This past weekend we took a quick road trip through Columbus and to Cincinnati to visit some of The Husband’s family. Managing a single road trip does not make me a traveling-with-baby expert, but we were way more successful than I could have imagined, so I thought I’d share some tips for any new parents prepping for their own excursions.
Start with a good list. I love a list, and packing is no exception. Mentally go through a regular day with your baby and write down everything you’ll need, from diapering, to feeding, to naps and sleep; then consider any activities you are planning during the trip (for me, that was maybe using the hotel pool and going to the zoo) and list anything you’ll want for that (sunscreen, hat, swim diaper, etc.) If you are a parent and you are reading this, you know to plan for disasters, so it almost goes without saying you should bring a few extra changes of clothes/a few more diapers than you think you need.
Here are a few things I packed that came in handy:
- Neatly folded plastic grocery bags for holding dirty diapers, soiled clothes, etc. I also brought a few zip-top sandwich sized storage bags for holding pacifiers, doling out small portions of baby puffs, etc.
- Baby carrier. You guys, baby wearing is so handy for travel. We brought our stroller but it ended up staying in the car the whole time. I impulse bought a soft structured carrier the day before we left but I have zero regrets.
- Boobs. Because I’m SAHM-ing and extremely lazy about pumping, I brought zero bottles and only the milk I carried. A bottle could likely have come in handy at some point, but honestly, probably not enough to make up for the having to wash everything. Obviously you will have to adapt to your situation.
- Easy, mess-free snack. I knew we were going to be dining out a lot and I wouldn’t have a whole lot of control over sodium levels, etc., I bought a canister of Baby Puffs to keep The Baby occupied at the table if we were short on options for him.
- Silicone placemat and a bib. Our hotel had a breakfast buffet with fruit and other BLW-friendly items, so we wanted to take advantage of it without being the worst hotel guests ever. This helped contain the mess (a little.)
- All-purpose cleaning wipes and baby wipes. In addition to baby wipes for diapering, I kept a stash along with all-purpose cleaning wipes to clean The Baby and the table, respectively.
- This is totally dependent on how your baby sleeps, but I brought a sleep sack and both Wubbanubs. The Baby uses them only when he is going down to sleep but I would have lost my mind if we hadn’t brought them. I also brought a very small fan to help with white noise if our hotel A/C wasn’t loud enough to do the trick. We carried our cosleeping habit to the hotel so didn’t bother with a Pack and Play or anything. I’ll talk about our nap setup later.
Toys and entertainment
- We brought The Baby’s favorite book for bedtime, and I fished a few toys out of the box that he doesn’t usually play with (I try to rotate them to keep him from getting overwhelmed and/or bored with the same toys all the time.) I also strung several canning rings onto a plastic toy link to make a fun, noisy rattle that I wouldn’t mind losing. Because we’re trying to go with the whole low-tech baby thing, I did not set up any baby TV on my phone for the trip.
Plan your bags well. I used our large diaper bag as the “suitcase”/staging bag, filling it with all the diapers we’d need for the weekend, The Baby’s clothes, burp cloths, bibs, and blanket. I put all his clothes in one gallon size zip-top bag, the bibs and burp cloths in another, bath toys and baby shampoo in another, and used each pocket in the bag for other “groups” of items. Sunscreen and bug repellant in one, wipes in another, etc. I used a separate, small backpack to hold all the food-related stuff, as well as a mini diaper clutch with just enough diapering supplies for each leg of the trip. My point is, try to start off extremely organized. It made it easy to grab stuff in the car and kept me from feeling weighed down like a pack mule.
Don’t forget your own comfort. Comfy shoes, plenty of nursing bras, snacks for the ride and hotel room, and a pile of books. The one amazing thing for me was getting to read a little while The Baby napped because I was too far away from my dirty laundry and unfinished DIY projects to try to tackle them while he slept. It was, in short bursts, almost vacation-like.
Driving and time management
Plan around naps. We tried to time each of our departures around The Baby’s usual nap times to give him a chance to sleep in the car. It usually worked out great. I also chose to sit next to him in the back during the second leg of each trip to serve as entertainment (and occasionally lean over his carseat to nurse him, yep) to keep him from flying off the handle.
Break the trip up. We weren’t going far, but stopping in Columbus for a few hours (and then in Oxford on the way back up) gave The Baby a chance to stretch out, hang out somewhere other than the car, and burn off some energy.
Take your time and be flexible. We decided throughout the trip that while we wanted to have fun and see everyone, we weren’t going to try to stick to any overtaxing schedules. We tried to make sure The Baby at least had an excellent first nap each day, so if his second nap was spent being lugged around in a carrier at the zoo, he’d at least have started off well.
While it’s easy to crash anywhere when it’s just you/your significant other, I think it’s totally worth it to save up/find deals to get a hotel room that can serve as a good home base. Call me a control freak (I am), but when you’re away from home it’s really nice to be able to manage your surroundings to make your baby (and yourself) as comfortable as possible, and sometimes that’s just not possible if you have a fold out couch in someone else’s house.
I intentionally found a hotel that had mini-suites and decided to cash in some credit card points to offset the extra cost. We stayed in a king studio suite, and while there wasn’t a separate room for The Baby to sleep in, there was plenty of floor space for him to crawl around, and The Husband and I did have a separate sitting area to lounge in while he slept. There was also a mini-fridge and an extra sink, which came in handy for washing our placemat, etc. after breakfast. It was just nice to have the extra space.
Basically, we just did our best to stick to the home routine. I put The Baby in the middle of the bed with pillows blocking each edge (but nowhere near him… gotta love a California king bed), and we just kept an eye on him from across the room while he napped. At night, we did our usual bathtime, story time routine, and it worked out great. The blackout curtains were clutch and made me realize the really-dark-but-not-actually-blackout curtains in The Baby’s room are not quite cutting it.
While we had to be quiet and left the room fairly dim during The Baby’s sleep, I packed a picnic for our first night in the hotel (cheese and charcuterie, plus prosecco) and we actually had a pretty romantic cocktail hour in our half of the room.
Those are my tips for a successful road trip with baby. What are your go-to moves?
(By the way, I know I linked to a lot of products in this post, but none of this is sponsored. It’s just what I love/used on this particular trip.)