28 May Japan with young kids – what to take
When travelling with young kids it can be hard to know what to take. When packing for our first Japan family holiday, I tried to pack lightly. I hadn’t, not lightly enough anyway. This was one mistake we learnt the hard way. Our first trip to Japan we lugged around 2 suitcases, each with a smaller bag on top. We also had a backpack, a stroller and a toddler! The next year we returned to Japan a lot wiser and with less luggage!
My top tip? pack less! Do some washing if that’s what it takes. I know it’s not a fun activity for holidays but it’s seriously worth not having to carry a heap of luggage. I had planned on washing some of our clothes before leaving Kyoto as the Citadines has a self service laundry room, however I was put off by reviews saying that the cycles took ages and the clothes didn’t dry. My child is one of those kids that just never stays clean. Whether he’s playing outside or eating and drinking, his clothes get dirty. With this in mind I think I packed double the amount of clothes he needed. For our second trip, we rented an apartment in Tokyo with a washing machine, which meant we could get away with half the amount of clothes.
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Luggage for Japan
The other thing that made a big difference to the ease of getting around Japan with luggage, was the luggage. During our first Japan trip, we had trouble with our suitcases as they were the pull along on two wheels style. The full bags on top kept falling off as we literally dragged the suitcases.
Before our second trip, we purchased a roller suitcase and it made getting to and from places so much easier. We bought the lightweight Antler Cyberlite.
Click here see it and check latest prices.
Carry on bag
We needed nappies, wipes, spare clothes etc for onboard. We had one we could wheel but also fitted on top of the suitcase. Ours was similar to this one.
We have never used the same backpack. Tim uses one for work and we lost one during our move. We have always chose one with a laptop sleeve and compartments for all the kids stuff.
Equipment for travelling Japan with young kids
We have been to Japan with our young children three separate times. First with a one and a half-year old, then again when he was two and a half years old. The third trip we had two children, a four-year old and a nine month old. Here are the things we found useful for travelling in Japan with young children.
We used a CARES harness for Fletcher during each flight to Japan. CARES stands for child aviation restraint harness and it is certified by the FAA. It is a belt and buckle device designed for kids between 10-20kg. When booking a seat for a child under two years old, you are required to bring a child restraint. The CARES harness weighs only 500 grams and comes in its own drawstring bag, making it easy to travel with. Click here to purchase a CARES harness.
We actually bought our Maclaren Quest stroller (this one) with traveling in mind. We’d been using a borrowed one that was much heavier and would have been a struggle to carry around. If we were choosing based on weight alone we could have chosen a cheap umbrella stroller that are sold everywhere. We knew there would be long walks involved and wanted a stroller that would be comfortable for Fletcher to rest in and that we could recline if he needed to sleep. We also wanted something that would handle all terrain reasonably well. Our stroller does fold up umbrella style and has an attached carry strap which was very handy. Also included is a wind/rain cover, this only covers the front and in heavy rain the seat has gotten wet through the back and sides.
We have taken this stroller on all our trips and it has handled well, even with a weary 4-year-old inside.
We had an Ergobaby carrier and used it so much more than we thought we would. Whenever we had tried it at home Fletcher was never keen. We had been putting him on our backs and just before our trip I thought to try using it on my front, he liked it so much better. During our time in Japan he would often snuggle in and fall asleep while we were walking. The carrier was used again for our 2016 trip with 9 month old Declan, who often slept during train rides in it. It did get a bit hot and sweaty for us both on humid days but I have seen Ergobaby have a ‘cool air mesh’ design which is more breathable. Click here for latest prices.
The Ergo was extremely handy for visiting places like the Iwatayama Monkey Park which is on top of a small mountain.
Entertainment for young kids
As well as flights we had quite a bit of train travel in Japan so, needed things to try to entertain the kids. Obviously size matters when travelling. Here are some ideas we have used.
Always a great last resort. When they get sick of playing or are just too tired, watching favourite shows or movies is a winner. When Fletcher was one and half and struggling to sleep on the plane, we broke out the iPad mini and he fell asleep watching wiggles songs.
Sticker books are great at any age. For the toddlers any will do, they will stick them where ever they like, in the book, on their seat, clothes and probably on you too. For older kids books that include scenes have been popular choices with our son. These reusable ones mean they can used more than once.
Colouring/activity books, paper and crayons/pencils
Our eldest son has always been creative and loves to draw and colour, so we packed some cheap books, fat pencils in a pencil case and some blank paper. Older kids might prefer activity books with different things to do.
Water wow books
For younger kids these things are fantastic! They can colour without the hassle of dropping pencils or risking them drawing on something else. The ‘magic’ appearing colours also adds to the appeal. If you have a toddler and don’t know what I’m talking about check them out here!
Magnets are great for travel as the risk of them falling is less. There are some foldable ones, great for travel. We are having fun with this one.
Entertainment for the baby
Entertaining babies is much harder, especially if they don’t like sitting still. We had a few small toys, including a pretend phone and books. Books with finger puppets combine two things in one and probably kept our baby still the longest. We had this itsy Bitsy spider book and I wish we had more to mix it up.
Other baby/kids items
Here are some other products we found useful during our travels.
These were great. As I mentioned our toddler has a tendency to get grotty. We could put one of these on him during meals to keep him clean and didn’t have to carry around dirty/wet bibs. Get some here.
A dummy helped our little ones to settle on flights and during train trips. There is nothing worse than a dummy hitting the floor so, attaching it to there clothes is a great option.
My kids are always hungry and wanting snacks. They can get seriously cranky if they aren’t fed. My favourites are boxes of sultanas and tiny teddies because they last longer. When we arrive I always stock up on fruit.
I hope you found this helpful! If you have some favourite travel with kids items please comment them below.
See our first Japan trip itinerary here.