If you are traveling via a road trip, may the odds be ever in your favor. Ok, ok. It will be great! Road tripping with kids adds a whole new level of patience to the parenting game. However, road tripping with a baby guarantees passage into sainthood. Road trips typically lead to roadside diaper changes, rushed potty breaks, and the intense wails of, “FEED ME NOW!" With the holidays right around the corner, now is the time to gather information to help prepare to make traveling much smoother.
If you will frequently be traveling to your destination, consider asking if your host would consider storing items like a pack n play, portable high chair, and baby feeding utensils and toys so that you don’t have to pack those every time. Many items can often be found cheaply second-hand.
No matter where you are going, or how you will get there, we have put together a list to jump start your packing.
- Pump charger
- Storage bags or containers
- Bottles & cleaning brushes
- Formula (consider pre-portioned for the road!)
- Water (consider filled bottles with water)
- Bottle warmer
- Baby safe snacks
- Portable sound machine/nightlight & chargers
- Clothes, bibs, burp cloths
- Bath time basket (towel, toys, baby soap/lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- Diapers, wipes, cream, plastic bags for dirty diapers/trash, changing mat
- Bedtime routine Items (sleep sack, monitor, dream sock, pack n play, sheets, night light, books)
- Medical kit (teething meds, Motrin, Tylenol, snot sucker, saline, etc)
- Feeding time (bibs, baby utensils, portable high chair)
Preparing to Leave
Prior to leaving on the road trip, make sure your car seats are correctly installed! You can check out some guidelines here. After everyone’s seats are correctly installed, it’s time to pack the car! This can turn into a bit of Tetris or maybe even Jenga. Consider having a basket up front of anything you might need quickly and easily accessible on your trip: snacks, diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, and toys! Having a small basket of toys up front is also great for when your child inevitably tests gravity and your patience by dropping toys. Make sure that your line of sight out of the rear and side windows is clear with loose items secured. You could use a cargo net to do this!
When to Travel
As far as when to travel, consider traveling at night or in the early morning when your child(ren) typically sleeps. This could make it easier for you to cover some miles without traffic or the normal interruptions from the kids. You should plan to stop about every 2-3 hours for a break for a few different reasons- potty, leg stretching, feeding (especially if you have a young baby!), and even switching drivers. Book stores can be a great place to stop as many of them have children’s areas for babies and kids to move around and coffee shops for you!
If you will be traveling when your kid(s) are awake, it may be helpful to have some car activities! The Bullseye Pen at Target typically has some cheap and compact activities, and Dollar Tree has recently increased their high-quality activities for kids. If you allow your kids to use tablets or portable gaming systems, make sure those bad boys get charged.
If you are traveling with a partner (or an older child), it may be helpful to have them sit next to your baby. This can help entertain the baby and see to their needs without having to stop and pull over non stop. As parents, diaper bags are our best friends that keep us prepared. Making sure your bag (or basket if you choose!) is stocked up with extra diapers, wipes, onesies, outfits, burp clothes, and any other frequent use items make it easy to access in a pinch. As well as ease of transport once you get to your destination.
(Bored and sassy, but surviving!)
Breastfeeding on the Road
Even on the road, you and baby will still need to be on a routine of nursing/expressing milk every 2-3 hours. Which matches up with the recommendation to pull over and break every 2-3 hours for potty, snack, and food breaks! In between these breaks, it may be helpful for you to have a passive silicone pump (like a Haaka) or your electric pump nearby to access for your comfort or to express milk for baby to bide time between stops or naps. If you are traveling with a partner, having someone next to your baby can help see to their needs on the go. Personally. I have done the impromptu nursing session in the car many times! *Sidenote- always feed safely! Seatbelts save lives!*
Bottle Feeding on the Road
Your feeding routine will stay the same even on the road. If you are bottle feeding with expressed milk, ensuring that it is kept at the right temperature is essential. Check out those guidelines here. If you are botting feeding with infant formula, there are a few things to consider. While premixed formula is a bit costly, it can save time and effort when traveling. Seeing that there are guidelines for preparing powdered infant formula, it saves you time in premixing and storing (check out the storage guidelines for formula here). For storage purposes, those lunch sized coolers are super handy for this!
It’s time for a feeding! For that stored milk, do you have to warm it? Not necessarily. Breastmilk can be served at whatever temperature. The question is, does your baby have a temperature preference? Formula, if prepared following the guidelines above, also does not have to be warmed, but depends on your baby’s preference. If your baby prefers it warm, you can use a thermos of warm water to warm the bottle. You can stop and ask for a cup of warm water from a restaurant, fast food chain, or gas station or use a portable bottle warmer if you have one! Side note: do not rely on a bottle warmer to heat powdered infant formula to the necessary temperature to kill any bacteria!
Snacks on the Road
If your baby has started solids, have your diaper bag stocked up for those stops so you can offer a feed and snack if need be! Puree pouches and cheerios are a quick and easy snack to pack and use on the go. If you are baby led weaning, preparing snacks like pre cut strawberries, boiled eggs, and cucumbers are easy snacks to bag and take with you for your snack stops.
Feeding at your Destination
Feeding away from home can be tricky. You are in a new place, with new people- your baby can get overstimulated too! If you need to, ask for a space that you can use for feeding! This way you can avoid distracted nursing or bottle feeding, over stimulation, and just focus on feeding your baby. Remember, your child’s routine and needs are the center of importance.
Which is the perfect opportunity to remind you, you are an AMAZING parent. Your decisions should be respected. Including your decision of how to feed your baby or creating or prioritizing their routine. Family members may have thoughts and opinions, it does not mean they get to make the decision for you!