21 Essential Tips for A Successful Road Trip with a Baby
The midnight feedings were over and Deacon was mostly sleeping through the night. Thus, we decided to embark on our first family mini-vacation. Over Easter weekend, we took our first road trip with a baby to visit grandma and grandpa in The Villages, Florida.
While the prospect of an eight-hour road trip with a baby might sound like a recipe for disaster, it really wasn’t. We did a lot of research on how to make it a comfortable ride for both baby and parents.
We merged the research with our real world experience to create the following tips to help ensure your first road trip with a baby on board is a success.
Follow the baby’s sleep and eating schedule
While many interpret following the baby’s sleep schedule to mean driving at night when he is sleeping, we disagree as overnight drives are dangerous. You’re tired, other drivers are tired, visibility is limited, and more drunk drivers are on the road. Night drives are a disaster waiting to happen.
The trick is to keep his routine by feeding him on schedule and taking away toys during naptimes to remove sleep distractions. This does involve some planning on your road trip with a baby itinerary. Determine where you will be when it’s time for him to eat, and find rest stops or busy exits nearby.
Stop for a sit down, non-fast food lunch
This one may sound counter intuitive since the goal of a road trip with a baby is to get there as quickly as possible. However, the time out of the car is good for everyone, especially the baby. You wouldn’t want to be strapped into an uncomfortable car seat for that long and neither does she. While you’re waiting for your food, allow her to sit on your lap and stretch her legs. The time out of the car will also help refresh the drivers.
Keep your baby’s socks on with Sock Ons
Deacon is a master at taking off his socks. Whether he kicks them off or pulls them off, we know it’s only a matter of minutes after we put them on him before they’re either in his mouth, on the ground, or who knows where. Sock Ons keep them on his feet. This is especially important on a road trip with a baby when socks are easily lost in the abyss of the backseat.
While Sock Ons may sound too good to be true, trust me when I say that they work. #GeniusIdea
Keep the baby entertained with multiple toys that you can easily reach
Pack a combination of new and old car seat toys. Introduce them one at a time. When she starts to get bored and fussy, take the toy away and give her a new one.
Secure their toys with pacifier clips
Here’s a baby hack that you may not know about. Pacifier clips can be used for more than just pacifiers. We use them for Deacon’s toys ever since he learned the fun game of dropping them for mom and dad to pick up.
This is especially helpful on a road trip with a baby when the toy is dropped into the black hole of the backseat and you’re contorting your body in gymnast moves to look for it.
Pack multiple car seat mobiles so the baby has something new to look at
Car seat mobiles are the baby’s scenery. Much like you enjoy it when the road ahead of you changes, he enjoys it when the mobile above him changes. While you don’t have to change them as much the toys, switching out mobiles is another great way to prevent boredom from setting in. Buy a few new ones for extra entertainment.
Rent a crib
While pack-and-plays can double as cribs, they consume a lot of space in your car. Most hotels have cribs available, allowing you to leave the pack-and-play behind. If you aren’t staying at a hotel, you may still have the option to rent a crib. When we were at my parents’ house in Florida, we rented one for the week.
Buy a portable pack-and-play
If you can’t borrow or rent a crib and the full size pack and play won’t fit in your car, purchase a Portable Play Yard by KidCo. It’s light, compact, and serves as a crib and play area when on the road. This might be a really good idea if you plan several road trips with a baby.
Check the backseat temperature
The other day I pulled Deacon out of the car seat after a 15-minute drive. He was soaked in sweat while I was perfectly chilled in the front seat.
Remember that temperatures can fluctuate quite drastically. Be sure to check his temperate every so often to make sure he isn’t too hot. Install window visors to help minimize heat from the sun.
Rock the ergo
Your baby is on vacation just as much as you are. She doesn’t want to be confined to the stroller the entire time. Let her explore and see the world as you see it with an Ergo. Now the Zach Galifianakis made them cool for men to wear them in the movie The Hangover, Dad can rock the Ergo now, too without any embarrassment.
Have diapers shipped via Amazon
If you’re spending a week somewhere, consider ordering diapers from Amazon and having them shipped to your destination as diapers take up a lot of room. Remember, Amazon Prime’s generous free shipping policy.
Fill reusable travel sized bottles with baby friendly detergents, shampoos, etc.
Babies have sensitive skin and need special laundry detergents, dish soaps, body soaps, shampoos, etc. Travel sized versions of these products cost almost as much as the full-size version. Save money by filling reusable travel sized bottles.
Pack a manual breast pump
If you’re pumping, you might not have access to a power outlet on your road trip. Manual breast pumps are a convenient and easy way to keep up with your pumping schedule. While they aren’t covered by insurance, they are quite affordable.
Buy a portable bottle warmer
Deacon hates drinking from a cold bottle. Not only does he get fussy, but he spits up a lot more. It’s not always possible to have access to warm water for formula when traveling or an outlet to plug-in a bottle warmer for breast milk. If your baby gets as fussy as mine, you definitely want to consider investing in a portable bottle warmer.
Use PackPoint app to help pack
We read about PackPoint in Travel and Leisure and have to say that it’s genius. You tell it where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, and who you’re traveling with (baby, toddler, etc.), and it tells you exactly what you need to pack. We only needed to add one or two items to their thorough list.
Pack a nursing cover
Breast-feeding in a rest stop parking lot is anything but private. If you’re worried about creepers, pack a nursing cover. These also work great in restaurants. My wife likes Boppy because they’re stylish and inconspicuous.
Tape stickers to the seats your child is facing
Since infants now have to sit in backwards facing car seats until they’re of driving age, it helps to give them something to look at other than the seat cushions. Tape some colorful stickers to the seat for a little eye candy.
Easy to reach clothes for you and the baby
There’s a great chance the baby will spit up on you and her, or do worse. While you might think that you’re covered with a weeks’ worth of clothes packed into your suitcase, how easy are those to reach when you have poop on your shirt and her shorts? Make sure everyone in the car has a change of clothes that’s easy to reach on a road trip with a baby.
Pack Wub Nubs instead of plain pacifiers
There are so many reasons why we prefer Wub Nubs:
- They double as toys
- They’re cute
- They’re easy to fish off the backseat floor as you have a stuffed animal to grip
Position the car seat so the passenger to can reach the baby
We normally place the car seat in the center of the backseat in case of a side impact. This position makes it nearly impossible for the passenger to check-in on the baby. On road trips, we move the car seat behind the driver’s seat allowing the passenger easy access to the baby.
Install mirrors if it’s just the two of you
If you’re road tripping with just you and the baby, or don’t want to move the car seat, use backseat mirrors to sneak a peek at the baby.
This may sound like a lot, but it will soon become routine. Your road trip will be so enjoyable hat you’ll use the ride home to plan your next one!