A fellow mom-traveler once told me that six months was the best time to travel with an infant. This was after I had voiced to her my fear of giving up our favorite hobby (traveling to international countries) when I found out I was pregnant with Casey. When Japan reopened to the rest of the world Fall 2022, I knew that we had to go. Japan has been a bucket list destination for Mike and I for YEARS. We literally had plane tickets March of 2020. For three years, my biggest regret was not getting on that plane. So we decided to book a trip and I am so glad we did! These are my thoughts, tips, and gripes with traveling with a 6-month-old infant. The trip, by the way, was nothing short of amazing.
What Age Is Best for Traveling with Infants?
My mom-friend recommended six months but we booked our flight at 5.5 months. Why? Because we wanted to fly to Japan before starting solids at six months. It made meal-times with our little one easier, as he was 100% fed on baby formula, and we didn’t have to worry about exotic foods and microbacteria from another country causing sickness during our trip.
However, if I could have a re-do, I would choose to travel to Japan at 4 or 4.5 months because we set ourselves back with sleep-training. I felt like Casey was getting the hang of sleeping through the night around 4.5 months. Unfortunately with this trip, it took two weeks to set back his clock. At which point, Daylight Savings time occurred, so we are still adjusting.
Also, at 4.5 months, Casey was less energetic, mobile, talkative and demanding. At around 5.5 months, he could already voice his discontent, hunger, and tiredness with banshee shrieks and temper tantrums. We had to cater more to his desires. I think at 4.5 months, we would have to cater to his needs, but not so much his wants.
On the flip-side, I am SO happy we went to Japan at this age. Mike and I agreed that at 1 years old, we would have to worry about a toddler starting to walk (or run?) away from us. This would be a nightmare to manage with Japan’s heavy foot-traffic and metro crowds. And if he were a bit older still, we would have to deal with whining, complaining, and general resistance. Odds are a toddler would not be keen on hours of site seeing, miles of walking, and the general shopping and food scene. I could see Casey begging to go back to the hotel where there’s at least a pool! So next time we go to Japan, we already decided that Casey will be staying home with the grandparents.
What Items Did We Bring?
Let me start by saying that we brought way too much stuff. I heard that it was a bit difficult to secure baby items such as diapers and formula in Japan, so we decided to bring those with us. I was glad we did because we didn’t have to waste time trying to find these items on our trip. Since we travel much slower with a child in general, wasting time was not something we wanted to do. But for a ten day trip, I brought 100 diapers and 2 containers of Similac. We could have probably gotten away with 75 diapers (with enough to spare!) and 1.25 containers of formula.
We also brought an umbrella stroller. This was a great decision on our part. The umbrella stroller we had was this one and costs $40. It is lightweight at less than 5 pounds, which was useful for me. When we experienced rough terrain (aka cobblestone streets or temple hikes), we carried Casey and folded up the stroller. Mike carried Casey in a dual-facing carrier (another MUST!), while I lugged the stroller. It folds up into a slim profile and is similar to carrying an umbrella around! Plus it doubled as a staff when we were hiking up Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Mikey preferred to use the ErgoBaby Omni Carrier and I prefered to push the stroller. This worked out well, since we needed to do a lot of adjustments if we shared the same carrier. He is 6’3″ and I am 5’1″. There is one thing the carrier did better than the stroller! Casey loved to sleep in the carrier. The stroller was upright and uncomfortable for him to sleep in. The bumpy roads didn’t help either. So whenever it was nap-time, or when we wanted to stroll through a busy market, we popped Casey into the carrier and called it a day.
Other than that, we brought ten days worth of day-time and night-time outfits for Casey. In my opinion, we could have probably cut the night-time outfits in half and reused some of them, as he only really slept in them. We brought bibs, and socks. At this age, he could care less about shoes and accessories. And we brought three jackets, which was two too many in October. Japan was fairly warm during our entire stay, raining for only 2 of the 10 days.
How Was Transportation with an Infant in Japan?
In many ways, Japan was the perfect place to travel with an infant. Japan is one of the few countries where we do not have to bring a carseat or rent one out. Their public transportation system was simple, easy, and clean! We bought a Japan Rail Pass ahead of time, but to be honest, you can get by fine without one. One app that we downloaded that really helped was the SUICA app. It lets you direct transfer from your bank account funds to use for trains and metros.
There was a train every few minutes so you didn’t have to stress if you missed one. And they were reliably on time too! If you hop on a bus, no worries. They let you as long as your small infant is in a carrier. And if you are worried about crowded trains, I never once experienced the horrible videos that you see online. Part of that could be that October is not one of their peak seasons for visitors. Either way, I wouldn’t worry too much. Just avoid the peak hours if you do go during cherry blossom season!
What Are the Best Things To Do With An Infant?
There were definitely some things that were great activities for parents with infants, and others that were not. My favorites could be different from other moms, but I wanted to share them here. In general, the best activities involved being outdoors.
I loved walking through markets in Japan with Casey. There were many things to look at and he was enthralled by the lights and colors at the stands. We carried him in the carrier for the markets, so if he ever got tired, he would just fall asleep. When he got fussy, we would just point at an object in the stand and curiosity would get the better of him. He would stop fussing right away.
The same goes for temples. Because it was a lot of strolling through gardens and mini hikes outdoors, temples and shrine sight-seeing was wonderful. We avoided going inside the temples and shrines because it was fairly crowded and because indoor spaces got Casey riled up in general. We did not want to disturb the peace in the sacred spaces. But I greatly enjoyed seeing shrines and temples in Kyoto with Casey and Mike. Just like the markets, we carried him in the carrier for most of the time and he would fall asleep as he got tired.
As far as indoor activities go, one of my favorites was shopping. Japan has so many different stores to see. I had a blast just learning about their culture, seeing handcrafted items, and shopping at some of the most futuristic stores I have ever seen. We did not even BUY a ton of items or souvenirs, but walking around was enjoyable. For these adventures, Casey was mostly in a stroller. The best part about Japanese stores and temples was that they had many clean public restrooms specifically for infants, mothers, and handicapped persons. I never had an issue finding a place to change Casey’s diaper in these spaces.
What Were the Difficulties of Traveling Japan with an Infant?
In general, being in a restaurant in Japan was tough. The restaurants were typically small spaces, with counter seating or tiny booths. Some could only seat 8 people. Most of the time, the cooking is done directly behind the counter or at your table. Because of these facts, restaurants tended to be crowded, loud, and smoky. We hardly had a place to put the stroller, and the carrier was no good when we sat down and ate. So most of the time, we had to take turns holding and occupying Casey, who wanted to nab whatever was on the table.
This meant that sit-down meals were usually not that enjoyable. Our coffee dates also required us to be mindful of where Casey’s flailing arms and legs were. I much preferred to pick up food from a convenience store, at one of the train stations, or from a market. Eating standing up, outdoors, and on-the-go was a much more enjoyable experience for me than going to a restaurant. There WAS one evening where Mike and I were able to enjoy an omikase sushi meal for two. We hired a baby sitter and if I had known that that would’ve made dinners more pleasurable, I would have hired a sitter every night we were in Tokyo!
How Was It Hiring a Baby Sitter?
When I posted about hiring a baby sitter on Instagram, everyone and their mom wanted to know what that experience was like. Mostly, everyone was concerned about the safety of leaving Casey with a stranger at a hotel in a foreign country. But let me tell you, it was the best thing we did and I would 100% do it again next time.
Our hotel managed the booking of the nanny. We went to the concierge one morning and inquired. They reached out to a babysitting agency and found that none were available for that evening but one was available for the following night so we booked it. The minimum time was 2 hours of baby sitting. The price came out to $30 per hour. And if we went past 10pm, we had to pay a little extra for the sitter’s fare home (because it was pricier late at night to get a cab). Everything was paid for and managed through the hotel.
When the sitter arrived at the hotel, they called our room and asked to escort her upstairs. She came dressed up in a black dress, and promptly took off her shoes when she entered the room. She put on a white apron and slippers. And then she told us to have a great night, bowing until we were out the door.
Casey was easy to watch. His bed time was around 7pm. We had the sitter arrive at 8pm and went to dinner from 8-10pm. We stayed out a bit later, which the nanny did not mind. Casey did not wake up during the entire time she watched him. Which meant it was fairly easy for her, too! We felt comfortable and relaxed with her. Because it was through an official agency, and because the hotel concierge was aware of her presence, we just felt safe. Japan, in general, made us feel safe. I would 10/10 recommend doing this for young parents who want time to themselves.
I hope this post was helpful for those who wish to travel to Japan with an infant but have reservations about doing so. I am so happy we did it as Japan was on our bucket list for a long time. It was a great trip. Of course, you have to be prepared for baby melt-downs and slowing down in general. But otherwise, go have fun!
If you want to know how we travel hacked our way to Japan using credit card points, this post is for you! We booked 8 FREE hotel nights in Kyoto and Tokyo. And we had our flights partially paid for too. In order to live our frugal life, we have travel hacked our way to 10 countries and all over the USA. If you want to save money but still live out your travel dreams, definitely check that post out!