10 winter gear essentials for traveling with toddlers and babies

Nov 27, 2019

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If your family is accustomed to warmer climes (Floridians, Arizonans and Texans, we’re looking at you), the logistics of a family vacation to a wintry locale can keep you up at night worrying about what the kids will wear. At least that was the case for me when I took advantage of the SAS Kids Fly Free deal to visit Scandinavia last winter with my toddler and 1-year-old.

A few days after the euphoria of snagging those cheap flights to Finland wore off, I found myself up in the night wondering how in the world I was going to ensure my young Floridians — who rarely even don socks in the Sunshine State — would stay warm during the Arctic winter.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

I decided to poll friends living in chilly climes — everywhere from Vancouver and Steamboat Springs to Norway — for essential winter clothing tips that help keep their babies and toddlers warm. Here’s what they came back with:

Winter gear for kids

Ella’s Wool

A Norwegian mother and friend of mine turned me on to the importance of wool-base layers when you want your kids to be outside enjoying winter for hours on end. After all, the Norwegians love to say there’s no bad weather — just bad clothing choices. When they’re dressed for it, your kids can be outside when the temperature drops far below what you’d otherwise deem comfortable.

And, in fact, a Norwegian mother who is now based in Brooklyn is behind the brilliant and itch-free wool underthings in the Ella’s Wool line. When she first moved to New York, Vibeke Johansen wondered why her children were among the only ones playing outside on the city playgrounds on the coldest winter days. All Norwegians know the trick to staying warm starts with real wool layers. “In Norway,” said Johansen, “kids spend most of the day outside, and are wearing merino wool layers for about nine months of the year.”

Ella
Ella’s Wool underthings (Photo by Terry Ward)

Clothe your babies in these supersoft onesies and pants and your toddlers in the shirt and pant sets and you’ll likely only need a bunting or snowsuit to go on top to keep them warm out in the cold all winter long. Ella’s Wool products are made from finely woven 100% pure merino wool and are machine washable, so caring for them is easy, too.

REI Co-Op Colombia Snowslope II Bib Snow Pants

For on-the-move toddlers, it’s essential to have good snow pants for your winter vacation. And the bib-style version, like this favorite pick from REI, ensures snow doesn’t seep in at their waist while they’re building snowmen in the fresh powder or sledding down a hill. The nylon shell is waterproof and the internal snow gaiters keep the white stuff from infiltrating their boots. Plus, Colombia offers the Outgrown™ grow system, which makes the length of the legs extendable as you kid grows. For price and quality, you can’t go wrong adding these snow pants to your toddler travel checklist.

SnowStoppers Mittens and Gloves

Remembering the feeling of having crusty snow seep into my mitten cuffs while building snowmen as a kid, I found myself wondering how I would keep my 2-year-old’s hands warm and dry on an upcoming trip to Crested Butte, Colorado. It was a New England friend who told me to check out SnowStoppers, a Massachusetts brands that makes gloves and mittens with extra-long cuffs so not only does the snow not get in but kids also have a much harder time yanking these things off.

Both mittens and gloves are made with Thinsulate insulation and a waterproof outer layer — all the better for encouraging hours of outdoor fun in the snow. The extra-small mittens have no thumbs and work well for your littlest snow bunnies between the ages of 6 and 18 months, and there are regular mittens and gloves for older kids.

SnowStoppers mittens
(Photo courtesy of SnowStoppers)

Patagonia Infant Hi-Loft Down Sweater Bunting

For babies who can’t walk quite yet, a bunting is what you need for venturing forth into the bitter cold. It’s a super cute name for a one-piece designed to keep them warm from head to toe. Patagonia makes one of the warmest ones out there in this version made from 600-fill-power 100% recycled duck and goose down. The length is extra-long to keep legs and hands protected when your baby is crawling or standing. And the fleece-lined hood has a spandex-lined opening so it fits snugly and comfortably around the face. The other openings are also lined with spandex for a snug fit, and the bunting has special fold-over mitts and foot coverings for an added layer of protection from the snow and cold. Sizes go from newborns up to 24 months, but this bunting is particularly ideal for little ones who aren’t very mobile. 

REI Co-Op 650 Reversible Down Jacket 

Your toddler’s body heat stays trapped inside when they wear this essential top layer, which make a good item to pair with the snow pants. The secret to keeping warm is the jacket’s 650-fill-power down that preserves body heat to deliver warmth that doesn’t quit. And while the polyester shell isn’t waterproof, it does have a water-repellent property that allows it to shed light rain and snow, making it perfect for dry powder conditions. The jacket comes in several color combinations and is reversible, with pockets on one side and no pockets on the other. The long zipper is designed to block whipping winds and snow, and there’s elastic at the bottom hem and sleeve cuffs as an added barrier to all that cold stuff.

REI down jacket toddler
REI down jacket (Photo by Terry Ward)

Infant Asher Bootie by The North Face

When your baby’s not yet crawling and there’s no threat of this or her feet coming into direct contact with the snow, you could just layer on the wool socks under a bunting. But we love the wind-fighting and heat-trapping materials of these infant booties by The North Face designed to keep the tiniest tootsies toasty outdoors. There’s a plush fleece lining inside and nylon on the booties’ exterior. The hook-and-loop closure makes them easy to get on and off your baby and adjust for the right fit. 

Toddler Powderbug Plus II Snow Boot

Toddlers love nothing more than stomping around in the fluffy white stuff. The only thing to worry about when they’re having at it is that snow might find its way into their boots while they play. These super warm and waterproof snow boots by Columbia put an end to all that with a top that cinches tight to keep your kid warm and dry. The 6-millimeter-thick felt liner can keep toes warm down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit and be removed, too, to be washed between wearings. The adjustable hook-and-loop closure strap above the ankle makes the boot as easy as possible to put on and also lets you cinch it to the appropriate tightness.

SnowStoppers Nordic Knit Hat

I’m a sucker for a cute Nordic design on any kind of knitwear (you should see my sweater collection). And I love the classic pattern on these hats by SnowStoppers designed to fit kids between the ages of 2 and 7, thanks to the adjustable chin tie. And trust me, if your kid isn’t used to wearing a hat, you definitely want to be able to fasten it under his or her chin for any chance at having it stay on. The hats are made with a soft knit material and lined with fluffy fleece, so nobody can rightfully whine that they’re itchy. They are also pretty affordable at about $10 per hat.

SnowStoppers knit hat
SnowStoppers knit hat (Photo courtesy of SnowStoppers)

Smartwool Toddler Wool Socks

No matter your age, warm feet are happy feet. And the secret to keeping feet warm in winter, once again, comes down to wool. Smartwool does quality wool blend socks for toddlers that are made from 79% merino, 20% nylon and 1% Elastane for just the right amount of stretch to (hopefully) keep those pesky toe holes at bay.

Travel blanket

There’s a whole host of travel blankets on the market, each with their own bells and whistles. But if you’re headed to a cold environment, having a stuffable down blanket on hand can be a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your kids happy. For example, the Rumpl Down Puffy Blanket from REI can be used to wrap a cold toddler up, cover a snoozing baby, or even as a blanket during your flight to your destination. Regardless of which blanket you choose, packability and weight are the two key factors to consider.

Bottom Line

Packing for a cold-weather trip doesn’t have to stress you out as long as you’ve got the appropriate base layers and accessories to keep the kiddos warm. If you are stocking up online for all of these winter goodies, consider paying with one of the best credit cards for everyday spending. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, for example, offers a valuable sign-up bonus paired with a 2x mile (2% return) on everyday spending long-term.

Now, get out there and enjoy winter. And remember what the Norwegians say: There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.

To continue your cold-weather vacation planning:

Featured image by Westend61 / Getty Images

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