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Adopting a Baby: Tips for Your First Flight (Part One)

Posted by on November 26, 2012

I have my baby (YAY)! Now what?

Guest Post by Jane Hutchinson Castanias, adoptive mother of two. Jane serves on the Board of Directors of RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, and on the National Capital Area Gladney Family Association Board. She is a frequent speaker on infertility and adoption topics.

So, Congratulations! You have waited and waited for your adoption, and you are finally heading out to get your baby and bring him or her home. Wait… what? Babies are hard. Travel is hard. Travel with babies is hard. There is definitely no instruction manual for a new parent flying a days-old infant home. As an adoptive mom who has brought my two daughters home from Texas to Virginia (both on less than a week’s notice), I can tell you absolutely that with a little preparation, it can be a fun – and amazingly meaningful – part of your adoption journey. Here are my tips for your first flight after adopting your baby.

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Before I get to the actual travel tips, there are a number of things you can do before you leave to get your child to make things significantly easier on parents AND baby.

Packing, Shipping and Shopping

I found it much easier to do a lot of the baby shopping after we arrived at our destination to pick up our daughter. The first time was out of necessity – we were on vacation in Colorado when we got the news, so we shipped our hiking stuff home to Virginia, flew with an empty(ish) suitcase to Texas, and shopped there. We had a bit more warning with our second daughter – and were coming from home – but still bought stuff in Texas. Many who have been waiting for an adoption do not want to buy much baby stuff in advance – it’s just too depressing to look at when you don’t know when your baby will finally arrive. We are living proof that you can get everything you need on less than a week’s notice.

The Car Seat – Your Ticket to Ride!


With bulky items, especially the car seat, if you are adopting from a place with a Target or a Babies R Us, you will likely be able to find everything you need once you arrive. You will be told (repeatedly) that you MUST have a car seat in order to bring your baby home. In fact, our agency emphasized this so much, my husband did a little negative inference and figured that was all we would need. When we got to Babies R Us, he headed directly from the car seat aisle to the checkout. Staring at him in disbelief, I said (and I’m not proud) “Our baby is not a Barbie – she does not come with accessories!” In my defense, we were both a little freaked out. In any event, research which kind of car seat you want (Consumer Reports is a great resource) and double check to see that the local Target carries it, but there is no need to lug a car seat through the airport as you travel to your destination. Alternatively, you can order it online and ship it directly to your hotel.

Send What You Use


Consumable items – formula, diapers and wipes are definitely things to purchase when you arrive. Depending on how long you will be at your adoption location (interstate paperwork, etc.) diapers can take up a lot of room in a suitcase! Even now that the girls are older, when we travel, I ship these items ahead instead of packing them, as I know they will be used up by the end of the trip so I don’t need to allot suitcase space to them. You may not know what type of formula your baby will need (the hospital will start him or her on something, most of the time you just continue that), or what type of diaper your baby will need (since that is based on weight) – we purchased those things “on site” once we knew what we needed to buy.

Other essentials you should be able to buy when you get there – pacifier, infant fever reducer, thermometer, scented diaper bags (trust me, the scented kind are necessary when you are in a hotel without a Diaper Genie), small container of Dreft, small container of dish soap (for washing out bottles, I typically only travel with a few and just hand wash them), small sized baby wash, baby lotion, and Vaseline (the ultimate multi-tasker – can be a diaper cream, ease chapped lips, use as lotion.) And zip lock baggies, Lots of them – the gallon size and the smaller size. You will find more uses for them than you can believe.

Things to Purchase and Pack

baby in hotel

Packing for travel and a hotel stay with a newborn is a bit different than bringing baby home from the hospital. With our first daughter, we thought we’d treat ourselves and stay at a nice hotel, forgetting that I would need to wash everything we purchased there with Dreft. Unfortunately, if you wash baby clothes in a sink and dry them over the bathtub, they will all need to be ironed. My husband took a picture, as he had never seen me iron before. Just remember that if you expect an extended stay, laundry facilities will probably outweigh concierge service. Here is my list of indispensable items:

Infant “nightgowns” (yes, even for boys) – the kind with the drawstring on the bottom. You will be changing diapers at night, do you really want to wake your baby up fussing with snaps? Actually, I don’t know why anyone puts snaps on baby clothing – trying to get a baby to stop wiggling to snap up the legs of his or her outfit is an exercise in frustration. Bring one or 2 for each night you are there.

baby gown

Daywear – get one or two outfits per day you plan to be there. You don’t know if you will have spit up issues, diaper issues – but it is definitely better to be safe than sorry. And save the cute little outfits that have matching everything (sweater, socks, booties, hairband, etc.) for when you are home. Look for one piece items, preferably with feet. Socks and shoes fall off, shirts and dresses ride up, sweaters bunch uncomfortably. Plus diaper changes on the go are miserable if you have to remove 4 layers of clothing just to do a change. Here as well as with jammies, look for zippers versus snaps, much easier to deal with. The less you have to fuss with, the less your baby will fuss.

Blankets – these are your “utility player” items and especially during travel you will use them for everything! Get a few super soft, snuggly ones – your baby will sleep with them, you can use them in place of a jacket or sweater to keep baby warm, they can be a buffer between your baby and the scratchy sides of your Baby Bjorn/baby carrier. Also, a few packs of those cheap receiving blankets can be a travel godsend. Use as burp cloths, to cover the icky airport restroom changing table, to clean up after a spit up – they are lightweight enough that they don’t take much room, and inexpensive enough that if you can toss them if you have a messy situation. And finally, a word about swaddlers. I think we had every kind on the market. But, hands down, one that truly lived up to its name was the Miracle Blanket (online and many baby stores carry them). Our girls slept twice as long swaddled in these, and we used them for months). Worth the fact that they are more expensive than the other kinds. Sleep will be your most precious resource these next few months!


Baby carrier – I liked the sling style versus the Baby Bjorn style, but whatever brand you choose having one makes going through airport security MUCH easier.

Backpack to use as a diaper bag – as Beth has described in an earlier post; Packing for Infants, backpacks are the way to go when you travel. Save the cute diaper bag for when you get home, and go for a utilitarian backpack with lots of pockets for travel.

Plus a few small, soft baby toys (not the kind that make noise, in order to avoid driving the person across the row completely insane) and a small baby book to read. And of course your phone, charger, camera, extra batteries, and battery charger so you can record all your amazing experiences!


Tune in for part 2, the actual travel tips, coming up soon!

Jane Hutchinson Castanias is an adoptive mother of two daughters. Formerly an attorney in Dallas, Texas, she now focuses on her family and adoption related causes. She serves on the Board of Directors of RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, and on the National Capital Area Gladney Family Association Board. She is a frequent speaker on infertility and adoption topics.



Thank you for reading! Do you have any tips to add? Comment below! If you found this information useful, share with a friend who is looking at adopting!

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