Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Traveling with an Infant: Travel Gear

Because the old computer is still wacky and the new computer is somewhere between Shanghai and here and not due to arrive for another 36 hours or so (but who is counting!!), I'm turning it over to my moms again for the final review relating to our Thailand trip: gear.

We really didnt take much with us to Thailand- in fact, on the way over we didn't even check any luggage and only had carry-ons (coming back was a different story because of all the crap we bought!). The primary things we brought for Gus were diapers and clothes, but we did bring the following 3 pieces of gear that are worth talking about.

Stroller: MacLaren Volo

We got the MacLaren Volo as a gift before Gus's birth and purchased the accessory pack (rain cover, padded seat, and carry bag) ourselves. Honestly we didnt use the stroller very much, if at all, in Thailand. We use this stroller all the time at home- it is super light and folds up super small. Thailand is generally not stroller/pram friendly at all, especially Bangkok where so much transport depends on the river, and getting a stroller on and off a river taxi ain't something I want to try. It was a huge help in the various airports, however, and folded up quickly and easily each time we had to do the security screening run around. We ended up not using the padded seat from the accessory kit because it made the stroller harder to close in a pinch, such as when standing in front of the xray machine belt with 20 business men behind you giving you dirty looks for daring to bring an infant to the airport at all and then daring to be in front of them in the security line (and it also made the seat too hot for Gus). We didn't use the rain cover because we only used the stroller inside. We did get alot of good use out of the stroller cover, which ended up a little worse for wear after the various airplane baggage compartments, meaning it did it's job keeping the stroller out of the line of fire. The only negative to the bag was that most airline staff couldn't figure out that there was a stroller inside the bag, causing serious delays with gateside return.
The downsides to the Volo in general are that it is sometimes TOO light, making it impossible to carry any substantial bag(s) on the handle area without tip-over threat, even with a big 6 month old as counterweight. Another downside is that, unlike some other MacLarens, it doesn't recline and the straps dont get small enough to comfortably seat a child of 6 months of below. Even Gus, at his strapping size and 7 months of age, doesn't fit perfectly yet. The final downside is that, like pretty much every stroller out there, the basket area is so small it fits pretty much only one toy and a cell phone. Despite these minuses, there are lots of pluses and we still use it 99% of the time we use a stroller (our Peg is great but too bulky for quick trips)

Baby Carrier: Ergo

The house is split on this one. Mama loves it and Mommy isn't a big fan, at least in the front carry position. We used this in Thailand almost all the time because it kept Gus close to us and away from car exhaust, and made it easy to squeeze into tightly packed boats and night markets, to ride in longtail canoes, and to travel uneven sidewalks and dodge crazy traffic. It's a little expensive, but if it suits your frame (it fits Mama great and Mommy not so great) it is wonderful. It's great for travel because it is small and soft enough to pack but substantial enough for a larger baby/toddler, and shifts the weight to your hips so unlike a Bjorn or sling, your shoulders and back aren't killing you by the end of the day. The downsides are price, that it needs to fit your body shape to be comfortable, and that there is no forward facing option on the front. Gus isn't big enough to see much in the back carry position, and in the front carry he can't see much either.

Changing pad Kit: First Years Fold & Go*
This was a great thing to have handy. it is a changing pad that includes two mesh pockets, one for diapers and one for wipes, a carrying strap, and a zipper pocket on front. Depending on what we were doing that day (sightseeing, traveling, etc) we switched between a typical diaper bag and a backpack, so it was great to have the "diaper stuff" in one easy to grab location. We could just grab the kit and take it to the airplane restroom for a change, or toss it into whatever bag we were carrying that day.

* this link is for the auto version- we have the non-auto version that we bought in spring 06 from Target, but I can't find it online.

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