Our First Experience Traveling with a Baby

posted by Andrea | 07/9/2012

It’s already been a full week since we arrived home from our crazy 5-day wedding road trip with Nora. The trip actually went much better than I anticipated and Nora basically slept the majority of the driving time {which is completely abnormal for her}.

Since 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 a baby.

First of all, I’ll just be honest — if it were me, I would NEVER choose to travel with a small baby 🙂 It’s just not worth all the extra work and planning… and it’s definitely not a “vacation” for the parents. The only reason we went through all the extra effort was because it was a family wedding — and we can’t really skip a sibling’s wedding.

While we did have fun and it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, Dave and I both agreed that we probably won’t be taking many road trips until our kids are a bit older.

That said, here are a few things we did that really helped the trip to go smoothly.

We planned ahead:

Obviously, planning is key for any sort of road trip or family vacation — but planning is even more crucial when you have a baby or small children along for the ride too.

We planned out our driving route, when we would leave the house, how far we would go each day, and what cities we would stop in overnight. Dave’s sister found a great hotel with a fun kiddie pool and amazing breakfast for the first night and the other nights were planned out based on the wedding location. We were able to make reservations ahead of time, get our AAA discount, and know exactly how far we needed to go each day.

We also planned ahead for all the stuff we’d need to bring along — not only for Nora (pack n’ play, stroller, extra clothing, diapers) but also for the wedding and the family pictures we had a couple days later (special clothing, shoes, accessories, wedding gift, etc.) I packed a pretty minimalist wardrobe, but it was still crazy how much other “stuff” we brought along! I felt like we were over-packing, but we did end up using almost everything we brought along.

We packed a bunch of food, snacks, and drinks so we could eat in the car (if Nora was sleeping) or stop at a park where there might not be a place to buy food. Our stash of food was a life-saver because it seemed like Nora was sleeping every time we got hungry — and we were NOT going to risk waking her up by stopping for something to eat. Plus it saved us a bunch of money 🙂

Thanks to many of your suggestions, I kept a small bag of toys right next to me in the car and any time Nora got a little fussy or restless, I pulled out a new toy. Then once she lost interest in that toy, I’d put it back in the bag and wait for another fussy time when I’d pull out a new toy. We also used our DVD player several times for Baby Einstein movies… which Nora LOVES!

We gave ourselves plenty of time.

Everything really DOES take a lot longer when you have a baby along; and even though Nora slept much more than we were planning on, we still needed to stop more frequently to let her burn off some energy (I wasn’t complaining about the extra stops to stretch either!)

Anytime we had to be somewhere by a certain time, we’d always give ourselves an extra 20-40 minutes, depending on how far away we had to drive — that seemed to work well for us.

We also tried to leave extra time in case Nora needed to eat or slept longer than we planned — which seemed to happen frequently on this trip!

We “scheduled” lots of down time.

Due to the fact that we had a rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding, reception, pictures, family birthday dinner, more family pictures, and lots of other scheduled activities we had to attend, Dave and I didn’t try to fit anything else in. We used all our “extra” time to lounge at the pool, relax in our hotel room, or push Nora around in the stroller.

Thankfully Nora LOVED the pool so we visited the pool at least once every day — which of course helped her to sleep better. It was a great way for Dave and I to relax and Nora to use up extra energy… win-win!

I also utilized that down time we had while driving. Since Nora slept a lot {and since Dave really enjoys driving} I sat in the back by Nora and rested, watched a bunch of chick-flicks, listened to music, and played games on my phone. It was actually really nice since I NEVER take the time to do these activities at home

We spent lots of time talking with friends and family over breakfast and at the pool, and basically didn’t do anything we didn’t absolutely have to do. This might sound lazy or like a “waste of a vacation” but we seriously had so many planned obligations due to the fact the Dave was the best man that we just had to relax as much as we could in order to keep Nora from being too fussy.

We packed a lot!

Yes, I know, I talked about my minimalist wardrobe… and honestly, if it were just Dave and I, we would have had one suitcase and a cooler.

However, since this was our first over-night trip with Nora, and since we didn’t know exactly what we would need, we just brought everything!

I didn’t like the idea of having her sleep on the hotel pack n’ play (mainly because she’s at the stage where she sucks on everything) so we brought our own. We also brought the stroller — which ended up being a life-saver.

I brought twice as many clothes as I thought she would need and a healthy supply of extra diapers too. I figure they didn’t really take up that much room and I knew I wouldn’t have access to a washing machine or a lot of extra time to go shopping for more diapers.

We also packed a small fan (since we were all sleeping in one room and she makes a lot of noise) and her small blow-up bath tub (since I didn’t know if our hotels would have a bathtub or a walk-in shower).

I totally forgot to take a picture of the back of our car… we could still see through the rearview mirror, but it was definitely full. Better safe than sorry I guess!

Over all, our first road trip was a success; however I don’t think Dave or I are dying to do it again for awhile. 


Filed under: FamilyChildrenTravel

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  1. Stel


    I had to smile at this most and some comments 🙂 Glad you survived and enjoyed the trip!
    If you don’t like road tripping, it might be a challenge.
    The stroller is the best – I remember my first flight with a 3 month old – with a 3 wheel jogger…a nightmare to fold up. I immediately bought an umbrella stroller afterwards and used that permanently ,, even if driving only 10 km away.


  2. jodimichelle


    Looks like you’re rocking this. Yay for road trips and little girls 🙂


  3. Carolyn


    I had to laugh at your picture of the hotel luggage rack. Many years ago, I “dog-sat” for my brother and his wife when they took my 1-year-old niece, Katie, on her first overnight road trip. He left his packing list on the kitchen table, and it read: “Camera, snacks, AAA map, everything Katie owns.” Short, sweet and to the point! lol

    One of the blessings of children is that they push you outside of your comfort zone. My kids didn’t stay in a hotel until they were 7, but I did many daytrips with them and overnights with friends and family out of town when they were infants and toddlers, and they too love traveling, to the point where now at 17 (I have twins), they have gone on a mission trip to Jamaica, are planning to go back next summer, and my daughter is already saving for the extra cost of doing a college semester overseas in Africa. There were many trips that people thought I was crazy for undertaking (and at times I probably secretly agreed!), but the benefits far outweighed my discomfort.


  4. Shannon


    I know from your blog that you love lists, did you make up your own packing list or did you find one online that you could share. I will be traveling with 2 little ones under the age of 4 in a few weeks, I have know idea were to begin when it comes to packing for them.Ugh!


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Shannon, I actually did make a few list — but nothing crazy. I just made lists for things we’d need for Nora, for the wedding, for the family pictures, and for snacks.

    However, I did pack everything up two full days before we left. I even packed all my clothes and toiletries in advance so I wouldn’t forget anything. I simply used travel size toiletries and wore different clothing for the 2 days before we left — this helped me a lot and gave me peace of mind that I wouldn’t have a “mommy moment” and forget something important (like my dress for the wedding) 🙂


  5. The Diaper Diaries


    You survived!! I know road tripping with kids can be a pain, but we have been doing it since our first was a baby (because our parents didn’t live near us at the time) and I must say if you start them little and do it often your kids become amazing little travelers. We don’t even own a DVD player and my kids love a good road trip.

    Anywho, I did want to add one tip so you can pack one less thing next time. Download the “white noise” app on your phones and leave the fan alone. That little app is an incredible life saver in hotel rooms, especially when you have kids all going to bed at different times 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I’m sure you’re right Jill, but remember that I dislike road trips too 🙂

    Oh, and thanks for the tip about the App. Our fan is super small (like 8″) but I’m always on the lookout for new iPhone Apps!!


    Mandi @ Life Your Way Reply:

    That’s what I was going to say too — do road trips often now, and they’ll be a cinch as your kids get older!

    I would also skip the baby bathtub and take her in the shower with you and skip the pack n play and just bring your own sheet. And use the hotel laundry room if you have to!

    Glad you survived!


  6. Ann


    Looks like you guys did a great job with the trip!
    I couldn’t help but notice the picture of your sweet girl in her carrier in the car with the carrier handle up. Please be sure to never have the handle up while you are driving. They are always supposed to be back and locked. In a crash, infant seats can rebound into the vehicle seat. This can break the handle, injuring the infant or another passenger. Just want to make sure she’s as safe as can be 🙂


    Stephanie Reply:

    Really? I’ve never heard of that before. I ALWAYS had mine up. It holds they toys nicely for the baby to play with while on the road. Interesting.


    Michelle Reply:

    I believe if you check the owner’s manual you’ll see it should never be up when you are driving.


    Heather Reply:

    I noticed the same thing. I had NO idea that the handle was supposed to be down until my brother freaked out on me about having it up. He is the family carseat expert. Once we put it down it seems to add additional support to the base. It is unfortunate that toys can’t be accessed as easily when the handle is down, but safety should always be a priority.


    Ann Reply:

    It’s supposed to be down. In addition, you are never supposed to add any accessories to the carseat (toy bar, cushy straps, etc). Adding any accessories that don’t come with the carseat will void any guarantee/warranty that the carseat comes with. They aren’t crashed tested with all the extras that parents add, so there is no guarantee of how they will perform in a crash.


    colleen Reply:

    The “rules” on this vary by seat manufacter!!! Please don’t give this across the board advice as gospel!


    Ann Reply:

    You are absolutely right, always check your manual! One thing you will see in each and every manual is that any “extras” you add to the carseat void the warranty. They aren’t crash tested with these items, so they cannot guarantee the safety of your child.
    With my children and the families I help, safety is the number one priority!


    Allison Reply:

    Each car seat is different and while many of them specify that the seat handle is down during travel, some state it is to be left upright. They are all designed to work differently in the case of a crash so please check your manual!


    Ann Reply:

    You are absolutely right, always check your manual! One thing that is true of every carseat is any “extras” you add (toy bar, cushy straps, etc.) will void any guarantee/warranty that comes with that carseat. They are crash tested only with the “extras” that they come with, no others, so they cannot guarantee the safety of your child when you start adding other things to the carseat.
    I have been in this line of work for a long time and it is so sad that parents put convenience over safety.