Monday, March 3, 2008

Traveling to Russia - what worked for us

I was hesistant to label this “tips for traveling parents”, because just like every other aspect of Russian adoption, what works for a family in one region may not work in another. Being in an “adoption friendly” region I am sure made things easier on us since we were pretty certain we would be back in the US in 10 days. That said, these are the things that Bill and I could think of.

Packing and Traveling
- We arrived in the region a day ahead than required by our agency. Between the potential for bad weather in the US and in Russia in the winter months it was a way to mitigate risk. It also allows you to rest up, the next 10 days were very very long.
- Pack light! Seriously… we paid for overweight luggage in country because we were taking orphanage donations, but probably wouldn’t have otherwise. If you layer you will be able to wear the “top layer” more than once. We noticed Russians wear their clothes several days in a row, so “when in Russia, do as Russians do”.
- Pack light for your child too. A friend of mine gave me a great tip about using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo as laundry detergent for hand washing, worked great and clothes were dry by morning. I went from packing 10 sleeping gowns to just 4.
- Try to find out if the hotel in the region has a laundry service and how much they charge. We had a ton of clothes washed and pressed at the Novokuznetskaya for $40. That is a fraction of what you will pay for excess weight, at least in Siberian Airlines.

For Your Child
- Invest in one of these…most Russian hotels don’t have a microwave in the room and the kids are used to drinking their milk warm.

- Children’s meds to take: infant Tylenol, Motrin, Gas X and saline mist. This is in addition to any antibiotics your IA doctor has given you.
- We chose to take a snuggly over a stroller and that worked really well for us. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground in Moscow and as you all know, pushing a stroller through the streets of Moscow, until you can get to a pedestrian area like Arabat Street, is not the safest proposition.
- Take some baby food and diapers from the US, no matter what your agency tells you. Your schedule may change and you may not have time to go to the store when you want to go. Safe bets on baby food choices are: turkey, chicken, apple sauce. Gerber snacks are great too.
- More than likely you will be able to go to the grocery store in Moscow. The attached picture shows our main staples. The little can with the cow on it is a brand of food that is organic and we were told the meats had no additives. Besides these, the apple juice in the cartons (green apples on the label) is something the kids are familiar with, our son loved it!
- There is a fantastic grocery store on Arabat Street, right next to the McDonald’s, you can’t miss it! The milk is on the lower level and the baby food just past the counter with the fancy cakes and across the huge olive oil selection.
- Your child may or may not want a bottle. Take sippy cups just in case, and be prepared to not use the sippy part. Our son drinks from a regular cup, and we were surprised at how good he was at it.
- Toys….ah, why did we bother? Nick was more interested in empty bottles of Coke Light (oh how I miss those!), empty bottles of water, city maps and lids from fast food cups than he was in his toys. At 18 months he was not very interested in the soft plush toys that Lamaze makes. We took two and he didn’t play with them very much. His favorite toys while in Russia, and still at home, are stacking cups and this Fischer Price shape sorter

Last but not least, pack a snowsuit AND a hat. Even if said snowsuit has a hat. We got many looks from the babushkas and I am sure it was due to our “Michelin Man” still not being dress warmly enough. Perhaps I should have shown the soaked with sweat hair under his hat.

For You
- Pack some snacks for you and your spouse. Granola bars became old after a while and we were thankful for the Chef Boyardee meals we took.
- Adult’s meds: general antibiotic like Zpac, pepto, Tylenol or Aleve, Neosporin, anthiseptic wipes, band aids.
- A portable DVD player and a good selection of movies. It is key to stick to the child’s routine (especially naps), so you will find yourself in the hotel, just watching the little one sleep. As sweet of a proposition as that is, it is also nice to have some entertainment in between glances at your sleeping baby.
- Comfortable shoes to hang around the hotel. We each took three pairs of shoes: boots, dress shoes for court, Pumas. The Pumas were good to have at the hotel and also traveling back to the US.
- T-shirts. You will probably cook inside anything with long sleeves. Both the Baby Home and the hotel were extremely warm. We cracked our window open in Novokuznetsk (despite the –26C outside), and ran the AC in Moscow.

Misc Musings
- Leave the car seat at home. They are not required by law in Russia, and even if you bring it, more than likely she/he will not want to sit in it since they have never been in one. Just hold your child on your lap during takeoff and landing. We did purchase a ticket for our son for the in country portion of our air travel and it was the best investment.
- Place copies of all your important documents in a USB memory stick, fits nicely in your neck pouch.
- Take large size ziplock bags; they will be a godsend when the explosive diaper scenario happens 40,000 ft above the ground… TRUST ME on this one. I took them, forgot to put them in the carry on, and well, I just feel bad for whomever has the job of cleaning that chute in the lavatory where one disposes of trash.

Baby Stuff
- One Step Ahead makes these onesie-extenders, and I think we will be using them soon on the 12 months sized onesies.

These same folks also sell these, which I got as a gift from a dear friend, and I just love!

- If you happen to be reading this blog during your early stages of your adoption process, I highly recommend this book – “The Big Book of Baby Bargains”. I find the title misleading, as it will not tell you who sells what for the least amount of cash, but it does have great reviews on baby products, and gives you the scoop on items that are sold under private labels.

I am sure I will think of more in the future, I will note on the blog when I add items to this list.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

I enjoyed your list. It was a good refresher course for me. An addendum to your sippy cup advice- when we adopted Sophie and the children were not drinking from the sippy cups another mom suggested taking the stopper out. This allowed the liquid to flow easily and we eventually put the stopper back in which was helpful when we were on the plane and traveling in a car. Just a thought.