Traveling or taking a road trip with a baby is possible
The open road is a relaxing getaway, an escape from everyday life. It is a chance to experience something new or to see your favorite band play live.
Whatever a road trip means to you, there is nothing like hitting the road with your partner and breaking the monotony of everyday life.
But wait, your family just grew recently.
Now that you have a baby, is it time to stop going on vacations?
Can a baby or toddler go on a road trip?
Can you as parents survive traveling with a baby?
I am here to tell you, yes! It is totally doable. On our first road trip, our daughter was about 8 months old, and she did great. She loved sleeping on the road and enjoyed all the attention she got everywhere we went.
No matter where we visit, we try to do something special just for her, and she loves it. It usually involves animals or an aquarium.
Plus, there are always great places to get pictures of your baby and to make some precious memories.
There is a lot that you and your family can do to make a road trip pleasant for your toddler. It just takes a bit of work and some ingenuity to guarantee you will have a fun time and maybe reduce those tantrums on the road (no guarantees, sorry).
Read on for tips on all the things you can do to prepare for your road trip with your baby or toddler.
Heads up! This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.
#1 Plan ahead for your road trip with your toddler
What is your trip’s objective? Are you going as a getaway for you and your wife? Or is it a trip to visit family that lives in another state?
Figure out where you are going and why and use that as a baseline for your trip planning.
If it is for pleasure, and you are unsure about your baby’s endurance for driving –then go somewhere nearby at least for the first time around. Find a fun place to go that is within two to four hours or so.
Remember, if it is especially a long drive, you can always divide your trip in half. Stop to sleep at a hotel on the first day and then reach your destination the next day.
Be mindful of where you go and try to avoid extreme weather situations. If possible, try to plan your trips in cooler months, especially if you are going to do outdoor activities.
Another thing to think about is the number of people that are going to be out and about when you go on your trip. Attempt to avoid high peak traveling times like the holidays and spring break if your schedule allows. This will allow you to avoid long lines, traffic, and large crowds.
Check the condition of your vehicle ahead of time, drop it off at the mechanic, and make sure it is ready for the long road ahead.
#2 Pack smart for your traveling baby
If you are a first-time parent, it’s always best to overpack than under pack. You want to be prepared. Do not feel like you are overdoing it – pack what you want. You will learn what you need and do not need, once you get a few trips with your baby under your belt.
As your child grows, the list of things you pack changes, be flexible with what you take on your journey.
Check the weather and pack for where you are going. If it is cold, take lots of warm clothes or if it is warm, take loose fresh clothing. Check for rain and inclement weather as well. You do not want to pay top dollar for a basic sweater at an overpriced amusement park.
List of things to pack for baby
- Clothes – onesies, pants, shirts, pajamas, dresses
- Shoes – do not forget socks or booties; sandals, rain boots, snow boots
- Diapers – with changing pad/mat, wipes, diaper rash cream, baggies to dispose of dirty diapers
- Swimming Gear – swimsuit or trunks, sunblock, swimming diapers, hat, floaties, water shoes, sunglasses, swim toys, bag for stuff, water bottle (insulated to keep drinks cold), towel or robe
- Toiletries – shampoo, body wash, lotion, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, hair ties, spray to wet hair
- Toys – gather her favorites to keep her entertained in the car; we keep a bin in our vehicle to hold all of her toys and to prevent having chaos in our car
- Books – especially the interactive ones that pop up, have sound or involve the sense of touch
- Pack n’ Play – with bassinet and changing table is the most convenient one for road trips with baby, its like having a little nursery set up for your baby in the hotel we have the Graco Pack ‘n Play Newborn Napper DLX Playard, Manor (Affiliate Link)
- Blankets and pillows– take a few blankets just in case one gets dirty, my wife also liked taking her nursing pillows and her pregnancy pillow when our daughter was younger; whatever helps you get comfy on the road and in the hotel
- Stroller – or if you prefer a carrier, take something that will allow you a break from carrying your child
#3 Hit the road early with your baby in tow
It is vital to get on the road early when traveling with a toddler. You want your child to sleep most of the way to avoid road fatigue.
We usually start our road trips at about 5 a.m. Since that is early for our daughter, we let her sleep up until the last minute that we get inside the vehicle and hit the road.
We also bathe her the night before, so the next morning all we have to do is put her little body in the car seat. The less we disturb her, the better.
There was a time when we bathed her early right before hitting the road, it was not a good idea. With her routine already interrupted, that shower made it harder for her to relax in the car.
Getting on the road early also helps avoid traffic, so try to get on the open road sooner. Traveling on Sundays is also a great way to avoid traffic, especially if you have to drive through a major city on your way to your destination.
During those hot months, it is also good to get on the road early to avoid driving in the heat.
I gas up the vehicle the night before and get ice the morning of our trip for the ice chest. We also like to make breakfast at home, so we do not have to stop for food. Our only exception is stopping to get coffee, that is because my wife likes her drinks fresh for the road.
The main objective is to make sure we do not have many stops to make while our daughter is in the vehicle. The less time you have on the road with your child, the better and making stops can add time in that car seat. This significantly reduces the fussiness on the way.
Why add an extra 45 minutes of your child in the car when you can prevent it?
We realized that when we hit the road to go home, as long as we do some activities and our baby has a full tummy – it does not matter what time we leave, she will sleep. She is usually exhausted from all of our adventures.
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#4 Snacks will save you
One way to keep your toddler happy on the road is to have a variety of snacks on hand while on the road. The more types of snacks you have, the better, each snack is a mini distraction for your child on the road.
List of food-related items we take on the road with us:
- Ice chest – stocked with ice, a large one for everything and a smaller one that you can keep in your back seat for easy access while on the road
- Water – to stay hydrated, we also pack a pre-filled sippy cup with ice and water
- Milk – we pack a pre-filled sippy cup of milk to give her on the road
- Fruit – we like to pack a variety of fruits that we know she will enjoy, melons, berries, grapes, pineapple, and even small tomatoes work well; for our summer trip, we sliced up a watermelon before we left
- Sweets – cookies and a few other sweets help hit the spot and stop “frustration tears”
- Nuts – our daughter enjoys cashews and almonds, but we pack all types of nuts
- Jerky – she enjoys eating small pieces of beef jerky while on the road
Then, of course, we stop to get food along the way. Anything we find she might enjoy we get for her. She is a toddler, so her food palette is limited as you can imagine.
When she was a baby, we would pack everything needed for nursing, like bottles, burping cloths, and other nursing supplies. During this time, we also made rest stops for nursing, so plan for those little detours.
#5 Entertainment is critical
Depending on what your child enjoys, you can use it as entertainment.
Our vehicle is filled with toys, for a road trip, we usually try to change up the toys that are in the car. Put toys in there that your child has not played with for a while. The novelty will help you out.
Our daughter’s favorite type of toy is the Yellies! Toofy Spooder; Voice-Activated Spider Pet (Affiliate Link), the little spiders that move when you make noise. For our previous road trip we bought her a brand new one and gave it to her while on the road, it made her very happy for a reasonable amount of time. It was her go-to toy the entire trip.
Our daughter loves music, so we have a playlist of all her favorite songs on standby. It is not the Wheels on the Bus or nursery rhymes, its mostly rock music because that is what she enjoys, play music your child loves.
We will admit she does get screen time on the road now that she is older. We have hotspots on our phone that keep her videos and games going.
If her car seat was not in the rear seating position, we would put a movie on in the entertainment system in our vehicle.
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#6 Assistance will keep you sane
One of the best things you can do while on a road trip is to take someone with you to help take care of your baby or toddler.
There are multiple reasons to take someone with you.
For starters, they can help keep your child entertained in the vehicle while you drive and your partner (hopefully) relaxes. In the car, if our daughter were to see my wife sitting next to her, she would cry and fuss – she behaves much better with others.
If your trip is for pleasure, having a sitter is a huge help.
Since we are fortunate to have family around us, we have brought along different family members with us on multiple road trips. In fact, we have never gone without someone there to take care of our baby.
For instance, on our first trip, we took my mother-in-law, it was great, she watched the baby in the backseat and babysat while we went to a concert.
My wife’s mom was also great company all around! Plus, she was happy to get out of the house, and it was a mini-vacation for her.
While we did not pay my mother-in-law, when we took my aunt, we did pay her and covered all of her expenses. It is cool when you get someone to come for free, but paying someone you enjoy, and trust is also worth it.
This helps my wife and I get some alone time together and allows us to enjoy ourselves with peace of mind. If we did not take someone with us, I am sure our road trips would not have gone as smoothly.
#7 Make stops when needed
I know you want to get to where you are going sooner than later. But when you have a young child, you must be patient.
You will make more stops than what you were once used to before baby.
It is essential to check that diaper often – you do not want your baby to be uncomfortable or to get a rash. You may not smell a poopy diaper in the car with your child in her car seat, stopping often is the only way to check the diaper situation.
Another reason to stop is to give your child some time out of the car seat. While I am sure some good engineering went into making those car seats, I could only imagine they can get uncomfortable after a few hours. So give your toddler some time to move those active legs by making multiple stops during your trip.
An additional reason to make a pit stop is to get some food, boob milk, or snacks in your baby’s belly. If your baby nurses every two to four hours, then that is how often you should make your stops.
Keep your vehicle loaded with napkins and facial tissues for all those toddler messes.
Sure, you will have a few more stops than usual, but keeping that baby’s belly full and body clean will prevent meltdowns.
#8 Pay attention to the temperature of your vehicle and child
When you make stops during your trip, one thing you may want to do is double-check that the backseat is a comfortable temperature for your child. If you are traveling during the summer, ensure the air conditioning reaches the back. Children are sensitive to heat and cold.
If your air conditioner has separate settings for the backseat, check them every time you turn your car on. I also check periodically while driving that the settings are still appropriate for my baby, especially if my baby is in the backseat alone.
While on this subject, try to park where your toddler’s car seat is not in the direct sun, you do not want the metal parts of their seat to burn them when you put them back in the car. Find shade or a parking garage. Use a sun visor on your front windshield to keep the car a bit cooler.
If you can’t avoid the sun beaming into the car while it is parked, then put a blanket over the car seat to minimize the impact of the direct heat or take the seat inside with you if possible.
Get smart about where you park, what time you go out, and the weather conditions when you go out of town.
Your child is precious, pay attention to what he or she may be telling you through their rosy cheeks or sweaty hairline. Keep your child hydrated.
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Going on road trips with your baby is absolutely possible, do not let others make you think otherwise.
You just have to be responsible about it and plan ahead. The more you plan and take your baby’s comfort into consideration, the smoother your trip will go. Yes, baby’s are very sensitive, and you must approach a trip with caution, but do not let it stop your family from having fun.
If you are like most people who have recently had a baby, you or your partner may have cabin fever!
You are entitled to have a good time every now and then; this can help out your relationship overall. You need to make time with your partner to rekindle that romance, and sometimes getting away is the best way to do so.
You may feel at times like you may be over planning or overthinking things, but you will realize it is worth it when you have limited stress from baby meltdowns and toddler tantrums.
While I focused this post on how to keep your child happy while traveling on the road, preparing this way will also help keep your spouse pleased too. The less your partner has to think about logistics, the more he or she can enjoy the trip. So start planning your next trip now.
Take the lead and hit the road to experience those fun family moments, baby and all.