I probably read more articles about travelling with a kid than l did giving birth to one. But I realised I was preparing for travel with some amorphous being and not my daughter. I was packing for a kid who was fussy and clingy, who poos ten times a day and really likes toys - not my pretty chilled kid who is happy to play for hours with a spoon.
No matter the purpose or duration of the trip, in my pre-parental years, I'd always adopted the less is more attitude when it came to packing. When faced with travelling with an infant (and just having an infant), I've tried desperately to cling to that mantra.
On a month long trip to the Philippines and Japan, my infant and I had all our belongings packed into a large four wheel suitcase that came in at between 20-25 kilos, depending on how many nappies we'd gone through and where we were at in the gift giving and receiving cycle that inevitably happens when visiting overseas family. We also had a stroller, baby carrier and nappy bag.
But we still had too much.
WHAT YOU NEED
I spent hours choosing the right stroller for my baby. Hours. And we decided to bring our beloved stroller (a Baby Jogger City Select) on our travels with us. It doubled as a high chair and sometimes as a bed for naps. But the stroller which, in Sydney and Melbourne, easily zips through stores and along sidewalks was an unwieldy thing when trying to push our way onto a crowded peak hour Tokyo train or grab a cab in Manila with all our luggage (it was sometimes upgraded to the front seat as it didn't fit in the boot along with our suitcase).
The few strollers we saw in Tokyo were much smaller than ours and I often felt we were a Hummer in a world of hatchbacks. How I wish I'd brought instead the Baby Jogger City Tour. This stroller is small enough to be carried on a plane (it folds up so small it can be carried on your back) which means I would have loved this on our little side trips. And it is so light! All this without compromising on comfort. It reclines, and unlike the cheap umbrella strollers is a sturdy thing, which, when wheeling a kid along train platforms is what you want.
The baby carrier was, in this sense a god send. Sometimes bub didn't want to be in the stroller or we were planning to explore places with a tonne of steps or cobblestones, so the carrier was crucial. But it gets hot in there (especially when traveling in high humidity). Often, we would bring both the stroller and carrier just in case.
Anything that you're particularly fussy about or that will be difficult to get/translate should be brought with you. Trying to mime insect repellant to a Japanese pharmacist just makes you look strange. In my nappy bag, along with the usual suspects, were sunscreen, insect repellant, nappy rash cream, band aids and baby Panadol.
WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
There is no need to pack for all contingencies unless you're going to a desert island. You can buy local if you're absolutely desperate or simply make do with what's on hand. I took a light blanket and a couple of muslin wraps that remained untouched. I also brought two cardigans when one would have done. And the lure of shopping and the receipt of gifts meant my little one had loads of clothes that were barely worn (though when you travel for a month, you do want to limit how much hand washing you'll have to do).
And shopping locally allows you to get an insight into how other cultures parent (and to buy awesome outfits and snacks).
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