Prepare your child before the trip, but save intensive preparation for one-two weeks before the departure date. Allie knew for several months that we were adopting a "mei mei", and that we would all be going to China to bring her home, but we didn’t discuss any details until we received Marie’s proposal.
Describe the big steps of the trip-airplane rides, train trips, sleeping in hotels, etc. Reiterate that you’re all going together, and will all be returning together. This is particularly important so your toddler doesn’t think she’s going to be left in China in place of the "new baby."
Be clear about schedule. To minimize insecurity while travelling, tell your child what will happen each day, one day at a time. We would go over the next day’s events with Allie at bedtime, and would often review them again at breakfast. We were careful to let her know about her basic routines, like where we would eat, and sleep.
Be flexible. Your daily travel/adoption business schedule will leave you with no choice but to be flexible with your child’s routines, but try to retain enough familiar elements from home to keep your child reassured. Things like bathtime and bedtime songs and stories, and a favorite receiving blanket kept Allie happy at bedtime, even though she was in a different place every two nights for the first eight days of the trip.
Nap. Try and have your child nap every day. The extra sleep will help overcome jet lag, and contain over-excitement. Allie had given up regular naps by the time we went to China, but she slept at least an hour every day.
Be prepared to give up long sightseeing trips. Much as we would have liked to return to the Great Wall, or the Forbidden City, we knew that it would be unfair to Allie to put in eight hour tourist days, on top of all the required travel. Instead, we found parks (with playgrounds) very close to our hotels in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. In Beijing, we went for a leisurely stroll around the Summer Palace, and also had a lovely walk around Beihai park.
Bring a few small favorite toys, and some new toys, which you can bring out one at a time over the course of the trip. Have your child carry her daily necessities in a child-size backpack.
Give your older child an appropriate baby care "job." Allie was responsible for carrying Marie’s baby toys, and giving them to her when she felt Marie needed a toy. Having a big-girl job helped Allie adjust to having a sister.
Buy some favorite foods for your child. We found familiar foods like apple juice, crackers, fresh and dried fruit, cookies and chips were easily available. Snacks are essential, as mealtimes are often irregular while on the road. Bring some plastic cutlery for your child to use.
For meals, we would try and offer Allie something familiar for at least one meal a day. Allie is very good about trying and eating new foods, but she would get fed up after too many days of new dishes. Be flexible about balanced meals and proper nutrition: one of Allie’s happiest suppers was a large order of fries in the lobby bar at the Radisson in Beijing.
Bring a backpack carrier. If your child is still small enough, bring a backpack carrier for your older child. We used this for Allie in all crowded transit areas, like airports, and train and bus stations. This meant we had hands free for carrying luggage, and didn’t have to worry about keeping track of her in a crowd. You can bring the pack onto the plane as carry-on luggage. Allie also took turns in an umbrella stroller in Beijing while Marie was in her baby-trekker.
Enjoy the trip! Above all, make it your goal that your whole family enjoy the trip. It’s not the end of the world if discipline is a little lax for two weeks. Having Allie with us, and watching those first bonds form between her and Marie, made it all worthwhile.
by Sarah Wilder