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Summertime is here and for many families that means it’s time to go on vacation! My husband and I have gone on many vacations with our families and now we are vacationing together with our own! However, this summer, Mia added a new element to our trip planning. We didn’t want to stop traveling just because we had a baby undertow, but we had to adjust to driving a long distance with baby!
When planning our vacation, we first thought about just going somewhere two or so hours away and checking out the sights. However, that started to feel like a short weekend and not an actual vacation, so we looked farther and chose Wisconsin: 9 1/2 hours away! On top of that, we decided to camp there!
The idea of traveling that far didn’t scare me too much because I have been traveling long distances with my family since I was a child. However, I still had some anxiety because I didn’t know how Mia was going to handle it! So, I started planning, and the rest of it we learned along the way. Although every child is different, here is what helped us!
Know You’ll Need More Pit Stops
I have always been extra stingy with my pit stops when traveling. My goal is always to get to my destination as quick as possible, without breaking the speed record. That estimated time Apple Maps gives you? I wanted to show them up and beat it, making as few short pit stops as possible. (No water bottles!! lol)
However, when driving a long distance with baby, short pit shops are NOT realistic, and I did realize that before we left. We had to stop more often to stretch our legs and give Mia a break from her car seat. While we did not have a set schedule of places to stop and when, Apple Maps was a great help in planning these. (Google Maps would work as well!)
I used the map on my phone when I knew we would have to stop in the next 45 minutes to an hour. We wanted to stop at a place with amenities where we could fuel up, walk around a bit, and maybe get something to eat. I would find our blue dot on the map and check out the towns ahead of us.
Did you know your maps search feature can find locations near you? All you have to do is click on the search bar and select the type of amenity you’re looking for. Parks are also usually shaded green and are great places to stretch your legs, especially with an 8 month old that wants to crawl and try to walk!
With my phone map and the signs along the road, we were able to stop in safe, interesting places!
Pack the Diaper Bag with Necessities
The diaper bag is probably one bag that is not buried under everything else, so pack it with all the necessities. Think of it like your carry on on a plane. This is what was in mine:
Definitely pack a changing pad. Public bathrooms are gross and you will want something for your baby to lay down on. If we stopped at a grassy spot I actually preferred to change Mia outside in a private corner and then go in to throw away the diaper and wash my hands.
Toys. Lots of them. I made sure to pack all of Mia’s favorites. I would give her one or two at a time and when she would throw them out of reach or get bored with them I would pull out another!
Finally, clean snacks. Mia loves crackers, but my husband specifically told me I could NOT give those to her! She tends to make a very large mess with them. So, we opted for cheerios instead.
Drive While Baby is Sleeping
Duh. This one is a no brainer. Any time the baby is sleeping you drive. You avoid stopping at all costs. Hungry? Hope you packed some snacks because you are NOT stopping to get food at this point. Need gas? You better have filled up at the last stop! Any time our gas tank was below 1/2 full and we were at a stop, we filled up. This way we didn’t have to wake up Mia when she was sleeping.
One thing I did expect when driving a long distance with baby was for her sleeping patterns to change. There were times Mia slept for only short periods and there were times she slept for an hour or two. She also slept more than usual. This caused her to stay up late whenever we reached our destination. We arrived home at 10 at night and she didn’t go to bed until after 11! Mama was so tired!
Pack a Pump
Breastfeeding? Pack your breast pump. Here is a great list of what to put in your pumping bag so you don’t forget anything!
While I was expecting sleeping patterns to change when driving a long distance with baby, I didn’t plan on eating patterns to change as well. Mia ate less when we were driving. I think part of this was because she slept more and didn’t use as much energy. I knew the times she usually would eat and we stopped about then. However, she did not eat very well when we were stopped! She was very distracted and wanted to play with all the buttons on the dash instead of nursing.
This was NOT very comfortable for me! I packed my breast pump, but I didn’t have the car adaptor for it. BIG Mistake! We stopped at three different places before we picked up an adaptor and I got relief. (The sad part being on the way home I realized my car had a regular plug in spot… it was just in the back! Argh!!)
Pumping also helped Mia because I was able to feed her a bottle while we were driving. I kept a small cooler up front with me that kept milk cold while driving. These Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes were also a lifesaver to clean my pump parts until we reached our destination.
Keep an Empty Seat by the Car Seat
As I mentioned before, we were going camping. In Wisconsin. That required A LOT of stuff! My little Ford Escape was packed to the brim, but I made sure to keep the seat right next to Mia free. I knew there would be times I would have to sit by her. Sometimes, it was also because I wanted to! I felt bad that she was back there all by herself. 🙁
On the trip back this was crucial to our sanity! The last two hours were NOT Mia’s cup of tea. I pulled out every trick in the book to keep her entertained. Peek-A-Boo, reading books, singing songs, and making animal noises were just a few of them! Sometimes I didn’t even have to be entertaining her, I just had to be by her.
Finally, we just had to be flexible and go with the flow. There were times we wanted to stop to take in some sights but couldn’t. There were also times we wanted to keep driving, but had to take a break. We planned extra time and it all worked out. Our 9 1/2 hour trip (according to the map) took us 12 1/2 hours but the extra stops made it more pleasant for everyone.
What tips do you have for driving a long distance with baby, threenager, or teenager? We will be traveling more in the future and will definitely be needing all the help we can get! If you found this page helpful please like and share!
Planning a trip soon? More to come in the future about our first trip as a little family! Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on any of the fun! Use the box at the top or the bottom of the page. 🙂 Have a great weekend!