Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 Tips for Packing (Relatively) Light for a Baby

When I was pregnant I remember being out with a friend and her one-year old. She didn't have one of those enormous diaper bags; she just had a moderately sized purse into which she had stashed a couple diapers, some wipes, an extra onesie, and a rattle. (She was breastfeeding, so she didn't need a bottle.) When I commented about her lack of a giant bag she said, "It's just a baby." I try to remember that whenever I go out with my now one-year old.

I feel that a lot of parents (usually mothers) burden themselves with far too much kid related stuff. Granted, the longer you are going to be out with the baby the more stuff you are likely to need. Also, although I don't have the personal experience yet, I understand that as kids get older they get more demanding about have certain things on the ready. Still, I think a lot of parents overdo it. At some point I should post about my philosophy of what you need for normal days out with a baby, but since this is a follow-up to my previous 10 Tips for Packing Light when travelling, I'm going to focus on overnight trips particularly those involving air travel.

First, what was tip number nine for mommy packing is the number one item for babies:
  1. Take advantage of your destination. This is important with babies because diapers are bulky. Unless you are going to a remote destination, for long stays it is best to buy most of your necessary supply when you arrive. If you are visiting family or friends they may even be willing to pick some up for you and have them waiting. The same can go for cans of formula and jars of baby food as needed.
  2. See what you can borrow. Similar to item one this involves using what resources may be at your destination. Do you have friends or family in the area who have children? See if you can borrow a portable crib/playard, stroller, or even a car seat (if you are flying with your child as a lap baby who won't need the seat for the plane). If you are going the commercial route, see if your hotel has cribs available or if your rental car company has car seats. I know you like to have *your* things, but your travel will be a lot easier if you don't need to haul as much stuff. 
  3. Invest in gear for common destinations. If you are visiting family and friends who you are likely to visit fairly frequently, consider purchasing key baby gear to keep there if your hosts are willing to store it. Particularly with most airlines imposing checked baggage fees, buying a used portable crib/playard (an item you would likely have to check) may actually be cheaper than the cost of hauling it round trip. At minimum you'd make it up in a few trips. For us, both sets of grandparents are prepared with playards, strollers, and high chairs, which makes trips to visit a whole lot easier.
  4. Rethink what you actually need. Some people like having a stroller in the airport, but particularly when I travel with the baby alone, I find the extra item cumbersome when it comes to actually getting on the airplane. As a result I prefer to use a wearable baby carrier that is easy to throw in a carry on and allows me to navigate the airport with my hands free.
  5. Consider buying smaller/lightweight gear for travel. If you will be travelling multiple times a year it may be worth it to buy some gear that is easier to transport than the super industrial stuff you may use day-to-day:
  • Airplane seats are narrow, so some of the bigger car seats don't fit well in them anyway. Find a car seat that is narrow and lighter to carry. Even if you aren't going to gate check it invest in a carrying bag or wheeled cart to help you haul it through the airport.
  • Use an umbrella stroller instead of a full sized one. It will be lighter, and if you get a fairly inexpensive one you won't be upset if it gets banged up a bit.
Of course, you do need to make sure you have enough stuff to take care of your baby even if your plane is delayed. As a result, be sure your carry on includes
  • Twice as many diapers and wipes as you would normally need for the time you expect to be at the airport and on the plane.
  • At least one change of outfit. (If your baby is prone to spitting up you may want to throw in an extra shirt for yourself.)
  • Twice as much food as you think you would need. Be sure to check the current TSA policies for liquids. At the time of this writing, you can bring larger quantities of breast milk and other baby food than the normal 3 oz limit, but you need to declare it.
  • If you are nursing, you may want to consider a nursing cover if it will help you to nurse comfortably in a public terminal or on the plane.
  • Favorite distractions such as toys or books. (Not too many, but enough to help baby be entertained.).

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