Vendors serving the parenting space will stop at nothing to try and convince us moms and dads how much of their stuff we need.
Sometimes, they’ve got a point—that little clip-and-tether doohickey that keeps the baby’s pacifier from hitting the ground is genius. In the case of family travel, however, most of the products dubbed “must-haves” represent colossal wastes of cash. Here are three (well, really, four) of the least necessary I’ve come across so far.
Baby travel harnesses
On paper, this product (and others like it) seems like it was made by angels. Keep the kid still on an airplane! Keep the kid safe! Works on regular chairs, too! In reality, the harness fails to take into account a pretty important characteristic of babies: THEY SQUIRM. Take it from someone who has used these types of products with two kids at two different times over the last three years—babies generally don’t enjoy being lapchildren, and they really don’t enjoy being lapchildren when they’re strapped in.
Stroller travel bags
Yes, stroller travel bags like this one protect your stroller from getting wet and dirty once airline workers take it from gate-check and toss it into the cargo hold. The problem: In protecting your stroller, the bags themselves get are put through the ringer, and usually don’t survive more than one or two trips. If you only travel once a year, your ROI (return on investment) on these types of products won’t be too bad. But if you fly three or four times a year (or more), you’re better off rolling up your money and toss it out the window of a moving vehicle.
Disposable toilet seat covers
There’s no way around it: Potty-training is hell. Even if your kid is a pro at pooping and peeing at home, he or she is bound to be a little vexed by the notion of going in unfamiliar environments. With that in mind, the very last thing you want to do is draw attention to the unfamiliarity of it all. That’s exactly what products like these accomplish. OK, covers make foreign toilet seats slightly more hygienic. It’s just as effective (and much cheaper) to wipe seats down with toilet paper (or a diaper wipe!), let your kid do his/her thing, then wash hands vigorously.
Finally, I’d be remiss in writing an essay of this nature without ragging at least a little on family travel maps.
If you’ve even spent a few minutes on Facebook, you’ve probably tooled around with the app that lets you “mark” a virtual world map with all the places you’ve been. This fun little game is free. Why, then, any sane person would spend hard-earned dollars on something like this is beyond me. The wall map is small. It’s not kid-friendly (hey, let’s give a toddler some pins!) It’s also really spendy.
Here’s a novel concept: Take pictures on your family vacations. Come home and get cheap frames for them. Then, hang those on the walls. These mementos—images you actually took yourself—are the best ways to remember where you’ve been. If you want a map (and, trust me, I’m all for paper maps), I’m sure you can find one for less than $170.
Did I forget to include a product you can't stand? If so, leave a comment.