At the beginning, everything is daunting. Getting your little one into a car seat for that first doctor’s appointment or La Leche League meeting takes forever. Over time it gets easier. You’ve got this. Suddenly, a road trip comes up and it presents a whole new set of challenges: Can I survive a road trip with a baby? How will we make this work? Relax! We’ve got everything you need to know to make road trips with babies a breeze.
Road Trip with a Baby: What You Need to Know
As a mom of four kids who regularly drives cross country solo with the kids to see the grandparents, I’ve been there. Sit back and relax. I’m going to walk you through some of the most important things to know before baby’s first road trip including:
- How to easily change diapers on the road
- What to pack
- How to optimize your diaper bag
- The best time to drive
- How to handle breastfeeding on a road trip
What do you need to know first? Everything may not go smoothly.
Parenting is a moving target. One day may go 1000% better than you planned and the next day starts low and plummets from there. The key for a successful road trip with baby? Patience and the knowledge that it might be hard. The great part about roadtripping with baby? Unlike air travel with baby, the only people dealing with the crying, smells and chaos are the people who agreed to get into your car. So pack some Tylenol and read on.
Check Your Car Seat: How to Find a Car Seat Technician
It’s every new parent’s nervous thought. Did we install the car seat right? I mean they’ve invented baby sleeping devices that self rock and still car seats remain counter-intuitive in their installation. One of our top travel tips? Take advantage of car seat safety techs. Check with your local fire department, ambulance service or hospital to see if there is a car seat tech on staff. My husband is a paramedic and routinely gets folks at the station looking for help. While they are happy to assist, try to call ahead (not 911!) so they can plan for you. You can also search on the National Child Passenger Safety web site for someone in your area. Knowing that your car seat is properly installed can help you feel more confident and secure going into your road trip with baby.
Personally, we use a Britax Advocate Clicktight that I was given to review. We love its sturdiness and ease of install (although it’s a little heavy to move around). Bonus: Extremely easy to take off all the fabric parts and wash them!
Read More: You’ve installed the car seat correctly. Do you know what one other step you can take to protect your child in case of an accident? We explain why you NEED to label your car seat.
Road Trip Tips to Get Baby Ready for a Long Car Ride
Call me Captain Obvious, but I have to say it – one of the ways to get baby ready for a long road trip is to take them out in the car! So after you’ve had your car seat safety checked, get in a little drive time. Start with short little drives around town and work up to longer stretches. This can also be a great way to change up scenery and get out of the house. A new baby is an adjustment. Pretty scenery will do you both good.
It’s really important to get baby used to the feeling of a car seat before your road trip. If the first time your kiddo spends extended time in the seat is your 7-hour holiday road trip, things may not go smoothly for you. Give baby a chance to get used to the sensation of a five point harness over a few short rides.
Make a List and Check it Twice: What to Pack for a Road Trip with an Infant
We know. The urge to pack each and everything you might possibly need is strong. Very strong. But unless you’re going somewhere too remote for Walmart, you’ll be able to buy anything you forget. Besides, that gives you an excuse to swing into Target, use the changing table, grab a Starbucks and buy more diapers, right?
For us, road trip must-haves are:
- Bottles or sippy cups (if needed)
- Pumped milk or powdered formula (Pack room temperature bottled water if you’re using formula.)
- Hand sanitizer
- Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, a changing pad and bags for dirty diapers. I recommend one of the changing pad “kits” that clips shut and holds everything. It is way easier to haul into a quick pit stop than a full diaper bag.
- Baby food (if your baby is at that point) Personally I love these spoons that screw onto the pouches if you’re still spoon feeding baby. No jars or bowls to worry about!
- Bibs and burping cloths
- Two changes of clothes for baby, kept in easy reach
- At least one extra shirt for you and anyone you’re traveling with who might burp baby
- Pee pads for the car seat. It is a known fact that if you don’t have one in the seat, the diaper will leak.
- Diaper cover. I know it’s overkill but we actually put one of these diaper covers over disposables on the road. We were traumatized by a poo incident while waiting to cross the border after a trip to Montreal.
- Sanitizing microwave bags. These were a huge favorite of mine for sanitizing bottles, pump parts, teething toys and more while on the road. Most hotel lobbies have a microwave even if there isn’t one in the room.
- Board books if baby is a few months old and can hold them.
- A sun shade
- Baby carrier. I’m a huge babywearing advocate and a good baby carrier can make quick stops easy and hands free (especially if you need to pee too!).
- Pacifier. If your kiddo uses one, bring extra. They tend to “jump” out of the car whenever you open the door.
- Car seat cover & back of seat organizer. You know what’s awesome? When snacks spill in the car and grind into your seat. Not. I love putting a seat cover under the car seat. Get the kind with the pockets so you can stick a few extra diapers and a bottle in for easy access.
How To Change a Diaper in the Car
Ahh, the fun of car diaper changes. There are a few options for easy diaper changes on a road trip with baby:
- Diaper changes at rest stops, gas stations, restaurants, or even a Target or baby supply store you swing into quickly
- Use your own changing pad and do the diaper change in your car.
The pros of a store or rest stop: Chances are good you’ll find a proper changing table. The cons? You don’t control the cleanliness. The pros of your car? You can take your time and control the cleanliness. The cons? One blowout or a rolling baby and you might end up with a new scent in your car.
I’m a car change fan. As a proud minivan driver, I have one of the center chairs flipped up providing for plenty of space. Likewise another great option is the front passenger seat, but be sure to cover it up first. The most important car diaper change tip? Have all your supplies laid out before you attempt the change. This includes opening the top of the wipes. Keep one hand on baby at all times.
TravelingMom Tip: Bring empty grocery bags or a roll of small trash bags. When poop happens in the middle of nowhere, you want to be able to wrap that bad boy up and trap the odor. Riding with the windows down is not conducive to a happy baby.
What Is the Best Time to Drive with a Baby?
Obviously the answer to the best time to drive with a baby is going to vary from infant to infant. However, keeping track of your child’s natural rhythms, nap times, and preferred schedule will help you plan. Kiddo naps for long stretches in the morning hours? Then that might be a good time to plan to get some miles behind you.
Also a good plan? Take a short test night drive with baby before the trip! I’m one to push on into the late night hours. Two of my babies did not agree with this. My oldest daughter would sob uncontrollably if it was dark out and no one was holding her hands. Any night driving had to have a grown up in the back seat. My youngest son? He’s fine if he’s asleep. But if he wakes up and it’s dark out? He’ll cry until we stop.
Other things to consider when mapping out your trip? Traffic. The majority of babies I’ve come across do best in a moving car. Try to work around city rush hours and heavy traffic in highway construction zones so you aren’t trapped in a car at a standstill with a crying baby.
Tips For Breastfeeding on a Road Trip
Breastfeeding on a road trip can seem like a gargantuan undertaking. It can be done! The most important thing is a good support system including yourself! If you self-doubt and question whether you can handle it, it will make things more difficult. You can do this if you put your mind to it.We believe in you!
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It is a natural reaction to try to drink less on a road trip because you’re unsure about “potty stops.” Breastfeeding? You NEED keep up your fluid intake.
- Allow extra time. Stopping to feed baby takes time. Stopping to use the restroom takes time. Plan for that time so you aren’t frustrated later.
- If you pump, invest in a car charger. Traveling with another adult? You can pump while that person drives and feed baby bottles later if you wish.
- Pack a small cooler. If you’re pumping, you’ll need somewhere to store pumped breast milk. If you’re nursing, it’s also a great place to store liquids and snacks for Mom.
- Wear nursing tops or clothes that make it easy to pump or breastfeed. Bring a nursing cover if it makes you feel more comfortable. Know your rights about nursing in public. You can see laws by state on this site.
- Practice good nursing hygiene and habits. The last place you want to end up with an infection or breast issue is on a road trip. Pump or feed regularly to avoid mastitis. Don’t wait too long just to get miles in. Wash your hands routinely or use hand sanitizer.
TravelingMom Tip: We always recommend keeping a first aid kit in your car for the whole family on car trips. If you’re breastfeeding you may want to add in a lanolin-type product for any nipple-related ailments.
Are You Ready For Your Road Trip? More Information!
Well, I hope that dumping of my thousands of miles of baby roadtripping was helpful. What other road trip questions do you have for us? We are always happy to answer!