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Road Trip with a Baby: Top Tips for a Smooth Journey

How to road trip with a baby




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

Embarking on the adventure of parenthood doesn't mean you have to put your wanderlust on hold; it just means your travel experiences will now include a little more planning, a few more pit stops, and a lot more joy. Learning how to road trip with a baby for the first time might seem daunting, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can be an exciting and memorable journey. To make the journey as smooth as possible, you’ll not only need to pack the essentials like diapers, snacks, and travel toys, but you‘ll need to plan for the unexpected, too. So, let’s dive into some practical tips to a successful road trip.

How to road trip with a baby

Essentials for Road-Tripping With A Baby

Understanding Baby's Road Trip Needs

Before you hit the road, it's important to plan for your baby's needs during the journey. Babies require frequent feeding, changing, and napping, so make sure you have all the essentials handy. Pack enough diapers, wipes, formula or breast milk, and a portable changing pad. And don't forget their favorite toys and blankets to keep them comfortable and entertained. Your little one’s comfort equals a smoother road trip for everyone involved.

When it comes to traveling, especially on long car rides, babies have unique needs. Frequent stops for diaper changes, feeding, and nap times are crucial. And while it might be tempting to let your baby sleep for as long as possible in the car seat, it's important to know how long a baby can be in a car seat during a road trip. Your pediatrician can provide the best advice based on your baby's age and health.

Managing Your Itinerary and Expectations

When planning a family road trip, it's important to manage your expectations and incorporate plenty of breaks for your baby’s needs. Babies are unpredictable, so stay flexible. If your little one is having a difficult day, it's perfectly okay to make an unplanned pit stop or call it a day earlier than planned.

The hardest thing for my husband and I is to not overplan. Assume everything you do from leaving the hotel, to walking around town, will take an extra 30 minutes. I repeat: add 30 minutes before and after every activity you have planned. And rather than trying to fit everything in on one day, pick one priority activity for the day, make it happen, and if you fit in other activities, great! But don’t sweat it if it doesn’t end up happening. Treat the first road trip with your baby as a learning experience to figure out what works best for your family.

Choosing a Car Seat for the Trip

Special Additions to the Car Seat for Comfort

Selecting and setting up the perfect car seat plays a pivotal role in how to road trip with a baby. The car seat should provide safety, comfort, and offer adjustability. Baby’s area of the car should be equipped with a properly installed car seat, window shades, blanket, sound machine, bib (for bottle feeding if you go that route), and toys for entertainment.

Duration of Baby in a Car Seat: What's Safe?

Safety is paramount when it comes to babies and car seats. Pediatricians generally recommend that babies shouldn't be in a car seat for more than two hours at a time. So plan your trip to include regular breaks every couple of hours where your baby can get out of the car seat, stretch, play, and explore their surroundings. These breaks are not just good for your little one's body, but also for their mind. It's a win-win since these breaks will also give you a chance to stretch your legs and enjoy the journey.

Preparing the Perfect Travel Bag for Your Baby

When preparing for a long road trip with your little one, a well-equipped travel bag is your secret weapon. This bag should be within arm's reach in the back seat and packed with everything you need to keep your little one comfortable and entertained.

Essentials for Diaper Changes

Packing for a baby means being ready for diaper changes anywhere, anytime. Include plenty of diapers, baby wipes, a portable changing pad, and also a sealable bag to dispose of the dirty diapers. I pack 10 diapers for each day we’ll be gone, our absolute FAVORITE diapers are Coterie. And I use the changing pad from our diaper bag and always keep a diaper rash cream, Butro’s Butt Paste, and travel-size Bum Brush in the diaper bag as well. It's a good idea to bring along some hand sanitizer and extra clothes for those unexpected blowouts.

Food and Drink Necessities

When it comes to food and drinks for your baby, whether you're breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or offering snacks, it's important to think “easy and mess-free.”

  1. Breastfeeding Exclusively: Breastfeed your baby whenever possible. This will save you from packing and washing bottles, pump parts, and finding a place to warm up milk. Consider bringing a nursing cover for added privacy during stops.
  2. Bottle Feeding: Bring extra bottles pre-filled with extra breastmilk, or water and formula that can be quickly mixed when needed. Don't forget to bring along a bottle brush for cleaning! A portable bottle warmer is handy in these situations.
  3. Started Solids: If your baby has started solids, pack some easy-to-eat snacks like puffs or fruit puree pouches. Make sure you also have a bib, a few spoons, a portable high chair and wipes for cleaning messy faces.

When we are out and about I like to make sure we have a bottle of breastmilk ready to go in case I’m not able to nurse at that moment. Here is my quick setup in the room: mini bottle soap (Babyganics or Dapple are great options), wide storage container to soak bottles & pump parts, quick-drying towel to use instead of a drying rack. We use both Dr. Brown’s Options+ 4oz. bottles with the green filter removed for less parts and Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature

Entertainment Options for Babies

Keeping your baby entertained during a long car ride can be a challenge but with some creative thinking, it's entirely doable. Consider packing soft toys, musical toys, and even a tablet with their favorite app. The goal is to keep your baby happy and engaged.

Travel Gear Must-Haves

When traveling with a baby, it's important to be well-prepared. Make sure to bring both a travel stroller and a soft-structured carrier to provide flexibility and convenience during your trip. Additionally, consider bringing a travel crib if your destination doesn't provide one. For our little one, we initially used the Uppababy Bassinet for sleeping until Caden outgrew it at two months. Then, we switched to the Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib, which we found to be an excellent choice. If you're looking for a more affordable option, Amazon also offers a dupe for this travel crib. We specifically chose the Lotus Travel Crib due to its lightweight design (13 lbs), easy set-up and pack-down, backpack carrying feature, and the availability of an infant bassinet conversion kit. This kit was perfect for setting up a cozy sleeping space in our bedroom during his first few months.

If you'll be room-sharing during your trip, consider bringing a Slumberpod to provide a private sleeping area for your little one. And if your baby isn't sitting up on their own yet, a Baby Bjorn Bouncer can be a great addition to keep them entertained and comfortable.

How to road trip with a baby

Handling Unexpected Situations During the Road Trip

Even the best-planned road trip with a baby can encounter a bump or two along the way. Here's how to handle some common scenarios.

Dealing with Diaper Blowouts on the Go

Every parent experiences a blowout in the car. But there are ways to prevent and handle these messy situations, trust me, I've been there. Staying calm and being prepared with a changing pad and baby wipes in your diaper bag can make clean-ups a breeze!

Soothing a Crying Baby in the Car

A crying baby in the backseat can be stressful, especially if you're miles from the nearest rest stop. Try soothing music, a portable sound machine with white noise, a favorite toy, or even pulling over for a quick cuddle if it's safe to do so. Babies pick up on your stress, so it’s important to stay calm.

Safety of Feeding a Bottle to a Baby in a Car Seat

Feeding a baby while in a moving car can pose certain risks and it's always safest to stop for feedings. If you must feed while on the go, never leave your baby unattended with a bottle, and always make sure the milk is at the right temperature. A bottle warmer or insulated bag can come in handy during road trips.

How to road trip with a baby

Plan Your Departure Time & Stops Strategically

Traveling with a baby requires a different approach to timing and pit stops.

Depart When Baby Will Be Happiest

A grumpy baby makes for an exhausting start to your road trip. So, try to leave when your baby is happy. Maybe your little one is cheeriest after their morning nap or post-feeding. Schedule your departure to align with their happiest times. This way, the road trip starts on a positive note.

We found that feeding the baby and immediately going on our way works best for us. This way he’s full and happy when we get in the car. While I’m nursing, my husband packs the car up with all the bags we packed in advance so as soon as we’re done eating we can head straight out the door.

Importance of Frequent Breaks

Breaks give your baby a chance to stretch and move around, and it gives you a break from driving. Plus, it's a great way to see the sights along your route!

If you aren’t pumping, be sure to map out your stops every few hours based on how frequently your baby eats. My favorite place to stop along the way is at Starbucks since you can order a drink ahead of time easily and their bathrooms are usually clean. Download the Starbucks app and be sure to load some cash into your account for seamless ordering

How to Maintain Your Baby's Routine During the Trip

Maintaining a routine on a road trip requires flexibility and creativity. But try to stick to your baby's regular nap times, meal times, and bedtime routines as closely as possible. This continuity gives your baby a sense of security amidst the new surroundings. So, pack their favorite books, toys, and blankets to make the car feel more like home.

But Real-Talk… Can You Enjoy a Road Trip with a Baby?

There will by crying (both mom and baby), there will be laughing, there will be anxiety, but most importantly there will be amazing memories made on your first family vacation. Enjoy all the calm and chaotic moments along the way. Don’t give yourself a hard time when things don’t go as planned. A road trip with a baby might require a bit more planning and patience, but it can also be a lot of fun. With the right preparation and mindset, you can create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Babies go on Long Car Rides?

Absolutely! With a little planning and the right mindset, long car rides with your little one can turn into memorable journeys. A few essential items to pack include diapers, baby wipes, an extra set of clothes, and of course, snacks. But remember, safety is paramount. Always make sure your baby's car seat is correctly installed and that they are securely fastened in it. And don't forget to take frequent breaks to let your baby stretch and change their scenery. It's all part of learning how to road trip with a baby.

What Age Can You Take a Baby on a Road Trip?

There's no strict rule about the perfect age for a baby's first road trip. Some parents might wait until their baby is a few months old when they've settled into a feeding and sleeping pattern. Others might start traveling as soon as they feel ready. But no matter when you decide to set off, remember that your baby's comfort and safety should always be your top priority. You'll quickly become an expert on how to road trip with a baby, no matter their age.


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