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Bring vs. Buy: Large Infant Gear

ImageOur daughter is the proud owner of five Pack N Plays.  Yes, this is ridiculous and expensive, but let me explain.

My husband and I travel all over the country with our daughter and many of those travels are to visit family.  When our daughter was younger, she simply needed a place of her own to sleep safely.  We weren’t into the co-sleeping craze and our daughter actually preferred her independence and space, even as an infant.  We needed a crib or Pack N Play in several locations.  Since we were rarely staying in hotels, we didn’t have the option of borrowing a hotel crib on these kinds of travels.

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What were our options?  We could either travel with our own Pack N Play or buy one at our destination.  Since most airlines now charge checked bag fees, we did the math.  The most basic of Pack N Plays could be bought at the time for about $55 (here’s one on Amazon for $60 at the moment).  With checked bag fees running $25 each way, we basically broke even by purchasing a Pack N Play at our destination, even if we only used it once.  We also knew that those Pack N Plays would be reused many times – not only by my daughter on future visits but also by her cousins (and maybe one of these days, a sibling).  We would also save ourselves the hassle of carrying yet another piece of luggage with us through the airport each time.  You can’t put a price on that.

Where are the five Pack N Plays, you ask?  And what value have we gotten out of them?

  • Our house: Used as an infant bassinet for several months and as the Pack N Play we took with us on road trips.  Also used by friends’ children who needed to take a nap at our house.

Verdict: Used hundreds of times.

  • Grandma’s house (locally): Our daughter occasionally spends the day or a weekend with my husband’s mother, who lives about 10 miles away from us.  The Pack N Play at her house served as a backup crib for naps and overnights and we haven’t had to worry with the logistics of bringing our own over to grandma’s house each time.

Verdict: Used dozens of times.

  • Grandma’s House (Alabama): Used on each of our visits to Alabama until our daughter was 2 1/2.

Verdict: Used on 5 trips.

  • Great Grandma’s House (Connecticut): While my husband’s grandmother was living, we made as many trips as we could to see her.  The Pack N Play has now been “inherited” by my husband’s uncle where we have continued to use it while visiting other extended family in CT.  Since my husband is one of 14 grandchildren on this side of the family, we know that there will be many great-grandchildren who can make use of this Pack N Play in the coming years.

Verdict: Used on 4 trips by my daughter & at least twice by her cousin; many future uses possible.

  • Great Grandma’s House/Sister’s House (North Carolina): My sister as well as my grandmother and aunt live a few hours apart from each other in North Carolina.  We often go to one of these two NC locations and the local relatives drive the Pack N Play to the right place.  When my sister has kids of her own, she won’t have to buy a Pack N Play, so we’ve saved her some money.

Verdict: Used on 3 trips, and future use by my sister’s children likely.

Hopefully your family is not as far-flung as mine, and you won’t need five Pack N Plays.  But this just goes to show you that you need to think creatively when traveling with children.  With the hassle and expense of air travel these days, you may be better off purchasing a few key items at your destination than bringing them along for a flight.

We also found some other duplicate baby gear useful:

  • Bouncy seat:  Our daughter napped almost exclusively in her bouncy seat until close to six months old.  They can be found for as cheap as $25.  I would never have gotten to put her down while visiting family unless we had one in several locations.
  • Carseat: Definitely the most expensive item to duplicate, but this is worth considering based upon your travel patterns.  Amazon has the Cosco Scenera, which gets excellent safety ratings, for $65.  Carseats are free to check on most airlines so the math won’t work out in your favor, but they are also very bulky to carry through airports.  We’ve been happy to have an extra carseat in some destinations.

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