So, you want to road trip with baby in 2023 and aren’t sure how to survive it in one piece? Traveling with a baby is not a small fete but it can be done and these tips will help.
Whether the trip is for necessity or fun, traveling with a baby in tow requires a lot of preparation. You’ll want to make sure you have everything packed and ready to go, all the go-to tips at the ready, so that your trip is fun and least stressful as can be.
Believe it or not, traveling with a baby isn’t impossible. And there’s no reason why you should have to give up your travel plans just because you have a baby now.
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Road trip with baby
Plan every little part of your road trip
Plan your trip to a T but expect to get sidetracked at least a few times, depending on the length of your trip.
You’ll want to use your map app but another app great for road trips is the Waze app. It can give you a heads-up when there’s heavy traffic, accidents, or road closures and will offer you an alternate route.
It’s best not to push your baby for too many hours at a time. You’ll want to give the baby breaks to get out of the car seat to stretch and be cuddled. Check for pitstops along the way and plan them for your trip.
2. Plan your pitstops
Like planning your driving route, you’ll want to plan your pitstops. Sure, you won’t be able to predict every stop you’ll need to take, but you can plan them nonetheless and just remember to go with the flow.
Your baby will likely call some of the shots of the road trip, be okay with that, it’ll allow you to find more joy in the trip overall.
Download an app before you start driving that’ll allow you to track where public restrooms are along your route. An app like SitorSquat will help you find the restrooms to stop at as you travel.
3. Lower your expectations
Don’t have high expectations for your trip with the baby because, inevitably, traveling with a little one will have disappointing parts to the journey.
Because, babies can be a bit unpredictable and honestly, they call the shots. They’re tiny and completely rely on their parents to feed them, change them, and provide them comfort. Even on the road, none of that changes.
So, if you keep your expectations lower, you’ll be able to enjoy your trip more, even when sidetracked moments because of the baby, happen. (Ahem, and they will.)
4. Plan for detours to your road trip
Guess what? Even trips without a baby or little children can call for detours. Things happen while traveling, so being as prepared as possible for such detours will help keep you on track.
Say you run into thick traffic and it’s time for your baby to bed fed, what can you do? Maybe whip out your phone and check the SitorSquat app mentioned in tip #3 to find the best and closest public restroom to stop.
Or, this may be a good time to pull out your lullaby playlist (we’re getting to that tip, soon!) on your phone and calm your baby down.
Either way, detours can happen and, not only being mentally prepared for them can help, but also, so can being physically prepared for their possibilities.
5. Plan your driving around your baby’s sleep schedule
If you know that there’s a big chunk of time when the baby is asleep during the mid-morning hours, it may be best to plan a few hours of straight driving while the baby is asleep in their car seat.
Many times babies will have some sort of schedule or routine, and while that can get interrupted on a road trip, sticking as closely to their routine as possible can make for a more enjoyable time for all concerned.
6. Provide distractions
Bring toys, and lovey’s, download baby-friendly apps on your devices, have a playlist or two on the ready with calming music, and sit in the back seat with the baby to give face-to-face time… these are just a few ideas to get you started.
You don’t need to buy a lot of new things for a road trip, either. Look around the house and choose which items you think would travel well, items that won’t be missed too much if left in a hotel by mistake, and any favorites your baby might have.
However, you can purchase new items if you travel often enough, even items specifically for being used in the car, and then these items could become their special road trip toys that they could look forward to playing with as you travel.
7. Plan pitstops for feeding baby
Work those pitstops in for your baby’s regular feeding schedule and plan to make a few unplanned stops should the baby need extra feeding time for comfort.
A road trip is a new experience for the baby, something they aren’t used to, and sometimes baby’s will like to be breastfed more often when stressed out. Plan to allow for those special nursing sessions as a source of comfort and stretching their body while traveling.
If you bottle feed the baby, or if you pump and bottle feed, a portable bottle warmer will be necessary – especially on longer trips. You don’t want to rely solely on warming a bottle at the hotel, or fast food places, you stop at along the way.
You’ll want a warmer you can use on the fly, as soon as the baby needs to eat.
8. Bring plenty of snacks and make room for a cooler
Depending on the age of your baby, you’ll want to bring plenty of snacks and finger foods.
This will require a cooler, which may or may not need ice to keep the food cold. It doesn’t have to be a large cooler, if you’re tight on space, just something that will accommodate snacks for the baby.
If you pack a cooler, this will also assist in keeping a healthy diet for the baby even while on a road trip.
9. Do your best to make their environment like at home
Babies love routine, they love the safety of knowing their environment.
Bringing their favorite blanket, their favorite toys, and anything they love from home will be a nice comfort for them in an uncomfortable situation.
And, if they’re at an age where they need to see mama or daddy, make plans to sit in the back with the baby on the trip. That way, they can see your smiling face and feel better about the unknown happening around them.
10. Pack your car like a pro
Amazon sells many different types of travel organizers you could invest in, should you not have any. This will help you in packing your vehicle well for a trip.
Consider the following items to pack:
- playpen/portable crib (especially if the hotel doesn’t have them on hand)
- car seat
- backpack carrier/sling
- snack cooler
- feeding materials
- first aid kit
- and much more
Now the hardest part is being strategic in placing the items in the trunk. This may take some trial and error, but a good rule of thumb could be to place the heavier and bulkier items in first, then fit the rest of the items on and around the bulky items.
11. Give your baby breaks along the trip
We can’t say this enough, you need to give your baby breaks with a road trip. Some may be planned, and some will be baby-led, but all should be expected and not fought.
A crying baby is not only stressful for the baby but can also elevate the stress levels of the adults in the vehicle. When you know it’s time, you’ve pushed the baby as far as they’re comfortable with, it’s time to make a pitstop.
This can be a place to eat, or a gas station to fill up the tank, grab a potty break, get a snack, and just let the baby be out of the car seat, or something longer – like a planned walk around a zoo… the point it just to get baby out of the car and change it’s body position and scenery.
12. Buy new toys just for their trip
This will be more fun for your child as they age, they’ll begin to look forward to new toys for road trips, or toys specifically and only for the road trips.
Depending on the age of your baby, you could surprise their wonderous eyes and souls with a brand-new toy.
Think about adding:
- soft books
- Lamaze toys
- suction toys
- teething toys
- soft and squishy items
- and so on
13. Make a lullaby playlist
Don’t you just love Spotify playlists for cleaning the house, drives around town, on a run, and so on? Why not use this favorite app to make playlists for the baby? This is a great idea for travel, but even still could be used in the nursery at home to bring peace to the baby’s space.
You could create your very own traveling with baby playlists.
- lullaby playlists
- gentle rain playlists
- white noise/ambient noise playlists
- instrumental playlists
14. Keep the sun off baby while in the car
Although the sun is warming and might help a baby sleep longer, the sun can also get in the eyes and cause a cranky baby, and we all know by now that long sun exposure isn’t great – especially on a baby’s sensitive skin.
Get yourself sun protectors for the car windows, or a light blanket you can position over the car seat, depending on the age of the baby, and the design of the car seat. This will help keep the excess sun off the baby while in the car.
15. Remember, keep patient with the baby during the trip
Lastly, it’s advised to do your best to keep patient with the baby while on the road trip. That means, lower your expectations, expect the vacation to not go as planned, and keep yourself hydrated, nourished, and well rested.
When YOU need to rest, rest. When you need to eat, eat. When you need to stop and stretch, do so. Keeping yourself comfortable on the road trip will also help you in keeping patient and happy with road trippin’ with baby.
Enjoy your road trip with the baby
If you’ve never traveled with your baby, it may be an overwhelming and daunting experience. Well, let’s face it, even if you have it likely still feels that way.
That is why the more prepared you are, the better.
And just remember, although it isn’t going to be as easy as traveling just the two of you, it’s a special moment in your family – your first vacation as a family unit.
Do your best to relax and enjoy the ride.
Happy road tripping.
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Mom to Littles is a passion project of long-time stay-at-home mother of three boys. Nell loves to write about baby names, pregnancy advice, best baby products, and self-care for new moms. You’ll find MomtoLittles.com to be a place for real talk and a warm hug from a friend for the mom of little children.