Your baby sleeps for hours and you have all the time in the world to drive, talk to your travel companion, read a book or sleep…
…Or it can be hell with a baby that is crying as soon as you put him in his car seat and that refuses to sleep. Then you’ll plan to
go by plane the next time or to stay at home for the next five years or so…
You can’t really know in advance what traveling by car with your baby will be like. You can’t be sure that it will be like the last time you tried. Babies grow and change. But you can plan to make the best of the situation.
Below you’ll find tips to make traveling by car with a baby as easy as possible.
Tips for Traveling by Car With a Baby
- Frequent stops
- Easy feeding
- Shelter from the sun
- When to go
- Diaper bag
- Play together
- Driving at night
Safety first, of course! Make sure you have a good infant car seat
and that you install it correctly.
If you rent a car, ask about air bags, so that you don’t put your baby in a seat with an airbag by accident. And if you don’t bring your own infant car seat, ask about what type they can provide and how old it is. It should never be older than five years.
Also, don’t drive if you are very tired. Take turns with your travel companion if you’re not traveling alone. If you are alone, stop the car and go for a walk if you get sleepy.
When traveling by car with a baby, plan for frequent stops and realize that the journey is likely to take much longer than if you were traveling without a baby.
Particularly newborn babies should not sit for too many hours in a row in a car seat. It may hurt their backs. So make frequent stops to let your baby stretch out on blanket or in his stroller. Older babies need to get some time to use their bodies for crawling, jumping or whatever they like.
Bring a lot of toys! Either take away a few favorites a week or two before traveling, or consider buying some new toys.
If you breastfeed you must stop the car to feed your baby. Even if it can be tempting to pick up your starving baby to feeding him on the highway, don’t!
(Yeah, I know it sounds totally crazy, but with a baby crying at the top of his or her voice, you can get all sorts of desperate ideas!)
If you get very stressed by hearing your infant’s crying, don’t take any chances. Feed him or her slightly ahead of the usual schedule. Or bring formula or baby snacks if your baby is old enough.
It is quite convenient to teach a baby to accept cold food, so that you can feed him on the road. If that doesn’t work, consider buying car bottle warmer that plugs into your car adapter outlet, like this one at Amazon.
You can also bring hot water in thermos.
And don’t forget bringing a baby bib and lots of paper napkins!
Bring water for both you and your baby, if your baby is old enough to have started to drink water! Getting dehydrated will only make you sleepy, and might impair milk production if you breastfeed.
Shelter from the sun
Make sure you can protect your baby from sun with some kind of sunshade that you can put on either his car seat or on a window. A hat for your baby may also be good to have available.
A mom I talked to drove for six hours and had to play “Are you going to San Francisco” during the whole trip to keep her baby from crying. No other song worked!
Playing music for your baby, may entertain him for a while (or for six hours…)
When to go
When traveling by car with a baby, a good time to start the journey is when it is either bed time or nap time for your baby. That way, you’ll get somewhere before you have to stop, which is nice.
If you’re lucky, you and your spouse (or your travel companion) will actually have some quality time talking to each other while your baby sleeps. Not bad!
Don’t forget to bring a towel in your diaper bag, as well as sanitary towels and diapers, of course. A foldable changing pad can be very convenient.
Also bring extra clothes for your baby and an extra top for you and your travel companion (if he or she also attends to the baby).
Most babies, except for maybe newborns, enjoy playing with their parents. Sing for him, tickle him, play peek-a-boo and try stimulating your baby while he is awake. That way you’ll have a happier baby and one that sleeps better later on.
If you need games tips related to your baby’s age, check out our Baby Development section and browse the different months for games and toys ideas (as well as milestones).
Driving at night
It can be very convenient to drive at night with a baby. He sleeps and your journey will be easier and faster. Of course, you need to stay awake and might be very tired the next day. (And your baby will be as active as any day…!)
If you do plan to drive when it is dark outside, bring a flash light. Many babies get really scared by sitting in the dark and just seeing occasional weird lights (from other cars for example). To help your baby feel safe and be able to go back to sleep (or at least be content), make sure you can se one another.
Traveling by car with a baby can quite exhausting. I hope this tips will help you have a nice ride together! If you have any thoughts or additional tips, please share by leaving a comment below.