What to Pack | Traveling with an 8-month-old baby to Japan in Winter

While I did travel to Singapore and Taiwan after having my son, those were shorter trips and I had family around. This time it’s an 8-day trip, staying in 4 different hotels, and 5 of the 8 days I will be fully on my own. Also, it's winter time, so it can be a bit trickier. But traveling with a baby is definitely doable if you prepare well and think smart about how you want to do things. 

A few things to establish: my 8-month-old is fully on formula and can feed himself holding his own bottle. He is on solids 3 times a day. He can also sit unassisted. 

You can find so many lists of what to pack when traveling with a baby. I’d suggest to just Google or even search on Pinterest. But here are some tips on how to pack as light as possible and insight on what you actually need and don’t need. 

First think about how many things you are pushing or rolling around. If you used to travel with 1 checked-bag and 1 carry-on, both of which roll on wheels, you’ll need to readjust with a kid, especially if you are bringing a stroller. 

I actually ended up swapping the handbag in the photo below for a very small cross body bag instead. (The crossbody bag had only my passport, phone, and card holder)

In the photo below of me holding the big Asahi jug, you can see my very small black crossbody bag. 

Here are some major takeaways from my trip: 

 Swap your wheeled carry-on suit case with a duffle bag that fits perfectly on top of the checked-bag, and can be hung to the stroller if you are bringing one 

 Swap for a smaller diaper bag if you currently have a big one. (some people suggest backpacks, but I’m more of a side carrying person. Backpacks are just hard to reach for) 

 For consumables, bring half of the full trip’s amount. That means formula, diapers, wet wipes, baby food. You can buy some more in Japan. Link to a guide on where and how to buy baby formula in Japan: https://sightseeandsushi.com/formula-milk-in-japan-guide/

 For yourself (adult) you really only need your phone and wallet, maybe passport while going out. Use the smallest cross body bag possible or fit those items in your baby’s diaper bag if you can. 

 Bring as many travel sized items as you can, for both your own and the baby’s toiletries. 

All in all, I packed 1 large suit case (check-in), 1 duffle bag which goes on top of the large suitcase (carry on), a cabin-approved stroller, a small diaper bag, a mini cross body bag. 

Below is what the diaper bag contained


Below is what I fit in half of my checked bag, everything for the baby.
Note that all of his toiletries are tiny bottles. The inflatable chair was for him to sit while I showered him. 

1. Stroller vs Carrier 

This was a long debate when I shared what I was bringing to the airport with me. Almost every told me to ditch the stroller, but I was so glad I brought it. There is no one correct answer, but this can help you decide on which to bring or maybe you bring both like me. 

Bring a carrier if: you are only staying within a big metropolitan city like Tokyo, you will go back to the hotel to let your kid nap properly lying down, and all of the restaurants you plan to go to have baby high chairs, multiple adults will take turns carrying the kid. 

Bring a stroller if: you will go to several type of locations (eg city and suburb) and more than half of your time will be spent in places with flat surfaces, if you plan for long days with no nap breaks back at the hotel, if you are bringing your child to restaurants with no baby highchairs and if you are the only person accompanying the kid and/or you are petit. 

In my case, I was splitting my time between Tokyo and Kawaguchiko (mainly flat and lots of walking). I’m 156cm, 50kgs and my child is 11kgs. I found myself using the stroller at the airport, for the majority of my time in the countryside, and when I went out for meals in Tokyo. 

The stroller was especially a life saver at the airport and restaurant. It keeps the kid in one place, and the stroller can also carry other bags or items you have. Imagine if I was at the airport with just the carrier, I’d be carrying my 11kg kid, my carry-on duffle bag, my small crossbody bag, and the diaper bag all on my shoulders. By day 2 in Tokyo, my shoulder and hips were also really hurting from carrying the kid around all day so I was very glad to have a break with him in the stroller by dinner time. Yes, traveling on the Tokyo Metro with a stroller is annoying (sometimes there are no elevators), so you can just grab dinner within walking distance of your hotel, it’s as easy as that. 

2. Travel size items 
 Baby toiletries: I brought mini versions of everything, eg the bodywash, lotion, detergent 
 Bathing the baby: I did not bring a portable tub, instead I brought an inflatable baby chair and a small handheld inflator/deflator device. 
 Sterilizing: there are sterilizing bags you can microwave to steam sterilize, sterilizing tablets, or I just used boiling hot water plus a little plastic bucket to put the bottles into. 
 Formula: I also brought a half size can of formula and bought Japanese formula once we ran out (research beforehand on the nearest pharmacies from your hotel, especially the countryside. Note down the store hours). 
 Diaper Bag: Even get a smaller diaper bag and smaller thermal water bottle. Most convenient stores will have hot water. Or you can get the baby to get used to warm/room temperature formula. 
 A travel size, rechargeable white noise machine: this is massively useful, sleeping in the same room with the kid and trying to do things while the kid is asleep is hard. 

3. What I brought that was not useful: 
 Mittens: easy to lose, hard to use, just tuck the kid’s hands in long sleeves
 Hats: barely used it, easy to lose, just use onesie snow suits with hats attached to them
 Packaged baby food: my kid was used to fresh food, ended up eating none of the packaged food and only fresh bananas in Japan
 Burp cloths: carrying around extra dirty cloths is not practical. Ended up just using tissue or wet wipes 

4. What I decided to not bring: car seat, portable high chair/feeding seat, travel bed. These are bulky items, and if you really feel uncomfortable without a car seat, you can opt to rent one after arriving to your destination. 

5 Recommended Brands:

Highly recommended brand of stroller: Yoyo by babyzen. 

The yoyo is highly compact and light, it is cabin approved so you don’t need to check it. It folds up in 2 steps and unfolds in 1, I can carry it on my shoulder while carrying my kid and the diaper bag. 

I’ve also used the Doona, which is a car seat/stroller two in one. You wouldn’t be able to carry this on your shoulder via a strap, but this is a good option if you are traveling by car a lot. 

There’s also the Bugaboo ant, also cabin approved, but a pain in the ass to fold and unfold, and is less sturdy and harder to manoeuvre compared to the Yoyo. 

Highly recommended brand of baby carrier: Ergobaby 360. 

This is sturdy, easily adjustable for size differences if different adults are carrying the baby. I had this in my carry-on bag just in case I needed to carry the baby and push other things into the stroller.

Now that we're packed and ready to go, here's what to do in Japan:

Follow me on instagram @ariel.land for more adventures

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