So, you are headed on a road trip with your infant?
The first road trip with a newborn can be an overwhelming thing to wrap your mind around. While I am sure you are very much looking forward to your trip, you can’t help but think about the challenge that many hours in a car with an infant will be.
Many babies have learned to hate the car seat which can pose an extra challenge to a family getaway. Our daughter even has a special move where she arches her back and pushes up with her heals the moment we sit her in the seat making it quite difficult to even buckle her. With a little extra planning you can help make the long car ride as comfortable and easy as possible both you and baby.
These are my NINE tips to a successful first road trip with baby!
1. The Big Car Seat Switch
Your baby may currently be in an infant car seat which you can take in and out of the car. It is super convenient for home but isn’t necessairly the biggest and most comfortable option for a long trip. If you already happen to have the next size convertible car seat waiting for baby to need it you can make use of it. Pull out the car seat out and use it for the trip!
Many of the larger convertible seats are designed to fit children from 5 pounds all the way up to 65 pounds where most infant car seat only accommodate a child up to 35 pounds. The larger seat has much more space for baby to stretch and play while on the long trip! Bonus: If you have room in your car you can pack the infant car seat for use while on vacation so baby can be easily transported in and out of restaurants, shopping, etc without being disturbed.
2. Comfy Cozy
Comfort is KEY to try and keep baby as happy as possible. In addition to using the larger car seat, put baby in comfy pajamas for the drive. Anything with thick seams, buttons, zippers, extra snaps or extra warm could cause baby discomfort. It is also super easy to change baby’s diaper with a sleeper on which will make for faster changes at rest stops. You can even purchase an infant neck support pillow to help when baby does hopefully fall asleep. You may notice that your infant’s head falls forward when he or she falls asleep in the car seat. An infant neck pillow will keep it from flopping and hopefully helps baby sleep more soundly.
Tip: If you don’t have an infant neck pillow, a rolled up swaddling blanket on each side of baby works well too!
3. Timing Is Everything
Say goodbye to your previous road trip tips and tricks. Road trips with kids are a whole new ball game! Adjust your driving time to suit both you and the baby to ensure the smoothest drive. Maybe you leave after baby wakes up for his or her 4am feeding or leave the night before and drive overnight while baby sleeps. If possible, plan your trip around what work’s best for baby’s schedule because if baby is happy you will be happy! You may even find that those naps last longer in the car with the soothing vibrations of the car keeping baby cozy.
4. ENTERTAIN Me
A 4-8 month old baby is truly at the ‘entertain me’ stage! Purchase a cheap basket to have all of baby’s toys and books in an easy to access place in the car. A backpack or bag would work as well, however it is much easier to see what you have and throw toys back in a basket when stopping for breaks. In many cars the basket can fit on the floor under your baby carseat so it doesn’t take up a ton of space! Fill the basket a couple weeks before the trip so items will feel like new and different things when baby sees them again in the car.
Another awesome tip is to use a car mirror on the back of the seat so baby can see and talk while looking in the mirror. A sure way to keep baby happy is to have mom or dad sit in the back seat during awake times so you can hand toys and read books if needed. As silly as it sounds, sometimes just seeing mom or dad will calm baby Nothing like climbing over the center console on a quick shift to jump in the back seat!
5. A Clean Car Is A Happy Car
Any neat freaks out there…raise your hand! Many people get a great amount of comfort and excitement over organization and clean spaces. This does not mean that your house, life or car are always organized and clean…but this is so nice on a road trip! Prior to your trip pull out your vacuum, Windex and Dawn soap to make your little travel mobile as clean as possible. There is something about vacuumed floor mats and spot free windows that make for a good start to any trip. Having a clean car will also make it easy to change baby on the floor or seat during a rest stop and not have to take him or her into a yucky gas station restroom that may or may not have a baby changer.
6. Be Familiar
Make sure you have some familiar comfort items for baby. This will definitely be a different day compared to what he or she is used to. Pack blankets, pacifiers, favorite toys and stuffed animals to help baby feel comfortable. and recognize their surroundings. If you play a lot of music at home you can make a few playlists for the car that baby will recognize. You never know what exactly may soothe baby when he or she is upset however familiar sights and sounds are sure to help!
7. Clean UP Kit
You may have the perfect baby who does not spit up or have diaper blow outs. If that is the case let me tell you that I am jealous! At most houses there is lots of spit up and baby has surprise diaper blow outs at the least convenient times. Murphy’s law states that you will have both during a 12 hour road trip. There are a few things you can do to help make these incidents as easy to clean up as possible. Purchase car seat liners to put under baby during your trip.
If baby happens to have a blow out this will keep the poop off your car seat fabric. You can just throw out a disposable liner or zip up a soiled reusable liner in a Ziplock bag for washing later and put a fresh one back in under baby. At home you can throw the seat fabric in the washing machine but don’t have that luxury while on the road. Pack an emergency kit in a small plastic tote.
The KIT will be your best friend on the side of the road or at a rest stop when you are trying to deal with a clean up!
- Additional car seat liners
- Roll of garbage bags
- Extra ziplock bags
- Baby wipes
- Paper towels
- Bottled water
- Lysol wipes
8. Ziploc Bags Are Your BEST Friend
Speaking of Ziploc bags, pack three outfit changes for the car, each in their own gallon Ziplock bag. Make sure you have the outfit, onesie and socks included for that entire outfit. You never know what will be destroyed in a blow out or epic spit up! This way, if you do have to change baby’s outfit you can then replace the soiled outfit with the clean one in the bag. The mess and the smell are zipped away and can be dealt with when you arrive at your destination.
Tip: You can even zip the soiled diaper away in the bags as well so the smell is not lingering in the car. Nothing like a stinky diaper baking in the sun to really enhance your road trip. Another suggestion would be to pack multiple burp rags and whatever your child uses as a comfort item. Additional pacifiers, blankets, lovies, etc will come in handy JUST in case.
9. Roll With The Punches
Go into your trip knowing that the day of driving will not go exactly as you imagine. Even with all of the preparations some things are out of your control. Make sure you know ahead of time that you may stop more frequently so baby can get out and stretch or just snuggle with Mom or Dad. REMEMBER, it will all be worth it to have a great vacation and memories you will have forever!
Have SO much fun on your trip and please come back and tell me what additional tips you may have for making a car trip with an infant go smoothly!