My little family has been on about two road trips a year along with countless daytrips involving multi-hour drives since my son was born almost two years ago. My husband and I go stir-crazy if we can’t hit the road every few months. So when we became a family of three, we knew that our baby would have to get used to traveling from a young age, and for the most part he’s done brilliantly. In fact, he started sleeping 10-hour stretches at night the week we got back from his second road trip, when he was about eight weeks old! So what are our tips for getting through a road trip with an infant unscathed, relaxed and rested even? Check them out below:
Be Realistic. Traveling with a baby will not be the same as traveling solo or as a couple. Before you even start planning, you should come to terms with that. But, you should try to be as laid-back as possible. A positive outlook can go a long way in the success of your trip.
Start Early. Don’t wait until your child is already deeply entrenched in an at-home routine before you start traveling. Hit the road early on in his life and with frequency. Traveling will become a part of the norm, and not have a significant effect on your baby’s behavior.
Be Consistent. Make sure your child is sleeping and eating at consistent and regular intervals at home 90 percent of the time. Travel can add to the cumulative effect of overstimulation and overtiredness that babies who don’t have a level of predictability at home may be dealing with.
Allow Extra Time. You will have to stop at least every three hours and maybe even more frequently during your drive in order to accommodate diaper changes and feedings. Plus, you want your baby to have a chance to expend some energy having fun so that he’ll be ready for a nice long nap in the car. This means it may take you twice as long to reach your destination than anticipated.
Be Prepared. If you have a newborn, make sure you have a nursing cover and/or a plentiful supply of formula in the car with you at all times. If your baby has started on solids, you should also have snacks in the car and at the ready. Small toys and books can also be useful if your baby wakes before you reach a good stopping point.
Pack Smart. Keep a bag of essentials and emergency supplies in the passenger seat with you. This will include the aforementioned snacks, milk and toys, but you should also have infant pain reliever, a few burp cloths, diapers, lots of wipes, a favorite blanket and your baby’s lovey. An empty plastic grocery bag is also a good idea in case of blowouts or motion sickness.
Get to a Grocery. Hit up a grocery store along the way to pick up a few necessities to keep in the hotel room for the duration of your trip. It’s always a good idea to offer your baby something to eat while you get ready for the day, but before you head out for breakfast since you will likely be eating later than usual. Plus, you will have to pack less formula or milk if you plan to go to a grocery store.
For more tips, see Traveling with Infants.
–Shayne Rodriguez Thompson
Shayne is an adventurous 20-something mom to a toddler, freelance travel writer and part-time mommy blogger at Mamas Latinas.