Road trips are one of our favourite ways to travel, so of course, we wanted to continue to do them once Baby B came along. However, we quickly learnt that road trips with a baby are a next-level travelling adventure. First, there’s the trip preparation, before you even get on the road. Next, you have the long car journey with a baby who will be totally unpredictable. Maybe they’ll sleep, maybe they’ll love the car and be totally fine. Or maybe they’ll be screaming the whole way there…
We’ve definitely experienced all of that and more! It hasn’t stopped us travelling with Baby B, and taking road trips. But it does mean we’ve learnt a thing or two about travelling in a car with a baby.
So here are our top tips for a road trip with a baby!
Having a “road trip with baby” checklist to help you pack is a great idea, as well as starting early to make sure you don’t forget anything. We try and pack the day or night before the trip. There are lots of things we can’t pack until the day of because we still need them, so it makes sense to get the bulk of it done. Plus the last thing you want to do is be rushing on the day! Babies have a habit of making things take far longer than they should…
As well as all the usual stuff that you take away with you (see our Must-Have Items for Travelling with a Baby) you’ll want to make sure you have some things easily accessible, like snacks and toys.
What time you leave for a road trip with a baby can have a huge impact on how well it goes. When the baby is smaller they may be content to sleep most of the time, but as they grow they’ll have longer awake periods when they can become not so keen on being stuck in their car seat and more than willing to let you know it!
If we’re able to choose when we can leave we try and time it with one of Baby B’s naps. That way he’s likely to sleep in the car at first, then hopefully happily awake for a little bit. Or we can schedule a break for when he wakes up and be ready to go when he’s sleepy again!
Figure in feeding times as well. The last thing you want is to get half an hour into a long car journey with a baby and have to stop for feeding time. It can be hard to juggle it all but we’ve now found leaving early in the day is the best thing, so that we can take long breaks as and when we need to and not be stressed about getting somewhere!
Break into segments with long enough gaps and drives
Echoing the above, try to do a little forward planning for when you might be able to take breaks and when you want to do a long driving stretch. Remember that newborn babies (and up to around 8 weeks) especially shouldn’t be in a car seat for very long, so you’ll want to plan to stop and get them out for a break. Chances are they’ll let you know they need something anyway, but this applies even if they’re asleep!
Sit in the backseat
If there are two of you travelling together one of you might need to sit in the back with the baby for at least part of the trip. Unless whoever is in the passenger seat feels like turning to face backwards whenever the baby is upset! We’ve found Baby B is much more likely to stay content for longer if one of us sits with him. We can then pass him toys and entertain him, making the road trip much easier!
Use a mirror to see the baby
Safety tests have shown that it’s best to keep babies rear-facing in the backseat of the car, but this can mean they’re out of reach and you can’t see them when you’re driving. We have a special mirror that attaches to the headrest of the seat in front of Baby B so that we can see him in the rearview mirror while driving. It helps to know when he’s asleep, or really upset. Having said that, for long journeys usually one of us will sit in the back as he inevitably likes to throw his toys all over the place and then has none!
Travel snacks for the baby
If you’ve started weaning then don’t forget the snacks for baby! While it’s not really recommended that you feed a baby in a car seat, in case they choke on anything, you can still bring snacks to give during a quick stop, or as a distraction while you eat your own food.
I won’t be winning any Grammy’s for singing anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I won’t use it as a distraction while travelling in a car with a baby! Music can be a great distraction, whether it’s nursery rhymes or something a little more bearable for you all to listen too. At times, however, music alone isn’t enough and I’ve found myself having to sing to Baby B to keep him calm!
Share driving and baby watch
Driving with a baby can be an exhausting experience, both for the person doing the driving and for the one having to entertain the baby. Share the responsibilities if you can!
Taking a road trip with a baby is an exciting adventure, but you also need to manage your expectations about how it’ll go. Maybe your baby ALWAYS sleeps in the car. Well, what if this time they don’t? You need to be prepared for things to not go to plan and to be flexible. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the destination and don’t be set on concrete pit stops along the way. Which brings me to the next point…
Have snacks for adults and know where stops are
ALWAYS HAVE SNACKS.
We have definitely made the mistake of having no food in the car and not wanting to stop because the baby is finally asleep. Or having no idea where the next good place to stop might be that has both facilities and food. Now when I’m planning a road trip I always make sure we have something in the car to eat in case we don’t want to stop. But I also think about where might be best along the way. For example, on a recent road trip from Edinburgh to Inverness, I had vague plans to stop at Pitlochry for a quick break and then at Aviemore for lunch, all going well with Baby B falling asleep. And it worked!
Use window shades
They’re not perfect by any means, but window shades can definitely help to keep the sun off baby and out of their eyes.
Have a good toy stash including books
Bring a variety of different toys. It can be a good idea to stash some favourite toys away in advance of the trip so that they’re new again when you’re on the road! Baby B always seems to be distracted by books for a longer time than general toys, so we always have a few with us. On our North East 250 road trip in Scotland, I ended up reading him Hairy Maclary over and over as it was the only thing that would keep him calm!
Travelling with a baby is really rewarding for a variety of reasons. You’ll make amazing memories as a family and your baby will learn and grow with new experiences. If you’re planning a road trip with a baby it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Just remember you’ll get there in the end, even if it takes much longer than you thought!!
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