Road trips with a newborn can be stressful, but they don’t have to be, and the truth is a car ride with a baby is often less stressful than getting on a plane. You can stop your vehicle for an emergency bathroom break or move around a restless toddler. And if your baby does throw a tantrum, you can focus your attention on their needs instead of worrying about other passengers.
Whether you’re hitting the road to visit the grandparents or heading to a vacation destination geared toward families with infants, you may be surprised at some of the simple things you can do to keep your little one calm and quiet during your trip.
Parenting is a moving target. One day may go 1000% better than you planned, and the next day starts low and plummets from there. Travelling with a newborn baby can be daunting.
The key to a successful road trip with a baby? Patience and the knowledge that it might be tricky.
The significant part about road tripping with a baby? Unlike air travel with a baby, the only people dealing with the crying, smells and chaos are the people who agreed to get into your car. Our exclusive range of baby nursery products will help create the perfect baby nursery for your baby.
Whether you’ll be on the road for five hours or five days, these tips will help your vacation go as smoothly as possible.
Road Trip Tips to Get Baby Ready for a Long Car Ride
In the beginning, everything is daunting. Getting your newborn into a car seat for that first doctor’s appointment takes forever. Over time, it gets easier.
You’ve got this. But travelling with a newborn baby? Suddenly, a road trip comes up, and it presents a whole new set of challenges.
This is perhaps the most important tip for a road trip with a newborn. Give yourself lots of time.
Life with a newborn––as you may be aware of, your little one has arrived in the world already––means everything takes that little bit longer.
Whether it’s a hungry tummy or a grumpy morning (and we don’t just mean the baby), there is a lot that can happen to slow down any process.
Imagine: you are about to leave the service station after your pit stop, and there’s a rumble from beneath your baby’s bottom.
Babies always seem to decide it’s time for poop at simply the most inconvenient times.
Predicting that this could be the case and expecting the unexpected will help as you imagine your day.
Allowing extra time for much-needed breaks along the way (of unpredictable length!) will lead to a more relaxing ride.
The beauty of taking life in ‘the slow lane,’ which invariably happens when you have a baby, is that it forces you to pause frequently and live simply in the moment you are in, rather than the next one.
Take time on your road trip. It will be much less stressful and a lot more fun.
While one person is driving, have another sit in the back with the baby.
Having that caretaker in the back seat can help address issues as they arise—preparing bottles, wiping up, curing boredom with some old-fashioned “peek-a-boo”—which can help minimise stops and avoid total meltdowns.
It’s an old bit of wisdom, but “sleep when the baby sleeps” is solid advice during a road trip with kids.
When the baby is sleeping, the person in the back should try to rest, too, to be refreshed enough to take over driving when the driver gets fatigued.
You Are Their Favourite Toy
Undoubtedly, toys are helpful, but the thing that makes them happiest of all is you!
When travelling in the car, this means it’s crucial to be as present as possible.
Sit with your baby.
If there are two of you on your road trip with your newborn, sit next to them in the back. They’ll find it an immense comfort.
Remember, the world is still a new place for them, and they can’t yet fathom that you are a separate person from them.
Never underestimate the power of singing to your baby, no matter what you think it sounds like.
It is their favourite sound – really!! Sometimes it is the only thing that will calm our little one. AND this works over and above playing him actual music.
They love the sound of your voice; it’s soothing to them. We have sometimes ended up singing the most ridiculous songs together to keep our little one happy during car journeys. Songs that include hand actions and sound effects are good, and you can always add them in if they don’t have them already!
Give Leg Massages.
Babies often crave literal contact too. Our little boy finds it relaxing having his legs and feet massaged.
Take Regular Pit-Stops
Taking regular breaks during a road trip with a newborn baby is necessary for a couple of reasons.
It gives the baby a change of scenery, a chance to feed and have a cuddle.
Hopefully, they may be a little less grumpy for you after a break from the car.
Newborns need to feed frequently, often more frequently than you might like to stop ordinarily.
They also have a genuine need for physical contact from you and will benefit from a chance to get out of the car seat.
It’s recommended that you take a 15-minute break every 2 hours of a car journey due to concerns over restricted breathing in a car seat.
By this point, your baby will probably already be hungry/in need of changing anyway!
You might be able to go six hours without using the bathroom or needing to eat, but the baby likely can’t.
Plan for stops every one to three hours during the day and three to six hours at night to change diapers, stretch legs, eat, and change sweaty or spit-up clothes as needed.
To avoid unnecessary stops, make a checklist of items you go through during every break, so you don’t forget anything, such as changing the baby’s diaper or clothes, using the restroom (for those not in diapers), and vital essential supplies.
Any number of things can go wrong on a road trip—a flat tire, bad weather, food poisoning—but those hiccups become exponentially more stressful with a young (likely screaming) infant in tow.
Accepting that going in and maintaining a sense of humour about the situation can go a long way to help ease the tension.
After all, the difference between a fiasco and an adventure can be as simple as your state of mind.
One way to make light of unpleasant situations is to create a game out of them.
For example, put together Baby Road Trip BINGO cards where spaces are filled in with any and all potential disasters—think “blow out in the car seat” or tiny victories like “finished a whole podcast.”
That way, even bad situations turn into wins.
Drive at Night
It’s a bit uncomfortable for the parents, but then again, so is a screaming child with no exit in sight.
Driving at night means your baby will spend more time sleeping and less time awake and hungry, bored, or need changes.
You’ll be able to drive for long stretches without needing breaks.
A great way to maximise drive time is to schedule your departure so that it coincides with bedtime.
Go through your whole routine (bath, pyjamas, bedtime song—whatever your nightly ritual entails), but put the baby down to sleep in the car seat instead of the crib or bassinet. Looking for a car seat for your baby? Look no further. My Baby Nursery have a wide range for you to choose from.
Drive as long as you’re comfortable—or for as long as the baby is sleeping—but be sure to switch drivers, caffeinate, and rest when needed to avoid driving drowsy.
Remember Their Favourite Things
Having some of the things your baby finds entertaining/comforting with you during your trip will be very helpful.
Perhaps take a range of items so that they have something to watch/chew/hold, for instance.
You may find your little one appreciates having something to chew, whether an actual teething toy or something soft like a muslin cloth.
Comforters or muslins for them to hug may be helpful, especially if they smell of you – try sleeping with one under your t-shirt before giving it to them.
Rainmakers are a fun and distracting toy to take.
They make a noise (repetitive, so it may also be good at sending them to sleep!), they are colourful, and there are lots to look at.
Toys that make an exciting noise, such as those with a bell and books that crackle or have squeaky buttons, hit our son.
Skip the Scenic Route
While scenic overlooks and long stretches of the open road might seem like the very things that make a road trip worthwhile, they can also make it challenging to find help or reprieve when you need it.
Choose a route in advance with frequent access to food, 24-hour gas stations, restrooms, and service areas.
Even better, plot out some pit-stops in advance—including some potential hotels if you think you might need a real rest—so you can pull over when necessary.
Keep Supplies Nearby
You might have a giant suitcase with everything you need to survive travelling with an infant for an extended time—but that’s not what you want to be digging through at 65 mph while a baby is screaming in your ear or while parked at a dodgy rest stop in the middle of the night.
Keep a kit within easy reach so you don’t have to unbuckle your seat belt to retrieve any necessary items, and fill the bag with small amounts of necessities (you can always refill as you go).
You could pack all of these items into a medium-sized backpack or tote bag:
- A portable changing pad with two or three diapers
- A packet of wipes
- Pre-portioned bottles of formula or breast milk in a small cooler bag
- Two or three minor but versatile toys
- Infant Tylenol or ibuprofen
- A baby forehead thermometer
- A small portable sound machine
- An extra blanket
In addition to the baby kit, be sure there’s one for the adults, too.
That could include mobile chargers for your electronic devices, a tablet or e-reader, high-protein/easy-to-eat snacks, sleep aids, a sleep mask, a small pillow, earphones, and earplugs.
Shield Them from the Sun
Sun blinds that stick to the car windows is helpful on a road trip with a newborn.
Our little one hates the sun getting in his eyes – it makes him unhappy!
Sun shining into the car can also cause them to overheat, which is especially important to avoid with newborns. So this is a necessary accessory to your journeying, in my opinion!
Dress Them in Everyday Clothes and a Blanket
You never know whether your little one will be too cold or too hot during your trip.
The air conditioning may stop working; the heating may burst. Whatever the circumstance may be, it’s best to be prepared.
Putting them in everyday clothing will allow you to regulate their temperature more effectively on the road.
Ensure they aren’t in anything too padded like a pram suit, as the seat belt on the car seat will not be as effective if there were to be a collision.
Regular clothes and a blanket in the car to cover your little one if they are chilly is what we advise.
Take a Camera on Your Road Trip With a Newborn
To capture you and your baby on your trip, of course!
We’d be lost without a camera.
Ensure you capture all those magical moments of hitting the road with your newborn!
This will also serve a dual purpose in entertaining your baby once you have exhausted everything else! They may find it attractive looking at pictures of you or themselves.
Don’t Forget Wipes and a Muslin.
Wipes are essential on your trip to clean those spit ups and pickups.
There may have been occasions where you have needed a wipe to hand, but you’d left them in the trunk. Keep them to hand!
We’d also advise keeping them in the seat or door pocket and bringing something to put the used ones in.
Muslins are also great for everything – cleaning up, an extra blanket, a comforter for the baby and draping over your shoulder when you’re breastfeeding in public. We suggest you use the larger ones, nearing a metre squared; you’ll find them the most versatile.
Pack a Baby Carrier and a Buggy
A baby carrier is practical when you get to a service station or take a break on your road trip.
We thought it would be easier just to carry the baby. However, this then proves very tricky when you want to pay for something, drink your drink or just do anything!
Keep the Carrier Handy.
It may come in handy depending on your destination too. If you’re travelling to a very hilly place, the carrier is much more suited than a buggy.
It’s best to have both with you, so you have your options open.
Brush up on Baby Massage Techniques
Babies can get stiff and uncomfortable after sitting for hours in their seats, just like adults.
Read up on some infant massage techniques that you can modify to use either while driving (if you’re on backseat duty) and during stops.
In particular, gently massaging legs and feet can often help calm a fussy baby long enough to get you to a good stopping place where they can stretch out their legs in earnest.
With or without an infant, standard prep and safety precautions should be followed.
Make sure you have a spare tire, car jack, and tire iron that are ready to go, especially if you’re driving through sparsely populated areas where the nearest mechanic could be several miles away.
It’s not fun waiting hours for a tow truck to arrive and even less so when you have a baby on board.
While packing the car, be sure not to obstruct the driver’s view, including in the rearview mirror. And always take steps to pull over to well-lit areas when stopping at night.
Get Breakdown Cover
When you are in the middle of nowhere with your tiny baby, the last thing you want is to try and figure out how you are going to get your car fixed after a breakdown.
That’s why this is an essential tip for anyone taking a road trip with a newborn.
Wherever you are travelling, it’s best to have a breakdown cover so that any problem can be sorted swiftly and without too much drama.
Make everything else in life as easy as possible when you have a newborn on your hands!
If you’re tired, if you’re frustrated, if everyone in the car (including your baby) can’t take another second on the road, then stop. It’s okay.
Find a place to rest and give yourself a few minutes or hours to regroup.
Most hotels will take bookings any time of day, and many provide cribs in the room upon request.
Take a nap in a real bed or freshen up with a hot shower and a meal at a sit-down restaurant.
Giving yourself and your baby a chance to reset can help make the rest of the ride go more smoothly.
How to Change a Diaper in the Car
Ahh, the fun of car diapers changes. If you’re road tripping with a newborn and it’s your first baby, on the go diaper changes can be overwhelming.
There are a few options for easy diaper changes on a road trip with a baby:
- Diaper changes at rest stops, gas stations, restaurants, or even a Target or baby supply store you swing into quickly
- Use your changing pad and do the diaper change in your car.
The pros of a store or rest stop: Chances are good you’ll find a proper changing table. The cons?
You don’t control the cleanliness. The pros of your car? You can take your time and maintain cleanliness.
The cons? One blowout or a rolling baby, and you might end up with a new scent in your car.
No doubt, after your first trip in the car, you will learn for yourself, more specifically, what your little one needs, how best to entertain them and how often you may need to stop along the way. Baby Prams are one of the most important baby products to get right. Check out our range here.
As they get older, what they want and need will undoubtedly change, and you will try your hardest to keep up!