If you really want to know how to take a car trip with an infant, my best advice is don’t do it! In all seriousness, after four long months at home in our NYC apartment during the pandemic, we needed to get away. We found an amazing house in Palm Beach County with a private pool and that solidified our decision to undertake a car trip with an infant – our baby was 8.5 months old when we left and 10.5 months old when we returned.
But this wasn’t our first car trip with an infant. Earlier this year, we took a shorter road trip to Washington DC. So with two round-trip road-trips completed- an 18-hour and a 4-hour – I’ve compiled my best tips for how to take a car trip with an infant.
Note: All tips apply to infants under one year old.
One // Divide the trip into chunks. For the shorter trip to DC, we could easily do it in one day, but for the 18-hour trip, we divided it into four days of 4-6 hour drives. This made it a lot less intimidating for us and better for our daughter. Some people recommend doing it straight-through and overnight while your baby sleeps – we’re not night owls and this approach wasn’t for us, but you may want to consider it if it suits your family.
Two // Plan to stop. A LOT. If you have a very young infant, you will need to stop every two to three hours for safety reasons. For infants over four months old, check with your pediatrician. We found that we still needed to stop about as frequently for breaks, diaper changes and fresh air to preserve our sanity and our baby’s. Frequent stops mean that a four hour trip can easily become six so plan accordingly.
Three // Bring entertainment. On our trip to DC, I got by with only a few rattles and hanging toys because our daughter slept most of the way. However, on our longer trip, she was older and only slept for scheduled naps so I brought a bag full of toys and books. Most of our toys are from the Lovevery Playkit (DM me for $20 off), but I also got a few others – you can see my Amazon storefront here. I’m not a huge fan of screen time but it saved the day for us many times on our trip. Daniel Tiger for the win!
Four // Stick to Your Schedule. Since we were traveling during daytime hours, we tried to recreate our usual schedule on the road which meant nap and meal times were consistent. Babies thrive on a schedule and we wanted to make sure Valentina knew what to expect even though we weren’t in her usual environment. For nap times, I used some of the same sleep cues we use at home – a book, a lullaby and white noise – to induce sleep.
Five // Pack pouches. For the shorter trip, Valentina hadn’t yet started solids, but I did make sure to pre-make all bottles for the car ride and keep them in this cooler bag. For the longer trip, Valentina was eating three meals a day – mostly homemade purees. To make it easy, I bought a large supply of organic pouches and spoons for the trip. They don’t need to be refrigerated and are easy to open and close.
Six // Make a diaper caddy. The best thing I did was make a diaper caddy (using a spare basin I took home from the hospital) for the car that contained a hefty supply of diapers, wipes, diaper cream, hand sanitizer and a change of clothes. I kept all of this easily accessible for stops along the way. In light of COVID, we opted to change Valentina’s diaper in the backseat of the car so we just pulled out the diaper caddy and did a quick change.
Seven // Plan ahead. I found it helpful to make a packing list of Valentina’s needs that I use for every trip. But also, for each individual trip, I mentally go through the day in my head so I can anticipate what extras she may need. We called ahead and requested a crib at each hotel, but also brought this travel crib in case we weren’t comfortable with what the hotel provided. We also asked for a mini fridge (to store pumped breastmilk) and a microwave (to warm tap water which we use to warm bottles). Most hotels were very accommodating.
A Note About Traveling with Frozen Breastmilk: On our way back from Florida, we had to travel with frozen breastmilk for three days which I hadn’t anticipated. I bought this cooler and these ice packs, packed the breastmilk storage bags in bricks (3-4 bags stacked) and wrapped them with foil and packing tape. This was enough to get the milk from one location to the next. When we arrived at our destination for the night, I asked the hotel to store the cooler in the freezer which they were happy to do. It did take a little extra planning but all the milk made it back home with us!
Have you ever taken a car trip with an infant? What advice do you have? What did I miss?