How to survive a road trip with a baby!
A little history…
Traveling with a baby can seem like a very daunting task. Since we don’t live near any family we have taken many long road trips with our baby girl. Our first road trip was about 6 hours when she was just 6 weeks old and our most recent road trip was 14 hours when she was 18 months old!
Now I must admit, I think we got pretty lucky with our little one. She has been an overall great sleeper and eater from early on and generally an easy going kiddo. Still, I get a little nervous when we start to pack up and wonder how things will go this time! It’s always a little different depending on how old they are too.
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Don’t forget the Rock ‘n Play!
On our very first road trip we made a massive rookie mistake…we forgot the Rock ‘n Play. It was going to be the last thing we packed since she was in it right up until we left. We packed up the baby but forgot the Rock ‘n Play. I guess its better than the other way around! Our baby girl was 6 weeks old and she was sleeping in the Rock ‘n Play full time at this point so I was definitely nervous about how this would pan out. We had just planned a long weekend vacation in a cabin in the mountains so it wasn’t like we could just borrow one from a friend in the area either. We did have the Pack ‘n Play so that was going to have to work.
That night I nursed her and put her down to sleep and like a miracle she seemed to stay asleep. Our cabin had a hot tub and we figured we would have at least a few hours so I got in my suit and jumped in to relax with my husband and a glass of wine. It was perfect….for exactly 10 seconds. Cue the baby crying and screaming.
What we learned that weekend was that we needed to swaddle her if she wasn’t in the Rock ‘n Play. Good thing to know. Thankfully we had our Aden and Anais swaddling blankets with us, since we don’t go anywhere without them. So we were able to swaddle her up and finally get some sleep (after many other trials). Back at home after doing some more swaddling research I tried the Miracle Blanket. I never managed to really master the art of swaddling so I wanted an easier option. This turned out to be a fantastic swaddle for us especially as she became more squirmy since she could not escape the Miracle Blanket.
Managing pit stops…
Our first few trips with baby we just planned to take stops whenever the baby needed. This worked out to about every 2-3 hours early on. We would stop and I would nurse and change her while my husband got gas and any snacks/drinks we needed. We also typically travel with our dog so the pup would get out for a quick walk too.
Into about our 3 or 4th long car trip we were getting tired of having to spend so much time at our stops. This time I decided to try pumping while in the car. This allowed me to feed her a bottle while we were still moving. Then we still stopped so I could burp and change her but it could be a much faster stop. This worked really well for us! I just decided to use my Medela manual pump since it was super easy to travel with and use in the car.
As she got a little older and needed some more entertainment on the road we looked into toys. This toy that straps onto the seat she is facing is the absolute best! The only toy that she really can’t throw down into the black hole between her car seat and the door. On that note you should definitely have some toy straps like these to tie down one or two of her favorite toys to her car seat too! Such a lifesaver.
When she was about 12 months old we thought she might be ready to watch a movie in the car. I had heard that Frozen and Trolls are like baby crack and that every kid loves them so we downloaded them. We thought it would be such a treat since she doesn’t watch much TV at all at home. That did not go as planned. She was just not into it. Maybe just a little too young or maybe because she hadn’t had the chance to see them before and realize how awesome they were.
Then I got a recommendation for “Little Baby Bum” on Netflix. On our next trip, she was about 15 months old now, we tried this and it was a huge hit! It is just short little music videos of all sorts of kids songs. There are two one hour long episodes on Netflix that you can download and I would definitely recommend them! We also used this holder for our ipad which was great since it mounts off to the side so we can still keep and use the rear facing mirror we have.
Traveling through the night…
Now that she is 18 months old she is much more active! For the holidays we were trying a new, and somewhat risky, travel plan. There was 12.5 hour drive time between us in NC and our family in NH and we had always stopped halfway and spent the night at some friends. This time our trip was a bit shorter so we decided to try it straight through overnight to save some travel time. We left at bedtime, about 7:30pm, and she did great! We arrived at about 9am only 13.5 hours total with about 4 quick stops! My husband did do most of the driving but I switched out with him when he needed it too. The best part was not hitting any traffic and of course baby girl slept almost the whole way!
When she was awake we had some new toys for her to play with to keep her busy and of course snacks! She likes to color and I love these Water Wow coloring books by Melissa & Doug. They actually just use water to bring out the color on the pages then when it dries you get to do it all over again! Mess free coloring for an 18 month old! Another big hit on this trip was stickers. She loves all kinds of stickers. I just bought a big cheap pack of stickers and let her go at it.
Road trips can be tough and stressful, especially with uncontrollable aspects like traffic. Hopefully some of these tips and products can help you have less stress with your next road trip! Happy traveling!
Here is just a summary of the truly helpful travel products I have used and mentioned above:
I would love to hear some of your traveling tips as well!