I really was tripping this weekend with George. We were on the road for five days. We traveled from Missouri to North Carolina for a friend’s wedding.
So what did I do to prepare to drive an almost 7 month old baby and myself across half the country?
I just though happy thoughts, and made a list.
Honestly, I just went in with very little expectations and tried to make the best plan that allowed for baby flexibility. Which is why we took 5 days to make this trip.
I thought of everything that needed to be in my baby trouble arsenal. I also went through George’s daily routine and thought about what we had to have (diapers, wipes, feeding items (which was a LOT), etc.)
One suitcase, one large Thirty-One bag, and a diaper bag later, I managed to get everything I need for both myself and George.
I also packed the bumbo, boppy, and the play mat in the trunk. They stayed in the trunk for the entire trip.
I knew I needed to plan our trip around George’s peak times, so we needed to be done driving every day around 5pm. I mapped out a good route (where granted we would have to make a lot of stops) but we wouldn’t do more than 7 hours of actual driving in a day.
We stopped every 2-3 hours so George could eat and get out of the car seat a little. I had the play mat set up in the back so we would get back there so George could play a little while I ate. Correction, I only got back there one time after I realized that I am a big person and should not be in my trunk area. It is a good thing I am nimble because I almost got stuck in my trunk space. I underestimated the height of my back seat headrests after realizing I could neither close or open the trunk door from the inside. So after that first time of climbing over the back seat, I just sat in the back seat while George played on the play mat. The suitcase and other bag fit in the front so I could free up the trunk space.
We got into a really good driving routine, and he really only got fussy for the last half hour each day. He was honestly much better than I even planned for. Also lucky for me, George does not mind my atrocious driving singing where I think I am a Broadway star. He slept through all my big numbers. I appreciated his willingness to be a good travel buddy!
I was also really nervous because I have the worst luck getting George to fall asleep. Tom always takes that duty, so to say I was just a little anxious was an understatement. But we managed pretty nicely. He naps well in the car so I wasn’t concerned there. He lived up to that expectation perfectly. He gets car coma just like me. And the night time sleeps, we just rolled with it. I don’t believe there was a night that he didn’t pass out around his normal bed time. I usually just let him lie there alone while I would do the dishes and do my nighttime routine, and he would pass out on his own! We did sleep in the same beds. I can’t figure out how to put the Pack and Play together by myself, nor did I want another big thing to carry so I didn’t mess with bringing it. We managed just fine co-sleeping in queen beds. He doesn’t roll yet so this was easy, and he wasn’t an obnoxious bed hog like our dogs. And for the record, it did not mess him up with his crib last night once we were home either. He actually went to sleep for me quicker than he has ever before in his life!
Another thing that helped was making stops along the way to visit friends. George got to meet so many people, and it was good for my soul too.
One of my biggest concerns initially was whether George would be mobile or not. I was not sure if he would be rolling or crawling at this point, so luckily neither of those milestones are ones that we have crossed yet. That definitely made things much easier since I was traveling by myself. I could just plop him on the middle of the bed with some Baby Einstein and be sure he wasn’t going to roll off. The game would have been dramatically different if he could roll…
George also made the best wedding date. However I am pretty sure he may have stole the show from the bride and groom. Sorry Emily and Terrance! Their wedding was just darling, and we were so happy to be there for their day. (Even if George tried stealing the limelight with his cuteness.) Although he was definitely a messy attendee. I had to apologize for the mess he made and take him home early because of his shenanigans. Just reiterates that babies are just tiny drunks.
So my basic tips for driving/traveling with a baby:
- Bring every toy that they may have found favorable at one time, I guess within reason. I only brought hand toys that are easy in a carseat, but I had a whole grocery bag of them. Keep this bag close to you in the front seat. I would rotate toys every 10 minutes or so if he was getting too squirelly.
- Plan to drive around nap times. George’s biggest nap time is in the morning so I drove until he woke back up, even if I desperately needed to pee, to make the most out of his sweet slumber. I also knew that we had to be done around 5 otherwise I would have a baby nightmare on my hands.
- Plan for long stops. I don’t think there is a way to do a quick stop with a baby anyway, but it also helped that I planned for a little play time so he could stretch his limbs out of that car-seat. I think this truly helped keep him less fussy.
- Try to keep them on somewhat of a normal schedule. We still went to bed at the same time he normally does (except the night of the wedding).
- I brought my own bottle brush and soap to wash all the feeding items every night. This is definitely not something to bank on the hotel having, and it saved me from over-packing on the feeding accessories. I just brought enough to get me through one day.
- I packed all of his outfits in ziplock bags. This was helpful because then I didn’t have to go digging for tiny socks.
- Speaking of outfits, if I were to do this again, I would only put him in sleepers (footie pajamas) on the days we were driving. He wore sleepers two of the five days, and those were much easier stops than the other days where he was wearing socks and pants. Inevitably the socks ended up on the car floor, and it just takes more time to change a diaper with pants.
- Take a wrap or baby carrier. I put George in this when we checked in and out of the hotel so I could carry the luggage easier. It was definitely work to carry him plus the suitcase, but I don’t think I would have been able to do it at all without the wrap.
- Try to get a room on the first floor or make sure that the hotel has an elevator. Two out of the three hotels we stayed at we were on the second floor without an elevator. You can imagine the horror of carrying a baby and a large suitcase up the stairs. I made several trips like this. It is as awful as it sounds.
- Be flexible and know when too much is too much. There were some stops that were a lot longer because I knew he needed it. We also didn’t stay at the wedding as long as I hoped (but probably longer than George wanted).
- Have fun! It was the first time we traveled to unknown places with George so we took in the newness, and of course jumped on hotel beds. Making memories is important even with a baby!
I loved our five days together. It has been awhile since I have had this much quality time with George, so it was great to just hang out with him. He is at such a fun age that we could really enjoy our time. It really wasn’t as stressful as I had imagined!
Have you traveled with a baby? What are your traveling tips (baby or sans baby)? What is your favorite road-trip music? (Mine is clearly show tunes and anything Celine Dion. A good belting song is always a good route to go.)