Road trips can be tough for little ones. Snacks and distracting toys or activities are the trick to surviving road trips with older kiddos, but infants are a different ball game. Specifically for 0-3 month olds-the age where they’re not old enough to be distracted by activities, screen time, or even toys, really. They’re still getting the hang of schedules and exclusively on breast milk or formula.
One major risk in road tripping with a baby this young is that they will sleep the whole time and get their days/nights mixed up.
there are a couple different approaches to combat this:
drive at night-
we didn’t personally do this on our trip, but some close friends of ours have done it when their baby was young and it worked really well for them! I’m sure they were exhausted from driving all night, but at least baby slept most of the way and didn’t get off his schedule!
Stop often for nursing and time out of the car seat.
This is the plan we went with for our 10 hour drive. in total it added about an hour and a half to our road trip, but we anticipated the delays and used them wisely (read: we stopped often for starbucks). For the drive, we did our best to keep with our regular eat-wake-sleep routine. Here’s what it looked like for us:
- early morning- 6:30am nurse baby and begin trip
- mid morning- 9:30am (short stop) nurse/diaper change/let baby out of car seat & coffee break for us
- lunch- 12:00pm (long stop) nurse/diaper change/let baby out of car seat & lunch for us
- mid afternoon- 3:00pm (short stop) nurse/diaper change/let baby out of car seat & coffee break for us
- arrive at destination–(6:00pm) nurse/diaper change/cuddles while hubby unloads the car 😉
With this method she perhaps still napped more than in a typical day, but by waking her every three hours or so, it kept her on our general schedule. The frequent chances to be out of her car seat kept her from getting too fussy. We noticed that she wanted a lot of cuddle time when we got to our destination (i think i needed the cuddles too) because she didn’t get as much contact during the day other than nursing, so be prepared for that potential. That evening she went to bed a little later than usual, but it didn’t change her sleep schedule at all!
The other major risk is fussiness
I hate to say it, but this might be unavoidable, especially if your baby doesn’t like the car seat. But there are a few ways to help make things easier on you:
Be prepared- load up on supplies
- burp cloths
- 2 extra pairs of clothes (comfortable and easy to change!),
- blankets (i used these to block the sun from her face when the sun shade wasn’t enough)
- extra pacifiers
- gripe water/gas drops
- boppy pillow
- nursing cover
- paper towels/disinfectant wipes
- trash bags
- infant toys (rattle, sensory blankie, book)
Then, organize it- get some good totes and bins that will keep your backseat less cluttered and chaotic. I didn’t and I was constantly loosing things in the car! Having everything you might need readily available, especially when baby is fussing helps lower your stress when you are trying to calm them down.
Sit in the back with baby
If you’re with someone, have whoever isn’t driving sit in the back. That way if a pacifier falls out or if they get fussy, it’s easy to tend to baby without having to pull over. Try playing some music or singing songs, reading a book, or shaking a rattle. Again, if they are newborns, they might not be interested in the toys but they will like to see your face and hear the sound of your voice. Sometimes gently rocking the car seat a bit (still in the dock) does the trick.
The trick for road trips with an infant is to plan for delays, periods of crying, and moments of frustration. Don’t set your expectations for a “perfect” trip, but rather try to enjoy the peaceful moments, and support each other in the hard ones.
Before your road trip, be sure to check out this summer vacation packing list. Let me know in the comments if you’d like an updated vacation packing list to include baby!