Ijeoma Kola wears a Christie Brown kimono at Swahili Beach Resort, Diani Kenya

How to Survive a Road Trip With a Baby

Last week, Jonathan and I decided to take a road trip to the Kenyan coast to celebrate my 30th birthday. We didn’t plan to bring our 9-month-old son, but we ended up having to, so I am now deeming myself as an expert on road tripping with a baby. After an 8-hour drive there, and a 12-hour drive coming back (yes, it was awful!), here is my advice on how to survive a road trip with a baby.

Plan to Leave While the Baby is Asleep

If possible, start your trip early in the morning while your little one is still somewhat asleep. We aimed to leave around 5am, but didn’t leave until 6:30, and by the time we got in the car, our son was more or less awake. Starting the trip while the baby is asleep can buy you a few hours of quiet time!

Sit in the Back Seat

Normally when we take our son with us on a drive somewhere, we plop him in the car seat, leave him with a toy or two, and carry on with our front seat adult conversations. Even if you have a car mirror, sitting in the back seat during a long car drive will help calm your baby, and make it much easier to swap out toys, observe if they’re hungry, or give them a break from the car seat for a few minutes.

Have Toys, Books, Snacks, and Diapers Easily Accessible

The last thing you want to be doing during a car ride is looking for your baby’s favorite toy, which you’d packed away in a suitcase in the trunk. Make sure you have a snack bag, diaper bag, and toy box within easy reach, so you can quickly calm any tears and meet your baby’s needs. We packed a mix of toys that he was familiar with and new toys he’d never seen before, to keep him interested and engaged.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Screentime

My son pretty much only watches TV when I’m on a really tight deadline of I need to cut his nails, but for this road trip, I busted out my phone a few times when we really needed to calm the baby down! If I were to ever do a road trip with a baby again, I would definitely download some songs and videos on a tablet so I don’t have to hold my phone.

Make Some Adjustments

We’re a cloth diapering family that uses disposables at night, but for this trip, we decided to just leave all the cloth diapers at home. Not having to worry about cloth diapering for four days was a relief, and made it much easier to change him on the go and during our trip. Similarly, we usually prepare all our son’s meals, and packed a bunch of his food for the trip. It’s really hard to keep food frozen for 8 hours, so by the time we reached the hotel, his food became mushy. In retrospect, we should have just carried many more organic baby food pouches, which were much easier to feed him while he was still strapped into his car seat, and don’t require any refrigeration or heating up.

Here’s Everything We Packed for Our Road Trip With a Baby!

From strollers to snacks, here are the essentials that helped us survive the road trip.

road trip must-haves

Ijeoma Kola shares her tips and packing list for how to survive a road trip with a baby

Have you ever taken a road trip with a baby? What worked for you to make the trip easier?

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  1. Babies and road trips wow ! It’s overwhelming. I travelled with my 7 month old and 3 year old on an 8 hour journey that actually took 10 hours because we had to make a lunch stop for the toddler and baby to stretch. I think what I have learned from this is to make a 2 hour or less stop for a break this helps the kids a lot.

  2. I don’t think that I would ever experienced that again.?? I do have my 5 year old grandson and the trip is pleasant. Normally, he has always enjoyed riding in which our trip probably about 4 or 5 hours but not as long as your road trip. A phone or IPad has been very helpful. Thanks to God! He goes to sleep the majority of the way anyway.

  3. I don’t have a family yet, but I have heard the same sentiments from my older sister last December when her family travelled to South Africa from Namibia by car with a 1 year old, 3 year old( who was being potty trained) and a 5 year old. She vowed to not have any trips until the youngest is at least 5. I enjoyed hearing the drama ??? but I can’t wait to experience it for myself and take all the shared advise. Thank you for sharing ?

    1. Haha yeah there’s no way I’m doing this with multiple kids unless they’re all wearing diapers and/or all glued to screens. It was too much!

  4. Once did an 11 hour trip from Nairobi to Siaya with my 4months old. Vowed never to sentence myself to that again. I was the one deiving whilst my younger sister carried him at the back seat. (Had no baby car seat)
    I made no stop…not even to stretch or answer to the call of nature…(made me soooo bloated)
    The baby’s food was me….yes you guessed right
    ..I pumped all the way(manual pump on my left hand and my right hand on the steering), periodically taking warm water to increase supply. I was determined to arrive before sun set(no we did not. We got there past midnight)
    At some point we got lost. I couldn’t find the final turn to my own village!(blame the exhaustion)

  5. You covered it all I think. Yes on long road trip with baby multiple times and a few more times with a toddler and baby. I always sit at the back just so much easier and sadly we just leave at whatever time and benefit of hindsight leaving while baby is sleepy/sleeping is an amazing tip. Also essential to have all the things one requires handy in the car so you don’t have to stop to get anything from the trunk. The only thing I would add is with a formula fed baby is to have warm water in flask and a few portions of milk powder ready in a bottle or formula dispenser

  6. Any trip with a baby can easily become chaotic without the right preparation or knowledge. This is a very useful blog post. I’ve taken a trip with a baby but thankfully it wasn’t mine. Haha but being a goofy person helps.