Today I’m sharing my parenting tips! Road Trip with a Baby: 10 Tips that Worked for Me…
A few weekends ago, we needed to just get – away. You know the feeling, yes? After a pregnancy, baby, pandemic and crazy work schedules the past few years, it was time for a mini vaycay. But we are not ready to do plane travel yet with our little one, so a road trip it was. I mean, we live in California, road trips are our bread and vegan butter! (PS. I have a recipe for that coming soon!!)
We had a few excuses to get away and head up north to the Bay Area, so we planned it very last minute and did it! Are you planning a road trip with a baby? You will love these ten tips that worked for me…
Baby Road Trip Itinerary
Since the drive from LA to San Francisco can land anywhere from 6-7+ hours when driving straight through, I knew we had to make a few modifications for Rosalie, our 11 month old baby.
Here is the itinerary I chose…
Saturday: Leave LA –> Santa Barbara for one night
to do: hang with friends who are also staying at the hotel, pool, dinner, enjoy the gorgeous hotel (Ritz Bacara)
Sunday: Leave SB –> San Francisco for one night
to do: arrived late so we just ordered takeout
Monday: Leave SF –> Monterey for one night
to do: hang out with friends in the AM, drive to Monterey and explore there a bit
Tuesday: Drive Home in the afternoon
to do: meet up with family, go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and drive home in the afternoon
Basically, our trip was so that Rosalie could meet and hang out with a few people very close to me. Goal, achieved! It was such a wonderful quick trip, and Rosalie actually LOVED the experience.
Rosalie’s Favorite Parts of the Road Trip?
I think Rosalie most enjoyed:
- swimming with mom and friends in the fancy pool in Santa Barbara
- hotel picnics (more on those below) and hotel rooms in general. She loved exploring the different rooms! And the carpeting worked so well for her ‘starting to walk’ phase.
- spending time with new people!
- um, did I say the hotel rooms? because, YES.
- exploring the different destination, mostly when it involved nature and animals
- breaks in the car! she actually loves bouncing around in the car, so when we took a pit stop and let her out of her carseat, she was all giggles.
- all the new toys she got, lol
- dining out! I had my first long sit-down meal with her and while I don’t think she loved it as much as me, she was in a super happy mood that night so she must have loved it on some level.
- seeing the gorgeous fountains at different hotels – she loves a fountain right now
I loved her reactions to the different hotel lobbies we visited.
Gotta love the hotel room family selfie…
And with that, here are the ten tips I can share to help you along your next or first road trip with a baby or infant or even a toddler…
Road Trip with a Baby! 10 Tips that Worked for Me
1. Buy New Toys (They Can be Cheap!)
The night before we left on our road trip, we visited the local toy store and bought all the things. I also had a few things from Amazon. Little toys that were perfect for baby. A Gumby doll. A few new board books. A fun drum. A teething toy. Random, safe, cheap toys to entertain. My plan: take out a new toy every hour. But we ended up only needing about 2-3 new toys the entire trip!
She definitely loved the drum because we could beat it together to let out our aggression. And anything she could chew on was a win.
A few of the toys I would recommend that you can find on Amazon (affiliate links):
- drum (any of these work)
- gumby (we actually got a Gumby AND a Pokey)
- baby toothbrush (just watch them with the battery pack, but she loves this thing)
- board books on travel were fun! “All Aboard California” is one we bought, very cute.
- softy baby books are great too – hungry caterpillar book
- baby “car keys”
- busy boards are great – soft ones like this one – are great for the car because they are lighter than wood and won’t be a safety issue.
- mirror – some sort of a mirror is so great for keeping baby entertained, this one with a steering wheel looks super cute
2. Give yourself extra time (but stay on pace!)
All the “top road trip tips” articles will tell you to give yourself a lot of extra time while roadtripping. I was getting worried we would be adding a few hours to our drive times every day. But the truth is, while you will need to stop every two hours – at least – it wasn’t that bad at all. We stopped to charge up our Tesla, ate a small meal, and let Rosalie out of her car seat to either stroll around outside or even just bounce amuck in the car. She loves bouncing around in the car while it is parked. Maybe a little too much.
We stopped in Bakersfield (it was 103 degrees!) and another random very hot spot where it was too hot for Rosalie to leave the car, but indoor bouncing was just fine with her.
While normally I would drive up to SF from LA in one day, we did split it in half each way. Or more like one fourth and three-fourths…
We did a two hour drive the first day then a five hour drive the next day. That tiny break really helped us enjoy the trip and see more things.
So yes, give baby a break every two hours or so — but still keep on pace so your drive doesn’t end up being too long. I found that Rosalie didn’t need a super long break, just 15-30 minutes and she was good to go for another stretch. Both you and baby will want to spend your time at the destination and not a Tesla supercharger or gas station or rest stop, ya know?
Cute coffee shops are a great stop off if you can find them..
3. Go into it TIRED (the baby, not you)
Before we left on the first day, we ran Rosalie around at a park that morning. She conked out in the car and slept a good hour before she woke up. (She actually conked out in my husband’s arms just as we were loading the car, lol, but we actually transferred her to the carseat still asleep thank goodness!)
And similarly when we left our hotels, we tried to get into the car right at nap time and after she was well fed and stimulated enough to conk out in the car.
4. Enjoy Those Pit Stops! (And the Destination)
Keep the road trip pit stops short and sweet – but enjoy them!
Try songs, active time for baby to move, sing and basically get their energy out. Giggling is key! Get them in a good mood before you head out again. With babies, it doesn’t take much, guys. Some love and snuggles and bounces and songs or sillies.
Also embrace the new surroundings by talking about where you are and what’s unique about it. Yes, even a random shopping mall off the 5 can be intriguing to show baby! Ha.
My fave road trip eats.. a Subway sandwich, veggie delight, no cheese, add avocado, all the veggies + mustard, salt and pepper and oil and vinegar… IYKYK!
5. Cool off at the Hotel Pool (Or splash around in the sink…)
Road trips with a baby can feel long and hot and sweaty if you are driving during warm weather. Enter the hotel pool!
If your little one likes to swim with you in a pool, embrace that at your hotel!! It will keep them happy, cool and also tire them out for a good nights sleep. I also loved going to the pool the morning of one of our longer drives because she slept a very long time in the car!
Hummus and pita by the pool, I think she was getting used to this. My spirit animal, Rosalie, living her best life…
No pool? think of those nice round hotel sinks as your baby’s own personal pool or jacuzzi. They will love it, Rosalie sure did!…
6. Embrace the Hotel Picnic
When taking a road trip with a baby you will get exhausted and Hangry. While we loved dining out a few times, most nights we loved embracing DoorDash and a hotel picnic! Lay a few towels or a waterproof blanket down on the floor and eat with baby. This is especially helpful if you did not bring some sort of travel high chair.
Just try to keep baby confined to the towels so you don’t spread a mess.
Tip: Order hand-held food items for yourself. I did burritos and sandwiches/wraps basically the whole trip.
I loved our hotel picnics so much! Rosalie could be a messy eater and she definitely eats more when she can be messy!
I loved our hotel picnics so much! Rosalie could be a messy eater and she definitely eats more when she can be messy!
And if you need too “go out” for food for the experience, do coffee pit stops and even going out for ice cream.
7. Bring a Sun Shade for the Car
Our new carseat, the Exec by Nuna, does not have a built-in sunshade like our infant seat did. So we needed to buy a few sun shades to keep the sun out of her eyes and darken the car for naps. We have some that are custom built for our Tesla, but these roll-down suction cup shades work great too.
8. Use the Good Diapers
I swear by Coterie diapers (affiliate link – and truly the only diaper we buy).
They are more expensive, but I definitely find that she stays dry longer and they just have a softer feel to the going on and for wear. The thickness is real.
They are so absorbent so they keep Rosalie feeing good for a long time in the car. Can I have a pair for long car rides?? I KID!
9. Meditation / Lullaby / Spa Music
When Rosalie is sleeping in the car or just about to doze off, we play piano lullabies or meditation music. I find it helps keep her sleeping longer. You can also bring a portable sound machine.
10. Sit in the Back
For a road trip with a baby, I almost forgot this one because it feels so basic to me, for our baby, but if you can, have one adult sit in the back with your baby. If you can get away with sitting up front, go for it, but for me, I find she is much happier with a BFF to play with, stare at, smile with, cry to.
And with that, here are a few things I had on my packing list, and a few I actually did not need!
Baby Road Trip Packing List
- Snacks! Bring baby crackers, nut butter packs, fruit (mandarins and bananas are a big hit with Rosalie), smoothie squeeze packs.
- toys (some links above in post)
- outfits for any type of weather
- blanket for snuggling in the car (I brought our Barefoot Dreams baby blanket)
- phone charger for the backseat
- car headrest mount for iPads
- easy to clean bib (waterproof like this one)
- baby carrier (a must!) This is my favorite Ergo Baby Aerloom.
- baby sun gear
- stroller — maybe! (We actually did not bring our stroller! We survived well without it, but for dining out it would have been helpful.)
- good walking shoes for mom and dad – I lived in my Rothy’s because I love them for travel or long car rides or driving
- swimsuits for all
- reusable swim diaper
- big bag or your diaper bag
- hats for all – flappy hat for baby
- water cup for baby – 360 trainer cup
- pacifiers or something to teethe on (love these teething straws)
- portable safety harness – for eating
- stroller fan (if it’s hot and you will be outside a lot)
…this list is not complete at all, but hopefully gives you a few ideas for things you might want to bring. Or not! I believe the best way to travel with abby is to be prepared but to pack as LITTLE as possible. Chaos and stress comes when you have too much to haul when you really just want to be focused on your most precious cargo.
Closing Words to Remember
Best of luck to you on your adventures! Remember, when doing a road trip with a baby, set your expectations low! Silly, but true. If you arrive, eat, sleep and have a tiny bit of fun doing simple things – you have won!! Don’t expect things to be as chill or easy as when you were 18 and set out on your first long-haul car ride by yourself. Those chill days may be gone for now, but I promise, traveling with a bay is a joy. It’s like bringing a tiny happiness ambassador wherever you go. Babies make people smile. I loved seeing Rosalie light up people’s faces!! It was the best.
And I loved watching her explore the new destinations, experiences and people. I actually cannot wait until our next baby road trip! Where should we go next???
Read more of my TRAVEL posts here.
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