The very first trip we took was to visit family over thanksgiving. We packed the car full. The whole trunk was filled with everything and anything we could possibly need. In the end, a tiny little baby barely needed any of the stuff, he just needed me, (boobs really), and a safe place to sleep. But hey, we were super prepared for ANYTHING!
I packed the car to the you could barely see in the rear view mirror, even back seat next to the car seat had stuff, and then I realized that there is NO room for our dog. (The whole reason to buy this SUV was to fit us and the dog when we traveled) So we ended up taking two cars to be able to bring up pup with us, she’s a harlequin great dane, so my little diva takes space.
I certainly don’t consider myself a travel expert. But I am pretty much a packing ninja by now so forgive me if I feel like it gives me the right to give advice to parents traveling with an infant.
Since our baby was born he has been on 7 weekend trips. Each trip I learn something new and get an opportunity to improve on the whole approach to packing, feeding and baby carrying. This is what I learned from our travels, I hope you find it helpful and I hope I remember my own lessons learned and not have to re-live it.
Time the drive during the baby’s nap. If you have to leave at a certain time, keep your baby up for a longer time and do whatever you can to adjust their schedule to nap during the car ride. This worked every time we were driving.
For us, it worked best to leave in the morning at 8:30/9 am, which is when R usually takes his fist nap after waking up.
Feed the baby right before the ride. It’s less likely that they will wake up.
Let the baby fall asleep in the car seat on the drive. I found that our baby slept better and longer if he fell asleep in the car on his own.
Time your own bathroom breaks. I drink SO much water, because of breastfeeding, so I get the bathroom needs. If you need to make a stop, and there is more then one adult in the car, then have them drive the car while you go to the rest area, and then switch. Every time we stop and stay staionaty for longer then 2 minutes, the baby always wakes up.
After doing this drive multiple times, my preferred time to go back home on Sunday is 6-6:30 pm. My baby goes to bed for the night between 7 and 8 pm, so its perfect if his bed time is a tiny bit early this time. During travels he doesn’t sleep much during the day, so it allows him to sleep longer during the night. If he’s asleep by 6:30 or so in the car, everything goes so smoothly! I put him into pjs, feed him, and off we go. When we get home he goes right into the crib and usually sleeps 8-9 hours before waking up for another meal.
The first thing, you have to feed you, the adults. Because you need to function to get to your destination and not loose brain power. It’s actually so important that I’m starting with it, if the adults who are traveling are fed, there is less likely to be a fight, fatigue, dehydration and other issues that parents who are already sleep deprived can experience. So I have to think ahead and pack the car with food I can eat on the go, small meal type that I can grab quickly and eat while nursing my baby. Sandwiches work best, since in the case of hunger and fatigue from running around packing the car, taking care of the baby and putting your own clothes on while at the same time trying to remember to lock the house and the home security password, you will run out of brain power and a protein bar won’t do it. At least it doesn’t fix it for me. Some people prefer shakes, they don’t work for me either.
We all know that the hardest part about finding a place to eat during travel is often picking a cuisine. I find that it helps to look up restaurants ahead of time, before you even start packing for the trip, so when you get to your destination, you know where to go eat and can take care of your baby’s needs faster.
This happened to us. We arrived to the city where my husband was born and lived for at least two decades, where we met and still visit often, and we just sat in the car completely blank coming up with a place to go eat. It’s the baby brain, and it aparantly daddy brain is a thing too.
Keep your own (adults on the trip) meal times the same as at home. It will allow the infant to feel like its the normal day routine, well at least a little bit.
Feeding the baby – that’s easy. Write down the times your baby usually nurses/feeds at home, try to stick to that schedule. I don’t often have enough memeory to remember all of it, so I use this app to remember and keep track of feedings and sleep. It’s especially helpful when traveling. (Infant stage, so I’m exclusively breastfeeding and writing about my experience, I know it’s different when you have to bring formula, a pump, or other foods if your baby is eating solids)
Divide the responsibilities very clearly. Do it based on your strenghts. Im the one who packs, because Im very good at it. Even packing the car. Because I’ve had so much practice it doesn’t take very long. My husband will bring out the heavy stuff to the car, but I put it in, while he puts the baby into the car seat.
When leaving, pack fast, you will have to unpack and do laundry anyway, so it doesn’t matter how and where in the car everthtyhing will fit. Just shove. This is also when I take care of the baby, feed him, give him a sponge bath, and put him into pjs. By the time we are done, my husband can pack the car up and we are ready to leave.
What to pack?
After doing it almost a dozen times now, this is what worked best for me, because baby spit up.
Check out my packing check list and screen shot to save it.
Stroller, car seat, sleeping arrangement (it’s different for every family)
We also love this rocker because it folds easily to be stored in a car and we found it super helpful with our infant.
Sleeping gear was easy for us, for the first 3 months we brought the stroller and pram body where our baby would nap during the day and at night. It was easy to transport and was close to the shape of the bassinet where he slept at home.
Plan around baby’s schedule, even if your baby doesn’t have a set schedule yet, you should still be aware of general tendencies toward timing of your baby’s feeding, play time, and down time. Keep it as close to what it is at home as possible.
If you have a day when your baby is just fussy, it’s happened to us, take some time to find a quiet corner, a comfy chair, or just stay in bed for a while and hold your baby, sometimes that alone fixes fussy and out of scheduled routine baby issues.
You know your baby well, so pay attention to see if it’s the stress from traveling, a cold coming on, teething or something even more serious that’s causing extra baby fussiness.
Most importantly perhaps, set the expectations for the trip ahead of time. Where to go, what to do and see, don’t over book yourself and especially be prepared for plan changes and complete detours, and even returning home, if necessary.
Being prepared for the unexpected to come up allows less stress for when it actually happens to you.
I hope you found some good suggestions here from what worked for our family so far.
Where is your next weekend adventure taking you and your infant?