November 23, 2008

Essential Baby Backpacking Gear
Piteşti, Romania

Every baby is different, as is the age and location of the world parents will be traveling in with their child. This brief baby backpacking gear guide comes from the firsthand experience of traveling for many consecutive months in Eastern Europe on a shoestring budget (with a baby that's only a handful of months old). Yes, it's possible, and though travel can sometimes be wacky and stressful enough without an infant in tow, it can certainly be done and still be an overwhelmingly fulfilling lifestyle.

Parents, repeat to yourself: I am not crippled just because I have a child.

Pacifiers

I'll start off with the most important piece of plastic that you'll ever buy for your infant (and your own sanity): a pacifier. Bring lots—at least four or five of his favorite variety. They'll get lost, dropped, dirty, thrown—pretty much whatever you can think of. Have backups, and backups for those backups.

Disposable Diapers and Wipes

Diapers can not only vary greatly in availability, but you as a traveling parent will have to make some very tough decisions regarding quality, quantity purchased/carried, and price. Balancing the three factors can consume time, and require trips to larger markets on the outskirts of town.

Bottles and Brush

My son rejected the tit as soon as soon as we started him on solid food; it was store-bought baby formula only from there on out (and he's quite picky with that stuff too). Carry three bottles with you and a backup rubber nipple in case one tears. Always have at least one of the bottles filled with water on travel days so that you can make an unexpected mid-day bottle in a pinch. Sometimes juice from fruit that we've boiled is poured into the bottles for the little guy.

The brush is to help you clean up the science experiment growing in the bottles after the leftover formula has festered inside for hours on end.

Locking Plastic Ware for Formula

You're going to be buying formula that comes in bags that can (and will) spill everywhere unless you transport it properly. Most bags encountered are sold in 200g, 250g, or 300g sizes. Purchase a container accordingly. The one pictured above can hold about 500g or so.

Get second smaller one (space providing) for the powdered baby cereal that mixes very well with any leftover formula.

Bibs, Bowl and Spoons

Bring lots of bibs and rags—at least six bibs and maybe a dozen small rags. You won't be using them all every week, but you'll have something fresh to replace the old ones if they start to get too funky (even after machine washing).

My son instantly gets into food mode when a bib is placed around him and he sees his familiar bowl. Carry at least two or three baby spoons, just in case one get misplaced or forgotten.

Making Your Own Baby Food

Store-bought jars are for people on one- or two-week vacations—essentially the infant equivalent to eating in restaurants for every meal. Making our own baby food is something that we've been doing every day from day one (outside the U.S.) for months on end. The toughest part about it is having access to a kitchen (really just a heating element and pot are all you need, plus a refrigerator to keep a batch of something fresh).

WholesomeBabyFood.com has become an valuable reference for Tatiana, who plans and prepares the bulk of Aidric's foodstuffs. With all the meats, veggies and fresh fruit he eats these days, it's quite safe to say the kid eats significantly better than us!

Pack a pair of strainers and a peeler with you. I intentionally broke the (large) handle off this Wal-Mart brand peeler to save space. The strainers will always be helpful in removing pulp, seeds, and other things.

The key here is to boil most everything until it can be puréed into a form that your child finds satisfactory. Different ages can require different degrees of chunkiness (or a tolerance for such things, to be more specific).

I seriously thought Tatiana had lost it when she told me I was going to have to haul around the somewhat heavy, wine bottle sized hand blender she purchased in Slovakia for a little less than US$20. But the thing is simply nothing short of essential for making your own baby food—on or off the road.

What would take an hour of pushing boiled apples through a strainer with a spoon can be done in less than five seconds with a blender. When the child comes of age you can take boiled chicken or beef and purée with lentils and part of a (boiled) potato for a nutritious, midday meal.

Be sure you bring along with you another bulky item to make the blending possible, a sturdy container that will keep the items from spraying everywhere:

Fever Prep

It'll probably happen at some point, and when you discover that your kid's come down a fever (be it from teething or illness), you're going to want to react immediately. Pack a digital thermometer and enough children's (liquid) Ibuprofen and/or paracetamol for 48 hours worth of administration.

Diaper Rash Paste

New foods can equate to serious diaper rashes, as can numerous other triggers. It's even more serious when the wipes you bought—packaging written in another language of course—seem to cause more harm than good. Sometimes the irritation is so bad that there's bleeding involved. It sucks for everyone, and ensuring that you react to a rash with something proper at the first indication is essential.

Hipoglós is our biggest asset for such things, but it's quite expensive. Sadly, I believe this wonderful product is limited to Latin America, though I'm sure there are plenty of U.S. equivalents (perhaps this Butt Paste that I've read about is as such).

Ziploc Bags

Invaluable for taking along a baggie of powdered formula for a day trip or storing extra batches of baby food you've made for later (tossing them in the freezer for travel days keeps perishable items from spoiling during transit). These things can be nearly impossible to find in some countries—stock accordingly.

Sunglasses

Enjoyable for adults and even better for babies, a pair of UV-blocking shades will keep your kid (and by proximity, you) comfortable on super-bright days/locations.

Baby Carrier

Forget trying to keep a mobile lifestyle with some sort of stroller—it'll never happen. You've got enough to carry and manage as it is (just think about getting on and off buses, trains, and various other types of transport with your bags and baby in tow).

There's a big market for baby carriers/harnesses out there, but we've generally had excellent success with the ERGObaby Carrier. For over half my son's life now he's been traveling full-time in the thing, falls asleep easily in it, and makes it easy for us to protect him in crowds.

My body doesn't feel designed to carry his weight on the front, so I often opt to carry him like a little mini backpack, but it certainly takes the right weather, location, and a helpful partner to do so (it's quite hard to do the simplest of things like put the pacifier in his mouth when he's back-mounted).

For women, the zippered pouch in the front can act like a small purse, eliminating the need for a handbag or bulging pants pockets.

Comments:

The United States

Robin

January 20th, 2009

Been following your blog for a while and really enjoy it, but wonder why there is a 2 month lag?

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

January 20th, 2009

Hi Robin, thanks for reading along. Being a full time father, boyfriend, traveler, and CouchSurfing guest consumes so much time that it's hard to balance just those, let alone adding a photographer and writer into the mix. I'm trying, but there are sacrifices to be made, and finding the time to sit and type with the other elements around you tugging on your sleeve is incredibly difficult. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

Travelvice the travelogue is too important to me to let it slip away after so many years, so as a personal compromise there will be a gap that needs to be closed from time to time as priorities shift.

Trust me, it bothers me much more than the readers, but I'm too stubborn to add entries in anything but sequential order. :)

Stay tuned, more to come as time allows.

The United States

Jen

January 20th, 2009

Our son is just over two and has been on 15 flights. Traveling with a child is definitely possible with some preparation. I just got back from a solo trip with him and we didn't have any problems.

Jamaica

kris

January 21st, 2009

yes craig, keep with quality over quantity, i'm sure that's what gets you your repeat viewers..

it is a shame that we know you're in turkey but have no idea of your plans..

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

January 21st, 2009

Syria, Lebanon, northern Jordan, & Israel by April (wink)

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