8 Tips for Taking your Baby on a Road Trip
My husband and I travel. A lot.
When I say “travel” what I really mean is “road trip.” Since getting married 3 years ago, we’ve driven close to 85,000 miles.
It’s a 5-hour drive one way from our home state of Iowa to either Wisconsin or Missouri just to visit one set of our parents. And, that’s the shortest distance we’ve taken. What that means is that we spend A LOT of time driving.
It’s no surprise that our traveling hasn’t slowed down since we had our baby boy. Since my son was born 6 months ago, we’ve traveled 5,000 miles with him on 4 separate trips (and we have a 4,000-mile trip planned in August!)
By traveling with him, I’ve learned a couple of things that I hope you’ll find useful in your travels as well. Here are my 8 tips for making the most out of your road trip with your 6-month-old (or baby of any age).
Stay on your baby’s normal schedule – He’ll sleep better that night!
If your baby normally eats every 4 hours, make sure to stop to feed him every 4 hours. Even if our baby is in the middle of a nap, we still stop at his scheduled eating intervals to make sure he stays on schedule. Even though I die a little inside when I wake a sleeping baby, he sleeps so much better at night when we keep him on his schedule.
We used to have SO MUCH trouble getting him to sleep well at night after a day of driving. Once we started waking him up during his normal feeding times, our baby instantly starting sleeping normally at night.
We’ve also noticed that when we feed him on his normal schedule, he eventually sticks to a pretty normal napping schedule. Our son hates to be in his car seat so occasionally he won’t nap as well as he normally does, but it’s definitely become better since we stuck to his normal schedule.
Plan out your stops.
Since you are keeping to your baby’s normal schedule, you should be able to time out about where your stops will be.
Here’s a sample of a schedule for a recent trip of ours (to get your own FREE travel planner, download it here!):
From there, I then pick places on the map close to our stops. It isn’t always perfect, especially when you are in very rural areas, but sometimes if you mess around with your time during your stops, it can help get you closer to a better stopping place later.
Since no trip ever goes exactly as planned, I like to pick out several locations within a 30-minute window each way of our planned stops just in case.
I’m not a fan of rest stops but we use them when we have to. My favorite app to use for this is USA Rest Stop Locator. It tracks where the stops are located and reviews of the amenities and bathrooms (a huge deal for me!).
We track what we do during our stops so we know the last time our baby ate, when we ate, and of course, to make notes of good and bad places to stop in the future. Here’s a sample from our recent trip:
Bring a sound maker/machine.
We recently learned that our baby naps SO MUCH better on road trips when we bring a noise maker or sound machine for him. He sleeps best with white noise so we bring our tablet and play a downloaded version of it on our Amazon Music account.
The track is called Pure White Noise and it’s only 99 cents (or FREE for Amazon Prime users). We just play it on a loop so it’s like having a white noise machine without having to buy an extra machine for it. Plus, that’s one less thing to pack since we always have our tablet with us. Win win.
If your baby has a favorite sound machine or music, bring that for him or her. Our baby is much more content, even if he’s not sleeping, when white noise or music is softly playing next to him.
Pack essentials on top.
This is probably obvious, but I feel like it’s so important that it’s worth bringing up. Always make sure your baby’s food, bottles, and changing items are easily accessible. We pack his diaper bag with enough bottles prepped for the day, burb cloths, bibs, and non-refrigerated baby food. That way we can easily access bottles, food, and a change of clothes in a pinch.
We also have our snack bag in the backseat so we can easily access our own snacks too. We prep one extra bottle and baby food in our snack bag (or cooler – I’ll mention that in a second) just in case as well. We’ve had too many times where we drop a container of food or spill a ton of milk so backup supplies are necessary.
Bring a cooler.
We ALWAYS bring a cooler. Whether it’s a 5-hour drive or 26-hour drive, we have a cooler with us. Keep drinks for yourself, breast milk, baby food, and cooled food items for you in the cooler.
A way we save money on road trips is to always pack lunches, snacks, and drinks so we aren’t dropping a few dollars at every stop. With as much as we travel, those small purchases really can add up on a trip!
Pack your cooler in the backseat if it will fit so you can easily access it whenever you need.
Utilize your portable changing pad.
Who wants to bring their entire diaper bag to a gas station to change a poopy diaper? If you pack your car tight like we do, it’s not feasible to unload things and reload them at every stop. That’s why we keep our portable changing pad handy (right next to our diaper bag, usually).
The pad we got during a baby shower is awesome and I highly recommend it. The Baby Bopp Portable Changing Mat is small enough to travel with but has a large changing pad surface when you unfold it.
We stock it with 5 diapers, wipes, and a onesie before every trip. That way, we can just grab it at every stop and take it with us when we change our baby without lugging around the diaper bag. If you think you’ll go through more than 5 diapers, restock during one of your longer stops. There’s nothing worse than not having a diaper ready when you need it!
Not only is this a huge convenience, it is a huge time-saver because we don’t have to worry about digging through the clutter in our diaper bag.
Bring your own pillows.
This is more of a personal preference, but my husband and I always bring our own pillows when we travel. Even if we are staying at a hotel, you never know how comfortable the pillows will be. Ever since we started bringing our own pillows, I have slept so much better on the road.
Make an effort to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
Everyone says it but I’ll say it again – everything takes so much longer with kids, including road trips. If you plan to stop every 3 hours but your baby has a crying fit after 10 minutes of being on the road, be flexible.
We had a stretch on our drive to Colorado where we stopped 3 times in an hour. Once for a diaper change/food, once for gas (not planned well), and once because our baby was bawling. Although it was easy to get frustrated, we eventually laughed it off and kept going. About 5 miles after our third stop, we sat in an hour of non-moving traffic. Needless to say, we were about 2 hours later to our destination than planned.
But that’s okay! We knew things like that would happen so we tried to keep a positive outlook.
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Have a traveling tip you’d like to share? Comment below!