Traveling to Adopt? Get Our Tips!

by | Jun 28, 2023 | Adoptive Families Blog

Smiling couple walking with baggage outside an airport terminalIn domestic infant adoption, parents waiting to adopt often cannot predict when they will get “the call” to go meet the baby they so long to add to their family. Babies are born at all hours, and it’s important to be ready to GO when the opportunity to adopt comes calling. This moment is full of mixed emotions, from sheer joy to jitters.
When traveling for adoption, the most important thing is to have a flexible attitude. Your adoption professional may present you with a potential birth mother several months before her due date, or you might get the call that your little one was just born yesterday! So make plans in place to leave on a moment’s notice. Let your job and anyone else it may affect know that if you get the call, you will have to leave. This way, they don’t get upset if you have to leave them shorthanded. Instead, they’ll be excited for you!
There are many unknowns about adopting a baby who is not born in your local area. We’re here to help you with travel tips and what to pack when adopting a baby from another state.

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6 Must-Have’s to Pack

Since most hospitals are located within a short drive to a local mega-mart or drug store, don’t panic if you pack light. You can always stock up on what you need after you travel to the birth mother’s area.
You can prepare some items for adoption travel now, so you have less to pack and less to remember when the time comes to meet your baby. Here’s what we suggest getting ready ahead of time:

1. Blankets

I recommend packing two receiving blankets and two swaddling blankets. Pack a fluffy, warm blanket if it will be cold in the birth mother’s state. Many experts recommend swaddling because it helps the baby sleep comfortably and stops the startle reflex, which often wakes the baby. And, babies are used to being confined because it was tight quarters in the belly!

2. A Car Seat

Make sure to read up on how to install the car seat you’ve purchased safely (or plan to buy once you arrive), so you don’t have to be frustrated over it later. Since a car seat is one of the best ways to protect your baby, every state requires parents to have one properly installed before leaving the hospital.
Check around in your area for a car seat safety class or inspection to make sure you’re doing it correctly. If you already purchased a car seat, practice installing it in your car, or ask a friend with children if you can practice with their car seat.
Safe Kids can connect you to a child passenger safety (CPS) technician in your community who can check to ensure your car seat is installed correctly. This organization can also instruct you on using and installing a car seat on your own.

3. Diaper Bag

Pack bottles, diaper wipes for sensitive skin, a few diapers, and a couple of outfits. Consider packing both newborn-size and size-one diapers. If your baby is over ten pounds, they may already be too big for newborn diapers!
The hospital will help you figure out the right formula for your baby, so there’s no need to stock up before you know what your baby needs. If you’ll have a microwave at your hotel, make sure to pack steam bags. These will help you sterilize bottles and pacifiers in less than five minutes!
If you plan to breastfeed your adopted baby, prepare ahead of time by seeking professional lactation support, starting hormone therapy, stimulating your breasts, and/or using a Supplemental Nursing System.

4. Overnight Bag

You can save money by packing your necessities into your carry-on luggage and avoiding checked bag fees. Pack comfy clothes (for sitting around your hotel room) and presentable clothes (for photos and going to dinner, the hospital, and any site seeing).
Packing lightly is smart because once you head home, every square inch of your luggage or car could very well be packed with baby items!

5. Gift for Your Child’s Birth Mother

Although no gift could completely convey to her how thankful you are, it’s good to show your child’s birth mother how important she is to you. Thoughtful gift ideas include a keepsake box with pampering items, birthstone jewelry, or an adoption bracelet with a heartfelt letter.
You will better understand what would touch your child’s birth mother’s heart as you get to know her. Check with your adoption professional to learn if gifts to a birth mother are legally allowable in your situation.

6. Sound Machine

It was loud for your baby in utero, so the sound of white noise will soothe them. So a sound machine, or using a sound machine app on your phone, is a must!
Remember to pack chargers for your phones. You’ll want to make sure you can stay in communication with your adoption professionals, the birth mother, and your loved ones, AND be ready to record all those first memories with your baby.

How to Travel

Many adoptive couples wonder if they should drive or fly to the birth mother’s state when the baby is born. The answer to that depends on the situation. A few factors that contribute to how you’ll travel include:

  • How urgent it is to get there
  • How far away you are from her state
  • Weather conditions
  • If the birth mother wants you to be there in the room to participate in her baby’s birth

If you are planning on driving before the birth mother’s due date, that is fine, but stay flexible if she goes into labor early, and you need to hop on a plane to get there in time. You need to try to be at the hospital when the baby is born, not just arrive in time for discharge. Or, if you are en route and she suddenly goes into labor, one of you may need to get a flight while the other continues to drive.
Many families don’t book their travel that far in advance because it can cost more and be more complicated to change it, rather than just securing the flight when the birth mother goes into labor. Others plan to arrive a week or so ahead of time to spend time with the birth mother and explore the area.
When planning air travel, consider not just the closest airport to you (and her!) but also those that you may drive a couple hours to to arrive sooner ultimately. For instance, a family living near Tampa may also look into flights out of Orlando, which is less than two hours by car.
Understand that for any adoption, time is of the essence, so you need to get there as quickly as possible. Arriving quickly demonstrates to the birth mother that her baby is your priority.

Where to Stay

Depending upon where your baby is born, you may have few options for your stay. Most adoptive couples stay at a local hotel, and some are blessed to have a friend or family member who lives near the birth mother’s town. You may wish to look into booking an Airbnb so that you can have privacy and access to a kitchen and laundry during your stay. Here are some tips for making the best of it, no matter where you are:

  • Seek support. Bring the phone number of someone you can call with questions that might seem silly. Especially for first-time parents, the first few days and nights with a newborn can be overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to contact someone you trust with questions.
  • Try to get a hotel with a fridge and laundry. Extended-stay hotels and corporate apartments can sometimes feel homier. And remember to bring a laundry bag and quarters!
  • Get out and about. Don’t get cooped up in the hotel because it’ll make you nuts. Take the baby out in a stroller during nap time. Walking around the community will allow you to form memories about your child’s birthplace so you can share that information as they grow up.
  • Make memories. Collect keepsakes such as the local newspaper with your child’s date of birth. But don’t rely on your memory alone – take notes, videos, and photos. You might even bring an extra bag for the items you acquire there.

Adopting a Baby from Another State

If you’re matched with a birth mother several months before her due date, take the time to research the location where your baby will be born. Doing so ahead of time will help you decide your best travel plans. Contact your airline, rental car company, and hotel directly to ask for a discount since you’re traveling to adopt.
Make sure to book your flights with a well-known and established airline, not on a cheap site. These sites often have rules and expensive cancellation fees. After all, with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), you won’t know when you’ll be cleared to return home with the baby. And adoptive mother Samantha has this tip to share: “If flying home, the day you are scheduled to return to your home ship your belongings home. This allows you to focus on your new child and not worry with luggage and security checks. A simple backpack should be all one needs.”
If you already have children, reassure them by explaining what will happen. Arrange childcare plans ahead of time and let your children know where they will be while you are traveling for the adoption. A good time to share this info with your children is after you have accepted an adoption opportunity and are officially matched.
This trip is one of the most important ones you will ever take. If you can have a sense of humor and the ability to adapt to changes, it will be much more enjoyable. Do what you can to make it the best time with your new baby.
We’d love to hear from experienced parents about adopting a baby from another state! What would you add to our packing list? Do you have any adoption travel tips? Tell us in the comments.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 8, 2016, and has since been updated. 

Heather Featherston

Written by Heather Featherston

As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.

Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.

As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.

Read more about Heather Featherston

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