If you are pregnant with your first child or planning to become pregnant, do yourself a favor and plan a road trip for when your baby is between four and six months old. If this idea seems crazy now, it is going to seem even more ludicrous in the weeks following your child’s birth. But trust me, it’s going to be great.
Around the four-month mark, you will be just reaching the top of that dark pit you fell in after the baby was born. You’ve likely settled into a routine by now. Your baby has developed some neck control, giving you one of your arms back. There’s some semblance of an eating routine, which makes baby a little more predictable.
Meanwhile, your baby still sleeps a lot during the day, can’t really crawl yet, finds new environments very stimulating and – if you are breastfeeding – requires no more sustenance than what your body provides.
Aim for a trip that isn’t too far away and allow yourself ALL the breaks and extra time. Wondering where to go? Check out our weekend road trip guides for the Mid-Atlantic, West Coast, New England, and Midwest.
Like I said before, a trip like this is going to be horrific at times. But keep reading for a few of my favorite survival tips and you won’t regret a trip like this!
1. Drive when the baby naps
Four- to five-month-old babies usually nap in 90-minute increments, two or three times per day. This means that, with proper planning, you can cover over approximately 300 miles a day while your little one is peacefully quiet in the back seat. Fingers crossed. This works best if you have an already established nap schedule you can work around.
2. Wear your baby
Wear your baby in whatever carrier is most comfortable to you. In many situations, wearing your baby allows you to move around easier than using a stroller and babies at this age still love being snuggled close to you which might induce a bonus nap along the way.
3. Pack a little as possible
This is really advice for the adults. You won’t be doing as much, so you won’t need a much. For me, I compiled a five-piece capsule wardrobe – a collection of a few essential items of clothing that can be mixed and matched to form several different outfits – that got me through a variety of weather conditions. For the baby, we packed a handful of outfits, a water-tight clothing bag (for inevitable blowouts), and we did laundry often at the hotel laundry rooms.
Our Ultimate Road Trip Capsule Wardrobe for Mom
4. This goes for toys too
I admit, we panicked and packed way too many toys for our son. But instead of playing with them, he preferred paper bowls from the hotel breakfast buffet, plastic cups, and empty water bottles. Everything is a toy at this age, and a new environment is ultimately the best entertainment. Pick just a few favorites, including your child’s comfort object for bed-time consistency.
5. But do pack a baby monitor
If your baby goes to bed early, you may want to escape to the hallway outside your room or, if you have a travel companion, to the room next door. A video monitor allows you to keep an eye on your sleeping baby while you have some personal time. But, of course, never go farther than the room next door, for obvious reasons.
6. And a white noise machine
Hotels are full of unexpected noises: air conditioners going on and off, slamming doors, loud televisions, drunk guests. A nice white noise machine can hide most of these disruptions. We like the Cloud B Sleep Sheep because it’s also a plush toy. Especially if you use one of these at home, consider bringing one with you.
7. Maintain your sleep arrangements
Don’t make your trip a time to change or try something new when it comes to sleep. If you co-sleep, keep at it. If your baby sleeps on their own, consider bringing a Pack ‘n Play or check to see if your hotels or the Airbnb offers one. Of course, exceptions happen, and flexibility is important. Our trip was the first time we co-slept but certainly not the last.
8. Keep a bedtime routine
We are strong believers in the bed-time routine; it has always helped our son transition to sleepy time and sleep well. Most bed-time routines can happen on the road — a bath, a story, and a swaddle or sleep sack. We also packed his crib sheet for use on the Pack ‘n Play for extra consistency.
9. Dine in the in-between times
For restaurants that do not close between lunch and dinner, this is an ideal time to have a proper adult meal while also having your baby with you. We had some of our best and most enjoyable meals around 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Restaurants are mostly empty at this time, so the staff is attentive, and any other restaurant guests are usually patient if your baby is noisy or fussy. Plus, if you stick around long enough you might be able to order your last drink off the happy hour menu.
10. Prepare for your feeding situation
No matter how you choose to feed your child, it’s important to be prepared. You may be breastfeeding and come across a situation where you need to give your baby a bottle or need to get a quick pumping session in. A hand pump takes up less space, is more discrete, and is easier to clean than an electronic pump. Plus, it requires no charging. If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, make sure to pack distilled water, a travel bottle washing kit, and lots of extra formula and bottles.
11. Also, bring a corkscrew
Many hotels don’t have them. Just saying.
12. Become a hotel club member
Hotels are obviously not always the cheapest option. However, many budget hotels, like Best Western, are quite nice, have amenities like laundry or gyms, and offer generous rewards programs. If you are loyal to a hotel chain and play your cards right, you could earn free stays by the end of your trip.
13. Rent a car and fly home
Unless your route is a truly interesting loop, you’re just covering the same territory on the way back as you did on the way there. I found it much less daunting knowing that, once we reached our destination, we were just a short flight home. Plus, it was our son’s first flight and he got those little wings and met the pilot. Cuuute!
14. Enjoy the journey
Yes, the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “It’s the not the destination, it’s the journey,” is somewhat cliché. But think of this quote anytime feelings of disappointment or frustration come up during your trip. If you miss a tourist destination, forgo a well-rated restaurant, or skip a photo op, think about the one-on-one time you’re having with your partner, the milestones your baby is reaching, or that thing that was maddening yesterday but is funny today. You’ll have plenty of happy memories coming out of this trip, even if it looks different than you imagined.
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