While this season certainly looks different than past years, you and your family can still indulge in a little summertime fun in a safe way by embarking on a road trip just a few hours from home. With a little planning and preparation (OK, maybe a lot of planning and preparation), to make sure you stay safe and things run smoothly while traveling with a baby, a road trip can be a great way to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and take a getaway filled with special family memories.
Aim for a trip that isn’t too far away, allow yourself ALL the breaks and extra time, make sure to wear a mask and maintain social distancing to keep yourself and your family safe, and follow the 12 road trip survival tips below!
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
When you aren’t driving, 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 as 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 when we could during the trip.
4. Ease up on the toys, too
I admit, we panicked and packed way too many toys for our son. But instead of playing with them, he preferred 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, a video monitor allows you to keep an eye on your sleeping baby while you have some personal time to unwind.
6. And a white noise machine
Sleeping at a new place can come with unexpected noises and a nice white noise machine can hide most of these disruptions. We like the Yogasleep Hushh Sound Machine because it’s portable. 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 travel crib or check to see if your hotel or Airbnb offers one. Of course, exceptions happen, and flexibility is important. Our trip was the first time we co-slept and certainly not the last.
8. Keep a bedtime routine
We are strong believers in the bedtime routine; it has always helped our son transition to sleepy time and sleep well. Most bedtime routines can happen on the road—a bath, a story, and a swaddle or sleep sack. We also packed his crib sheet for use in the travel crib for extra consistency.
9. Dine during 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 3pm in the afternoon. Restaurants are mostly empty (which means no wait for the coveted outdoor seating at this time) around then, 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—even better, you might be able to take it to-go along with your takeout.
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 or Airbnbs don’t have them. Just saying.
12. 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.
Read More: 10 Helpful Pumping Hacks for Road Trips