It will be the question you ask yourself after you stare at the pile of stuff that surrounds the monster suitcase when you go on your first trip with your baby. They are so small and barely take any space up, how is it possible they need that much stuff? I still have no idea what the answer is, but here is how we tackled it.
We had taken our first child on a few road trips to places all very close in proximity and I knew I could always run to a store that was open 24 hours x 7 days a week, so my anxiety with travelling with him wasn’t bad at all because I could always get anything I needed fairly quickly. But, when we booked our first flight I had no idea what I was going to do without that sense of security and how were we going to take all this stuff.
The first flight trip we took our son on was an overwhelming and daunting task to make sure we were prepare enough to take this little person on a flight to the Dominican Republic and have enough supplies for a week. Just a week, seems like nothing crazy or wild but there are so many “things” that such a small little person needs and it was a huge learning curve for us to sort through. We were still trying to sort out being parents and trying to get into some routine (like all those books tell you to do) so planning a trip when he was four months old was very challenging. As I looked at his passport I thought, “Hmm, they trust me to take this little guy to another country and not mess it up… so I should be able to do this, right?”.
When in doubt I make a LIST, so I suggest this as your first place to start. As you go through your regular daily routine, start a list of all the things you use and keep adding for those “once in a while things”. This will help you outline what your baby will need and a good estimate on amounts you will use (ie. how many diapers, how many bottles, change of clothes in a day, etc).
Then do some specific RESEARCH on the place you are going. I spent hours looking into this so I knew what to expect (as best possible). If you know of the hotel you are staying at this is a good start to find out where a grocery store and pharmacy are. Look for comments, blogs or friends that have gone to the same place and ask them some key questions about things to consider:
1) Is there a small store on the hotel/resort?
2) Is there a doctor in the hotel/resort, if not where is the closest?
3) Is there grocery store or place to buy formula, diapers, wipes, etc?
4) Google Map it out, so you have your bearings when you get there.
Next is to cut your LIST. You won’t be able to bring everything and after your research you should know of some things you may not absolutely need, so I suggest you cut them and really look at what you could live without. For example, for this trip we cut the portable playpen for him to sleep in. We reserved a crib at the hotel, which you can never be certain it will be there and/or safe but our backup was going to be using a drawer from the cabinet that we had seen in the photos. He wasn’t crawling or rolling, and we felt comfortable with striking it from the list. Other things to consider is cutting the clothes off the list. We always wash clothes in sinks and if there is any options to do quick loads of laundry I would recommend this.
Get started NOW if you need to start something different for baby to prepare for the trip. This was a big change and worry for me. My son was on a liquid formula and another concern I had was sterilizing the bottles in a hotel room. Really how was this going to work?!? I phoned the airline and they informed me that I would not be able to get through security with the amount of liquid in the container sizes. So I had to start transitioning him to the powder formula so that I could guarantee to take formula with us. My son did amazingly well with the changes since it was the same brand, but it was something I am glad we did ahead of time to ensure he adapted. The other thing I changed was to go with bottles that has disposal liners so I did not need to worry about sterilizing bottles. For the sterilization of the nipples I used hot water at breakfast.
What is CRITICAL goes in your carry-on. Obviously these items made it through the cut list and if they are critical then you need to find room in your carry-on. On this trip it was powdered formula, bottles, liners, wipes, diaper cream, diapers to last 4 days, a few changes of clothes and his medicine. We still had the typical diaper bag as well with all your regular supplies in there but I sacrificed my personal carry-on to put his stuff in.
Side Tip: I didn’t learn this until after baby two, but we no longer bring our regular diaper bag, instead we use a backpack as a diaper bag on trips. Gives you two free hands and you don’t have to worry about it sliding down, plus there are lots of pockets and compartments for easy access. It has made a world of difference!
Lastly, don’t worry if you forget something. You would be amazed on what you can find when you need to and there is an amazing camaraderie between parents of babies/kids when travelling. You will find this camaraderie on planes, in airports and pretty much anywhere. One story that makes me feel good was when we helped out a family delayed in a Cuban airport. We were also delayed in the airport but only for a few hours, but it was clear that there were other flights that had been waiting for over 10 hours. When we were boarding our flight there was one family that I had routinely seen go in and out of the bathroom with a baby the same age as ours. So as we were boarding I approached them (since they were still delayed) and asked them if they needed anything like diapers, wipes, medicine, etc to get them through the delay since there was obviously nothing available in this remote airport for babies. They graciously accepted wipes and I just felt if we were in that position someone would have helped us out.
When you travel with babies you will have more stuff, there is no doubt about that fact. But, take a real close look at what is a necessity when you pack it. On the plus side I personally pack less stuff for myself now, gone are the days of 5 pairs of shoes for 1 week trip and it has made me a smarter packer. It is also a bit of trial and error, you will learn from previous trip on what you forgot and what would make your life easier on trip with babies.