Our Toddler Adoption Travel Must-Haves

When we were preparing for our potentially two month long trip to Poland to complete our adoption of Elliott, I was at a loss as to were to begin on packing.  Not only had I never had a toddler, I had never had a toddler dealing with the unique circumstances of adoption.  There was so little suitcase space … what was I supposed to bring?  What would be most helpful to have?

I did a lot of Googling around, trying to find suggestions of things to pack.  What I mostly found were packing lists of how many shirts and onesies and bottles to bring.  And while all of that was essential, what I was looking for were the less obvious things – the things that I might not think of, or things that would be helpful not just for a toddler, but an adopted toddler.

Now that we are closing in on the end of our trip (hopefully!), there are a few things that we have found to be essential to our adoption travels.  If you are traveling to adopt a toddler and find yourself scratching your head when it comes to packing like I was, hopefully you find this helpful!



Our carrier has been such a huge help for attachment.  As much as possible, we try to use it instead of the stroller for day-to-day traveling around.  Elliott wasn’t familiar with being in a carrier at first, but soon realized he would much rather be close to one of us than sitting in a stroller.  On days when he is especially clingy, I’ll put him in the carrier just for hanging out in our apartment.  Furthermore, a stroller just isn’t practical in old, cobblestone cities built in the pre-handicap accessible days!  Elliott is small enough still to be in a front carrier so that we are face-to-face, which is great for bonding.  Ours is this Boba Carrier.


Essential Oils

We have a handful of essential oils that have become a part of our daily routine, and I don’t know what we would do without them!  Here are the ones we use regularly for Elliott:

  • Serenity Oil (from DoTerra) – For help calming down and falling asleep for naps and bedtime
  • Peace & Calming (from Young Living) – We put a few drops in his nighttime bath to help him settle down for sleep
  • Trauma Life (from Young Living) – For stress, anxiety, and night terrors
  • Rosemary – For constipation and stomach troubles, we rub a tiny bit around his belly button (great for helping him adjust to a different diet)

*Be sure to research how to safely use Essential Oils for young children before using.*


As we learned about Elliott’s daily schedule, we have found it incredibly helpful to keep a journal.  Every day since we have had him, we keep a detailed record of his daily activities.  This as been a lifesaver in helping us learn his likes/dislikes and how different things effect him, such as changes in his eating or sleep habits.  It has been our greatest tool in establishing his daily schedule.

Weighted Blanket

I can’t say enough good things about our weighted blanket!  We use it during every nap time.  When we first took Elliott from his foster home, he had a lot of trouble falling asleep.  We started covering him with a weighted blanket to help him calm down, and it made a huge difference!  If you are not familiar with them, weighted blankets can have a soothing effect for kids dealing with anxiety, trauma, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, Autism, etc.  Ours is silky soft on one side and has a treasure map on the other side.  It’s from StudioMinkyz Etsy Shop and we love love love it.

*Be sure to research what size/weight is safe for your toddler.*



Video Monitor

This felt like a splurge purchase at first, but now I am SO GLAD we got a video monitor rather than an audio-only monitor!  Elliott is normally a really deep sleeper that doesn’t move around much or make noise at all.  But normal sleep is one of the most common things to go out the window while processing stress/grief/trauma, and that has DEFINITELY been the case for him.  Because we do not have a crib and are co-sleeping, the video monitor lets us keep a close watch on him while he naps to make sure he has not breeched the pillow wall in his sleep and is getting close to the edge of the bed.

Plus, little kids make so many weird noises in their sleep, the video monitor has been a huge asset as we are getting to know him.  Being able to see him helps us decide if each little noise means he is just squawking in his sleep or actually needs us to go in there.  This is the video monitor we have, and we love it!

Lovey From Past Home & Lovey From Future Home

Do to packing constraints, we weren’t able to bring many toys.  People always say that kids can have fun with anything around the house, but when you are basically locked in an apartment for two months that is furnished with the bare minimum, even those options are slim.  But there are two stuffed animals in particular that we are very glad we have with us.

One is a teddy bear that Alex and I made for Elliott at Build-A-Bear Workshop while we were waiting to get our travel dates.  We kept it in our bed so that it would smell like us by the time we arrived in Poland.  It was the first gift we gave to Elliott when we met him, and he has really latched on to it.  It is nice to have something soft and cuddly that he can associate with his new parents!  The second is a small stuffed dog that belonged to him in his foster home.  If possible, it is great to take a familiar toy home from the child’s previous home.  The doggy is a source of comfort that reminds him of being somewhere that he felt secure, and carries the scent of his past home and foster mother.  We are very glad to have both of these toys!


Taggy Blanket

Seriously, I don’t know what it is about these things.  They are like catnip for kitties.  Something about that soft fabric lined in those irresistible silky tags makes babies and toddlers go nuts.  We were given one at our adoption shower, and I am SO thankful I tossed it in the suitcase last minute.  Elliott hated getting dressed and having is diaper changed at first, and the taggy blanket was just fascinating enough to distract him.

To kids that have been in a foster home or orphanage where they were not the center of attention, being adopted often means sudden, constant stimulation from excited new family members.  That, combined with stress/anxiety, makes it often difficult for Elliott to wind down for naps and bedtime.  Even when he was exhausted, his body still wanted to move.  The taggy blanket is an easy way for him to slowly calm down while keeping his hands busy, as he could probably spend an hour exploring all of those colorful tags.

Gummi Mat

Our Gummi Mat is basically a rubber mat that lays on top of a high chair tray.  It is just sticky enough to grab on to the tray, and has bumps on top to help keep food from sliding away from little hands.  When we met Elliott, he had only ever been hand-fed, even though he is the age the most toddlers start picking up finger food.  We think it is more common in the U.S. than other countries for kids to start eating finger food sooner.  Elliott’s physical/occupational therapists encouraged us to encourage him to eat finger food himself, as this would help improve his developmental delays.  Because this was totally new to him, it took him awhile to get the hang of picking up small food pieces on his own.  Without the mat, he ends up just chasing it all over the tray as it slides away from his wobbly fingers.  The mat makes a huge difference!  Because it helped him so much in picking up food, his fine motor skills progressed enormously in a short time.  Plus it is super easy to clean and rolls up easily to be out of the way between meals or to stick in the diaper bag for on-the-go.  Love it!  Here is the one we have.


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