Your first road trip with baby can seem like a whole world of unknowns, open roads, and potential for trip tantrums. But traveling with your little one(s) is a great way to connect, teach, and learn with them—and it’s not as intimidating as you might think! Follow these tips for a successful first road trip with baby and you’ll be ready for Lewis and Clark level adventures in no time.
Use the links below to jump ahead, or read end to end for a comprehensive guide to road tripping with your baby!
Besides getting to share special memories and sights with the family, taking a road trip with your infant can translate to many important benefits that shape your child’s development and personality.
Here are just a few of the benefits of traveling with young children:
Alright, now that you’re ready to take a road trip with baby and the rest of the family, let’s dive into some tips and tricks to ensure you have a safe, successful, and fun trip!
There’s not a set guideline on when your baby can travel by car—you probably drove home from the hospital, afterall. Just keep in mind that your baby’s immune system is still developing, so not overdoing it is important to keeping baby healthy and happy! Keep your parental instincts at heart and check in with your baby throughout the trip to ensure they’re getting adequate rest, food, movement, etc.
As parents, our most important job in the world is to protect our little ones—and that starts with picking the right car seat depending on their age and size. The CDC recommends following these guidelines to help you choose the right car seat for your child—whether you’re on a road trip with your newborn, or just driving a few blocks to the grocery store.
Before purchasing any car seat, you should check the manufacturer’s car seat safety for newborns guide to ensure baby meets the specific weight and height requirements—and to make sure the car seat is installed properly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their list of unsafe sleeping practices to include sleeping in car seats for a prolonged period of time. This update is due to the inclined position when baby is secured into their car seat. When baby is tilted slightly upright, their neck tends to crane forward which can apply pressure to their chest and cause difficulty breathing. That said, it is okay for baby to doze off for awhile as long as the car is still moving (this promotes breathing), but parents should limit car seat sleep to under about 90 minutes. So what can baby sleep in when traveling? Baby should be moved to a firm, flat sleeping surface like a travel crib as soon as the vehicle is stopped.
Road Trip ProTip: Always make sure to get your vehicle inspected before heading out on a road trip—with or without your little one! This can help you address easily avoidable vehicle maintenance issues. Play it safe and consider getting roadside assistance insurance if you don’t already have it.
Many people experience symptoms of car sickness, including infants and kids. If you’ve ever dealt with car sickness, you know the side effects are not fun—upset stomach, loss of appetite, vomiting, etc. But when you’re in a tiny little body and don’t have the words to express your feelings, it can be even more frustrating and scary.
Here are some ways you can prevent infant car sickness when taking baby on a road trip:
If you don’t know if your baby is prone to car sickness, take some practice car trips to help them adjust before you leave for your vacation. This will also help you figure out what car sickness remedies baby responds to, so you’re ready with the right tools and tricks!
Breastfeeding your baby on a road trip can seem daunting at first. But according to the CDC, maintaining baby’s breastfeeding routine while traveling not only provides them with ideal nutrients and hydration, but it can also be a huge source of comfort for your little one. The CDC recommends taking frequent breaks to express milk and feed your baby while traveling. In addition, you should keep an abundant supply on hand—check with your lodging accommodations to request a refrigerator if you need. Freshly expressed breastmilk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag for up to 24 hours and then should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Packing the car for a road trip can be overwhelming as it is, but when you’re prepping to road trip with baby, there’s so much more to think about! From car insurance and your driver’s license, to car-friendly baby foods and games, it’s a lot to keep track of. Our strategy? Start making a list of items you’ll need for your trip about two weeks ahead of your trip, or use our handy road trip with baby checklist—then, start gathering everything you need about a week ahead of time. This gives you time to gather your thoughts, get anything you need, and organize your bags so you’re ready to roll by the time your departure day arrives!
Use this checklist as a guide to help you get stuff organized, but consider your day-to-day needs to ensure you have everything you need like prescriptions, travel itineraries, etc.
Keeping your little one entertained can be challenging—whether or not you’re on a road trip! Here are a few tips for how you can keep baby entertained in the car:
So you’ve been collecting everything you need to take on your journey for days, and you’re ready to pack up the car and just GO! But before you open up that trunk and start shoveling in suitcases and snacks — take a moment — and think. If you’re taking a long road trip with baby, you’ll want to pack a little more strategically to avoid having to stretch across the back seat to reach for toys, or feel like you’re constantly pulling over for snacks and other items.
Make sure to have important essentials on hand and readily available when you need them. Not only will this save on time, but it’ll also likely save you a tantrum or two—which is truly the key to a successful road trip.
Keep these items in reach and at the ready on road trips with baby:
Whether you’re taking a long road trip with baby, or just a few hour drive to your destination, it’s a good idea to have somewhat of an itinerary in line. Besides planning out your lodging and timeline, you may also want to look into where rest stops are along the way—especially if your route is a little bit more on the desolate side of things.
Take note of fun breaks and sights to see on your way to avoid restlessness, take a breath of fresh air, and stretch your legs.
The beauty of road trips is that you get to design your own path: take your time, stop and take in the view, or experience a local dive as you’re passing through small towns and cities. While planning out your trip is a good idea, we say use it more as a guideline than a rule book. You never know when a quick stop could end up being one of your most memorable moments! So even if you’re taking a road trip with your toddler or newborn, feel free to make a little time to be adventurous.
You and your family will cherish these memories forever, so be sure to have your camera at the ready to take advantage of those picture perfect moments along the way. Use a cloud based storage system to upload and save your photos throughout your trip, so you never run out of photo storage! Making your summer road trip an annual tradition? Craft a scrapbook for each year so you can reflect on your memories as your family grows together.
As a parent, you know that the moment you bring your kids into the world, they become your top priority. No matter what time of day it is, what they need, or how tired you are, you’ll always make sure their needs are taken care of. But balance is the key to good parenting— and great vacations! Make sure to work in some time to relax on your road trip in between all of the tourist attractions and long journeys to your next destination. Ask your partner to step in and take turns caring for the kids while you take some much needed “me time.”
There’s something about the comfort of a routine that we tend to miss while trips away from home—and the same thing is true for babies (especially when it comes to sleep)! Moving through time and space on a road trip can be disorienting for all of us, so it’s a good idea to incorporate some elements of baby’s standard sleep routine to keep them from feeling overwhelmed and fussy.
Here are a few tips to help you maintain baby’s sleep routine on your trip:
It’s always best to travel with your partner or a friend on your first road trip with baby, rather than go it alone. Kids can be a lot to handle at any age—not to mention when you’ve got an itinerary to manage, details to coordinate, and items to pack! A helping hand to take the driver’s seat or keep the kids entertained can be a huge relief.
You’ve made it through your first road trip with baby, with only a few minor bouts of fuss in between. You’re homeward bound and your vacation feels like it’s practically over, except that you still have a few hundred miles to drive before you call it a first road trip success.
When you’re tired and missing home, it’s easy to rush the whole way back to make it home and recover from your vacation. But keep in mind, the drive home is just as much a part of your trip as the way there. Be gentle to yourself on the way back and make sure you don’t overdo it—take things slow, get rest, and treat yourself to some vacation fun, too! This way, you won’t end your trip on a stressful note—you’ll just have great moments and memories to share and reflect on your first road trip with baby.
Here are some ways for parents to take it easy on the route home—and avoid the post trip blues:
Road Trip ProTip: While you’re making your way home, try and do a recap of your road trip and take note of what you wish you would have done, or things you wish you’d packed on your trip. Parenting is a learning experience for all of us, and the more practice we have, the better we get!
Road tripping with baby for the first time can feel like an overwhelming step in parenthood—but the memories and moments you’ll share will be those you’ll cherish forever. Follow these tips as you get ready to pack your bags and explore.