8 tips for taking a road trip with your baby

Mar 20, 2022

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Here at TPG U.K. we’re advocates of flying with your baby, but we know it’s not always the easiest situation to navigate, especially for new parents or during a pandemic.

From rushing through the airport dragging along baggage filled with nappies and formula to your baby sobbing during takeoff, air travel can present challenges for families with infants. The solution? A road trip instead.

(Photo by SrdjanPav/Getty

Whether you’re taking a week-long road trip and stopping along the way, flying somewhere first and then hiring a car or simply driving an hour or two to grandma’s house, here are some key things to know when taking a road trip with your baby.

Related: How to maximise points and miles on your next car rental

1. Sit in the back seat

If your baby is very young and you’re nervous about crying distracting the driver, one of the adults can sit in the backseat with the baby, especially if your infant is still in a rear-facing car seat. If the baby’s pacifier slips out, needs comfort or requires any car seat adjustments, they’ll be easier to handle from the back. Babies, especially newborns, can’t see you in a rear-facing seat, so they may be calmer if they see you and sense your presence in the backseat.

Once you feel confident your baby can handle long stretches in the car without hysteria, move back up to the front. Obviously, this depends greatly on your baby and your family’s needs, but it’s an option that can help the driver to focus and your baby slowly become comfortable with car rides.

2. Make sure to bring anything and everything

Make sure to bring enough snacks, formula, nappies, toys and anything your baby needs. Things like pacifiers, loveys, blankets, stuffed animals, even a white noise machine (this gives adults the option to listen to whatever they want upfront while your baby is tranquil in the back) can help lull your baby into a deep slumber if the whirring of the vehicle isn’t quite enough.

And remember, bring extra of everything in case things take longer than planned.  And it’s worth stating that everything should be accessible from the back seat — those snacks or that comfort blanket won’t help much if they’re buried in the boot.

If you do need to pack breast milk or formula bottles (it’s hard to mix the milk and powder in a moving car, so consider making bottles ahead of time or during stops), put them in a cooler to keep them fresh, especially during summer. And, if you need to pump and take frequent road trips, investing a car charger for your pump may be worth it.

Make sure to have plenty of burp cloths, changes of clothes for your baby and items to sanitise or clean up in case of spit-up or other messy situations. The last thing you want is for your car to smell like vomit or otherwise for the duration of your trip – and beyond.

3. Expect the trip to take longer

If the drive normally takes you four hours, plan for six. Factor in leaving late (nappy blowouts just as you’re about to hit the road are practically a rite of passage), frequent stops for changes/ feedings and longer times for packing and unloading the car.

Babies, despite their tiny size, need a shocking amount of items. Playing boot Tetris with the travel crib, stroller, travel high chair, extra suitcases, backpacks and nappy bags may take extra time, too.

4. Take frequent stops and plan ahead for them, if possible

(Photo by Vesnaandjic/Getty)

It’s best to stop for feedings and changes before your baby starts fussing, gets hungry or becomes cranky. Anticipating these stops ahead of time, selecting petrol stations, rest stops or restaurants along the way can make things easier. It’s always a good idea to understand if there will be a long stretch of road without any places to stop before driving. This way, you can organise a stop before and after to avoid any unnecessary crying, fussiness or drama.

In case of a nappy emergency, bring a changing mat – yes, it is possible to change your baby in the car if needed. If your baby is old enough to walk, make sure to stop frequently so they can move around and stretch their legs. Spending a few minutes playing outdoors is the best kind of break for them.

5. Make sure the car seat is right for your baby

Besides confirming the car seat is EU-approved – oddly this is still a requirement following Brexit, according to the U.K. government website (the seat should have a label with a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’). It should also be the correct size for your baby depending on their weight and height. If you’re hiring a car, make sure the car seat provided is the right size for your baby’s age and weight — especially if you have an infant.

(Photo by AleksandarNakic/Getty)

It’s also worth noting to check the straps on your car seat often to adjust them as your baby grows. Too-tight straps can be uncomfortable for the baby, and too loose could be unsafe, so make sure to fix them according to your baby’s size.

6. Plan your trip around nap and bedtimes

If your baby often sleeps well in the car, it may be best to drive whenever they need to nap, or even drive in the evening so they can sleep. But this depends greatly on your baby’s natural rhythms as well as what works for the entire family.

Obviously, if you drive through the entire night so they can sleep, it might be perfect for your infant, but the adults will be exhausted. So consider both your baby and your whole family when it comes to the timing of your road trip.

7. Create a comfortable environment

Just as you do, your baby wants a comfortable car ride. Consider the car temperature and what your baby is wearing – if you have the heat blasting and your jacket off, theirs should be off too. Being too hot or cold can make for a crankier baby, so adjust as needed. And remember, the heating or air conditioning can always fail, so have clothing layer options and a baby blanket just in case.

Make sure to get a sunshade for the windows so the rays aren’t shining in their eyes or on their sensitive skin. Shades can easily be slipped into a suitcase so if you are flying and then driving – simply take it out and stick it onto the window of your car hire.

8. Invest in a roadside assistance plan

Breaking down is tough enough, but with a newborn in the car, you really don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road for hours and hours. Whether it’s via extra car hire insurance or a road assistance plan for your own vehicle, make sure you can get help quickly if your car breaks down or any other emergency situation occurs during your road trip.

Bottom line

(Photo by Drazen_/Getty)

Road trips with a baby don’t have to be stressful. Packing, prepping and following these tips for your car trip will ensure you and your family — baby included — are happy and safe en route to your holiday destination.

(Featured image by AleksandarNakic/Getty)

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