Road Tripping with an Infant

Traveling with an infant

This weekend, we’re taking our first road trip up to New Hampshire with the baby and Boots. I used to think that making the four hour drive with just the dog was a challenge, and I’m feeling a little nervous about doing it with a baby!

We have her on a pretty tight schedule for feedings, so the plan is for me to feed her and then leave right after that so we can drive for 2.5-3 hours without stopping (or at least we can dream!). We’ll stop when it’s time to feed again, but what I’m worried about is in between.

Question 1: Should we stay stopped for “awake time” or is me reading her books in the backseat realistic?

Question 2: What should we pack for the car? We have her diaper bag with wipes, cream, diapers, a changing pad, a change of outfit, and all the other essentials, my hand pump, and books to keep her occupied. I also bought a little mobile thing to hang on the car seat so she can look at it while we drive.

Question 3: What are your thoughts on timing? Is my idea of feeding her then leaving right away a good one?

Any tips are appreciated!

  • Bleydis Borge

    I honestly think that she will sleep most of the time. We drove from CT to Virginia and my little one slept almost the whole time. I would feed him when we would stop for a break which was every 2 to 3 hours.

  • Justine

    Hi! My husband and I drove to the Hamptons with our then 9 month old this summer. We left about a half hour before bedtime. We play a lullaby cd for her as part of her bedtime routine and we played it in the car. Worked like a charm. (That’s the great thing about using the cd as part of the routine, even when we’re in hotels it signaled to her it was time to sleep) The “white noise” of driving also helped since we use a white noise machine. When we got there at about 1030, she did wake up for the transition Into the crib but went down pretty fast. Not saying all babies will be like that- but we did find it helpful to time it with when she was routinely sleeping so we didn’t have to entertain her the whole time.

  • Jessica

    In my experience… infants just sleep. But also- don’t try to stick to a “plan” because the babes have their own plan and that’s the one you have to go with. Lol. You’ll learn that more and more as you go through parenthood. Just breathe and go with the flow. Feeding right before leaving is good, unless this is the feed she usually poops after … in-car explosions are always fun but part of the ride!!

  • Caitlin

    Hi Julia! My husband and I road trip with our daughter frequently because both of our families live out of town. We also followed Babywise and I nursed my daughter, Lucy until age one. Even though she was great at nursing, she never did well in the car (stopped in a parking lot). Something about it was very distracting for her. I would say plan to stop somewhere that has a place you can go inside to breastfeed her OR bring pumped milk in a bottle if Amalia takes bottles. You will then have to pump in the car which is always a hassle but sometimes that was the only way for us. Also, when my daughter was that young, she pretty much slept the whole time… We had to learn to accept her being “off schedule” for one day but since she had such a good schedule ingrained in her from Babywise, she always transitioned back to normal very easily. I think your idea to feed her right before you leave is a good one. Put a bib on her and lay it over the car seat straps in case she spits up a little bit after eating! If you are ok with her sleeping the whole time in the car…and if you don’t get too full going 4 hours without emptying…. you might be able to dive straight through and feed her right when you get there! After a few road trips, that’s what we did. Everyone was happier to just get the trip over with as quickly as possible and Lucy didn’t mind going an extra hour without milk because she was so lulled by the car.

    Good luck!

  • Ilana Rosenberg

    I’m queen of the schedule and HATE to break, but almost impossible not to a little bit on a road trip. My recommendation is to try and schedule the ride during a nap OR do bath/ nurse and straight to the car. That way you’ll get to your destination just in time for her dream feed.
    In terms of packing, for the car I think you are golden. Just make sure to have music she’ll like.
    Lastly, as a family who travels a lot (and sticks with routine/ schedule) totally recommend buying a great pack and play. Bringing her home sheets and anything to make the pack and play feel like home. Right now it won’t make a huge difference, but in a few months she’ll associate it as her home away from home and it will make her the easiest traveler in the world.

  • Meredith

    Hi Julia! Amalia should sleep pretty much the whole time, but as a new mom myself that took two trips to Maine and the Hamptons with a newborn this summer this is my advice: leave as early as possible to avoid any traffic and babies tend to be happier in the morning. My son falls asleep almost immediately in the car, but tends to wake up when we are in traffic. When he woke up after driving for 4 hours, we pulled over, changed and nursed him and went back on the road, he went right back to sleep. Just listen to her cues. I think nursing her and leaving right away is a great idea, she may have a hard time staying awake for awake time, so maybe let her sleep? You have the diaper bag essentials down, the only item I would add would be an ice pack if you’re pumping. Have a great time in NH!

    PS…we met this summer at the OBGYN, my son Milo was born a week before Amalia xoxo

  • I would not worry about “awake” time- the car is going to lull her to sleep and travel always alters the kids’ schedules. Having a sleeping, quiet baby is the best scenario in the car! Her schedule will probably be off for that day plus the day after travel- just follow her cues and be prepared for that.

    I agree with Meredith to try to avoid traffic times as the constant motion is what you’re wanting! My daughter was fine in the car but my son would scream at us if it stopped (he was a colicky baby, so in general was grumpy) but just to be on the safe side you don’t want to be in traffic!

    • Also your packing list seems pretty good. Someone else mentioned the pack and play with her own sheets which is great advice!

      And timing- we always would feed then leave, so I think that’s a great plan. You don’t want to get on the road and then immediately have to stop for feeding! Plus her little tummy will be nice and full for a good nap!

  • jennie lopez

    Question 1: Is she a really active/alert/awake little girl? Everyone told me my son would sleep straight through long car rides, and boy was that not the case for him (he later proved himself to be the world’s worst sleeper in general). He is so active, so when we stopped to feed him, we would always let him wiggle and play for about an hour before strapping him back in the car. But if you have a chill little baby, stories and the mobile sound like a great plan. Question 2: You’re set! Now that my guy is 1 1/2 we pack cheap dollar store/target dollar bin toys he’s never seen before and he’s fascinated with them, but you’ve got a while before that becomes interesting. Question 3: We always tried to time leaving with a nap, in hopes that the rolling car would keep him asleep as long as possible. And thought he never slept quite as long as those dream babies I hear about, it worked for us. (And as always – trust your gut. You already have more answers than you might realize.)

  • Melisa C.

    Don’t worry she will sleep the whole ride!

  • julia

    At that age, I sat in the backseat when my kids were awake and would climb back up front when they were sleeping. Definitely stop to feed and change her, but otherwise, just keep going! Once my daughter was screaming, and we stopped sooooooo many times and it never got any better. In retrospect it would have been better to just continue driving to arrive as quickly as possible!

  • Jenny

    I just did a first road trip with my son when he was 8 weeks! We also follow Babywise. We stopped after 3 hours when it was time to eat. I sat in the back and just played with him (made faces, moved his arms and legs, read to him) until he fell asleep after he was fed. I found I had to help him stay asleep more than I do at home but he really did super well.

    Some tips that saved us are (1) pack plastic ziplock bags for wet clothes (2) I put one of those cloth diapers that everyone uses for burp cloths behind him in his car seat for the first stretch home because it fell in the time he normally poops the most. It totally saved us from having to clean his car seat mid-poop explosion! (3) when we were at our cabin, we put each dirty diaper in a poop bag we normally use for our dogs. It helped keep things a little cleaner and less smelly.

  • Britta

    We did a love of traveling back and forth to Michigan from Chicago when my daughter was little. Do you have a hatch back so that Boots can be in the trunk? We found it helpful to put the dog in the way back and the suitcases in the backseat area with room for me to switch from the front to the middle seat in the back when necessary.
    Also, make sure the spare clothes and wipes are handy, and always helpful to have some plastic bags for dirty clothes in case of explosions or bad spit ups.
    I found it was an easier drive when we fed her and then put her in the car seat. She seemed to sleep the majority of the 5 hour drive. Midway we would change diapers, change into PJs, and let the dog out. Good luck!
    Oh, an advice to the driver. Just because she starts crying doesn’t mean you have to pull over immediately. When I traveled with my daughter alone a long distance I once panicked because she was screaming and there was no place for me to pull over and I couldn’t reach around while driving. Finally I just had to tune it out for the 5 minutes to get to the next exit and everything was fine.

  • Kaitlin

    I’d also plan to leave right after a feeding (and a good burp). Definitely plan to sit in the backseat with her, and like a lot of other posters, I wouldn’t worry too much about purposely keeping her awake in the car. Not sure how she is in the car in general, but my baby hated it at that age and I was happy to have her sleeping and not screaming her head off, even if it meant getting off schedule for a day. Also I’ve found it’s better to make as few stops as possible because they do take so much longer with a baby and that extra time adds up quickly on a road trip. I think you’ve got everything covered with your packing list – maybe just add an extra outfit change or 2 in case. And have some music ready that she likes listening to that won’t drive you guys crazy 🙂

  • Alie

    I have not read the comments, BUT I’ve made that exact drive several times now with my infant: once at 2-3 months, and most recently at 6-7 months.

    Your timing is perfect: leave as soon as baby is done feeding and drive to the Target at the Holyoke mall. There’s a Starbucks there and lots for baby to look at to get a break from the car. The bathrooms at that target are pretty clean for changing purposes, and so are the bathrooms at the Sears. I stop for about an hour each time to change, stretch, pump, and then feed baby (if from a bottle). Get back on the road as soon as baby finishes eating.

    There aren’t many places to stop north of the mall (as I’m sure you know), and that part of the drive is when baby gets bored with the car.

    You’ve packed all the essentials.

    You’ll be great, and so will Amalia. Good luck!

  • Kate

    I have a different approach with infant travel and have never sat in the back with any of my children. We did a lot of travel with our kids and find that they seem to self soothe better that way and aren’t staring at me aching to get out off the car. I also didn’t see t as sustainable as they got older.. so feared setting a precedent if that makes sense. We have always had good travel sleepers on planes, trains and automobiles and have just popped kids in the car after a meal / feeding and hit the road. I’ve made it from CT to the NH without stopping and CT to D.C. in a straight shot. We kept feedings on schedule as much as possible but didn’t wake the babies to feed if they were lulled to sleep in the car. We always found that they would keep their standard nighttime bedtime even if a feeding was slightly off schedule during a road trip.

  • Kristin

    We took our first 4 hour road trip when my daughter was about 7 weeks old. We left right after I nursed her, which I think is definitely wise. We also swaddled her in the car seat and brought a portable white noise machine. The swaddle-me swaddles have the key hole in the back (which I never knew was for the carseat buckle to fit through!) She slept almost the entire time except for the pit stop to nurse halfway through! She was a much better car traveler at 7 weeks than she is now at 7 months!

  • BRN

    Good luck! I’m not sure if pacifiers are a part of her life, but they can be pretty fantastic for travel, especially if she’s prone to spitting up.

  • Elizabeth

    Make sure to put a blanket on her. My 3 month old always gets cold in the car. Otherwise, just drive, don’t stop unless she is really, really screaming! My husband and I always sit in the front together (turn the music up if baby cries, lol) and while the baby is sleeping it’s really nice time that we have for ourselves to talk to each other and not get distracted with other life crap.