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Road Trips are terrific options for Family Travel for many reasons, including the fact that you can safely social distance, go at your own pace, and maybe most importantly for families, you can bring plenty of gear with you. Because when you have kids, you accumulate lots of gear!
But new parents may wonder: How do I prepare for a road trip with a baby? Traveling with a baby should be kept as simple as possible. Take the time to think things through before you go, and you’ll be glad you did.
While there’s no need to overcomplicate things, like by packing everything in your house to keep the baby occupied or happy, packing the right things will help make your trip go more smoothly. And that’s going to make it more fun for everyone.
These Baby Road Trip Essentials are a great way to get prepared for a great family vacation. Why stress out over traveling with a baby when there are things that you can put into place from the beginning to help?
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Traveling with a baby can be a super fun experience, and with a little bit of planning, can hopefully be nearly stress-free, too. Keep these in mind as you prep, and your travels with your young baby can be a breeze.
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1. Make it Short
Babies are not hearty travelers – yet – so the first thing to do is plan your drive to include lots of stops along the way. In fact, we suggest making your first few baby road trips into actual baby road trips. Meaning, keep them short.
You may be able to power through an all-day drive, but your baby probably won’t hold up very well strapped into a car seat, so scale back your expectations. At least until your kids are older.
A 2-hour drive is pretty ideal, because if you time it right, your baby may nap the whole way. Or you could break up a 4-hour drive in half, with two 2-hour sections. But going longer than that may be more difficult.
2. More Baby Toys
There’s no downside to packing toys for road trips; they will always come in handy. Pro tip: Keep it simple. Bring their favorites, of course, and always keep a few in reserve, just in case. But five toys should be enough.
If you pack a ton of toys, you may just be asking for an overstimulated (and fussy) baby. You’ll also have to keep track of all of them, because we know the fear of a lost toy is real.
Another pro tip for packing toys is to not give out the toys all at once. Hand your baby one toy at a time, keeping some in reserve, and only swap out for a new one when they really need it.
3. Bring the Big Stroller and Baby Wearing Gear
Because you’ll be able to bring a lot more gear than when you travel by plane, for example, make sure you bring your stroller. Even if you’re heading to a National Park, and planning to hike and wear your baby most of the time, you’ll inevitably want to get a break and use the stroller.
A road trip means you’ll be able to bring your big stroller, not just an umbrella stroller, which is so handy for also carrying the diaper bag and extra snacks when you’re out and about. Check out this Stroller we love on Amazon.
Speaking of baby wearing, be sure to bring a few options with you, so both you and your partner can take turns. If one of you likes to use a front-facing Baby Sling (try this one from Amazon) and the other prefers a Baby Backpack like this one from Amazon, bring them both.
4. Music to Sooth a Savage Baby
Babies respond well to calming music! Since you’re traveling by car, you can program your Bluetooth device ahead of time with a soothing playlist, full of music that your baby loves.
This can be simple jazz, piano, or maybe the latest and greatest Baby Songs as well. Any type of music that they enjoy at home should be what you play on the trip. In fact, it’s probably going to help everyone be calmer.
5. Breastfeeding Supplies and/or Formula Backups
If your baby is nursing, don’t forget to bring along your pump, extra bags and bottles, soothing balm, nursing pads – all of it. Even though you probably won’t pump and store milk, you may need to express if the baby’s off their schedule.
If your baby is on formula, be sure to bring plenty of it, along with bottles, and water to use for mixing.
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6. Snack Time
If your baby has started on solids, you’ll also need to have food on hand for them to eat on the road. Just like you need road trip snacks! However, be careful when packing your baby’s snacks for a road trip; don’t use this as the time to introduce a new food.
Bring snacks that you know your baby likes and that will keep their bellies happy. Stay away from choking hazards. You want to make sure your little one is as safe as can be. As a side note, why not plan to pull over and have a picnic? It’s a money-saver, helps break up the trip, and that way you can all eat your favorite foods.
7. Keep Your Diaper Bag Close
More than likely, you probably packed enough diapers for a year of your baby’s life in the trunk, but here’s a pro tip: make sure that you have an extra diaper bag in the car with you that’s easy to access.
You can keep the rest of the diapers safe and secure in the back of the car but be sure to keep your smaller diaper bag full of a few diapers and wipes in the front with you. That way, when the time comes to change their diaper, it’s a fast and simple process for everyone involved.
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8. Pack All the Medicine
Traveling with a baby who suddenly isn’t feeling well or is battling an earache is horrible for everyone in the car. You may never need to use it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Ditto for any special equipment your baby may need, like a nebulizer.
A small first aid kit is easy to pack and a simple thing to do. Just pack a few medicines that you’ve given the baby in the past when necessary, and why not throw in a few teething ice packs, band aids, and you’ll have a basic kit ready to go. This is a situation when more is more.
9. Extra Clothes For Everyone
Accidents happen, and they always happen at inconvenient times. Having a small changing bag in the front of the car with an extra outfit can be a true sanity saver!
Make sure to keep a plastic baggie that you can put dirty or soiled clothes in as well so that it keeps it away from everything else and holds in the smell and scent. We like to use these Big Bag Ziploc bags; they close securely and hold in liquids as well as odors. Get some on Amazon with our affiliate link.
Here’s another pro tip: Bring a change of clothes for yourself, too. Accidents are rarely confined to the baby alone!
10. Bring a Portable Changing Pad
Even though we’re in the 21st century, there are still places that don’t have an accommodating changing area for your child. For this reason, you need to take a portable changing pad with you to help. (Try the one we picked out on Amazon.)
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just one that you can use as a clean place to change your child’s diapers. If you don’t happen to have one, don’t stress. A clean blanket will work just as well, too.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes changing the diaper doesn’t have to be done in a restroom at all. If the weather is nice and you can pull over and find a nice roadside park, lay the changing pad or the diaper out on the grass to change the diaper – or if you haven’t stuffed the trunk too, too full, you may be able to lay the pad there.
11. More Wipes, Please
You can literally never have too many baby wipes, ever. They’re great for cleaning up diaper messes but also come in super handy for messy hands, spills in the car, and more.
Keeping baby wipes in the middle console of the car or the glove box is a great way to have them be accessible at all times. While you’re at it, stock up on hand sanitizer, and why not pack a bar of soap in a Ziploc bag, too? While many rest stops will have a bathroom you can use, sometimes they’re out of soap, and you’re going to want to be able to wash your hands, especially after a diaper change. We love these Amazon Elements Baby Wipes because they’re a good bargain.
Use these simple tips and gear ideas to make a road trip with your baby as stress-free and fun as possible. You’ve got this, so sit back, set your navigation for adventure, and enjoy the ride.
Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder and Managing Editor of MomsLA.com.
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