This post is about traveling to Taiwan to bring your child home, but it will include some general travel tips as well, so even if you're not planning to bring your child home from Taiwan, feel free to read on...
Don't overpack. Seriously. Overpacking is almost impossible NOT to do, but try. You'll be so glad you don't have extra bags or weight to juggle. (Note: You won't need any dressy clothes for this trip. You want to look decent, but you don't need a suit or even a dress. That means you can leave your fancy shoes at home, too. Bring shoes that are comfortable to walk in. Two pairs each should be more than enough!)
If you are planning to bring home souvenirs, bring an extra duffle - one that folds up nicely until it is needed. This is much better than trying to cram anything you buy into a suitcase that is already fairly full (as all suitcases are for some mysterious reason whenever anyone travels).
Learn at least two words of Mandarin (or the foreign language of any country you travel to):
Hello -----> Ni hao (pronounced knee-how)
Thank you -----> Xie xie (pronounced sheyay-sheyay)
You'd be surprised how many people don't bother to learn these 2 words and what a warm reaction you will get for attempting them - in any country.
Take a town car to/from the airport in Taipei. You can negotiate the rate to be very close to the rate of a cab and it is soooo much nicer - particularly when you have baby with you on the return. Your hotel can set this up for you or you can do it yourself when you arrive in Taipei. After you pick up your luggage, go to the counter under the "Hotels" sign. They'll help you out.
Purchase individual travel packets of formula. We used these to mix formula (along with bottled water) in restaurants, on trains and on planes. It is soooo much easier than trying to get the little scooper from the tin into the little bottle while in a moving vessel of any type - I can barely manage that at home!
Bring a soft cuddly toy or two (you never know which one he'll like) for your baby to snuggle with when you bring him back to the hotel. It will help the transition far beyond your time in hotels. Daddy picked out a silly plush doggie puppet to bring along and our Island Boy fell instantly in love with him in Taiwan and has slept with him every night since. It's like magic when we give him this little toy - his face lights up like Rockafeller Center. Beautiful.
We stayed at the Howard when we returned to Taipei with baby. Although we didn't love the hotel, it is very nice and walking distance to AIT (where we needed to be two days in a row to get Island Boy's travel documents), so that makes it the right choice. If you stay there, we recommend asking for the Rosewood Suites. You will have your own check-in area and lounge and the little bit of extra room is nice for the crib. They also treat you to rubber duckies - perhaps the best part of the stay (other than the proximity to AIT). Another hotel which we loved is the Westin (where we stayed prior to pickup), but you will need to hop on the subway or grab a very quick cab to get to AIT and that can be a hassle with baby.
We stayed at the Landis in Tainan and LOVED it. It is a beautiful hotel with excellent service and is situated next to a very high-end shopping center that has everything you need, including a food court in the basement. When we requested a crib, they also sent us a baby bathtub and step stool. I just can't say enough good things about this hotel!
While in Taiwan (or anywhere), eat like the locals. That doesn't mean you should find all the weirdest foods and eat them. It means check out what the locals are eating when you go to the night market (look for the longest lines!) or a restaurant, and try it!! It's going to be good even if it isn't what you can find at home (and isn't that the point of experiencing other cultures??).
Plan to spend several hours for pick up. While there is no requirement that you stay a certain amount of time, the staff has a wealth of information about your child and they are really interested in sharing it with you. Besides, your little child just met you, so the extra time can make for a more gentle transition for him, too. Plan to spend the night in Tainan if you can. You don't want to have to be worrying about rushing from pick up to the train station instead of whether or not baby needs food or a change. Relax! Tainan is a beautiful city with amazing food, so enjoy it!
We were given a tin of "Snow" brand formula, which we used up on our final day in Taiwan. We had no trouble switching (we did "test" our travel packets of Similac Advanced on Island Boy to make sure he would do ok with it the day before we got on the plane). We have tried a few other formulas since being home and all have been fine (although Island Boy was not fond of the soy-based mix we tried).
We brought 2 bottles with us and used them almost exclusively even though we were given one at pickup. Island Boy had no difficulty making the transition and the VentAire bottles we brought worked a lot better than the one they gave us. (Don't forget to make sure the nipples are Stage 2.)
Bring a Baby Bjorn and allow plenty of time to put baby in it in advance of your wanting to depart from your pickup appointment...just to see how he does. Island Boy loved his and relaxed enough to fall asleep whenever we walked anywhere with him in it (facing us - if we wanted him to remain alert, we would face him out and he enjoyed that too). He did get fussy (and still does) if we stand still for too long, but who doesn't?? We credit the Baby Bjorn for helping us all to get some sleep the first few nights, for making it easy to get around Taiwan and for making the transition to being strapped in to a car seat easier. Hubby and I both used it and it is easy to switch back and forth.
Plan to get sick. If you don't, you'll be pleasantly surprised, but our little guy got the sniffles shortly after pick up and we had a very bad case of them for the first week and a half home.
Try to freeze some food for yourselves before you leave or have someone stock your fridge with a week's worth of meals and some fresh fruit and produce for you just prior to you returning home. If you are sick for your first few days home (or even if you aren't), it's tough to get the hang of recovering from jet lag, taking care of a new baby and finding time to feed yourselves a decent meal (let alone three meals a day).
Finally, the most important thing to remember on this trip or any other is to have a sense of humor no matter what happens (assuming it is not life-threatening). Travel can be stressful if you let it, so remember that no matter how tired you are or no matter how difficult someone you are dealing with seems or no matter how bad it gets, at a minimum you will have a good story to tell. Above all, HAVE FUN!! :-)