A road trip with a baby, especially if it’s your first delve into parenthood, can seem incredibly daunting. Our first trip was a long road trip with our newborn to see a poorly relative who lived several hours drive away. We didn’t have much time to plan but we learnt a lot for the next car trip! There have now been plenty of road trips with a baby and lots of tips learnt along the way.
If you are wondering how to plan for a road with a baby or toddler and wanting practical information which covers how you take a baby on a road trip (including how to keep your baby or toddler entertained on a long car trip) then these tips will help.
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9 Helpful Tips for a Road Trip With A Baby
1. Ensure the Car Seat is Fitted Correctly
Before you go anywhere in a car with your baby, the car seat needs to be fitted correctly. Most shops will make sure your car seat is properly fitted when you buy it. If in doubt, check and ask and make sure it’s right for your child’s height and weight. Remember, different countries have different rules regarding car seats, so just because it is valid to use in your home country it may not be legal in another country, e.g. USA car seats are not valid in the UK and vice versa.
2. Expect to Make Several Stops
Young babies will obviously need feeding and changing, as well as comforting which will lead to frequent breaks. Try and plan some stops in advance. Even though these plans can change, it’s reassuring to have some idea of where the next stop is and to give your baby a break from their car seat.
People often ask how long can you travel with a baby in a car seat? Remember, babies should not sleep in car seats longer than is necessary. Car seats are designed to keep babies safe while travelling, not as a main sleeping place. Infant healthcare professionals, safety experts and most car manufacturers recommend that babies should not be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours at a time and they should be taken out frequently.
The best time to leave for a road trip with a baby will vary for each family but it is advised to try and avoid middle of the night driving as you will be tired – especially with a newborn.
When feeding a baby on a car trip, it’s also easier to stop. Obviously you have to if you are breastfeeding, but if bottle feeding, it is easier to pullover, get the right angle and feed baby comfortably. Using a cooler with an ice pack and a thermos flask can help with milk or weaning preparation.
Frequent breaks when travelling with a baby, help make it manageable for you to, as then little one won’t get bored, will hopefully nap a part of the way and allow you to rest (if you are not driving that is!)
3. Bring Some Baby Car Toys
Having some travel toys for babies helps keep them busy and occupied. If an older sibling is in the back too, then they can help pass toys and activities, or alternatively if it’s you and your partner, one of you could spend some time in the back to entertain and check on little one. Below are some car travel toys for babies. (For alternative travel toys suggestions for when you are flying with a baby see here.)
Friends have tried the Munchkin Brica Mirror owl version above – (click here for the UK Firefly version) which has a remote control handset which can be attached to the driver’s seat. The convenient remote lets you control the music, lights and volume – all from the driver’s seat. Win!
You can choose the entertaining mode and your baby is introduced to patterns of light dancing behind the mirror in time to the lively songs. Long day or a night drive and a tired baby? This car activity toy can be switched to soothing mode and help your child drift to sleep as relaxing music plays and lights softly twinkle and fade in and out which can be a huge bonus on road trips with infants! (To compare prices see here.)
The clip on car seat toys we used were the ever popular Lamaze toys. They offer a wide range of clip on toys which are multi sensory with various textures, including a teether. Our particular favorite was Freddie the Firefly.
The great thing about this style of car seat toy is that they can also hook or clip on to strollers and bags whenever you are out and about. There is a huge range of these Lamaze infant toys for car seats, including a Sharpei dog, Captain Calamari, a dragon, a moose and so many more. For a similar range see the this selection too.
Colourful Link Rings are great to attach to a car seat and convert other toys to be used in the car when traveling with an infant. They can also double up as a car seat activity toy themselves and act as a teether with different textures or a rattle. If you are flying with a baby, these are brilliant to attach to the airplane bassinet too!.
The Manhattan Whoozit car seat and stroller travel toy is a good value toy with hidden noisemakers including rattles, squeakers, and crinkle paper perk up little tags with various shapes to help keep busy hands occupied. The Whoozit is one of the popular car seat hanging toys for good reason. It’s fun, versatile and easy to attach to a car seat, bag or stroller with a fabric hook and loop closure. For worldwide Amazon here. or USA alternatives here.
An alternative to a clip on toy is a car seat activity bar. This Very Hungry Caterpillar activity toy is a great introduction to the classic book by Eric Carle. This developmental toy features music, rattle, crinkle sounds and textured teethers. There are a huge variety of car seat spiral toys, that coil around the car seat handle too. Either option are perfect whether you are looking for forward facing or rear facing car seat toys. For alternative USA prices on see here.
If you have a younger toddler or one who enjoys sensory play; creating an activity mat covered in buttons, different materials and things for them to flick, twist, scrunch and tap can be great. Although time consuming to create, this can be something to keep until your little one gets older. Alternatively, a Montessori style travel activity bag like the one above does the trick.
Some unique baby toys for car seats includes filling sandwich bags with colorful slime and a few little plastic toys. This lets older babies and toddlers squidge and squeeze with their exploratory hands… just make sure there is no way for the liquid to leak, otherwise this won’t be quite the mess free toy you envisaged!
The Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy, is another one of our favorite baby toys for car travel. We were bought it as a gift when our eldest was first born, so it was well used! It doesn’t look like much, but it keeps little ones engaged; they loved chewing on it, sliding the balls round and squishing it. To compare prices on if you are in the USA see here.
Tiny Love Spin Ball. This is a simple sensory toy which makes a click clack sound with its moving segments and also has a mirrored inside. The bobbles on the outside are great to develop the sense of touch, there is a mirrored interior surface and bright colours on the outside. My little one has played with since about 4 months and at a year old still loved it. Simple but does the job when traveling with a baby. For 6 months plus. For more information see here
‘Lift the Flap’ Books
Books can be tricky for a young baby to turn the pages, but an older sibling may be able to help and read to your toddler or help them with ‘flap’ books such as Julia Donaldson ‘Lift the Flap’ series. Fox’s Socks, Hide and Seek Pig etc. Flap or cloth books make ideal toddler toys for car trips with lots of things to look and point at.
Alternatively, books with texture can work as options to take when you are packing some baby toys for car journeys. An audio book can also be great if all passengers don’t mind listening to baby and toddler-friendly stories.
This machine washable soft cloth book is one of the best toys for car travel for babies and toddlers as it is so light, portable and engaging. With activities such as buttoning, buckling, peek-a-boo, counting, matching and telling time, it helps promote sensory development, fine motor skills, color recognition, and other early learning skills. For more information and latest prices see here.
Some other things to bring on a road trip for kids that you may have forgotten to pack are below:
4. Use a Car Window Blind
Comfort on a long road trip is an important consideration too. Even if you have tinted car windows, bright light can still be a distraction, so consider some window blinds for the rear seats (car sun shades) too. Many of these fold up small, so are perfect for use if you are planning on hiring a car too.
5. Bring extra milk/snacks
You never know if you will get stuck in traffic or delayed, so if you aren’t breastfeeding bring spare bottles or travel sterilizing equipment and extra milk. Schedule a feeding stop or two when travelling with a baby, so little one can stretch and get out of their car seat for a bit – it will make changing them after easier too!
6. Add to Your First Aid Kit
Kids can fall ill quickly and just as easily recover. Bring some Tylenol or Calpol and add it to your first aid kit.
7. Download some Nursery Rhymes
Familiar tunes will make the time go faster on a family road trip and who doesn’t enjoy a sing song? Yes, the songs can get repetitive, but they can break up your play lists or radio tunes.
8. Bring An Old Towel & A Plastic Bag.
Just in case little one is sick all over their car seat, use an old towel, piddle pad or disposable baby changing mat to line their seat. Any of these will do the trick, and then you can just ditch or stow in a plastic bag without having to wash the entire care seat.
9. Be Prepared for Anything!
Although, you have the first aid kit, the window shades and toys sorted, don’t forget about snacks and drinks for yourself, spare change for any tolls, and if your little one uses a pacifier or dummy, keep a spare at the front near you.
Road Trip with A Baby Packing List
If you are wondering what should I bring for a baby on a road trip, then this packing list for a car trip with a baby will help you remember the essentials.
- travel steriliser
- thermos flask
- insulated cooler and ice packs
- dummy/pacifier + spare
- diaper/nappy cream
- changing pads or mat
- first aid kit
- old towel
- plastic bag
- snacks and drink for you
- changing bag with spare clothes
- phone charger cable
- window shades
Do you have any additional tips or questions about planning a road trip with a baby or toddler? Let us know in the comments below.