Traveling With A Baby: Car

Parenthood started for us with a move from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. So, our first car trip occurred when our son was about two weeks old and lasted about two and a half days! In addition to that, we did a drive from Philadelphia to Raleigh (8 hours without stopping…we had to stop a lot) when our son was 4 months old, and a drive from Philadelphia to Boston (about 5-6 hours without stopping…again we stopped a lot) when our son was about 8 months old. That said, we have had our share of long-drive experiences! Today, I’m sharing our tips for surviving these experiences. (You can also read about my tips for airplane travel.)

General Considerations
Here are some general things to think about as you are traveling and some important reminders!

My Top 10 Travel Tips
Here are my top travel tips and some key things to think about for your baby’s safety!

  1. Safety First – The very first thing you need to make sure is that your car seat is securely fastened into the car (ideally in the middle seat if you only have one kiddo!). If you don’t know if the car seat is installed correctly, you can take it to a fire or police department and they can help you.
  2. Plan Your Route – You will likely have to make stops, even on trips of only 2-3 hours, so it is very useful to plan out your route. Look for major cities or areas that would be good for stopping to eat, bathroom breaks, diaper changes, nursing, whatever you may need. You’ll also want to take note of any tolls, but that’s not baby related!
  3. Time Your Trip – One of the pieces of advice we got early on was to plan your trip when the baby is sleeping and this has completely proven true for us. Yes, this may mean a late night or early morning for you, but it makes for a smoother trip. If you absolutely can’t do this, you’ll just need to make sure you bring some toys and engagement for the kiddo.
  4. Take Breaks – This ties into planning your route and timing your trip, but you should absolutely take breaks. A big reason is that it can be unsafe for your baby to be in the car seat for extended periods of time. It’s also not super great for you to be sitting for extended periods of time! I would suggest stopping at least every 2 hours. This should coincide reasonably well with bathroom breaks, gas needs, and baby’s eating schedule.
  5. Pack Light, But Pack Well – We have found that it is SO easy to overpack with a baby. Like, our packing has more than doubled in total size/weight by just adding one tiny human. Packing smart is even more important, especially on a road trip so you aren’t bursting at the seams. My packing list for the drive itself (not including what you’ll need at your destination) is below:

    Reusable water bottles and coffee mugs
    Pre-made snacks (see #7)
    Plenty of diapers/wipes
    Diaper changing pad
    All the toys (see #6)
    Blanket (if it is cold out)
    Change of clothes (both for warmer and colder temps)
    Window shades
    Pacifier (if you using)

  6. Bring All The Things – You’ll need to pace yourself with toys but, depending on the length of the trip especially, it is good to have a lot in your arsenal. We basically just keep one big bag of toys and as things lose their fun, we sub them out.
  7. Pre-Pack Snacks and Water – We will usually pack a gallon jug of water so we can fill up without needing to stop and some pre-prepared snacks. If you are still breastfeeding, you will need to make sure and stop for those breaks, but if you can stretch the baby by having some easy snacks, that is a huge plus!
  8. Don’t Stick to a Schedule – While I think it is really helpful to time and plan out your trip, don’t hold yourself to it too much. When traveling with a baby, you need to be flexible! We’ve had trips where our little guy just would NOT fall asleep in the car so we had to spend a little more time being attentive to that and stopping for breaks. We’ve had some where we were able to really push through. Basically, just don’t promise you’ll be there at any particular point in time!
  9. Bring on the Music – We’ve found that finding a great music station or putting a playlist on your phone can keep the baby calm and help with sleeping. We like to have classical music going because our guy seems to prefer that. Although Dave Matthews Band makes an appearance every now and then too.
  10. Take Advantage of People Coming to You! – Okay, so this is clearly not a travel tip for your actual travels, but I feel like it is worth noting! Now that you have a little one, take advantage of having people come to you. Obviously, this is not always possible, but it takes a lot of time and effort, usually topped with a lot of stress, to get pulled together and out of the door with a baby. If you can, ask that people come to visit you at least for a little while.

What are your top tips for traveling with a baby? I’d love to hear them!


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