Who says maternity leave is for saying home? Not us, it is time to road trip with your infant! My husband and I decided to tackle traveling with an infant while we both enjoyed time away from work and enjoying our expanded family. Our daughter was born in early summer and by the time we both went back to work, our daughter had visited eight states. Prior to having children, my husband and I enjoyed exploring and that is something we are hoping to instill in our daughter at a young age. We want her to crave seeing new things, experiencing different cultures, and tasting the unique foods of the region. Now while she has only traveled domestically at this point; her passport has been ordered.
I’ve captured planning and packing recommendations in this post to make road trips with your infant effortless and enjoyable! For this post, an infant would refer to a baby under six months old.
Dry Runs are Encouraged
Dry runs are encouraged and are a fun way to prepare for a road trip with your infant. Our goal was to travel from Northern Illinois to Southern Florida. This is about a 21-hour drive. First of all, it had been a good 20 years since either of us had done a road trip that far. Second, it was no longer just the two of us. We did two test trips to increase of coincidence of traveling with an infant and our dog. The first trip was 90 minutes to visit my husband’s family and then back. It went well. The second trip was five hours south of our home. We drove down one day, visited a few sites at our destination, stayed at a hotel, and returned home the following day.
On those test trips, I was able to figure out the most comfortable way to pump on the road, store the milk, and get the next bottle ready. We also learned that while we thought we had packed with a minimalist mindset, there was definitely room to improve.
Now, it is always recommended to seek guidance from your pediatrician before taking any trips with your infant.
Plan in advance
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. We will dive into this more later.
Do not plan your gas/meal stops.
You will need to stop whenever your baby needs to eat, stretch, or have a diaper change. 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
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
- Dishsoap 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not over committ 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.
- Make sure your baby is still following a somewhat normal routine.
- 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.