When Thomas was 8-months old, we flew out of the country with him for the first time. It was almost a year’s worth of planning because we booked the trip when I was still a few months into my pregnancy. But seriously, coming from a tropical country, I felt that I still was not prepared enough to bring an infant to the -20 C winter wonderland that is Hokkaido. I was anxious for months about how to keep him warm, how to feed him, what medicines to bring, etc. I did an extensive research by talking to his doctor, to other parents and by reading other blogs. Thankfully, I was able to come up with a plan that fortunately worked. The key is ORGANIZATION. So to cut the story short, I packed his clothes and essentials two months before the trip and made sure to be as organized as I can be as he and I shared one 20kg luggage for the entire 10-day trip. Below are some tips that you might find useful if you are traveling soon with a baby during the cold months.
Shop for clothes and shoes at least two months before the trip to ensure the correct size .(babies grow so fast it hurts!) I highly recommend buying bigger sizes to allow room for layers. Proper layering is so important because babies could easily freeze or overheat if not done correctly. A good rule of thumb is that a baby, especially an infant, needs one more layer of clothing than you do. If you are baby-wearing, you (your body) count as another layer so be mindful of that as well. Remember to remove hats, mittens and sometimes footwear and jackets when indoors as it could get really warm inside trains, taxis, malls, etc. There were times when Thomas was just in his base layer sans shoes and socks because it was too hot inside the mall. They said that an ideal room temperature for a baby is 16 to 20 degrees Celsius so keep that in mind too. Here is a list of his winter clothes and where we got them.
- Base layer – Heat Tech leggings and long-sleeved top (Uniqlo)- must be snug fit to allow the technology to work.
- Second layer – fleece onesie footie pajamas (Carter’s) OR non-fleece (Mother care) OR fleece or wool separates / cotton separates if wearing fleece as third layer. (H&M)
- Third layer – cable knit sweater (H&M) , pants (H&M)
- Fourth layer – Ultra light-weight jacket (Uniqlo)
- Fifth layer – heat tech socks (Uniqlo) , Hats (H&M and Uniqlo), Mittens (H&M)
- Extras -Shoes (H&M), Fleece blanket that I clipped on the carrier (Uniqlo), Fleece-lined water repellent, wind-proof jacket (Carter’s)
Remember to check the temperature and weather first before layering your baby. We were only able to use all the layers above in Tomamu where it was – 20 C. In Sapporo, where it was averaging from 0 C to 7 C, Thomas was mostly wearing four layers with socks and shoes. He seemed to enjoy the cold as he didn’t like to wear a hat and mittens most of the time. So, always remember to check the baby’s comfort first before piling on those clothes.
I packed my baby’s outfits by creating a daily ensemble, neatly placing them in ziplock bags and labeling each bag with dates and expected temperature for each date. So, that was a total of 10 sets with 1 bag each for the extras – socks, mittens, base layers, hats. (always bring extra mittens in case your baby is a finger biter. ) This way, I was able to save a lot of space in my luggage!
Thomas was formula- fed at 8 months. Here are the essentials we brought and some tips to make formula feeding easier. In our hand- carry, we brought eight Pigeon bottles filled with water and 8 packs of milk stored in a disposable formula bag. The rest of the milk ( 4x 1.8kg) were in the checked- in luggage. Don’t worry about airport security issues on water allowance. Just firmly say that it is for the baby and you will be allowed to go through.
- Mother -K Powdered Milk Storage Bags ( Baby Company) – this is so convenient as it lessens the bulk in the baby bag.
- Milton Sterilizing Tablets
- Pigeon Baby Water ( Available in most drugstores in Japan). Although their tap water is generally safe – just make sure to boil it.
- Solid Food – we brought rice crackers and puffs but we also bought in the supermarket in Sapporo. The restaurants are generally baby-friendly with options in the menu and cutlery fit for babies.
For breastfeeding moms, most changing rooms are equipped with chairs, albeit narrow if you want privacy. Breastfeeding in public is okay, I think as long as you’re wearing a nursing cover. Breastfeeding in trains is not a practice. I saw moms step out of the trains and fed their babies in the station. Their malls have nursing stations with comfortable chairs and baby caddies in case you need to pee and there’s no one to hold the baby for you. So convenient!
STROLLER OR CARRIER?
Since we went to a ski resort (Hoshino Resorts, Tomamu), we thought it best to use the carrier. Aside from the fact that it is hard to push a stroller on ice and snow, it is easier to keep track of baby’s temperature when he or she is just a sniff away. We used Ergo Baby Adapt on this trip.
Two weeks before our trip, we visited our pediatrician to ask for prescription medicines in case of emergency. It is best to see your doctor to ensure the correct dosage. Below is the list of medicines our pedia recommended we bring.
- Antibiotics (Suspension)
- Paracetamol Drops
- Nasal Decongestant Drops( for colds)
- Cough Medicine
and here are the things I included in our first -aid kit:
- Fora non-contact thermometer – this was in my pocket the whole time! I used this to check his temperature ( must not go below 36.5 C or above 37 C) and the room temperature ( between 68 and 72 degrees F is a good range in winter). When the room is too hot, research has shown that it can increase your baby’s risk of SIDS; when it’s too cold, baby can easily become uncomfortably chilly and wake up unnecessarily. Again, it is best to discuss this with your doctor to be guided accordingly.
- Saline solution – baby’s nose could get clogged due to the cold weather so this is quite handy.
- Chest rub – I brought Mustela Soothing Chest Rub for his chest and Vicks Baby Rub for his feet 🙂
- Aveeno Eczema Lotion – for his atopic skin
- Mustela Cleansing Water
- Mustela Cold Cream Stick – for his cheeks and lips
- Betadine ( the yellow one)
- Band-Aid strips
During the flight, Thomas was just in his heat tech base layer. His second layer, jacket, hat, mittens and socks were in the hand-carry. Upon arrival at the airport, we changed him into full winter clothes . Changing rooms are available in most (or probably all?) airports in Japan.
Japan is generally a baby- friendly country with clean baby- changing facilities available in almost all public areas. But unlike the Philippines, or other countries (we have been to), baby essentials like formula milk, sterilizing tablets, diapers and baby water are mostly found in drugstores and rarely in groceries or convenience stores.
When traveling to a ski resort, make sure you’re all- packed for the trip as baby products are rarely available (in Tomamu – NONE AT ALL) in these places.
Bring a foldable umbrella or buy in convenience stores in case of heavy snowfall.
Don’t bring too many diapers! Save luggage space and just pack enough until you can go to a drugstore and buy more. We bought the brand Moony. It was a tad more expensive than our usual brand but it was super absorbent that we did not change as often as we normally would. It was worth it.
So, that’s about it for this post. If you think I missed an important detail or if you have other travel-with-a-baby concerns you wish to discuss, let me know in the comments section! Enjoy your trip and learn as much as you can along the way!
To read about our Christmas experience in Hokkaido, click here.
Sending you good energy,