As an expat, family travel is an inevitable part of our lives. One of our first tasks after leaving the hospital with our new baby was getting passport photos taken. It's probably not your typical first stop, but we had a trip home just around the corner and a passport for our baby was a necessity.
Our daughter was eight-weeks-old on her first overseas flight. It didn't take long before we lost count of how many flights she'd taken. Now with two kids, and many flights under our belt, we like to think we have flying down to a science, but we still always expect the unexpected.
We've forgotten things, lost others, but I'm hoping that this list might help save you a few headaches and make your travel experience a little easier.
Here's what you need to bring if you're traveling with your new baby:
Diapers, Wipes and Changes of Clothes
Like I said, it's the obvious, but you'd be surprised how quickly you go through these things during a travel day(or two). Accidents happen, especially with babies, so be prepared. Pack extra diapers and wipes for baby. Actually, not just for baby; you'll be using those wipes for your hands, the table top in front of you and the spit up on your shirt. Changes of clothes for both of you; busy baby hands make for easy spills when you're in the confined space of an airplane seat.
A Good Stroller
If you're traveling in North America you can probably get away with the super duper luxury stroller because it will fit everywhere you go.
If you're traveling in Europe, lose the big stroller and opt for a small, easily portable, umbrella stroller. Sidewalks are narrow and stores won't have room for you to bring your big stroller inside. Also, if you're going to be in a big city, and using public transit, some metro stations leave you no other option than to quickly unload your child, fold up your stroller and carry it through the turnstile with your baby on your hip. Which brings me to my next point...
Once you've folded up your stroller and abandoned it at the entrance of a plane, or carried it with you on the metro, you're going to need a way to carry your little one. Do your homework and invest in a good baby carrier to save yourself from buying a new one later on, or if you have another baby. I find that ones with a support around the waste are much more comfortable if you're going to have your baby strapped in for a long period of time and/or walking a lot. If you're sitting on a long haul flight with a sleeping baby in your arms, there comes a point when you just want to be hands-free so you can eat, or fall asleep yourself without worrying about dropping your baby in your sleep.
Large ZipLock Bags
Bring the whole box. Seriously. We use them for everything! A few examples:
-dirty bottles on an airplane
-clean bottles on an airplane
-dirty baby clothes
-clean baby clothes
-quick grab bag with diapers, wipes and change pad
-toddler inflight entertainment(crayons, stickers, books etc.)
The Things You'll Be Glad You Packed
Are you traveling outside of the 'new world'? Keep in mind your destination may have been built before the days of Mother's nursing lounges in the mall with giant plasma TVs, leather chairs and side tables. My children were born in Europe, which left me picking my jaw up off the floor the first time I saw this amazing luxury in North America.
Many Moms already carry a change pad with them, but you'll also need an open mind because you never know where you'll end up changing a diaper. During my travels I've found myself unfolding the change mat on park benches, a patch of floor in the back of a restaurant and the turned down side of the toilet seat. Not very glamorous, or ideal, but sometimes you just have to make do.
Cloth Portable High Chair
If you're traveling anywhere outside North America this will save your sanity because surprisingly, many restaurants don't have highchairs. If you have a newborn they may sleep through meals and happily sit in their car seat, but if you've ever tried to eat your dinner with a wiggly baby on your lap, you'll know why this little contraption is so valuable. We have used ours more times than you can imagine! It folds up into a little pouch, takes up very little space and fits over almost any chair. Opt for the kind that ties around the waste and also clips over the shoulder. If you're crafty there's patterns online and you can probably make your own.
Bottle brush and dish soap
You can always pick these up at a local store when you arrive; after all, there are babies and dirty bottles all over the world. But sometimes you arrive at your destination late at night and you've had a long journey with lot of bottles used along the way. You'll be happy to not search for a supermarket while you're straightening out your jet lag.
Sterilization Tablets and Tupperware
If you have an infant on formula, and you're staying in a hotel, think about bringing a large tupperware container to house your clean bottles. Then when it's time for washing and sterilising bottles you don't have to worry if you've already got a sink full of toothpaste. I usually bring a container that is big enough to fit 5 or 6 bottles, then after I wash the bottles, I fill the container and use cold water sterilization tablets. Voila: Clean bottles on the road.
Long Sleeve Bib
If your baby has started eating you know how messy this can be and how many times you may need to change that little top. Bibs with sleeves can save you from many outfit changes which is lifesaver when you don't have access to a washing machine.
Sounds like a lot to pack, right? It is. Traveling with babies and young children requires a little bit of preparation and a big carry-on bag. It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get your first trip out of the way you'll see that if you follow the Scout motto and always "Be prepared" it can be a great adventure.
This was first published on Canadian Expat Mom.