Recently, my husband and I took a road trip to Sandestin, Florida with our 7-month-old. Traveling with a baby adds an entire new element to traveling and quickly feels overwhelming. There are so many more items we needed to bring with us without mentioning the obvious (our tiny human). While we definitely had our fair share of meltdowns, the drive went a lot better than I thought it would.
Here are some tips that helped us survive our long drive, complete with unexpected traffic delays and diaper disasters.
1. Create a diaper changing station.
Honestly, this is number one on the list for a reason. If you stop reading now, please know this will help your car ride become infinitely easier! Before having a baby, I judged people for changing their babies in their car. I thought there was nothing grosser. (Ha, ha, ha…)
At home, we have a diaper changing station upstairs and downstairs. As I was looking at an empty Water Wipes box and wondering if there was anything I could do with it other than tossing it in the garbage, I noticed it seemed like a perfect size for a car diaper changing station. This made diaper changes so much easier without needing to fumble through the diaper bag each stop. Here’s what I included in our station:
- Two packs of wipes (You never know when disaster will hit!)
- Disposable changing pad (see above)
- Changing pad
- Extra outfit
- Burp cloth
I thought about decorating it to make it more appealing, but I have other tasks that took a much higher priority.
2. Toys, toys, and more toys.
We brought a canvas bag filled with tons of toy options ranging from teethers to stuffed animals to rattles to a mirror. This was key because we could quickly toss everything back into the bag when we arrived at our destination to help keep the car clean.
If Samuel was fussy, I tossed a new toy back to him, which would entertain him for an undetermined amount of time until he was ready for a nap, a different toy, or a stop.
3. Stop often.
Stop early and stop often. We stopped if we were kind of getting hungry or if we thought he needed a diaper change. Stopping before he really needed us to saved us! At one point, we decided to make a last-minute stop for a feeding and restroom break, and we were so thankful we did. When we got back on the interstate, we were at a standstill for about 30 minutes. That would have been a nightmare with a screaming babe and a full bladder!
4. Have flexible seating.
We borrowed my dad’s SUV, so we were able to spread out a little more than we would have in my Buick Encore. I was so grateful for the extra space!
Even if you don’t have extra space, you will definitely have a seat open for yourself. If needed, you could move the items in the backseat to the front seat and then back again. This is another option to entertain your baby.
Samuel loved having me in the back with him! (Another thing I thought was so ridiculous before having a baby…) I also love sitting in the front with my husband, so it was nice to be able to move back and forth with ease.
5. Break the travel up.
A 12-hour drive is long with or without extra cargo, so stopping after 5-7 hours of being in the car helped to make the car ride bearable. I’m sure we could have made the drive in one day, but it wouldn’t have been enjoyable, and it likely would have taken much longer (see tip 7).
Stopping along the route allowed us to recharge, and I would highly recommend it if your timeframe and budget allows. We were able to walk around, eat a meal that wasn’t from Chick-fil-A, and most importantly, rest.
6. If the baby is sleeping, all rules go out!
One of my personal rules is to drive as much and as far as possible when the babe is sleeping! If you’re hungry, did you pack any snacks you can munch on? If you have to use the restroom, can you wait?
Our little guy typically wakes up if there’s a major change in movement, so it’s easier to keep driving when it makes the most sense. We somehow had a nearly four-hour stretch of nap time, which isn’t ideal for night sleeping, but is ideal for covering major ground while driving!
7. Plan for a much longer drive.
Before traveling, I read to take the length of time needed and multiply it by two to get a realistic (and hopefully, greatly exaggerated) time it will actually take you. I found that by having 20ish hours in mind for our 11-12 hour car ride, it helped make the drive feel shorter.
There were plenty of moments in the car when it felt like we were never going to get to our destination, like when Samuel was screaming in his car seat, but knowing the end was in sight helped us push through without giving up.
I hope those tips inspire you to take a road trip with your baby! You CAN do it!
What is your best tip for traveling with a baby? Leave a comment below!