Planning a road trip with your baby? There are a lot of logistics to figure out before you hit the road with your little one. But the good thing is that with a little thought and planning, you’ll be able to plan a safe and successful road trip with your baby. Just follow these essential tips!
1. Plan a route with lots of stops.
From the get go, be ready for a trip with lots of stops. Accepting this from the start will help you feel more relaxed and have more fun along the way. Babies need to eat every 2-3 hours meaning you’ll be stopping at least that often, but possibly even more frequently if baby is crying or needs a diaper change. And you don’t want your baby sitting too long in the car seat at once (experts recommend a couple hours at a time), so stopping along the way is going to help keep them out of the bucket seat for long durations of time.
I like to choose routes that I know have easy on and off ramps, and even plan for outdoor stops along the way. Having an outdoor picnic lunch (if weather allows) is a great way to get everyone some fresh air and allow your baby some wiggle time out of their car seat.
For unexpected stops, I tend to look for exits with hotels. Hotel lobbies are often a quiet and clean place to nurse your baby on the go or give a bottle, and the bathrooms are far cleaner and less busy than at a rest stop. I’ve never had an issue with being asked to leave. When you have a little baby, people are far more forgiving and accommodating.
2. Make sure your car seat is installed safely.
Before your road trip, double check that your car seat is installed safely. Even if you did this when it initially went it, it’s a good time to reassess things. Local fire stations often do free car seat safety checks. You can call your town or city hall to find out if this happens on certain days or during certain hours. It’s also a good time to familiarize yourself with proper buckling technique and other car seat safety for the trip.
3. Time your departure strategically.
If you baby is on a predictable schedule or has a rhythm to their day, try to leave the house when baby has a full belly, a clean diaper, and will be ready for a nap. Leaving just before nap time works really well for many families. If your baby does well in the car and typically sleeps in the car, you could try leaving in the evening or at bedtime to get in a longer stretch of driving before a stop. This might be an especially good technique if your drive is 6+ hours.
4. Use a mirror for rear-facing babies.
If your baby is still in a rear-facing car seat (which is recommended until well beyond age 2 — up to 4 in some countries) definitely invest in a mirror for the head rest. It allows you to check in on your baby without stopping. It’s so helpful to know if they’re asleep, awake, or crying for some obvious reason that can be quickly remedied.
5. Get a sunshade for the window.
If you wind up on the highway at a time when the sun is shining directly into your baby’s eyes it can seriously derail your road trip. My little one always hated having the sun in their eyes! Getting a stretch sun shade for the back seat windows will really help. Or if your baby is still in an infant car seat, you may be able to use a breathable car seat cover to provide shade. Just place it to one side of the car seat to block out the sun (and don’t keep your baby covered while in the car).
6. Invest in a portable sound machine.
If you have a baby that doesn’t usually do well in the car, it can make road trips extra challenging. This was my baby before 6 months. A portable white noise machine can really help calm them down and help them sleep in the car if that is difficult for them.
7. Pack a bag with easy-to-access essentials.
During your road trip, you don’t want to be rifling through a bunch of bags in the back for things you need along the way. Pack a day bag (probably bigger than a typical diaper bag) with everything you might need for the duration of the trip. This should have changes of clothes, diapering supplies, snacks and food (if applicable), blankets, burp rags, plastic bag for soiled clothes, sunscreen, sun hat, baby toys/entertainment and anything else you could need along the way.
8. Have entertainment ready.
Bring along some books and toys to help entertain your baby during the trip. You can also plan a variety of types of music to switch things up and keep your baby entertained. I was always surprised at how well changing the music could calm my baby during trips. Have a mix of classical music, kid’s music, and your own music at the ready.
And when all else fails, singing to your baby is one of the best ways to entertain and calm them during car rides.
9. Bring snacks and food for yourself, too.
Pack lots of snacks and food for you and your partner in a cooler. This way, you aren’t confined to stopping at places with food. It will allow you to stop at parks, hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and hotel lobbies, which are less crowded and more pleasant to be at with a baby.
10. Ride in the back with your little one.
When you pack the car, leave the back seat available for an adult. Sometimes, riding in the back with your little one can make a big difference in their temperament during a car ride. You will be able to sing songs, engage, read books and play, which may help you get longer stretches of driving.
11. Don’t worry about over packing—in fact, go for it!
One of the big benefits of road tripping vs. flying is that you can pack as much as you want! When traveling with little ones, it’s mostly better to be over prepared than need to scramble for what you actually need. Don’t stress about over packing, and feel free to bring anything and everything that might make the trip and stay easier. You can also rent baby gear in most locations, but it’s best to bring along what you reasonably can.
Have a Happy Road Trip With Your Baby
With some planning, taking a road trip with a baby is definitely possible and enjoyable. Be sure to follow these tips to make it a smoother experience for your entire family. Have a happy trip with your little one!