11 important things to know before you Road Trip with Baby
Heading off on a road trip with baby might seem daunting but it can be done. You don’t have to give up on your adventuring just because you’ve had a baby, but you will need to be more prepared than you were before. With some planning, you can survive a that road trip with baby.
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Start small. A long trip might have to wait until the baby is a little older and has more of an attention span to enjoy a trip. With the need to stop to manage care like naps, feeding and nappy changes, a long journey might be a bit of a challenge. Having said that we did a 10 hour road trip through France with one year old twins, a 3 year old and a 5 year old so its possible! In fact we regularly do road trips with our kids and have done since they were babies.
Once you know the tips and tricks that we are sharing here you will be able to hit the road and enjoy the process of getting there even with baby in the car.
TOP TIPS FOR YOUR ROAD TRIP WITH BABY
Invest in an all in one travel system. These systems combine a pram, pushchair, carry cot and a car seat into one item, which has the advantage of saving room in the car and an easy way to move the baby around. You can clip the car seat and out of the car without having to disturb them as you make stops on your journey. Having a car seat that we could take out of the car and attach to the buggy frame was invaluable when baby decided to have an unexpected nap and we needed the loo… No one wants to wake a sleeping baby so it was really useful.
Break up the journey when you road trip with baby
As an adult you can entertain yourself on a long road trip or journey by listening to music, watching a movie or even just looking at the scenery. You know that you need to adjust your positioning, stretch occasionally and so you can manage any discomfort from being in the same position for ages, but your baby can’t necessarily do any of these things. So when you road trip or plan to do a road trip with baby you need to be sensible about planning the route.
There is no point in planning a 5 hour drive without any stops. That just won’t work on a road trip with baby. You need to factor in regular breaks and perhaps longer breaks throughout the trip so that you can get your baby out of their car seat and allow them freedom and play time.
If not driving at night (read on to find out more about that tactic) we have tended to plan road trips around nap schedules when doing a road trip with baby or with toddlers. So we would do a good driving stint during nap times and plan to stop somewhere scenic or somewhere that we would have space to lay out the baby playmat when the baby (or babies in our case) woke up.
Sure they still have to spend some time in the car when awake and we have tips below for that time, but by giving long breaks around their usual schedule you not only give them a chance to get tired for their next nap, but you also give yourself the best chance of getting a decent nights sleep as they won’t have messed up their sleep patterns.
Get in the back
If there’s more than one adult on the trip it is a good idea to take it in turns to have one of you ride in the back with the baby for at least part of the journey. You can keep them company, amuse them with games and manage things like snacks without needing to stop. Being in the back with the baby means that you can keep them stimulated and awake in between nap times as well (see previous point about not messing up sleep schedules)
You may not usually have your little one in front of a screen and I totally get wanting to limit screen time, but in my opinion a road trip with baby is not the time for enforcing that rule 🙂 If you can put on a bit of Coco Melon (or something else sweet and cheerful) and have your baby entertained and distracted for 20 minutes I say go for it.
Never under estimate the power of a snack. It is a primary weapon in the parenting arsenal.
Snacks are a great way to distract a grump baby on a trip once they are eating solids, but again sitting in the back with them whilst they are having a snack is advisable, not least so you can stop them from mashing the snack into their car seat.
It can help to break up the journey to plan in some snack stops in places that are either fun for older children or just lovely to look at for you if you have a small baby.
Some snack ideas for older children are pureed fruit, small pieces of fruit and maybe even a sweet treat. I tend to allow some eating in the car for older kids, but beware of car sickness. I have two kids who struggle with it so I am always a bit weary of them eating anything during road trips. However, some usually forbidden snacks go down well on long trips, but be careful not to overload them with sugar or you will regret it!
If you’ve packed toys and other distractions for the baby to use during the trip, try not to leave them scattered all over the back seat. Pack up the toys into a bag and keep them secured. Firstly anything that is loose can fly around the car if an accident happens, causing injuries to you or the baby and secondly if baby starts having a melt down you will want to know where their favourite toy is!
You can get great in car organisers that are perfect for keeping all the baby essentials within reach and organised. We have four of them in our car!
Bring a Bucket
Bring a bucket or better still sick bags. Nobody likes to think about it, but children can be very prone to motion sickness or sudden illness, so keep a bucket handy in the car, just in case. One of my twins and one of the boys suffered with this from the time they were small babies and it definitely pays to be prepared!
I also recommend getting a seat cover for your car seats and waterproof pads to protect the baby’s seat. There is nothing worse than a child having to continue sitting in sick for the remainder of the journey.
Music or audio books can be fun for the whole family. If you can’t stand to listen to kids’ music on a loop for the whole trip, choose an audio book. You could try the soundtrack from some favourite family movies or a collection of Disney songs, to keep the little one distracted during boring parts of the journey.
I also recommend organising some toys for in the car and some baby books that you can show them/ read to them on the way.
TOP TOP TIP – Have new, never before seen toys or toys that you have hidden for a few weeks before the trip as this will increase the interest and distraction factor of the toy.
Keeping little ones amused on the road can be fun for you too, and the adventures you have on these road trips will make great family memories and stories for when your children are older. They will learn patience and to be well travelled from a very young age – honest!
Drive at night when you road trip with baby
If there are two of you doing the driving then driving at least part of the trip at night when you road trip with baby can be a great way of them not even noticing a longer driving stint. We have found this to be the best way of driving long distances with toddlers especially as they do tend to get very irritated when asked to sit in a car seat for more than a couple of hours. If you do this and maximise driving during nap times you can avoid some of the frustration and stress that can be the result of a road trip with baby.
Bring a play mat and toys
It can be a really good idea to pack a small play bag for when you do make stops. If you bring a play mat that you can fold up with some attached toys this can be a great way of entertaining your baby and wearing them out for the next stage of driving. You will of course need to have planned to stop somewhere that it would be possible to put the play mat on the floor, but assuming you are travelling in the summer then you can always lay it on the grass wherever you stop.
If you are stopping at a service station then there are often children’s play areas which would be suitable for the play mat.
Keep the car seat toys under control
I love a car seat toy especially the ones with a multi sensory element so baby can make noises with their feet on the mat and perhaps touch something interesting and look at patterns, but these can end up causing over stimulation and so annoyed, fussy babies.
It can be a good idea to remove or cover these toys for some periods of the journey so that your baby can have some downtime. I found that this was especially true when I wanted baby to stick to their usual nap times so I would also remove the toys at that point and it made it easier for them to go off to sleep.
I guess it makes sense – I mean I couldn’t sleep with a psychedelic robot swinging about and squeaking every time I accidently touched it – could you ?
We love a road trip here and although it can be hard for the parents it is worth it! If you have a large family like us a road trip can be the only way to make travel financially possible and in current times where staycations are the thing then driving is the often the best option to get on holiday so you might as well try to make it a fun part of the trip.