When my baby was born, even just driving home from the hospital was daunting to me. Short jaunts to the grocery store could feel like cross country road trips.
Then a family member fell ill and we actually did have to drive cross-country to visit when the baby was only 5 weeks old. Then we drove even further at Christmas, when she was 3 months.
Even if you only need to travel a couple of hours from home, thinking about any length of trip can be really overwhelming and a little scary! You don’t know if the trip will fall on one of Baby’s good days, if there will be a massive diaper blow out, if your baby will nap or stay awake… It might even start to outweigh any excitement you might have.
Travel with a baby is part of life, and your plans don’t have to be dramatically altered just because you have a new member in your family! You can still travel for the holidays, for vacations, for emergencies. All you need is a little advance planning and a lot of patience. (And a few other things, but we’ll get to that…)
Trust me when I tell you IT’S DOABLE.
- We have a high-need (translate fussy) baby, who needs a lot of physical contact and nurses constantly.
- We have a car, not a minivan, not a truck, and we have still managed all variety of trips with everything we needed.
- We just got back from a FIVE WEEK, round the country, camping road trip with an 11-12 month old, and we didn’t even take a stroller.
I think I’ve earned the right to give you some baby travel advice. But don’t just take it from me! Interwoven with my own tips and hacks, I’ve scoured the web for the best articles I could find on how to travel with infants and babies. From road-tripping, to flying, to overnight accommodations, we’ve got you covered, Mom Friend.
How to Survive Traveling with a Baby
Tips for Traveling in the Car with a Baby
Sit in the back
If I could only give you one piece of advice for your road trip with a baby, it would be to sit in the back. (This, of course, assumes you have more than one driver, so if you can’t have anyone sit in the back with the baby, you’ll want to plan to stop as often as necessary.)
We personally found that it worked best for my husband to ride in the rear with our daughter and for me to drive, because if I was in the back, she had…expectations. I can provide things my husband cannot, and so she has always fussed far more with the goods in sight but out of reach.
You can experiment to find what arrangement works best for you!
Splurge on travel-friendly baby snacks
I am very budget-conscious, but nothing dampens a long road trip more than a hungry baby. If your baby is old enough for real food (not just milk), bring along a good variety of no-mess snacks. On our most recent [5 week] road trip, our 11-12 month old loved:
- Freeze dried fruit/yogurt bites
- Yogurt and applesauce that come in the squeeze pouches
On our breaks from driving, our go-tos were jarred baby weenies, fresh berries, and rotisserie chicken (I tried to give her the meat closest to the center of the chicken so it would have the least sodium).
We have a picky eater, so we had to embrace whatever she would eat, and lots of it.
Bring interesting things to look at (books and flashcards)
On the long trips we had to make when our daughter was younger (5 weeks, 3 months), she wasn’t interested in much aside from nursing. However, once she was older, her absolute favorite thing in the world became books.
During our recent 5 week road trip, the time our daughter wasn’t sleeping she spent looking at books. She also really loved animal flash cards. I found a couple of different sets at Bullseye’s playground (Target) during the back-to-school shopping, and she took great enjoyment in studying the pictures and scattering them all over the place.
Bring things to destroy (catalogs, magazines)
Another great pass-time for a slightly older baby is ripping things up! This could be catalogs, magazines, travel brochures, maps, whatever! When our daughter was tired of looking at books and throwing pom-poms all over the car, giving her something to rip up would buy us a little extra time.
Gift bows in a bag were another great pastime! You can grab a couple really inexpensively at the Dollar Tree (so you’re not stuck with fifty-billion after the trip). Her favorites were the ones with curled ribbon!
Find baby-friendly music
Sometimes babies need a little extra soothing to fall asleep. Our daughter sleeps quite well in the car, but getting there can be a process. Some occasions, she is lulled to sleep just by the movement of the vehicle, but other times, music is the key!
We’ve found that not just any music will do. There’s something about the simple melodies and sing-songy voices specifically found in children’s music. Our magical go-to on the last trip was Judy Rogers’s “Why Can’t I See God?”
Before the trip, either have a tried-and-true CD on hand, or put together a playlist.
A road trip is not the time to be the world’s greatest golden standard of moms
When you’re at home, you have the luxury of doing things to whatever standards you set. On a road trip, though, you just have to do what works. You might not have the healthiest snacks, and your baby might not be content to fondle a Montessori-esque wooden ring for six hours.
I tried to be really creative and bring pom-poms and pipe cleaners to pull in and out of containers, and some babies might be really fascinated by that! Mine was not. Not in the least. But she did love a light up musical helicopter (the type of toy we don’t buy ourselves) that someone gave her for her birthday.
You might also need to break out the tablet and watch some Wiggles or Sesame Street. You can go back to your “no-tv-until-two-years-old” rule when you get home.
In addition to my own tips, here are some other ideas I really liked from other bloggers:
Low-cost travel toys from Take the Truck
Long drives with a breastfed baby from A Peach in the Queen City
Road trip strategies from Mom Like You Mean It
Quick tip to calm a crying baby in the car from Oh Yellow
Tips for Flying with a Baby
Since I’ve not yet had the occasion to fly with a baby, here’s the best advice I’ve found from people who have.
Planning for the flight, before, during, and after from Mama on Parade
10 mom hacks for flying with a baby from Mom Like You Mean It
How to survive the airport and the flight from Mom Tricks
Tips from a travel blogger on how to fly with a baby from Our Next Adventure
Tips for Staying in a Hotel with a Baby
I don’t know about you, but the first thought I have about staying in a hotel with a baby is… eww. I just picture my child’s chubby hands going from the dirty floor straight into her mouth…
Hotels aren’t known to be the cleanest places, and if your baby isn’t mobile yet, it might not be so bad! But what do you do if you’ve got a roller, scooter, crawler, or walker!? Do you have to just hold them the whole time? Try to confine them to the bed and hope they don’t fall off?
The entire ordeal can feel cringy to say the least.
We’ve stayed in our fair share over the last year, so here’s what we experienced.
Lower your standards
Lower….now lower….a little lower….aaaaand there. If your baby is mobile, there’s no way you’re keeping them off the floor. Shut the bathroom door, put socks and/or shoes on them if it makes you feel better, and get over yourself. Hands and clothes can be washed.
Opt for hotels with wood/laminate floors rather than carpet
On our recent trip, we were really surprised to find that a lot of hotels and motels (even really inexpensive ones like Motel 6) had been renovated to replace the typical (NASTY) carpet with laminate wood flooring. I felt a lot better about letting my baby-toddler run around on that than gross, old carpeting.
Baby-wear in the shower
If you’re concerned about the cleanliness of the bath tub, consider showering with your baby. Since my daughter was a newborn, I have used this mesh ring sling (which is made for the pool or beach) to wear my baby in the shower, and it’s great for getting your little one clean without having to put them in a tub festering with who knows what.
BYO sheet (for the floor)
If your baby is still only mildly mobile or needs somewhere for a little tummy time and rolling, pack a clean bed sheet to spread out on the floor of your hotel room so that you don’t have to put your baby in direct contact with the floor itself.
Ask for a Pack-n-Play or crib
If you didn’t already know, you can request a pack-n-play or crib with your reservation! We haven’t personally needed to since we co-sleep, but if you don’t have space in your car, or you’re flying and can’t bring your own gear with you, most hotels will provide it.
Request rooms away from ice/vending/elevators
If your baby is a light sleeper, you know the pain of juuuuust getting them to fall asleep and having a random noise snap them back into full wake mode only to have to start the whole process over again.
Consider asking for a top floor room as far away from ice, vending, and elevators as you can get. Also, don’t forget to use your super handy Do Not Disturb sign during naps!
Don’t count on early check-ins
I worked at a hotel one summer during college and I saw a lot of families with kids waiting in our lobby for hours because we didn’t have rooms available to provide an early check in. It was not fun for them or us.
We made this mistake ourselves on our recent trip and it was painful.
Most places can’t guarantee an early check-in, even if you request it, so if you’re going to get to your destination early, plan to get food somewhere or find a park to enjoy. If the hotel can get you in early, awesome! But certainly to count on it.
Here are a few more good hacks on staying in hotels with babies from Trips with Tykes.
Tips for Visiting as an Overnight Guest with a Baby
While I definitely prefer staying with friends or family to braving a motel room, visiting as an overnight guest with a baby has its own slew of challenges. You shouldn’t have to feel guilty or apologize for your baby behaving like a baby, but in turn, you also want to be respectful of your hosts’ home. It can be a tough balance.
Keep a close eye on mobile babies
While you might not mind if your mobile munchkin pulls books off the bookshelf or shreds a magazine, you should never presume the behavior is acceptable at another person’s house. This can take a lot of active attention on your part since you have probably become accustomed to the way your baby is at home.
Help your hosts to remove breakables or valuables they won’t want your baby to access, and make sure you find out if there are any spaces your hosts want to keep baby free. Be extremely diligent in keeping your baby out of your hosts’ things, and distract him with things of his own, or that he is allowed to play with.
Have a conversation with your hosts ahead of time
Talk to your hosts ahead of time about creating at least a small area that is safe for your baby to play in. This can be especially helpful for your hosts if they do not have children themselves, or are older and aren’t used to having small children in the house anymore. They might not even be thinking about what your baby will and won’t get into.
You shouldn’t impose on your hosts by demanding they rearrange their whole house just for your baby to visit, but rather, gently point out that your baby is mobile, and that your baby will need a small, safe area to play so that he doesn’t damage anything of your hosts’. You can do this very politely so that your hosts feel you are actually doing them a courtesy.
Respond quickly to your baby’s nighttime needs
It should go without saying that this is not the appropriate time to sleep-train your baby. If your baby wakes or fusses during the night, respond to her immediately and soothe her as quickly as possible. You might be accustomed to waking multiple times throughout the night and think little of it, but chances are, your hosts will not enjoy the disturbance.
If your bedroom is in close proximity to your hosts’, it may be necessary to leave your room to retreat to a space far from their room if your baby fusses for an extended period of time. If your baby cries for more than a couple of minutes and shows no signs of stopping, consider putting as much distance between you and your hosts as you can (if possible).
Gather nighttime supplies before bed
In like manner, you should have everything you need for the night already in your room before your hosts retire. You do not want to be tromping through their home at 1 am because you left the wet wipes in the living room, bottles in the kitchen, or diapers in the car (heaven forbid).
Don’t expect your hosts to provide baby supplies/equipment
If you aren’t able to bring certain necessities with you, like a pack n’ play, bassinet, high-chair, etc., you may want to see if your hosts have friends or a church from whom the items could be borrowed, or if it’s absolutely something you have to have, order it to be shipped to their house, but do not simply show up at your hosts’ home and be surprised that they don’t have what you need.
Definitely plan ahead and try to get what you need, rather than arriving and then realizing you don’t have something.
Keep an open line of communication
Make sure your hosts are comfortable telling you if something bothers them. The last thing you want is to tarnish a friendship or dampen the visit because they didn’t want to ask you to do something differently. Out of respect for your hosts, don’t just assume everything is hunky-dory. It would be a shame not to be invited back because you unknowingly trespassed on your hosts’ hospitality.
Tips for Camping with a Baby
Camping with a baby is actually a lot easier than you might think! We camped almost every night that we weren’t with family on our five week road trip, and it was quite doable!
Here’s a comprehensive post from Explore New Trails packed full of advice for camping as a family.
You don’t need a ton of gear
What you really need is the supplies you normally use, and plenty of it. Sure, there’s lots of cool gear that would be convenient, maybe even make things a little easier, but you really don’t have to empty your savings account to buy baby camping supplies and then rent a u-haul to transport it.
Considering a Pack ‘n’ play? Remember, you can zip your crawler up in the tent! (We never left our daughter alone, but it was nice to be able to zip up the tent so she couldn’t escape and just play with her inside).
A high chair? A baby can sit in your lap, on the ground, on top of the picnic table, etc.
A crib or bassinet? Consider co-sleeping, especially if the weather is cool/cold. In fact, I would absolutely recommend you co-sleep if the temperature is cold overnight.
You really don’t need a lot of fancy stuff. Isn’t half the point of camping making do with less?
What you DO need to pack + tips for camping with a breastfed baby from Daily Successful Living.
Cool gear to make camping with a baby easier + awesome hacks from Pregnant Chicken
For one thing, your neighbors will thank you since a co-sleeping baby typically fusses less. For another, if the nights are cold, your baby really needs your warmth. Our setup consisted of a low, queen air mattress, a sleeping bag for my husband, and a roomy sleeping bag for my daughter and me. Some nights were close to freezing, and while I’ll admit, I was cold at times, co-sleeping ensured my daughter never was.
Here are tips from Parked in Paradise on how to camp with a baby in cold weather.
Consider going to a developed campsite
If it’s your first time camping with a baby, consider choosing a more developed campsite with amenities like electricity, hot showers, and bathrooms. We stayed at a lot of KOAs, and were really glad we did.
Plan activities, but keep it simple
Babies can be unpredictable, and of course, they tire easily (so might you, camping with a baby), so take a laid back approach when planning activities. There were times we overestimated what we thought we’d go out and do while camping with a baby, but there were other times that we really wished we’d planned more because we just wanted to get away from our campsite.
Have a list of short hikes you’re interested in, as well as some indoor places you can visit in case the weather is bad.
Plan for rain
I don’t care what the forecast says. PLAN FOR RAIN!! When we first embarked on our long road trip, we were really, really hoping not to have to deal with much rain. Ha. Haha. Ha. It rained EVERY SINGLE morning that we packed up camp, except for ONE day, and sometimes overnight, too.
Our very first night camping, our tent flooded (mildly) because we didn’t have a big enough tarp under the tent. There were several times we hadn’t expected rain, and so left lots of stuff outside overnight, only to have them drenched and sitting in puddles when we needed to pack them up the next morning.
We would set our baby in her carseat to play and eat cheerios while we packed up, so she was always dry, happy, and out of the way, but we were not happy campers. We really had not prepared for rain.
Fun story: On the very worst night, it rained so much that our rain cover leaked and we woke up sleeping in puddles (baby was dry, fortunately). We were so cold and wet and over it that we finally just decided to pack up and move out no matter what time it was. It was still pitch dark, so we used the car’s headlights to help us see, packed up as fast as we could under the circumstances, and hopped in the car, wet and cold, ready to roll out. But…the battery was dead after having the headlights on. So much for our escape plan.
Are you ready to travel with your baby?
Let me know in the comments what kind of trip your planning! Do you have any specific questions I didn’t answer in this post? I’d be happy to share our experiences with you.
While traveling with a baby is certainly different and undoubtedly a bit more challenging, you don’t have to be afraid of it! Just take it slow and try not to get too stressed when things don’t go as planned (because they likely won’t).
I hope you have an awesome, memorable trip, and I wish you safe travels!
If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy: