So, you’re getting ready for your first trip out of town with your new baby, how exciting! It may feel a little nerve-wracking as you prepare for your baby’s first road trip, but traveling as a parent doesn’t have to be stressful. As long as you plan ahead and pack all the essential items, you’re sure to have a blast on the road as a family! Here are some tips to help you prepare.
Check your car seat before hitting the road
It’s always a good idea to make sure your car seat is properly installed and comfortable for your baby. If you’re not entirely sure that your car seat is installed correctly, you can have a car seat technician come to your home and check it for you. Once you strap your baby into the car seat, make sure the straps are snug but not constricting. If your car seat has a chest strap, make sure it is in line with your baby’s armpits. Always double check that nothing is pressing on your baby's neck and be sure to remove any bulky clothing such as thick coats. For younger babies who haven’t developed their neck muscles yet, make sure their head is properly supported.
Pack the essential items
The most important step to take to get ready for your baby’s first road trip is making sure that you have all of the essential baby items packed and ready to go. Below, we’ve listed some of the necessities that you won’t want to leave home without.
Diapers, wipes, and a changing pad
Obviously, diapers are a necessity. To save space in your car, we recommend only packing what you’ll need for the drive itself and just buying a box of diapers once you get to your destination. You’ll also want to prepare with a changing pad so you can change your baby's diaper on the go and plastic bags for dirty diapers if you aren’t able to find a nearby trash bin. Extra wipes will come in handy to help clean up any spills or spit up.
Whether your baby is breastfed or formula fed, you’ll definitely want to have some bottles on hand. It may be wise to bring a portable breast pump and cooler with an ice pack if you’re currently breastfeeding because this can make nursing on the road easier. Rather than having to stop to take your baby out of the carseat and breastfeed, you can simply pump and give them a bottle while driving. Also, if they sleep through one of their usual feedings, you can pump on the road and store the milk in your cooler until your baby wakes up.
Sippy cup or water cup
If your child is over the age of 6 months, they may like to drink some water. Bring a sippy cup for them if this is the case. This will be a great item to have not only while on the road but also once you reach your destination, since there likely won’t be any baby-friendly cups at your hotel.
Toys and comfort items
Bring along some toys to keep your baby busy such as their favorite rattles and stuffed animals. Being in an unfamiliar location and in the car for a long time may cause some stress for your baby so, bringing comfort items such as blankets, pacifiers, or their favorite toys, can help them feel more at home.
Be prepared to climb in the back
Your baby will likely fall asleep shortly after you start driving, but there’s always the chance that they will wake up and get fussy at some point, especially if you’re going to be on the road for a long time. It may be a smart idea for one parent to ride in the back with the baby so there is someone there to comfort them if they get upset.
Plan around nap times
If you’re only going to be driving for an hour or so, you should try to plan your drive around the time when your baby would usually nap, so as not to disrupt their typical nap schedule. If you leave way earlier than their typical nap time, this may throw them off later in the day. If you let them nap before getting on the road, they may be awake the whole drive or sleep too much then be awake all night. Some babies don’t mind being awake in their car seat but the longer they are awake the more likely they are to start fussing so it’s better to plan for some stretch of napping while on the road.
Try not to rush
You’ll likely have to make more stops than you typically would before you became a parent. Give yourselves plenty of time to get to your destination and try not to rush. Remind yourself that it will probably take longer than expected to get to your destination. The less expectations you set, the more you will enjoy the road trip.
- When your baby is awake, you’ll want to make stops every one to three hours in order to change their diaper and give them a break from the car seat.
- Utilize navigation apps such as Google Maps and Waze to find the fastest route to your destination and potentially avoid traffic jams and accidents.
- Try to keep your car organized. Baby items tend to take up a lot of space and you don’t want to be fumbling around looking for important items. Some parents use a back of the seat organizer to keep everything in order.
- Make sure important items (such as diapers and wipes) are easily accessible and within reach.
- If your baby starts to get fussy while on the road, try playing some calming music for them to listen to.
- Bring plenty of snacks for yourself and your baby. Although you’ll want to stop frequently, you can avoid any additional unnecessary stops if you have plenty of snacks and drinks in the car.
- A car seat mirror is an easy accessory to add to your vehicle that will make it easy for you to glance back and check on your baby while you’re sitting up front.