Effortless Road Trips with your Infant

Who says maternity leave is just for staying home? Certainly not us! It’s time to hit the road with your infant in tow. My husband and I eagerly embraced the opportunity to travel with our newborn while relishing our time away from work and enjoying our growing family. Born in early summer, our daughter had already traversed eight states by the time we resumed our work routines. Prior to becoming parents, exploration was a shared passion between us, and we’re determined to impart that same sense of wanderlust to our daughter from a tender age. Our goal is to nurture her curiosity for new sights, sounds, and flavors, cultivating a love for experiencing different cultures and cuisines. While her adventures have been confined to domestic travel thus far, her passport is already in the works. In this post, I’ve compiled planning and packing tips to ensure that road trips with your infant—defined here as a baby under six months old—are not only effortless but also immensely gratifying.

Dry Runs are Encouraged

Practicing dry runs before embarking on a road trip with your infant is not only encouraged but can also be an enjoyable way to prepare for the journey ahead. Our ambitious plan was to travel from Northern Illinois to Southern Florida—a daunting 21-hour drive that presented unique challenges, especially considering it had been a good 20 years since either of us had tackled such a lengthy road trip. Moreover, with the addition of our infant and our furry companion; dynamics had significantly changed.

To mitigate potential hiccups, we conducted two test trips to acclimate ourselves to the intricacies of traveling with an infant and our dog. The first excursion was a 90-minute trip to visit my husband’s family and back, which served as a promising trial run. After that successful trip, we ventured further south on our second test trip—a five-hour drive from our home. Arriving at our destination, we explored local sites before retiring at a hotel for the night, returning home the following day.

During these trial runs, I had the opportunity to determine the most comfortable method for pumping on the road, ensuring safe and temperature-controlled milk storage, and preparing the next bottle efficiently. Additionally, we gleaned valuable insights into our packing strategy, realizing that our initial attempt at adopting a minimalist mindset left ample room for improvement. These dry runs proved invaluable, equipping us with the foresight and practical know-how necessary for a smooth and stress-free road trip with our infant.

Now, it is always recommended to seek guidance from your pediatrician before taking any trips with your infant.

Plan in advance

Road trip with your infant

When planning ahead, it is key to plan certain items but essential to avoid a plan in other areas. I’ll explain.

Plan your overnight stops

If your trip requires a two-day + drive, plan for the hotels in advance. Not all hotels will have a crib/pack and play available. After making your reservation, call the hotel and verify they have the note in your reservation and verify they have a crib/pack and play available. While you might bring a pack and play with you anyway, it is a hassle to bring it into the hotel for one night. Bring as little as possible into the hotel.

Do not plan your gas/meal stops.

Stops will be frequent and cannot always be planned in advance. You will need to stop whenever your baby needs to eat, stretch, or a fresh diaper. You might be lucky and this could be every three hours, or you might end up stopping sooner than that. I strongly encourage you to not go longer than three hours per leg.

Packing for your Road Trip with your Infant

road trip with your infant

Much of what you pack will depend on what is available at your final destination. When traveling with an infant, if your destination will be a regular occurrence, perhaps a family cabin that you plan on visiting several times over the next year, then you will pack differently versus a once or limited-time location. Your packing strategy will also vary based on: washer/dryer availability, stores around you, and the needs of your infant.

Multiple visit destination

Get on the Facebook marketplace! Purchase necessities such as a pack and play, bouncer, bathtub, high chair at a discounted price and keep them at the destination. If you purchase before you leave your home, clean everything thoroughly before your trip. If you are arriving at your destination earlier in the day, then I encourage you to search the Facebook marketplace in the destination location and arrange pick-ups for the day you arrive. Just make sure you allow time to clean everything before your child starts using it.

Other items you bring and leave at the multiple visit destination:

  • Shampoo and body wash
  • Baby towels and washcloths
  • Baby safe laundry detergent
  • Dish soap and bottle cleaning supplies
  • Bibs and burb cloths
Packing for a hotel stay en route

If your destination requires a hotel stay en route, minimal packing is key. I strongly recommend taking one bag and the diaper bag in the room. The single bag will have toiletries, pajamas, and a change of clothes for everyone in the family. The diaper bag will have extra diapers, bottles, formula, dish soap (if needed). The less you bring into the hotel, the quicker your morning getaway will be. Also, do your best to avoid bath night while at the hotel.

Items to buy at the destination

Diapers can take up significant space, especially if you are planning on spending a week or more at your destination. After your arrival, pick up items such as diapers, formula, baby food, and wipes.

Expert level move: Schedule an Amazon delivery on the day you arrive or trigger an Instacart order.

Expectations when taking a road trip with your Infant

Your main purpose is no longer you exploring, rather an opportunity for everyone in your family to enjoy and explore together. While you might have big dreams for your road trip with your infant; make sure to keep your expectations within reason.

  1. Your road trip will take longer. Budget a 30 minute stop every 2.5-3 hours. Splurge and take a longer stop once, grab a picnic, lay out a thick blanket and allow your infant to stretch and enjoy the fresh air.
  2. Be prepared to climb in the backseat. If you have another child in the back, they might be able to help, but if not, do stretches to prepare your hamstrings for the backseat crawl.
  3. Do not over commit to a schedule. I recommend only planning one outing a day. In my experience, scheduling too many activities overstimulated our infant, which typically made the second outing miserable for all involved.
  4. Make sure your baby is still following a somewhat normal routine.
  5. Anticipate any temperature changes. Come prepared with a fan and hat for warmer weather and a blanket with warm clothes for colder weather.

Explore my blog post on Buying New versus Used for your baby!

Thank you for reading! Please post your road trip tips with an infant in the comments.

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