How to Road Trip with a Baby, and Survive

Summer is in full swing and it’s vacation season! While I’m no stranger to road trips, I quickly found out that doing one with a 6-month old is a whole different ball game. Here are my tips for how to road trip with a baby, and survive.

Things to pack

Basically, your entire house. I kid, sort of. While I was packing for our road trip to California, I kept thinking about how easy it used to be to pack for myself for a week out of town, it all fit in a carry on sized suit case. Those days are long gone. While not all these items may be necessary for your travels, here is a list of what I packed (and used) for E during our 10 day trip.

  • Pack ‘n play (and extra sheets)
  • Stroller
  • Portable highchair
  • White noise machine
  • Portable white noise machine (for use in the car or stroller)
  • Diapers
  • Couple tubes of diaper cream
  • Wipes
  • Breast pump
  • Bottles
  • Bottle cleaner
  • Mesh baby feeder
  • Baby carriers (yes, I need more than 1)
  • Sun hat
  • Play gym
  • Toys
  • Clothes
  • Swaddle blankets
  • All of his pacifiers

You get the picture. This list basically includes everything I have ever bought and used for E.

Pack the Car the Night Before

Or, just expect it to take longer than you think it will take. For us, I think it took about 30 – 60 minutes longer than I thought it would every time I had to repack the car. Part of the reason why this took so long is because I did not have a good system in place. I could not keep track of all the stuff, and was constantly going back and forth to different bags to make sure that I had packed/repacked whatever item I was thinking of but couldn’t remember which bag I put it in. Chances are that you are better at organization than I am, and this may not be an issue for you. Please share your secrets with me! Organization has never been my strength.

Practice Patience

As we were leaving the house, right as we merged onto the freeway, E started to scream. We made it 2 exits from our house and had to pull over. Turns out that since it took so much longer to pack than I had anticipated, I overlooked the fact that he was hungry. After pulling over and struggling to keep his attention long enough for him to get a good feed, we got back on the road and before we reached the on ramp, we ended up pulling over again, this time for a dirty diaper. We finally got on the road about 30 minutes after we left!

Bottle Feeding = No Need to Pull Over

After that first stop, I realized I needed to have milk on hand in a bottle. Thankfully, I had packed my hand pump and I prepared a bottle for E. This bottle feeding strategy saved us from making extra stops just for feeds. I kept E entertained by talking to him, playing peek a boo and showing him different toys to play with. Between his naps, he seemed content and we quickly found our road trip rhythm and only had to stop every couple hours for diaper changes, restroom breaks and leg stretching.

It’s OK if the Schedule Goes Out the Window

If you are a new mom, or even a veteran mom, its likely that you’ve spent A LOT of time stressing about your baby’s sleep schedule. Often going on vacation can cause more stress because you go from having a reasonable idea of what to expect, to having absolutely no idea what to expect. The lesson that I keep coming across, since I’ve become a mother, is that sometimes things are just not within your control. Even though E ended up napping longer during the days we were on the road (2 days there and 2 days back), I got lucky and it didn’t actually impact our nighttime sleep. If your baby decides not to sleep on vacation, don’t be afraid to ask for help from other adults to watch the baby if you need a nap, or try to get some rest while baby naps during the day. Whatever you do, try not to stress yourself out about the sleep. The truth is that things will get back to normal once you resume your normal routine.

Entertaining baby while stopped in traffic
Traffic at a standstill for hours, E and I pass the time making faces.

Accidents Happen, Be Prepared

If you’ve spent much time on the road, chances are that you’ve encountered at least 1 major accident that stops you dead in your tracks. When I was a child, my family road tripped to California every summer and one summer we were delayed hours because of an overturned tomato truck. This time we were delayed over 3 hours because a semi truck caught on fire and closed down the freeway. We were on our way home and just outside of Phoenix, E was sick and tired of his car seat and he was just not having it. This scenario is every parents’ nightmare. How do you keep your kids busy for an extra few hours while you are stopped, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic? Look at it as a great time to bond with your children. Play a game or make up a game and interact with them and time will fly! This works even if you only have an infant child. E was delighted to copy his mama making funny faces for the camera!

E goes to Disneyland
E’s first trip to Disneyland.

Conclusion

While taking a baby on a road trip makes the road trip a little harder, I think the extra effort is worthwhile. It is important for you to continue to do the things that you enjoy doing because it helps reduce the tedium of day to day life. For me, I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to relive those summer road trips to California that I took with my family. Escaping the Phoenix heat was worth the extra effort it took to take E on a road trip because we made some wonderful memories.

Leave me a comment and tell me what you learned with your little one while on the road?

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