There are mornings when the mere thought of leaving the house with my daughter is too much to bear! That would require me showering (which if I am lucky I have had one in the past three days) and removing my tattered remains of once nice house clothes. Many folks have asked me, how in the hell do you manage to travel so much with a baby. Folks it isn’t easy, but it is doable. It requires way more planning and prep than expected, but you will soon have it down to an art. Here are my tips and tricks for a road trip with baby.
Rule of thumb when packing is to pack baby first. Why you ask?! Because if it comes down to you taking that extra pair of shoes (which you will never wear) or packing an extra pack of diapers, diapers win. It is amazing how much crap you can part with when you need to make room for baby’s things. Trust me they may be tiny, but they take up a lot of room in the suitcase and car. You will soon find that you can wear one pair of jeans multiple times, mix and match shirts and live off of two pairs of shoes.
Expect the Unexpected
You need to be ready for whatever the road may throw at you because it can be brutal at times. Here are some scenarios that will be sure to leave your mind racing in the middle of the night.
- The baby having a meltdown and the nearest exit is 20 miles away?
- The car has broken down in the freezing cold and no one is around?
- Stuck in terrible traffic or road construction?
- Air conditioner goes out in the middle of your drive through death valley!?
- Baby gets a sudden case of diarrhea and destroys the car seat?
Pack as if one or all of these things might happen. We were stuck in traffic for three hours on our way to Gatlinburg with a baby screaming for food about an hour in. Thank God I packed plenty of Similac Read to Feed.
Having ways to keep baby warm, cool, fed, and healthy are the most imperative things to pack.
Be sure to pack clothes in the next size up because they miraculously grow overnight when traveling. Having clothes for all sorts of weather should be in your suitcase. Even if you are going to a tropical destination the nights can get chilly.
Determine Baby’s Sleeping Situation Prior To Arrival
Are you bringing a pack ‘n’ play? Does the hotel provide a crib? These are questions that need to be answered before you pack your first onesie. There are many hotels that have pack ‘n’ plays and cribs that you can reserve. They are usually always on a first come, first serve basis so call early. We opted to go with the Jetsetter Travel Pack N Play. It is smaller than a traditional pack n play so it takes up less room in the car. It also fits in a full-size suitcase, so it was perfect when flying! Like hell, I’m paying extra to fly that! Read about our airline tips and hotel tips! Remember airlines will often charge you to fly your pack n play while the stroller and car seat fly free. Pack N plays can also take up a significant amount of room in the car, so other options like a portable bassinet or sleeper might be a better fit for your family.
More Baby Gear!!!
Just when you have finished sitting on your suitcase to get it zipped you remember that you need to pack the stroller! I would recommend bringing an easy lightweight collapsible stroller, and not the massive jogging stroller that could run ten pedestrians over.
Portable High Chair
We now pack a portable high chair for our daughter since she has is started to self-feed for her meals. We love this high chair because it stands tall and reaches the table. It makes her feel like she is taking part in the meal. It folds up like a normal folding chair and is easy to transport and store.
The other piece of baby gear we got was a portable activity bouncer. This will also fit in a full-size suitcase, however, we did not use it as much as we anticipated. It was useful to have a place that she could bounce around in and to allow us to get a few things done. Each baby is different and mine got bored about 10 minutes each time. However, if your activity bouncer at home is life then this might be worth the money.
If you are flying put your stroller in a stroller bag. Then fill the stroller bag with other things like blankets or a portable high chair. I have yet to see anyone open a stroller bag or car seat bag to check its contents. Don’t be too crazy though, otherwise, you might ruin a good thing for all of us!
Hitting the Road With Baby
The beauty of road tripping with a baby is there is not a set time you have to be somewhere. There is no hassle of dragging all your crap through security with a screaming infant in your arms either. You can make as many stops as needed en route to your destination, which trust me, you will make many. We have taken our daughter on a road trip every month since she was one month old. Each month it changes a little with what they will need and what to expect. Here is my road trip with baby tips.
Tips Before You Leave The House
- Expect to leave an hour later than you expected. It is good to set goals, but don’t get disappointed when you are not pulling out of your drive at 7 a.m. on the nose. You know damn well that baby is going to either poop, eat, or both right as you are getting ready to leave. Trying to have as much of the car packed the night before will help you hit the road easier.
- Feed baby right before you leave if you can. Since most babies eat when they want this can be hard to predict. Give it the old college try before hitting the road otherwise, you might be feeding baby before you hit the city limits!
- BABY DRY DIAPERS ARE LIFE! They will hold more urine then most regular diapers keep baby dry! Also, slather on a nice layer of butt cream before leaving.
Tips While On The Road
- Prepare to change baby in the passenger seat of the car. Babies know that they need to have a complete blow out when there is no changing table is in sight. If the next stop is a nasty gas station that you will likely catch Ebola from the bathroom in, a baby will for sure need changed. Bring a few plastic bags along to put dirty clothes and diapers in.
- Account for an hour to two hours worth of stops for every five hours you need to travel. Don’t worry this does decrease as they get older. At the ripe old age of 4 months, a five hour trip to Gatlinburg took us 7 hours. Stopping to feed, change and stretch can add up fast.
- Stop and get out of the car for at least a half hour minimum. This is a great time to grab a bite to eat, get baby out of the car seat and stretch. Think about how you like to stretch, so do they! Try to find a place that you can put a blanket down so they can kick and crawl if able. (I know that can be like asking for the moon).
Traveling At Night
Traveling at night can be a great option depending on the baby. However, there are a few things to consider.
- Are you too tired of your lack of sleep to travel at night? Don’t forget, the baby will be awake and ready to go just like any normal day once you arrive. If you are going to need ten venti extra shot macchiatos to get through breakfast you might want to skip the night drive.
- Will it throw the baby off their routine and make for a hellish few days?
- Will the baby be scared sitting in the dark? If so you may want to consider bringing a flashlight.
BRING ALL THE TOYS!
Well, maybe not ALL the toys, but a lot. Riding in the back with your little one will help keep your baby entertained and happy. You will be your child’s personal clown for a good portion of the trip so you better have a good arsenal of things to do. Here are some of my favorite travel toys and things to do to keep your little one entertained.
- Books, Books, and Books. I recommend at least four different ones. I love the touch and feel books and I just crawled out from under my rock and discovered the indestructible books.
- Peek a boo! Keep a blanket nearby and/or a fun toy to play with the baby.
Even More Things To Do
- Sing songs with the baby. Toddler music on Pandora is a great station to sing familiar songs to the baby. There are tons of kid’s music and nursery rhymes CD’s you can buy as well.
- Utilize things in the diaper bag. Touch and feel with wipes, diapers, clothes, etc makes for a fun distraction.
- A good nom. Teethers of any kind will always be well received.
- Bring two rattles. One for you to shake and one for baby to explore/shake. Instruments are always fun to incorporate with sing-a-longs.
My Favorite Products
- Make a tent with the blanket to cover the baby and play peek a poo. Another tip is to make sure you have sun shades for the car! Nothing is worse than when make shifting tent becomes a necessity because the sun is in baby’s face.
- One of my favorites go to toys is the fisher price activity puzzle. Not only is each piece its own toy, but then you have the fun of putting pieces in the right spot and taking them out.
- Mirror fun! Babies love mirrors, especially mirrors with fun friends hanging from them.
A Few More Tips and Tricks For A Road Trip With Baby
A few more housekeeping items to help you on the road!
- Pump on the go! If you need to pump be sure to get the travel adapter for your pump so you can pump on the road! Be sure to pack your ice pack and a little cooler to keep the milk cold!
- Bring a road atlas as back up insurance in case your GPS goes out. Getting lost with a baby in the car should not be a thing.
- Make sure the car road trip ready. Plenty of gas, oil changed, the air in the tires, spare tire ready to go. Little things to give you peace of mind while you are on the road.
- Snacks for you and your travel companions! Also a couple of bottle of waters or wine….just kidding….or am I?!
Wishing you and your family happy and safe travels as you hit the road for your next adventure.
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