No one really likes long car trips. Add an infant to the mix, and it can really be stressful! My in-laws are a five- or six-hour drive from us. We’ve made the trek with Baby several times already, and while I am certainly not an expert on infant travel, I have found some tricks that make our trip go a little smoother. I put together the following list, hoping it might help some new parents out there!
- If possible, plan to start your trip at naptime. That way, Baby can sleep for at least the first leg of your journey. If you wait to start your travel right after naptime, you will be dealing with a wide awake and easily bored (read: fussy) baby for hours. I can tell you this from experience!
- If Baby is sleeping, don’t stop! We have found that our son will sleep for about half of our trip if we don’t stop. So we fuel up before leaving, and limit our fluids so we can drive for as long as Baby allows.
- Change that diaper every two hours max! I know this might seem at odds with my last point, but it’s not something to ignore. Sometimes we can push it to two and a half hours if he’s sleeping, but much more and we’ll end up with a wet car seat. Figure on one diaper for every hour of travel, plus a few extra just in case.
- Have someone sit in the backseat with Baby. Once Baby wakes up from his nap, and is clean and dry, I usually move to the backseat with him. That way, I can take care of many of his needs without us having to keep stopping. I fish toys from between the car seat and the door, give him water or food, make sure he’s not too hot or cold, play peek-a-boo, etc.
- Use removable sun screens for the side windows.* No one wants to have the sun in his eyes for six hours straight. And your little one’s eyes are more sensitive to sunlight than yours are. I bought some for about five dollars each, and they work great!
- If you’re breastfeeding, pack enough water to keep yourself well hydrated and extra snacks if you need. You’ll need a cover and a receiving blanket for pit-stop feedings — Baby should never be out of his car seat while the car is moving!
- If you’re bottle feeding, bring enough formula and bottles to get to your destination or to where you can clean and sanitize everything. If you premix formula, make sure to keep it cold with ice in a cooler until you’re ready to use it.
- Pack at least one change of clothes — for Baby and for you. If your baby is older than about two hours, you know why!
- Bring a few gallon-sized zipper bags. These are great for temporarily storing messy items like dirty diapers or clothing, and bibs.
- Don’t forget a pacifier if your baby uses one. This can help equalize the pressure in his ears if you’re changing elevation, or just soothe him if he’s getting tired or cranky.
- Remove Baby’s coat once in the car so he doesn’t overheat, and so the car seat buckle fits properly.
- Pack smart! New parents tend to over-pack. The first car trip we took with our son, I think we brought his entire nursery with us! Since then, we have pared down what we pack. My in-laws have many necessities they don’t mind us borrowing, and we can always buy most things there if we run out or forget. See my recommended packing list here!
What tips do you have to make traveling with an infant less stressful?
*disclaimer: make sure sun shades are legal in your state.