What are YOUR Tips for Traveling with Tots?

posted by Andrea | 06/25/2012

Dave and I are packing, cleaning, doing laundry, and finishing up some kitchen projects — all in preparation to be out of town for his brother’s wedding later this week. It’s about a 10-hour drive (Minneapolis, Minnesota)… not factoring in construction, traffic jams, or the fact that we’re traveling with a fussy 7 month-old baby who doesn’t exactly love her carseat or naps!

Yeah, I’m a little anxious to say the least.

I love weddings, and I’ve been excited for this wedding since they got engaged well over a year ago. However, I also figured that since Nora would be 7 months old by the time of the wedding, she would be eating almost all baby food and be on a pretty regular sleep schedule.

We were planning to leave her behind with my parents and have a fun long weekend away (it’s our anniversary too) but as many of you know, our babe has absolutely NO schedule, she rarely ever naps, she cries constantly when I’m not around, and she refuses to eat anything but milk. My Milk.

So she’s coming with us!

That means the stroller, carseat, pack n’ play, diaper bag, diapers, wipes, toys, and vast array of other baby items are also coming along with us.

Good thing we have our new-to-us vehicle with so much extra storage (and a DVD player) :)

We almost decided Dave should go by himself (after all, he IS the best man). It would be so much easier if I just stayed home with Nora.

But… I really wanted to go.

Plus, I found a fabulous dress for the occasion… and I can’t wait to share pictures!  It was only $28.72 on the clearance rack at Macy’s PLUS I had a $25 gift card — which meant the dress was less than $4.00 out of pocket!

So we’re all going… and all our stuff is coming along too.

I decided that Nora will be fussy whether we’re at home or in a hotel in Minnesota — and at least we have a pool, delicious meals, and a few extra hands to occupy her in Minnesota. Plus, her lack of schedule might actually work in our favor — after all, we won’t have to work around her feeding or napping schedules since she doesn’t have any :)

However I’m still a bit anxious.

I think mostly, I just don’t want to be “that mom” who has to walk out of the wedding ceremony because she can’t get her baby to stop being fussy.

No, I haven’t been able to implement my “go-with-the-flow attitude” for this trip yet!

Insert deep breath.

So since I know many of you have lots and lots of experience traveling with babies and young children, I’d LOVE for you to leave a few words of wisdom or your best traveling tips in the comment section :)

Of course, I know every family, child, and situation is different — but I’ve already gleaned so much helpful information from comments left on my blog that I figured it can’t hurt to request your help once again.

What are your best tips for traveling with tots?

Thanks in advance!

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Filed under: FamilyTravel



  1. Rebecca


    Take baby tylenol and a thermometer just in case!


  2. Melissa Q


    Three things that have worked for us:

    1. Something new every hour. Yep, on the hour, every hour, we pass back a “little something” to our toddler and preschooler. It might be a new little toy or book or just a snack, but it works to keep things interesting — and to keep little hands and minds occupied.

    2. Pack each outfit separately and in it’s own little ziploc bag. Include all accessories — socks, shoes (if special), etc. Then it’s just a grab and go (or a stuff-into-the-diaper-bag).

    3. Drive across the panhandle of Idaho. Can’t tell you why, but every single time we drive across the panhandle of Idaho, our boys sleep the entire length of it (90 minutes or so). No matter which direction we’re going. OKAY, OKAY that one might not work out well for you, but if you’re desperate to get Nora to sleep, anything might be worth it :-)


  3. Kris


    We found for our boys we need to be on the road early in the morning and the fewer times we stop the better. It actually still holds true for them and they are 7 and 10. People often say you,should stop and let the babies/kids stretch and get out of their car seats. We found that it just annoyed our boys because they didn’t want to get back in the car seat and I think they thought the trip was over evey time we stopped. And my oldest would never sleep in the car (3 months old for his first long car trip – over 9 hours – and he slept for about an hour of the trip ) so early was better for us. We still can’t travel at night because if it hits 9 pm and he’s not in bed he falls apart. Maybe take a test run out on the highway with Nora at night to see if she’ll fall asleep? Let me tell you being in a car with a baby who just won’t sleep at night is not fun. Good luck. Just keep reminding yourself to go with the flow…and hand her off to hubby when you need a 15 minute breather in another room!


    Hope Reply:

    I agree. Mine are grown now but I used to make a regular 8 hour drive with them ALONE to go visit grandparents. I always got the pressure to ‘stop and let the kids run around some’, but found that the fewer stops the better. So, I only stopped for gas and got food at the same time if I needed to do so. The faster you get there, the faster you can recover and enjoy the weekend. Oh, and tether pacifiers and toys so that you don’t have to pull off the road to find them when a frustrated little one tosses them.


  4. Bronwyn


    1. A good rule of thumb I’ve heard of and used for packing diapers on a long journey (airplane, car, etc.) is 1 per hour plus 2 more (e.g. 10 hours = 10 + 2 = 12) I’ve never actually got through them all, but I’d hate to have to unpack to find some extras in an emergency!

    2. Ask around if any of your relatives will be using a baby sitter during the wedding. Maybe someone local will be happy to recommend a sitter to mind Nora for the ceremony and reception, or even split the cost :o)

    3. Think of all those rellies who will just adore holding her. She’ll rival the bride for oohs and aahs, so take advantage of the chance to eat with a utensil in each hand, and not having to dodge grasping fingers while you sit.

    Hope you have a great time!


  5. Dana


    Music! When the 3-year-old and 16-month-old start to get fussy, we put on some music we enjoy and just quietly sing along. Also, this is an obvious one, but dress her lightly in the car because she will get sweaty in that car seat! Hopefully she surprises you and loves her vacation!


  6. Michele


    First, lighten your load! Call ahead to the hotel and ask for a portacrib to be brought to your room. Nix the pack and play. Bring only enough diapers/food for the trip there, +2 more diapers(just in case). When you get there, make a Walmart (or wherever) stop to for supplies for the stay and the trip back. You’d be surprised how much trunk space you gain.
    Second, pack a plastic bag with any meds Nora (and the two of you) might need and stick it in the diaper bag. You really don’t want to be out on the road in the middle of nowhere and need teething gel or something in a hurry.
    Third, pack a gallon size plastic bag with about 20 other gallon size plastic bags. These come in handy for nasty baby clothes (the smell is locked away). Also bring along a few wet wash cloths (sealed up in quart size plastic bags); these are very handy for big messes (which we all hope you won’t have) that you’d otherwise need a million wipes to handle.

    And I agree, take advantage of all the relatives who haven’t yet seen her and give your lap a rest! Have fun!


  7. Rochelle


    We always brought a new toy or two for a long car ride for our daughters so there was something new to occupy them. Don’t worry about the trip home though since at your overnight stay there will be two young girls here who can’t wait to meet her!


  8. Kristi


    Have you tried chiropractic for your daughter? Many times their bodies are out of whack from the birthing process and chiropractic care can be very helpful. I had twins and one of them had colic from about 4 months to 7 months). I got almost no sleep for those months and truly wonder I how I survived (but by the grace of God). If I had known this then, I surely would have used it. You should be able to get an appointment before you leave and perhaps it will make the trip and stay more enjoyable and less stressful for all of you. Best WIshes!


    Starla Reply:

    I agree – I did this with several of our boys. Our first was fussy and didn’t sleep like Nora doesn’t either. A chiropractor adjustment did make a difference, especially when it came to sleeping at night..

    I hope the trip goes well for you. My parents live 6 – 7 hours away and we have done many road trips with fussy babies. Somehow you survive. Some of them were fine with Mama sitting right next to them and showing them toys and books and playing with them. The next one got tired of it sooner but today, at 14, 12, 8, & 6, they all love to travel!


    Laura Reply:

    I totally agree with this. My daughter was a totally different baby after having two adjustments when she was young. She had terrible tummy pain and we could tell even at the end of her first appointment that it was already making a difference.


  9. Angel


    Don’t try to see how long Nora can make it before you have to stop to feed. Find a nice park in a town and feed her every two hours or so. Just plan on spending a half hour ahead of time, so she is refreshed. I’d change her diapper every time you stop, It will make her more comfortable. On the same note, make sure she is dressed comfortable, I’d do a onesy or pjs.

    If you are a privacy nut, like me, get a sun visor for your car. When you are feeding, you can put it in the window. It will keep you cooler and provide an extra layer of privacy.

    I would feed Nora right before checking out of your motel. Make it a quiet peaceful time while hubby packs the car. Don’t rush. Most motels will let you check out a little later if hubby asks if you can finish feeding.

    At the wedding find an out of the way place to sit, just plan on feeding her using a good cover during the cerimony. Make sure she is dressed light just in case it is hot…but bring something warm just in case it is over airconditioned…Sit close to the door!!!


  10. Kristine


    I know you have probably been told to read a thousand books, but if you have NOT read “The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer” by Tracy Hogg, it was a HEAVEN send to me! Yes, my kids were all different (I have 4) but it sure helped with making sure all their ‘basic needs’ were met and put my mind at ease! Traveling is different with each, just be happy at this point you have ONE little one to focus on! Lastly, remember, she will be out of this stage soon, too! You will hardly remember this “hard” time!


  11. Tamara


    Definitely use the ziploc baggies for outfits. We did that last year and this year with 3 kids and it is such a help not having to root around through luggage trying to find the headband that goes with whatever outfit, etc.

    Definitely take time to stop and nurse when needed. It does add time, but baby will be happier and so will you.

    Have fun on your trip!


  12. Amanda


    Do you pump AND nurse? I did, and for a car trip I would absolutely have a little cooler with two bottles already prepared with milk (not a travel tip – but I froze my extra in a tray I got off moms4life that made 1 oz long sticks, they looked like string cheese, but fit right down the mouth of the bottles. Helped keep milk cold when packing for the day). Drew would eat it cold from the bottle but there are bottle warmers you can plug in your car charger, or most gas stations would probably let you microwave a tupperware bowl of water to heat up.

    This could prevent having a long stop to nurse, or stave off a melt down if you have several miles before a suitable place to pull off.

    Not a tip, just a sad fact. I would estimate that you should add 50% to your expected travel time with an infant of that age, making your normally 10h trip a good 15h. Sorry to say but it’s probably true. I agree that fewer stops is actually better, but with an infant sometimes you just have to change the diaper and every stop is longer and more frequent than those 2 adults would make. Even at 4y old, we’re finding there’s still a 25% time penalty on travel.

    Also, you are so organized you’ve probably thought of this, but we packed with a master list and multiple tote bags. So, all diapering supplies and bath supplies in one tote. All clean bottles, spoons, extra pacifiers, feeding supplies packed together with jars of baby food and some of those Medela microwave sterilizer bags (excellent if your hotel doesn’t have a kitchenette – we’d wash bottle parts in the bathroom sink then sterilize in the microwave). All toys/books/DVDs/stuffies in a tote. At 7m Drew was captivated by Yo Gaba Gaba. Clothes and linens with ours, usually. The master list would say what, how many of each, and in what bag. This was a life saver because we or other family members could find things easily, and my forgetful baby brain didn’t result in a very expensive trip to replace forgotten items.

    Good luck and enjoy the wedding!


  13. Leah


    Although Nora doesn’t have a schedule, we always do absolutely everything necessary when we have to make a stop. As soon as you don’t, they will decide to take a long nap (or be in the middle of a short one) and stopping for any reason always wakes mine up….and on a road trip, nap time is precious time! Or if they are just being content and you have to stop, that sometimes makes it worse b/c they think it’s time to get out.

    Even if we have only burned a quarter tank of gas, if we have to stop for food, potty time, etc, we just go ahead and fill up with gas too so everything is taken care of. Those kids KNOW when the road noise stops and perk their lil heads up! :) We also pack breakfast burritos for the morning (eggs, turkey bacon, cheese, diced potatoes and warm them in tin foil before we head out the door) and lunch sandwiches (and tons of snacks & drinks) so we don’t have to stop. The morning time is the best time to make tracks and my kids are in the best mood, so we keep on a truckin!! Also, if Nora will take a bottle of water, I’ve found that sometimes the crankiness is because they are just thirsty, and at her age, water would maybe help.

    Best of luck traveling! I would also recommend pumped milk if she takes a bottle. Every 30 minutes you can reclaim the better!

    We will be traveling this weekend as well, Lord willing. 12 hours the first day, 6 the next with a 5 year old and 20 month old. Will be thinking of you!


    Lauar Reply:

    this is sooo true! we learned our lesson on this when we stopped for lunch and then realized (after the kids had started napping) that we needed gas. we had to stop, and of course, woke them up!


  14. Jenn


    Many of these tips have already been suggested but I am including in my list because they are important!

    1. Pack less – Call the hotel for a pack-n-play and go to Wal-mart when you get there or order supplies ahead on diapers.com and have shipped to hotel or relative to avoid stopping at the store right away.

    2. New surprises and old favorits- a few new and interesting toys or books to introduce and keep things interesting are helpful. More important is having her favorite blanket, toy, book, and the like to comfort here.

    3. Plan to ride next to her about 50% of the time – when it was just our son I spent a lot of the tirp in the back seat entertaining him by reading and singing. This will save your back; especially since she is probably still facing backwards plus your trip will be smoother. Once our daughter came a long there is no longer a place for me to sit in the back with them and she was a fussy one. Needless to say I spent a lot of time out of my seatbelt turned around to tend to her. Try to still sit in the front and visit with your hubby… that is the thing I miss most about our trips is that we no longer get to really visit

    4. Change her diaper in the car in stead of gas stations. Some places don’t have changing tables and even if they do you will not have to worry about exposing her to all of the germs in the public bathroom, plus you don’t have to tote your bag in with you.

    5. Try to go with the flow! It sounds like we have a lot in common and now with kids the truth is no matter how much I plan or prepare things will not work out just like I want them to. But the few times I just take it as it comes I have found things work out better than I could have ever planned for.

    May you have a safe and easy trip and enjoy every moment.


  15. Laura


    I am very much like you, a very scheduled and routine oriented person, but with 3 kids 4 and under, it makes it very difficult to be this way. So, I try to be more go with the flow on any trip we take, but I also try to keep to their routine some… my kids do better that way. For the car, I always pack plenty of snacks and toys for my older two kids and a sippy cup for the baby. (he is no longer nursing). We usually leave early in the morning and just plan to make several stops. My two older kids are potty trained, so we plan to stop every 2 hours for them to potty and to change the baby’s diaper. The best tip is just to expect delays and not try to rush getting to where you are going. I also agree with the person who posted about doing everything you can at each stop… (ex. when you stop for lunch, fill up with gas as well so that you don’t have to wake up the baby from a nap later and do it). Pack lots of disposable bags for dirty diapers and outfits. I also keep a little trash can in the car, because we accumulate so much trash on a trip with kids. Lastly, my kids (even my baby) LOVE music in the car. It is soothing to them, and they would rather listen to kid’s music than watch a DVD. Can’t tell you how much that has helped.


  16. Andree


    Here is what worked for us on our 16 hour drive-time trip:
    1. sit in the backseat next to the baby
    2. diaper ointment- slather it on at every stop- diaper rash makes everything worst. air drying helps too!
    3. plan on the trip taking longer- longer stops, later getting on the road, etc

    most importantly:
    4. follow the baby’s lead- stop when she wants and keep driving if she happens to sleep

    happy travels!


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    [...] I asked for your tips for traveling with tots before I left, I figured that I should also share what I “learned” on our first road trip with [...]

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