Planning a road trip with a baby or toddler

There’s one word that comes to mind when I think about the first road trip we took with our new baby. And that word is: STUFF.

We packed, actually we over-packed, our car with all of the essentials that we thought we needed and ended up with such little space in the car that it made the journey more uncomfortable than needed.

Of course, taking a newborn on a long car journey does require a little more forward planning than the pre-kid days. It just doesn’t need to result in a military operation-style plan – or, an overstuffed car.

What are the essentials?

There’s a balance to be found between taking too many items and compromising comfort and taking too little and being under-prepared.

Over the years, and adding another newborn into the mix, we got our road-tripping planning down to a fine art. It meant less time was spent packing or making added stops on the way and more time enjoying the journey and looking forward to reaching our destination.

We knew exactly what was necessary to make the journey comfortable and relaxing from A to B without packing the kitchen sink.

These are our tips for making a road trip with a newborn easier:

1.       Plan your leaving, and arrival time, in advance

As much as flexibility is a big part of adapting to life with a newborn, when it comes to road trips, it’s best to plan ahead if you can.

We tried to plan any car journeys, long or short, around our baby’s nap and sleep times and there were two main reasons for this.

Firstly, she was comfortable and relaxed in her car seat and could snooze as we drove and this didn’t disrupt her usual schedule.

Secondly, when she was asleep, we could relax into the journey ourselves, enjoy a bit of quiet, couple time and listen to something other than Peppa Pig. Just between us, we quite enjoyed Peppa Pig and would leave it playing!

Of course, driving safely is key and we always drove when we were well rested ourselves and shared the driving along the way.

When we arrived at our destination, if our baby had slept well, we would all arrive feeling fresh and excited about our little adventure.

If your baby isn’t a big fan of car travel, see if they might doze in their capsule first and put them in the car when they’re already asleep.

2.       Consider their comfort and safety

Our car seats have always been installed professionally and this gives us the reassurance that our babies are safe and secure every time we travel. We also always purchased brand new car seats that offered exceptional safety and protection features.

We travel all year round in hot and cooler temperatures. When you’re packing for your journey, consider what you will dress your baby in to keep them from getting cold or overheating.

Light layers work well as you can remove or add to them to adjust to the temperature of the car and a lightweight blanket over them as they’re strapped in, can keep them snug and warm in the cooler months.

We planned some regular stops along the way so that we could stretch our legs but also check in on how our baby was doing. If she was too hot or cold, we could adjust her clothing to make her more comfortable.

When babies rear-face, you can keep an eye on them at all times with a car seat mirror that allows you and your bub to see each other. Our mirror gave me so much peace of mind and assured her that we were there.

In the very early days, I would travel in the back seat so I could sit next to my baby which gave me just as much assurance as it did her. As she got used to her seat and surroundings, and my confidence grew, I did this less as time went on.

3.       Factor in the fun

For the times when our baby was awake in the car, we had some entertainment on hand to keep her occupied as we drove.

She adored the bright colours and toys of her travel mobile that clipped on to both her car seat and stroller.

It was a comforting and familiar toy that helped to hold her attention and feel relaxed in the car.

Whether it’s a stuffed toy, a mobile, lullabies or an audiobook (hello, Peppa!), having some go-to entertainment can really make your life easier when your baby is awake in the car.

4.       Keep as well-stocked nappy bag

Packing our nappy bag with the essentials and having it within arms reach in the car helped us in numerous ways.

When we stopped for nappy changes, everything was on hand to make the task easy and quick.

It also meant that any spillages and messes could quickly be dealt with – because wipes are a multi-tasking miracle worker for many mums.

We also stocked the bag with any feeding and breastfeeding products that we may need along the way, some changes of clothes and health and safety essentials.

Having a well-stocked nappy bag means that you can grab what you need without much fuss or having to dig into the main luggage in the back of the car.

As our kids have grown and gotten a little more self-sufficient, I do still miss the days of traveling with a newborn baby. Road-tripping with a newborn has its perks.

For starters, they don’t yet have the ability to yell “I’m bored!” or “Are we nearly there yet?”. Frequent toilet breaks or car sickness stops were also much less of an issue in those days.

Now, our travel talk is more I-spy than muddy puddles, but it all helps to make the journey easier for the whole family.

Whether you’re about to embark on a quick car trip or a longer journey, take a little time in advance to plan for what might make that easier and more comfortable for you and your baby. Happy travels!