Using a Travel Agent

Vacation can cure a lot of stress, but the planning phase can cause a lot of it too! Using a travel agent can alleviate that stress and more. Many folks get caught up in not knowing what to expect, so they just don’t use one! I’m going to break it down for you!

Here’s everything you need to know about using a travel agent!

Do I need a travel agent?

Forgive me travel agents, but my answer is no. You don’t need a travel agent. But you probably want a travel agent, especially during these weird travel times! The pandemic is affecting every aspect of travel and travel agents are staying up to date.

How much should I expect to spend?

Zero extra dollars. Yes, zero. Most travel agents are compensated by the destination, not the client. (See why I said you’d probably want one?)

Travel agents can also help identify potential discounts and sometimes even extend discounts that aren’t available to the general public. They also can help assess the best “bang for your buck” between destinations, cruise itineraries, or date windows.

What if I enjoy planning my own trips?

Travel agents work for you and want you to be as involved as you want to be! If you want to plan the details, they’ll likely be happy to hand over those tasks to you. You can still benefit from them reviewing your plans and identifying any potential issues or missing details!

What should I look for in a travel agent?

All travel agents are not created equally. While they should all provide the same minimum level of service, they each have there own planning style and level of detail.

Friends and family (or your favorite blogger!) are a good place to start asking for recommendations. When it comes to services, I always think a referral is the sincerest form of flattery.

Before committing to using a travel agent, I suggest taking a look at their business social media presence and website. There are “MLM travel agencies” now that are more focused on recruiting new members than actually booking you a dream vacation. I suggest staying far away from them. If you see them sharing a lot of memes with copyrighted images, character clipart, and blog links, they are violating companies like Disney’s policies and may not be the professional agent that you’re looking for.

Using a Travel Agent for Disney Vacations

It’s important to ask your agent about what they do and don’t handle for you. All travel agents should handle your resort reservation and tickets, at a minimum.

With Disney’s brand new park day reservation system and COVID-19 waiver, you’ll need to make those on your own to officially sign the waiver. While some travel agents are doing this for their clients, they shouldn’t be. In fact, it can be a warning sign that they don’t play by the rules (and that’s not a good thing).

As you look towards the future, I hope that we’ll see the return of our familiar dining plans and the advance dining and FastPass reservation system. If so, most travel agents handle your fast passes and dining reservations, but they aren’t required to. So, make sure your agent is prepared to help with these details, unless you want to be the one stalking the Disney website at dawn when your windows open!

Some travel agents will also write a touring plan for you, but, again, they aren’t required to. If you aren’t familiar with the parks and how to make the most of your time, these plans can be invaluable. Ask about this service (and how the plans will be delivered to you) too. Their expertise can make magic happen, like catching a parade right outside of the restaurant you have a dining reservation at.

The rare, magical travel agent will also help you book any “extras”. Extras are non-commissionable and above and beyond their obligations to you as a client, since they won’t be compensated for that time and effort. These are things like first haircuts at Harmony Barbershop and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments. If you can find one of these magical unicorns, book through them. These agents are deeply invested in your vacation and making sure every detail is handled.

Using a Travel Agent for Other Theme Park Destinations

Most other theme park destinations require less intensive pre-planning. Your travel agent should still handle your hotel reservation and tickets, at a minimum.

They should also be knowledgeable about and willing to assist with VIP access, special tours, special events, dining, and other special offers. Most travel agents will also offer touring plans for other theme parks too.

Using a Travel Agent for Cruises

Many travel agents have associations with consortiums and other groups that can provide wonderful discounts for cruises. They can also help you price monitor your cruise for potential discounts and help you navigate any required documentation.

Using a Travel Agent for International Travel

If you’re headed abroad for the first time, I can’t recommend using a travel agent enough. They can help you identify destinations (“somewhere tropical, please!”), handle transfers (for instance, getting from an airport to a train station), help select the best location within a new city, identify respectable tour groups, and help you know what to expect in a new country.

Using a Travel Agent for Domestic Travel

With the current pandemic situation, more and more people are looking to travel more locally. Travel agents can still help with self-drive vacations, hotels and resorts, tours, dining suggestions, and even National Parks vacations.

Different agencies have different vendors for international and domestic travel, so don’t rule out agent shopping a little bit to find the right fit for your trip!

How do I book through a travel agent?

Each agency works differently, but generally, you’ll speak directly with your agent, either by phone or in person, about your trip. They may want you to have decisions made about travel dates and Resorts, but a good agent will help you figure out these details. In fact, if they don’t offer suggestions or seem open to flexible plans upfront, you might take it as a sign to keep looking!

Most agencies will have their own system for processing payments. You should make sure that they have a secure payment system in place to protect your information (ie, not just taking your payment information over the phone). Your agent should be processing your payments directly with the vendor. If they ask you to pay them directly, run!

Do you have any suggestions for a travel agent?

If you’ve read this post and feel like a travel agent is right for you and would like a recommendation, feel free to email us for a recommendation at info@mouseandhome.com.

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The Ultimate Baby Registry Guide

The Ultimate Baby Registry Guide

Note: This baby registry guide was published in several posts on my old personal blog, Rebelle of the Ball, in 2014. Those posts have been condensed, updated, and republished here.

Oh, baby registries. One of the many nerve wracking parts of pregnancy or adoption. So many choices to make right up front, before your baby is even here! When I was pregnant, I began neurotically working on our budget and baby registry right after the line turned pink. My baby registry grew, shrunk, and evolved a hundred times before anyone ever saw it.

If you’re an expectant parent, lost in a sea of baby products, I feel you. And here’s my ultimate guide to figuring out what the heck you even want or need and building your baby registry.

Start your baby registry with some introspection.

Before you even begin building your baby registry, I suggest you ask yourself a few questions and get yourself sorted.

Picking Your Baby Registry Store/Website:

  • What kind of shoppers are your guests and family members? If you plan to invite a lot of your friends, who are tech savvy and comfortable ordering online, store locations aren’t that important. But if the bulk of your guest list is your great-great-aunts and grandparents, they may want the in-store shopping experience. Also, consider your friends and family’s budgets. If you aren’t related to the Rockefellers, you’ll want to make sure there’s a range of items at a reasonable price point. Otherwise, you’ll be inviting them to go “off list” and shop within their budget for whatever they think you’ll like best (aka more baby clothes)!
  • What stores are convenient for your guests and family members? If your friends and family are going shopping for you, make it convenient! Think about where most of your guests live and narrow down your baby registry store(s) to somewhere they can easily visit. For instance, our closest Babies R Us is a 45-minute drive, so it wasn’t practical for us to register there. You may also want to consider which stores offer free shipping, if you’ll be doing an online-exclusive baby registry.
  • Are the baby registries user friendly? Once you have an idea of where your guests might shop, look through a random baby registry on their site. Is it easy to identify the products and quantities and mark them as purchased? Can you find what’s in stock in a store? Etc.

Planning Your Baby Registry:

  • How many guests are invited to your shower (and how many will realistically attend)? If you’re having multiple showers or have a huge family, you can go registry wild! Add all the things, for the next couple of years of baby’s life! Feeding and teething supplies, clothing in a variety of sizes, toys for baby to grow into, a million wipes, walking toys, add it all! If you’re having a smaller shower (like mine, my guest list was about 30 people), you may want to streamline your baby registry to the necessities, since there will be less shopping happening.
  • Do you plan to have any gift-driven baby shower games? If your shower host is planning to do a diaper raffle or “books instead of cards”, make sure you register for the things you want (the type or brand of diapers you plan to use or books you’ve been wanting).
  • Do you know any baby whisperers? If you have a close friend or family member who seems to have the baby thing figured out, ask them to help! Take them with you to register or even offer to buy them coffee if they’ll take a loop through the baby section with you and give you some advice on things you’ll need.
  • What do you already have or plan to buy? If you’re like me, you probably already started picking up little things here and there. Think about what you already have, so you don’t register for 10 more blankets when you’ve got a closet full. We also planned to repurpose some furniture, had received some hand-me-downs, and found some great deals on big ticket items, so those things got crossed off our list.
  • What does your lifestyle (and location) look like? Be realistic. If you’re not an avid runner, you probably don’t need a jogging stroller. If you’re not particularly close to your parents, you may not need duplicates of things for their houses. Conversely, maybe you spend a lot of time there or they’ll be your primary babysitters and it’d be nice to try to outfit them with some essentials! It’s also worth counting out baby’s age on the calendar to see approximately when you’ll need certain items. If baby is going to be born in the middle of winter, you probably don’t need a newborn swimsuit. Middle of summer and you probably don’t need newborn fleece footie pajamas.
  • What can you absolutely not afford to buy on your own? If money is tight and you really need certain items, make sure you give them priority listing! Don’t fill your baby registry with cutesy things you don’t need, when you really need a crib or car seat!

Figure out what you want and what you need on your baby registry.

Now that you’ve thought about some basics, it’s time to make some decisions! This is the truly overwhelming part, right? There is a baby gadget and gizmo for every possible situation. How do you even figure out what you want or need? The truth is that this will be different for everyone. There’s some things that every baby needs (like diapers), but then there’s a lot of stuff that’s just about convenience.

With that in mind, here’s an ultimate list of baby stuff – and my two cents on whether it’s a necessity or a convenience.

I suggest grabbing a piece of paper and making a “need’ and “want” column to take notes. You can work from this when you start building your baby registry later!

Nursery

Think about where your “baby command center” will be. That might be a designated nursery, a corner of your bedroom, or even in your main living area.

  • Crib – This is a need. Baby needs their own safe sleeping environment. I’m not here to preach safe sleeping, but I do follow the AAP guidelines and don’t support bed sharing.
  • Crib mattress  – This is a need. When choosing a crib mattress, we considered longevity. Your little one will be using it in their crib and most likely in their toddler bed too. This is where we chose (so, here’s the want part) to splurge on the crib mattress. We wanted to spend on things with long-term use.
  • Bassinet – This is a want. As soon as your baby starts to roll over, it’s no longer safe to let them sleep in a bassinet. So, if your budget allows for one, it can be nice to have baby closer in those first few weeks. It’s definitely not something that every family needs though.
  • Changing table & pad – This is ultimately a want. There are a ton of good alternatives, including a changing pad on a low dresser, Pack & Play option, or even the floor. I promise baby doesn’t care, as long as there’s a clean diaper at the end. We chose to purchase a changing table, because we were repurposing an old tall dresser. I also wanted some extra storage.
  • Rocker/glider/recliner – This is a want, bordering on a need. If money or space is tight, this is something you can skip. But it’s really so nice to have a comfortable place to sit for late night feedings and soothings. We chose to buy a La-Z-Boy recliner, instead of a glider, when we found a great price on one. It’s a lot more comfortable than most rocker/gliders and it’ll live a second life when it’s done in our nursery.
  • Other furniture – This is all wants… and also a place to not be seduced by “nursery” labels. A dresser is a dresser is a dresser, you know? We chose to repurpose other furniture to complete our nursery, because I had some awesome antique furniture that I’d inherited. You may want a dresser, bookshelf, and nightstand. If you have a great closet or shelving/drawers on your changing table, you may not need a dresser. If you won’t have a ton of books in the nursery, you may not need a bookshelf. I definitely made good use of a small nightstand by the recliner in our nursery. It held all kinds of random bits, like water and snacks during nursery sessions and burp cloths during bottle feeding.
  • Bedding – Of course, this is a need, but maybe not as much as you’d expect. The AAP safe sleep guidelines suggest only using a crib sheet. That’s right, no bumper or comforter draped over the side. Just a crib sheet. It may not be as “cute”, but safety trumps style in my world! I suggest getting at least 2 waterproof crib mattress pads (even if your crib is already “waterproof”). We also kept 3-4 crib sheets in our rotation too. We also had a waterproof liner for our changing pad and 2-3 changing pad covers.
  • Monitor – This is a need, in most cases, but ultimately comes down to where baby will be sleeping. Both of our girls slept in their own nursery from day one, so a monitor was a must for us. If your baby will be roomsharing, this may not be a need. Keep in mind there are likely times you’ll be out of earshot while they’re sleeping though. They can also come in handy when baby is older and having independent play out of your line of sight. In my budget post, I talked about video monitors and I’ll repeat myself here. If you’re looking at a video monitor, consider getting a security camera instead. We got one for significantly less than a “baby video monitor” and with a heck of a lot more features!
  • Accessories – These are of course mostly wants. It can be nice to have things like laundry baskets, toy organizers, wall decor, nightlights, crib mobiles, and humidifiers. They aren’t essential to your baby’s survival though! Specifically, we had a crib mobile for our first baby and skipped it for our second. Also, I would argue that our white noise machine has been essential to all of our survivals! We have found that both of our girls sleep dramatically better with a little rainfall in the background!

Feeding

Most parents have a clear idea of how they plan to feed their newborns, whether it be breastmilk or formula, breast or bottle. That’s a totally personal preference and I think a fed baby is a healthy baby. From personal experience, I can say that breastfeeding sometimes doesn’t work out the way that you plan. It can be nice to have a backup plan. Ultimately, prepare for whatever you think is best for your family.

  • Breast pump and accessories – This is a need, IF you’re breastfeeding and IF you’ll be spending time away from baby. Before you add it to the registry, you may want to consult your insurance company about receiving one free. Many doctor’s offices have resources to help streamline this process too, so ask at your next appointment. Your hospital may also send you home with a manual pump and other accessories, so these are all things you may want to hold off on registering for. You may want to add breastmilk storage containers (or extra bottles) and sanitizing bags to your baby registry. The sanitizing bags came in handy for non-breat-pump-related things when we traveled!
  • Nursing cover – This is a want. If you’re a modest person who will be spending time outside of your house, you may want one of these. Personally, I used my nursing cover for the first few outings, while finding my rhythm. From there, I took a “If you don’t like it, don’t look!” attitude. You don’t need to cover up, so don’t let anyone (other than your own feelings) tell you that you do!
  • Boppy or other breastfeeding pillow – This is a want. Personally, with my large breasts, it was like my third arm and I can’t imagine having nursed without it. I also used it for bottle feeding.
  • For the nursing mom – These are all wants, bordering on needs. You may want nursing bras and tanks for easy access. Keep in mind that your breasts will likely change size after birth, so you may not want to register for these items. Shop for them as you go (and grow) or ask for gift cards. If you plan to breastfeed, you will likely want to have nursing pads on hand. The first time that Lu slept through the night, I woke up with a drenched shirt and sheets. Your hospital will likely send you home with lanolin for your nipples, but I personally preferred other nipple creams. You may want to have some on hand, as baby works on their latch and you build up endurance.
  • Formula – If you’re planning to formula feed, you’ll obviously need this. My suggestion is that you don’t stock up on any one type of formula until you see what baby tolerates. Ru went through three formulas, before ending up on an elemental formula in a matter of weeks. You’ll also likely receive multiple formula samples from your doctor, hospital, and/or through the mail. If you are planning to breastfeed, you might still consider having some on hand (those samples will do), but that’s up to you.
  • Bottles – This is another need, if you’re planning to feed baby formula or expressed breastmilk. A wise friend suggested that I try a few types of bottles before stocking up on one brand. They were right. We went through a few brands with both girls before finding the right “fit”. Register for a few brands and keep them sealed, trying one at a time. If you find a winner, exchange the rest for that one.
  • Bottle brush & drying rack – This is a want that became a need for our family. While we usually put our bottles in the dishwasher, sometimes I’d forget to start a load and need a clean bottle ASAP! We also found that our dishwasher didn’t dry tall bottles completely, so our drying rack was used constantly.
  • Dishwasher basket – This is a want, depending on, of course, if you have a dishwasher. You’ll likely want to wash nipples and rings on the top rack though, so this will come in handy. Even if you don’t bottle feed, these can still be useful for washing pacifiers and little feeding utensils as they grow!
  • Bottle warmer –  This is a want. In my experience, both of our girls took lukewarm bottles, because they didn’t know there was an alternative. If you’re planning to feed expressed breastmilk, you may want a bottle warmer for milk straight from the fridge.
  • Sterilizer – This is a need, if you’re following AAP guidelines. Plenty of parents don’t sterilize their bottles routinely though, so take that for what it is. There are a lot of options, from microwave sterilizers to standalone units. We preferred the standalone unit, because it was less beeping and clacking around in the kitchen while baby slept. You can also just boil your bottles and parts. Choose what works best for your family and budget.
  • High chair – This is a need, to some extent. Baby needs a safe and clean place to sit and eat… eventually. You won’t use a high chair for the first few months, so it’s something that can wait. There are also a ton of options, so explore what will work best in your space and lifestyle. We went for a transitional high chair that could be a standalone or attached to a chair.
  • Bibs & burp cloths – This is a need and in large quantity! I didn’t quite believe my friends when they suggested how many we’d need. But babies are gross. They drool, spit, spit up, spill, rub food into themselves. Unless you enjoy doing lots of laundry, you’ll be happy to have these in surplus. I really liked using the plastic-backed bibs for solid food feeding. I preferred to just roll a burp cloth under their chins during bottle feedings, so I didn’t have to take the velcro off from around their neck if they fell asleep!
  • Baby Brezza Formula Pro – This is a want that’s all about convenience. Think of it as the Keurig of baby bottles. It was wonderful for middle of the night formula feedings – no math or physics pop quizzes in the dark kitchen! It’s been about four years since I last used mine, but I’d like to note that my [older, discontinued] model required constant and tedious cleaning, or else it wouldn’t measure properly. Make sure to read reviews and talk to friends about their newer model!
  • Baby Bullet and other food processors – This is a want, for a few reasons. There are tons of great premade baby foods on the market, so making your own isn’t necessary. You may want and have the time to and that’s great. But you may also choose to go the baby led weaning route and skip purees all together. Both of my girls went straight to regular foods pretty quickly. We had a Baby Bullet and used it, like, twice. If you have an existing food processor or blender, you really don’t need this taking up real estate in your newly crowded kitchen!
  • Feeding utensils – This is a need, eventually. These items are relatively low priced and can take up a lot of valuable kitchen space though. It may be something you want to hold off on until you’re ready for them.
  • Pacifiers – This depends on your parenting style, but if you want to use them, it’s a need. Just like bottles, don’t get attached to what kind of pacifier your baby will use. They’ll let you know what they like. Also, take a critical eye to Wubbanubs and other similar pacifiers, since they’re difficult to clean and sterilize with the plush attached.
  • Teethers – This is a want. Much like feeding utensils, teething toys are inexpensive and can be purchased later. Ru was a dream while teething and barely used hers. Lu, on the other hand, let us know for days before each tooth came in and made good use of hers. And like bottles and pacifiers, your baby may prefer different types. Ru preferred wooden teethers, while Lu preferred the frozen teething rings.

Diapering

My girls have been both cloth and disposable diapered. There are so many options in the world of diapering, so my suggestion is to not get too ahead of yourself when stocking up on these items.

  • Diapers – This is an obvious need. Whether you are cloth or disposable diapering, you need some kind of diapers.
  • Cloth Diapering – There are so many options for cloth diapering that I can’t even begin to cover here. If you plan to cloth diaper, I highly suggest joining some groups and reading up on your choices before buying any one diaper in large quantities. You can also check around with local baby boutiques to see if anyone provides a rental service, where you can try out different styles before committing. Ultimately, you’ll want to have 10-20 diapers, so you’re not constantly doing laundry. You may also still want to have a box of disposable diapers on hand, in case you have fit issues initially (lots of cloth diapering moms report not being able to get a good fit on newborns, even with newborn sized cloth diapers) or fall behind on laundry.
  • Disposable Diapering – Baby will average 10-12 daily diaper changes in the beginning. Like 3000 diapers in the first year. That’s not a typo and a lot of diapers. That being said, not all diapers are created equal. Much like bottles, different brands work best for different babies. Ru did great with Huggies, while the Honest Company caused her to break out in rashes. Lu had the best fit with Up&Up. I know it’s tempting to stock up, since you’ll need so many. Consider registering for gift cards and adding a note on your baby registry that they’re for future diaper purchases, as a gentle suggestion to friends and family to give a gift card, instead of a diaper brand you won’t use. I can’t tell you how many boxes of diapers I gave away!
  • Wipes – This is another need. You literally can’t have enough baby wipes in your life. We use them for everything, from diaper changes, to wiping dirty hands, to cleaning up spills. I don’t know how we existed before baby wipes came into our life. Some babies may be sensitive to certain wipes, so that’s something to consider if skin issues run in your family. We had good luck with most brands that we tried, but really preferred the Honest Company’s thick wipes for efficiency and Up&Up for cost efficiency. If you’re planning to cloth diaper and want to extend that into making your own wipes, you’ll still want to register for 10-20 wash cloths or reusable wipes and the supplies you’ll need to make them “wet”. I used wash cloths and kept a squirt bottle with my wipe solution to wet them as I went, before life pushed me towards disposable wipes.
  • Diaper Cream or Ointment – This is a want, as you won’t necessarily need or use it, possibly ever. We went months without needing it, but when we did need it, I was glad to have it already stocked. If you plan to cloth diaper, make sure you use one that’s safe for cloth and won’t stain or affect absorbency.
  • Diaper Pail (like a Diaper Genie) – This is a total want, if you even want it. We opted for using a small trash can that was regularly emptied, rather than one of these contraptions with expensive refills. After a friend found maggots in the bottom of her regularly emptied Diaper Genie, I could never bring myself to buy one!
  • Wet bag(s) – This is a need, if you’re cloth diapering. I kept a large wet bag by the changing table for soiled diapers in between washings and also had a couple of small wet bags for my diaper bag. Even if you aren’t cloth diapering, wet bags can still be useful for keeping soiled clothes, bibs, and burp cloths in while you’re on the go.
  • Diaper sprayer – This is a want and only if you’re cloth diapering. We found that having a diaper sprayer was a great convenience for pre-rinsing diapers, especially because we had a lot of diapers that kept us from having to do laundry as often. You can look for “bidet” sprayers that are often more reasonably priced than diaper sprayers and do the exact same thing. Gotta love marketing, right?

Travel and Car Safety

When it comes to traveling with baby, you’ll have to really consider your lifestyle and community. If you live in a walkable neighborhood, your needs may be different than someone living in a rural or suburban area. If you travel for work or fun, you may need more portable gadgets than someone who prefers to stay close to home.

  • Stroller – This is a need, in most cases. Take a look at your lifestyle and decide what kind of (or if a) stroller is right for you. There are hundreds of strollers out there, so there’s truly something for everyone’s needs and aesthetics. You may want a travel system, something with a bassinet, a jogging stroller, or just an inexpensive umbrella stroller… or maybe multiple strollers. My suggestion is to physically go to a store and try out the strollers you’re considering. Don’t just pick a stroller just based on looks or brand. Fold and unfold it by yourself (imagining that you’re potentially holding a baby while you do it!), clip and unclip the car seat (if its a travel system), and push it around the store. Look at the basket’s storage capacity and accessibility. Also, check out any organizers or cupholders, to see if they’re included or something extra to register for. If you have a smaller vehicle, you may want to measure your folded stroller and make sure it’ll fit in your trunk space too.
  • Car seat – This is another need, in almost all cases. It’s important to remember that all car seats must meet federal safety standards, so you don’t have to spend more to keep your baby safe. It is also important to always buy a car seat new. You don’t want to take a stranger’s word for it that their seat hasn’t been in an accident or misused in some way that voided its safety and warranty. There are generally two options, which are infant bucket seats (the kind that come with travel systems) and convertible car seats. Before you start shopping for a car seat, make sure to measure the dimensions of your backseat. Even if you have a larger SUV, you may be surprised how narrow the space between the back of your seat and the back of the backseat really is. Many parents choose to get an infant seat, which allows you to remove the seat from its base while keeping baby strapped into their seat. It’s convenient to transfer them between cars or into their stroller, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a safe place for baby to sleep outside of the car, due to the risk of positional asphyxiation. You’ll be moving on to a convertible car seat when baby outgrows the infant seat, which is why some people opt to just start there. In either case, I suggest spending less on your infant seat and investing more in the convertible seat that will likely be with you into elementary school! When comparing convertible car seats, take a look at the seats’ height and weight limits. Higher limits and features like cup holders can be a good reason to consider spending more on a seat.
  • Car accessories – These are all wants, some more handy than others. I’m always amazed by how many gadgets they’ve created for cars! We opted to get a seat protector, but actually used them on the middle seat between the girls’ car seats where most spills would happen. We also got sun shades for my back windows, to keep the sun out of the girls’ eyes and keep the back seat slightly cooler in our unrelenting summers. The only need in this category is probably a mirror. I had a lot of peace of mind from being able to glance back and lay eyes on them.
  • Car seat accessories – These are not wants or needs. I repeat, these are neither wants nor needs. There are tons of aftermarket car seat accessories out there and none of them are safe. I repeat, they are not safe. As a new mom, I was shocked to learn that all of these accessories are available for sale, both online and in stores, yet are totally unregulated and considered unsafe. Yes, it’s tempting to get those gorgeous minky car seat covers with names embroidered, fuzzy strap covers, and patterned head supports… until you watch a video of how quickly those things go up in flames. Car seats are safety tested as a complete package and made to be fire resistant. When you add anything between baby and their seat or onto their seat, you’re affecting their safety. Just don’t do it. Again, safety trumps style in my world. Don’t risk your baby’s safety for a fashion statement. Just don’t do it.
  • Baby carrier – This is a want, bordering on a need. Personally, I can’t imagine getting through infancy with either of my girls without my carriers. Just think about a simple trip to the grocery store and you’ll see why! There are a ton of styles out there (soft structured carriers, ring slings, and wraps being the most popular) at a variety of price points (from $20 all the way up to the hundreds). If you aren’t sure which style will work best for you, look for a local babywearing group. Many of these groups have lending libraries and meetings where you can get hands-on experience with carriers before buying your own. My personal favorite is the ring sling. It was easy to store away in the diaper bag, could be used a lot of different ways, and was also great for breastfeeding while walking.
  • Cart/high chair cover – This is a want, but also… shopping carts and restaurant high chairs are basically crawling with germs. Unless you’re keeping a major supply of disinfectants with you, you might find it nice to add a barrier between your baby’s mouth and the shopping cart handle.
  • Diaper bag – This is a need, to some extent. Babies need stuff and you’ll need to carry that stuff with you, but you don’t necessarily need a “diaper bag” to do that. I’ve gone through tons of bags over the last six years, but some of my favorites have been regular tote bags. My favorite diaper bag has been by Pacapod, who design their interiors really intelligently! Whatever you choose should fit your body comfortably. Remember that you’ll be carrying it with a baby on your hip, chasing a new walker or crawler, and holding a toddler’s pulling hand. You may also want to make sure it fits in your stroller well and has organization potential. I found that some diaper bags went overboard with tiny pockets that wouldn’t fit our actual stuff.
  • Travel accessories – These are all wants that you’ll need to find for yourself. If you have a diaper bag problem, you’ll probably find a gadget made to solve it. I found some things super useful, like formula dispensers, pacifier covers, and wet bags.

Hygiene & Health

This is another area where the marketing teams have gone wild! There are a million products out there that all essentially do the same things, so it comes down to practicality for you.

  • Bath tub – This is a need, but you can choose to what extent. We ran the gambit here, starting with a foam insert for bathing them in the kitchen sink as newborns to a more traditional baby bathtub when they got a little older. You can also just get a bath seat to set in your full tub. Technically, you could even go without and just get in the tub with them, but I prefer to shower by myself and not get wet unnecessarily!
  • Towels & washcloths – This is another want. You can totally just use your own towels and washcloths for baby, but you do miss out on the cute factor! If you register for baby towels and washcloths, plan on 4 towels and 8 washcloths, depending on how often you plan to bathe baby and do laundry.
  • Other bath accessories – You’ll need baby soap and shampoo, using your own preference of brand. Some wants you may consider are: a bath kneeler (to save mom or dad’s knees while bent over the tub), faucet cover (added safety when baby becomes mobile), a bath alarm (to let you know if water is too hot, although a sensitive area on your own body is just as good), and water toys (not necessary until later though). We also made good use of a rinse cup. It has a curved edge to divert water away from baby’s face during hair washes. Lu still uses it now, but on her own!
  • Baby hygiene kit – This is a need, although you can choose how. You can buy these kits or the items individually, but what you’ll need is this: baby nail clippers/scissors, bulb syringe or nasal aspirator, medicine dropper, and soft hairbrush or comb. We used the bulb syringes, but quickly upgraded to the NoseFreida. We also always got medicine droppers with our OTC or prescription meds, so that’s not something you need to buy separately.
  • Thermometer – This is another need. You can choose what type of thermometer will work best for you, but you don’t have to opt for something fancy. We went through a few expensive thermometers that didn’t give accurate readings when we needed them, so learn from my mistake and test it out for accuracy before you need it.
  •  Medicines – This is another need, although hopefully you won’t truly need them. We like to keep Tylenol, Benadryl, and saline drops on hand. Be careful getting these things too early though, as the medicine will expire! Be wary of homeopathic and natural types of baby remedies that aren’t federally regulated and always consult your pediatrician first. I remember the parenting community collectively panicking about the belladonna recall for teething tablets when Ru was a baby.
  • For the adults around baby – You need and can never have enough hand sanitizer and soap around. You should also consider having tissues around for surprise sneezes!

Other Baby Gear

Here’s the catch-all of random baby gear. 

  • Swing – This is a want. If your baby loves it, you may feel like it’s become a need though! Ru loved hers and practically lived in it, while Lu never enjoyed it. It can be a great tool to keep infants soothed while you get things done, but remember that it’s not a safe sleep option. 
  • Vibrating chair/bouncer – This is a want too, much like the swing. If I had to choose between this or a swing, I’d definitely choose this. They’re a lot more portable, so you can move them around the house with you or even take them with you on visits. Our 4Moms Bounceroo is the only way I showered or did dishes when my girls were infants!
  • Walker/exersaucer – This is a want. Your little one won’t be ready for it for a few months, but it can be great later when you need to contain little crawlers while trying to get things done. Remember that baby’s time should be limited and they should never be left unsupervised though!
  • Bumbo – This is just a want. Some people swear by them, some hardly ever use them, and still others swear them off for safety concerns. Both of my babies had chunky thighs and didn’t fit well in their Bumbo seat by the time they had the head control to use it. If you decide to get one, just please remember that it is meant for the floor, not raised surfaces!
  • Tummy/play mat – This is a need, in my opinion, although it could be replaced by a blanket on a budget. These mats come in all different shapes, themes, styles, and sizes, so find one that fits your style. Just make sure it’s easy to clean! We made good use out of ours, because it was a great place for them to sit and wiggle while I folded laundry or did dishes.
  • Play yard (Pack ‘N Play) – This is a want. If you travel a lot or spend a lot of time at relatives’ houses, this could be more of a need. They can double as bassinets, changing tables, and safe sleeping areas in a pinch. We had one that we liked to use outside when doing yard work. We rarely used it inside and wished that we hadn’t spent the money on it though, frankly!

Clothing and Blankets

  • Clothing – This is a need, but really think about what you’re registering for. People love (love love love) to buy baby clothes. No matter what you do or don’t register for, you’re going to get a pile of baby clothes. Register for things you’ll get a lot of use out of or special pieces that are outside of your budget. Consider how often you plan to do laundry, remembering that you’ll probably go through 2 changes of clothing each day, plus jammies (see: bibs and how babies are gross).
  • Socks, booties, and shoes – Mostly needs. I’m pretty sure Louisiana could solve our coastal erosion problem with the amount of socks my kids have lost. You’ll probably want 8-10 pairs on hand, so maybe register for 20. You think I’m joking. Infants obviously don’t need shoes, but they can be really fun to have!
  • Mittens – This is a want. Not the snow kind, but rather the “don’t claw your own eyes out” kind. Neither of my girls tolerated or used them, but you might want a pair or two on hand (pun not intended, but now staying).
  • Hangers – Another want. You may not even plan on hanging baby clothes, especially if you have plenty of drawer space. You’ll probably get enough with clothing purchases to not need to buy them. I opted to buy matching hangers to keep their closets looking tidy. It wasn’t an expensive splurge and my eyes thank me.
  • Storage – This is a want, but also something I highly recommend. After my baby shower and friends’ hand-me-downs, I had a wide range of clothing sizes, toys, and seasonal stuff. It didn’t need to take up drawer space quite yet, but I wanted it safely stored and organized. I purchased a few clear plastic storage bins and sorted things by age/size. These bins lined the bottom of their closet, so I could easily bring things in or out of rotation!
  • Blankets and swaddles – This is another need, although you should determine the quantities and thickness based on your climate. My girls largely preferred the muslin swaddle blankets to all other styles. They’re lightweight and breathable, and also come in a ton of cute designs! We also made good use of some of the thicker and cozier blankets in the winter. We rarely used the flannel receiving blankets (and other mom friends report that they never used theirs either)!

Start your baby registry!

You’ve contemplated, you’ve assessed, now it’s time to actually register. By now, you probably know which stores or sites you’re leaning towards. We chose to go with two registries, at Target and Amazon. Our Target baby registry was made up of things that were found “in stores”, while our Amazon baby registry was obviously all online.

In-Store vs. Online

One of the great things about having a baby registry at a physical store is that you can add items as you physically see them. It also gives you a hall pass for returns without receipts.

Conversely, one of the biggest pluses for making a baby registry on Amazon or Babylist is the universal registry feature. It’s nice to have the option of adding a few items from local boutiques and other websites like Etsy shops.

Building Your Baby Registry

When you start building your baby registry, you may want to set it to “private” while you work. I was really surprised how quickly people jumped on our baby registry, some making purchases before we even had a shower scheduled! I’m still not even sure how they found it.

If you’ve decided to have two registries, I suggest adding all of your stuff to one list first. We opted to add everything to Amazon, since they had a wider selection. Once we were happy with our baby registry, we moved things over to Target and deleted them from Amazon.

As you go, review your list of needs and wants. Some registries will have a feature where you can set “priorities”. This is a nice way to easily share the most important things. I tried to focus on the things we needed first and then fill in the wants.

If you come across two similar items that you love, add them both! Give yourself time to think, compare, or see if a theme emerges. Add now, ask questions later! Seriously, add, add, and then add some more.

Edit, edit, and edit some more.

Once you think you’ve added everything you could possibly ever want and need, step back and take a hard look at your list(s).

Do you really have everything? Did you add 50 pairs of cute socks, but forgot to add bottles? Or maybe a theme has organically developed and you want to swap some items to match?

After you’re feeling pretty good about your list, send it to committee. Ask that baby whisperer you talked to earlier to look over your baby registry and make suggestions. They can give you first hand experience to take under advisement and make adjustments (or ignore!) as you see fit.

…and you’re done!

Make your baby registry public and send it to whatever friend or family member is hosting your shower, so they can pass it along. Take care of yourself and get ready for a bunch of cute baby things to head your way!

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