeschool. We pulled out this book to read and he immediately responded, “Oh, so today we are reading about Venice?” Gah! Proud parent over here.
Get yours here.
Zendure Passport II Pro Travel Adapter
We had some no name travel adapters on our gift guide two years ago, and for the most part they served us well. They were tossed in our bags for nearly every trip due to their small size and capability to serve double duty as USB wall chargers for most electronic devices. However, those adapters were relatively cheaply made and very underpowered. They were fine to plug in a laptop or phone overnight, but certainly took their time juicing devices up to full capacity. Fast forward a few years and Gallium Nitride (GaN) has made its way into travel charges. At risk of sounding really nerdy, Gallium is more efficient than silicone in electronics, which makes these little guys capable of charging at 61 Watts (fast enough to charge an iPad Pro or MacBook Pro 13″ at full speed). Additionally, because they require fewer components, they can also be much smaller than comparable silicone-based chargers. These guys also feature a self-resetting fuse, which takes a lot of the fuss out of unexpected power surges. Each one has two USB-C charging ports and three regular USB-A ports on top of the main adapter output for plugging in anything that may not be USB related. While we haven’t been traveling a ton recently, they have definitely become a life line for adapting many of our US plugged electronics to European outlets.
Get yours here.
Most of the time I ride my bike to work, but sometimes I drive. Either way coffee is an essential start to the day. Sometimes I have plenty of time in the morning to get things done, other days I’m away from my desk for a long periods right from the start. In Japan, I used a Hydroflask coffee cup to bring my morning joe with me on the bike, when that died (tragic loss involving a bumpy downhill road heading into Hyama) I splurged on a fancy looking Starbucks coffee cup from the Reserve Rostery in Tokyo. It looked nice and all, but wasn’t near leak proof enough to avoid a little spillage onto my backpack during the commute. I looked at the Yeti options, but wasn’t satisfied with their magnetic tops. I was also looking for something that could hold a bit more than 12 ounces and not feel like having a huge Stanley type thermos sitting on my desk at work. Dismayed, I spent several sleepless months reflecting on the lack of proper vessels to deliver my precious morning caffeine. They always say that the night is darkest before dawn, and thankfully the sun rose on my coffee conundrum in the form of the Camelbak Multibev.
Ok, I’m exaggerating (a bit). I ordered the Camelbak Multibev on a whim after seeing it on a random website and it has proven to be exactly what I was looking for. It holds 22oz of precious elixir of your choice and comes along with a seamlessly integrated 16 oz cup. There is even a silicone top for the cup which hides in a secret compartment when not in use. It also keeps coffee hot way longer than many other options I’ve tried. The 22oz bottle fits easily into a side pocket on a backpack, and with the tag-a-long cup I can still sip from a civilized size cup on my desk. It’s perfect.
In addition to coffee, I could see it being a great beverage container for a picnic, tailgate, or playdate, as it essentially fits two cups into a single container allowing you and a friend to enjoy a beverage while your little ones blissfully entertain themselves and provide a few precious moments of peace.
Get yours here.
These iconic Patagonia Fleeces are another purchase we made this year that just kept finding their way out of our closets. They are the perfect combination of fuzzy warmth and durability that make chilly nights so much more inviting whether you are at a campfire or are out on the town. What has surprised us the most is just how soft they have stayed even after multiple washes. You know that super soft feeling when you buy a new sweater? These have kept up that feeling for well over a year, they are amazing (and come in some amazing patterns). Yes, they are a bit more expensive than some other options, but in our opinion they are well worth the extra cost. These may not be the best choice for backcountry hiking or camping as they don’t pack down that small and are NOT waterproof, but for car camping, relaxing at home, or quick trip to town they’re ah-maz-ing.
We’ve mentioned these Black Diamond Spot Headlamps on the blog several times before, but they continue to make their way into our bag on both big and small trips. Britt thought they were overkill when we first got them, but when the sun sets and you are in a position where you still need both of your hands these are near essential. Whether you are cooking at a camp fire, finishing a later than usual hike, getting back to the car after spending a little too long soaking up a beautiful sunset, or are simply trying to find a lost Lego under the couch, these headlights really come in handy. The batteries last a really long time, and they also have versions that are rechargeable or ones that use AAA batteries. While we don’t use them quite as much, we’ve also been impressed with the Black Diamond Re-Moji Magnetic Lanterns. They are rechargeable and have a magnet on the back so you can stick them to an overhead shelter, on the side of a vehicle, or any other magnetic surface. They also are capable of turning red to preserve night vision or other colors if you want to PARTY!
As Miles has progressed with his reading, the Magic Tree House series has become one of his favorites. While working through them, we stumbled upon the Fact Tracker series. If you aren’t familiar with the regular series, they revolve around two kids, Jack and Annie, who find a Magic Treehouse in the woods that transports them to different times and places in history. Each book sneaks a lot of factual and historical information into the story, but there is only so much the author can fit into a 70ish page book. Thus we have been paring when possible the fictional stories with the Magic Treehouse Fact Tracker series, a non-fiction companion, to fill in those gaps. Miles and Penny really enjoy hearing about some of the cool real-world facts about the world. Over the past four months we have been focusing particularly on the ones that focus on Europe to prep for upcoming travels!
Get yours here.
Full disclosure we act as an affiliate for sites such as Patagonia, Black Diamond and Amazon.com, so clicking through and purchasing products via our links does make us a little money and allows us to continue to put out (hopefully) useful content.