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.