Traveling with a baby is always stressful, but it’s even more so when it’s your first time. It’s hard leaving the comfort of your home with a baby. After all, the key to survival with a newborn is routine. However, with careful planning and a little bit of a luck traveling with a baby can be smooth and enjoyable.
I’ve taken quite a few road trips with my daughter throughout her first year. Some went perfectly and others had so many road bumps I was tempted to turn the car around and go home. I’ve learned quite a few lessons throughout these trips. I’ve also discovered a few traveling hacks to make the trip a bit easier. Today, I am going to share all of my best secrets for traveling with a baby with you. I hope these tips help you feel more confident and prepared for any upcoming trips you may have.
Bring your own portable crib
Many hotels have portable cribs on hand for parents to use free of cost. However, I always recommend bringing your own pack and play. There are a couple of reasons I say this. First, it’s never a guarantee that a hotel will have a portable crib for you to use. They only keep so many on hand and they may already be checked out to other guests. Unfortunately, some hotels do not carry any at all.
Another reason I recommend bringing your own pack and play is for comfort. Babies crave the comfort of their home when they are away. So, it’s best to put them to sleep in a place they are familiar. If you bring your own portable crib it will have the smell of home that they are used to. This will lead to better sleep for your baby and for you.
Be prepared to co-sleep
It’s also important to remember that your baby may refuse to sleep in any portable crib when they are away from home and that’s okay. They are in an environment that is new to them and that can be a bit frightening. Remember, their main source of comfort is you. So, when they are scared they will crave you. This may mean that you need to find a safe way to co-sleep while traveling.
For example, my daughter has slept in her crib from the first night we brought her home. At home, we never co-sleep. However, when we travel the only way she will sleep is in bed with me. We tried for hours one trip to get her to sleep in her own pack and play and it just didn’t work. So, learn from me and save yourself the headache. It’s okay to break away from your typical routine on a trip. When we got back home she slept in her crib again like a champ. So, things will go back to normal for you.
Bring a sound machine
A sound machine is great to use at home, but it is truly a miracle to use when traveling. Let’s face it, hotels aren’t exactly the quietest places. Depending on where you stay you may hear dogs barking, doors shutting, people talking, and more. Unfortunately, it isn’t really socially acceptable to go door to door asking people to be quiet. So, I always recommend packing a high quality sound machine in your suitcase. This will help block out all of that pesky noise and get your baby the good sleep they need.
Sound machines are a must have item for hotel stays. However, they also come in handy during long car drives. So, if you are planning on taking a road trip, this item is definitely for you. A sound machine serves the same purpose in the car as it does anywhere else. It blocks out the noise. There are quite a few excellent sound machines that are portable. You can set them in the backseat next to your child’s carseat during your trip. This will help block out the noise from cars passing by, car horns, sirens, and also from other passengers in the car.
Don’t be afraid to overpack
When it comes to babies you really can’t have too much. A good rule of thumb I like to follow is take what you’d usually use and double it. This applies to clothes, diapers, snacks, milk, etc. It’s always better to have too much and not need it rather than not enough.
Some people prefer to pack only what they need and then buy the rest when they get there. This usually applies to longer stays. The reasoning for this method is that it saves you space in your luggage. However, depending on where you are traveling to these products could be significantly more expensive. For example, resorts or theme parks are going to charge more for snacks than your local Walmart would. Plus, finding a store that carries the product you are looking for (like a specific brand/size of diaper) can sometimes be inconvenient. I find it best to be prepared and plan ahead by bringing your own items.
Plan ahead for your packing list
Raise your hand if you are a procrastinator. I know I am! However, we all know procrastinating really doesn’t work. This is especially true when it comes to parenting. So, do yourself a favor and don’t wait to pack until the last minute. I can almost guarantee you’ll forget something. Unfortunately, that something is usually important. Trust me, one time I forgot the formula.
Instead of packing at the last minute, I recommend starting a week ahead if possible. Spend the first few days making a list of everything you used for your baby that day. As you use it write it down. This will help you remember even the smallest of things. Then, about two days before the trip start packing up the suitcase. This way if there is something you need, but don’t have you have time to run to the store. This timeline allows you to relax and pack in an efficient and organized way.
Ditch the stroller for a baby carrier
It’s very rare that I will pack my stroller for a trip. Even the most compact strollers are a pain to load in and out of the car. Plus, they take up quite a bit of space. When your preparing for a road trip anything you can do to save space is a must. So, take it from me and leave that bulky stroller at home.
Instead of packing a stroller, I highly recommend bringing a baby carrier. This way you still have a convenient and comfortable option for carrying your baby. A baby carrier is a much more compact option for travel. They can easily slip into a suitcase with the rest of your travel items. My go to baby carrier is the Ergobaby OMNI 360 CAM. You can read more about why I love it here.
Have someone ride in the back seat
Whenever it is possible I always recommend having someone ride in the backseat with your baby. This is especially important if it is going to be a long trip. Let’s be honest, rear facing carseats aren’t that exciting. All your baby has to look at is the back of the car. That can get pretty boring fast. So, it’s a great idea to have someone back there to help keep them entertained. They can hand them toys, talk to them, and play.
I know that it isn’t always realistic to have another person ride in the back. There will be occasions where you are traveling alone with your baby. For times like these I recommend bringing along a variety of options to keep your child entertained. I like to create a fun playlist with all of my daughter’s favorite songs to play through the radio. Another good tip is to keep a basket of your child’s favorite toys in the car that you can hand them when they get fussy. Be sure to bring extra because your baby will probably drop a few along the way.
Plan your travel times strategically
An important part of planning your trip is thinking about when you need to leave. Now, this aspect of your trip is very dependent on your child’s personality. Do they love being in the car and immediately fall asleep? If so, I would leave at the start of nap time or bedtime. Are they more likely to stay awake during a trip and play? If that’s the case, I would leave right after a nap to insure they will be in a good mood.
Here’s a quick example for you. My husband and I will need to take a 12 hour road trip in a few months. If we put our daughter in her carseat tired she will fuss for about 10 minutes, but then immediately fall asleep. If we put her in wide awake she will play for a while and then cry the rest of the way. So, based on her personality we decided to leave at the start of bedtime. This way she will sleep the entire drive and wake up when we arrive.
Be prepared to stop
Not only do you need to consider the timing of your trip, but you also need to consider the route you will take. Before you had children, you probably choose your route based upon which way was the quickest. Now that you have children, it’s not quite that simple.
You’ll have to make quite a few pit stops throughout your trip. You’ll need to stop for diaper changes, feedings, and sometimes to just let them get out and play. After all, being in a car for an extended period of time is not only boring, but also a little uncomfortable. I like to look for routes that have plenty of towns along the way. This gives us a lot of options for bathroom breaks. It also will give you a few opportunities to find parks to get out and play at.
One of the first things I do when I arrive at the hotel is start to unpack. This will give you plenty of time to get everything set up similar to the way you have it at home. You don’t want to be faced with a blowout while you struggle to sort through your diaper bag to find everything you need. Give yourself the time to set everything up properly. You’ll be glad you did.
In hotels I like to clear off the desk and set that up as a changing table. I lay out the changing pad and unpack my diapers, wipes, and ointment. I also immediately unpack all of the clothes into the dresser. Then, I go ahead and set up the pack and play next to my bed along with the sound machine. Finally, I rearrange the rest of the furniture to give my daughter a larger space to play.