Driving during a road trip with a rental car by Beste voor Kids, car on the side of the road with beautiful mountain vista to the left
Kids,  roadtrip,  Travel

16 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with a Baby

Going on your first road trip with a baby can be a little bit scary. Will your baby respond well to it or will you have a crying or fussy baby the whole time? It was indeed a bit scary for us when we went on our first long trip with our baby at 4 months old. All went well, although completely different then when it was just the two of us. To give you the best advice and peace of mind before embarking on a road trip with baby. I’ve asked fellow travel bloggers (well-seasoned travelers with a baby or babies) what their best tips are. From what to bring on your trip to what best to do. Here are 16 tips + a bonus tip.

Road Trip with a Baby

The first tips are about what best to bring with you, a stroller or something else. Then some tips on where to stay and what to plan. Going further to sleeping tips, what sort of stuff to bring with you, the schedule to stick to. At last we’ll discuss the temperature in the car. All things important for a road trip with a newborn, or a bit older baby.

Stroller

1. Car seat as stroller

Full car with chasiss in between, the car is stuffed to the roof
Full car with chasiss in between

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

When you don’t have a super spacious car, which we didn’t have when Yuri was a baby, not taking a stroller saves space. Space you can use for all the other stuff you have to take with you. We had a Maxi Cosi car seat and brought the chassis of our stroller. The Maxi Cosi could be clicked on that one. It saved us a lot of space in our Fiat Punto, which we used for all the other stuff we brought with us. That first road trip through Germany has us dreaming about long term traveling.

The Maxi Cosi on the chassis, Cosette is standing next to it, with flowers and green behind her in a park
The Maxi Cosi on the chassis

2. Take a sling or carrier

Baby in back carrier by TraveLynn Family, a family of 3, with baby in a back carrier on the husband's back
Baby in back carrier by TraveLynn Family

Contributed by Jenny from TraveLynn Family.

As a family, we love a good road trip – from overlanding Africa, to our Mazda Bongo camper trips around Europe. Packing space is always an issue, and we try our best to travel light. But this can be tricky when doing a road trip with a baby as they have so much stuff!

So what’s the best space saving tip? Keep the buggy / pram at home. Even if you have one that folds up small and fits neatly in the boot, it’s still taking up valuable space. Instead take a back carrier (or a sling). Not only does it promote bonding with your baby (which is what family travel is all about), but it takes up a fraction of the space in comparison. 

A baby sling, Yuri is sitting in it
A baby sling

3. Compact travel stroller

Compact stroller by Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog, stroller, hand that;s pushing it
Compact stroller by Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog

Contributed by Lotte from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog.

While I highly recommend bringing a baby carrier on your road trip as well, I’m also a big fan of our Babyzen Yoyo stroller. This lightweight, compact travel stroller is so small it can be taken on a plane as carry-on luggage. So even when you are flying somewhere and renting a car at your destination, you can easily bring the Yoyo along.  

When folded the stroller measures only 152 x 44 x 18 centimeters (20.5 x 17.3 x 7.1 inch) and weighs about 6.2 kg (13.6 lbs). This means that it fits in the booth of even the smallest cars.  

Having a stroller is very convenient when making a road trip, especially if your child still needs to sleep during the day. Our son often took a nap in his comfy stroller (the Yoyo reclines in an almost completely flat position) while we explored a city, museum or enjoyed a peaceful meal (a luxury for any parent).  

While the Yoyo Babyzen isn’t cheap, it’s a high-quality stroller that will last for many years and in my opinion is worth every penny.  

4. Bring your own car seat

Road trip with a rental van by Beste voor Kids, van os in the middle of the picture, long grass field behind it, blue sky above, on a gravel road
Road trip with a rental van by Beste voor Kids

Contributed by Lotte from Beste voor Kids.

If you are planning to rent a car at your holiday destination, make sure a proper car seat is available or consider bringing your own. Having a safe car seat for your baby is essential, however, we’ve experienced issues with this several times.  

During one of our road trips, the car seat offered by the car rental company was way too big for our 10-month-old son. Furthermore, it was a forward-facing seat, while it’s much safer to transport your baby facing backwards until he or she is at least 15 months old.  

On another trip, there wasn’t even a car seat available at the rental company, while we clearly indicated that we needed a car seat when making our reservation. Luckily there was another rental company next-door that did offer car seats but it was definitely a hassle and one we would have gladly avoided.  

That’s why we decided to bring our own car seat for our Portugal campervan road trip. It’s not ideal because it’s a bulky item but you can bring this on the plane as luggage (usually for free) when traveling with a baby.  

If you rent a car abroad, make sure that you can rent a safe car seat for your child. I highly recommend inquiring with your car rental company whether or not there are car seats available and if so, what type of car seat (and for which age group). Alternatively, bring your own car seat on the plane to ensure you have a safe seat for your precious little one. 

Planning

5. Baby-friendly hotels

To show a picture of the breakfast at the Kyriad.
Yuri at the breakfast

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

For our first road trip with our son we booked baby-friendly hotels. We wanted to make sure we would feel welcome with our baby. Hate being looked at as if they want you to leave immediately or your baby can’t make a sound. You can also check for this on the road, booking.com has this on the site at each hotel as a note. Check reviews from other people. We have a bunch of hotels we’ve stayed at when driving South towards Southern France or Spain. It gave us peace of mind to know our baby was welcome and people were friendly towards him.

6. Keep your plans flexible

Contributed by Sophie Marie from Australian Kitchen & Home.

When both of my children were born we were living in an extremely isolated area of outback Australia, about a 12 hour drive from the nearest town so we did a lot of long road trips.

My biggest tip to make sure things run smoothly would simply be to keep your plans flexible! It might seem counterintuitive but wherever possible don’t have set stops or accommodation booked too far in advance. If that makes you feel anxious try and book somewhere refundable or at least partially refundable.

I found that if I “needed” to get to a certain place by a certain time I could pretty much guarantee that was the time the baby would be cranky or need extra stops. It put so much added pressure on us and made everything more stressful. Eventually, I learnt my lesson and would try to book accommodation as late as possible either on the road or when we got somewhere. It wasn’t as difficult as you might think.

Sleeping

7. White noise

Contributed by Nicolette from Semi-Budget Travel.

Make sure to have a white noise track loaded onto your phone for baby’s sleep times. You can play it directly from your phone, or if your vehicle is equipped with Bluetooth, you can play it through the car’s speaker system. In addition, you can use the white noise at your place of lodging, either straight from the phone or via Bluetooth speaker. Especially if you’ve used the same white noise sounds at home, your baby will understand the cue when they hear it, and it can help them calm down and get ready for nap time or night time.

8. Sleeping

Baby in a car seat by WorldAdventurists, looking up and really adorable with a borwn stuffed animal
Baby in a car seat by WorldAdventurists

Contributed by Debbie from WorldAdventurists.

Every baby is so different in their tolerance level with how long they will last on a family road trip before getting fussy. Some babies easily sleep with the movement of the car, while some put up with much less time in the car. If your baby can sleep through part of the journey, it will help avoid some fussiness. A great way to do this is to try to plan long drives around your baby’s sleep schedule. If you are unable to leave early in the morning, leaving during nap time works well also. If you’re leaving during sleep time, make sure the car is warmed up. You can even throw a blanket in the dryer for a few minutes to ensure your baby is cozy and comfortable to start the journey.

Installing a sunshade on a baby’s window can help them sleep longer as it will help keep the glare out of their eyes. Play soft music or good audio storybooks for kids to help them drift off to sleep. The audio can also help to cover other road noise or conversations from within the car.

If nothing seems to work, a good trick is to turn up the temperature in the car to help make them sleepy. However, be careful as this could make the driver sleepy too.

Stuff to bring with you

9. Blanket

Contributed by Amy from Two Little Pandas.

While road tripping with a baby, remember that your baby needs to get out and wiggle whenever you take a break.  While the adults and even walking toddlers and kids can get out and stretch their legs at each pit stop, the baby may end up simply being moved from one container (the car seat) to another (the baby carrier or mom or dad’s arms).  Make sure you let your baby get a little freedom to wiggle those arms and legs, and maybe even get in a little tummy time. 

You’ll want to bring an outdoor blanket that you don’t mind getting dirty.  That way, you’ll be able to put your baby down for some good wiggling whenever you stop.  If you have space, you may also want to consider a small shade umbrella just in case there is no shade available at your stop.  If the weather is cold, you’ll want to make sure you have a warm blanket or something to keep your baby warm. Giving your baby that little bit of freedom of movement can go a long way towards reducing his frustration and allowing them to tolerate longer periods in the car.  

10. Clip on toys

Clip on toy on the car seat, Yuri with a blanket over his body
Clip on toy on the car seat

Contributed by Abby from Worth Every Trip.

Toys that clip onto your baby’s car seat are a game-changer. Many toys are specifically designed for attaching to the car seat, but you can rig almost any toy to attach. Use baby links or velcro straps to wrap around a rattle or a teddy bear’s neck. 

Find several toys with varying colors and textures to clip on. Your baby will be entertained for a long time by playing with all the different toys. And the best part…they won’t fall on the floor! This means you won’t have to awkwardly twist your back as you reach around your seat 87 times, just to pick up the toy that your baby threw on the floor…again. 

It’s a win-win. Your baby stays entertained with toys that don’t fall, and mom and dad can relax facing forward. You’ll realize this tip helps make it Worth Every Trip, even with a baby in tow.

11. Bring plenty of small toys as distractions

Playing with a small toy, an orange fluff, Yuri on his dad's lap
Playing with a small toy

Contributed by Nadine from Zero Waste Memoirs.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was a new mum, was to stock up on small toys & interesting little bits to use as distractions when embarking on a road trip. It’s hard to hold a baby’s attention for long, so having lots of small tricks to pull out of your bag works better than having just one or two bigger toys – which they may tire of quickly! This doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend a fortune, or buy lots of grimmacky wasteful plastic toys. Instead, try to think creatively. Even just some pasta shapes in a reusable ziploc bag, a string of wooden beads, or a homemade crinkle toy will keep them busy! These little distractions can totally save the trip if you feel a boredom meltdown coming on, and make the journey more enjoyable for all involved.

Schedule

12. Planned stops

Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild.

Any road trip with babies needs careful planning.  When you are on a road trip as an adult, stops can be quite fluid and can happen when the perfect stop appears, however it is much better to plan your stops when you are travelling with a baby.  This not only allows them to keep to their usual routines making the nights easier, but also gives them time out of their car seats.  

While they are cosy and snug, like adults they need time to stretch and move around.  Having a stop every 2-3 hours allows you to get them out for some play time, have a feed without trying to do it while driving and also stops them from snoozing all day.  By having planned stops and also a backup stop if traffic delays occur you can make the most of the time on the road knowing that your baby is fed, clean and has had a little break.

13. Routine

Contributed by Karen from Smart Steps to Australia.

As a mum of twins followed by a single baby (three kids under three!), my view on taking road trips with little ones is likely to be different from people with just one baby. With one baby, it’s much easier for them to slot in around your journey and you can be much more relaxed about the whole experience. When travelling with multiple babies – or a baby and toddler(s) – everything needs a lot more planning.

We found the key to successful road trips was sticking to their routines as much as possible. Sometimes this meant setting off on a long drive to our holiday destination in the early hours of the morning so we could let them sleep for the first chunk of the trip. It also meant allowing more time for journeys so we could stop regularly for feeds and to give them a break from their car seats. We tried to anticipate what they were going to need so we could stay a step ahead, and we built our trips around their feeding and sleep schedule as much as we could as two happy babies made life so much easier than two grumpy, tired, hungry babies. As our kids got older, we used tools like kid’s travel pillows to make long journeys more comfortable and make sleeping on the go easier.

We’d try to stick to their bedtime and nap routine at the destination too but we’d adapt it to the destination (putting them down to bed in their buggy if we wanted to go out for dinner, taking them for a swim in the morning so they’d be tired for nap time etc.)

As a mum of multiples, routine was everything for me and road trips were a lot more fun when we kept to the routine. 

14. Scheduling you’re driving and breaks

Stopping for fruit time, Paul feeding Yuri a Olvarit small bit of mashed fruit
Stopping for fruit time

Contributed by Stephanie from Navigating Adventure.

One of the benefits of road tripping with a baby is they still sleep often, and this can be used to your advantage. 

Scheduling your departure and break times for times when your baby usually naps means you can make the most of those quiet times to get further along the road, while causing less disruption to their routine. Fortunately most parents find driving a great tool for getting baby to drift off – making this an especially effective strategy for planning your road trip

By getting the majority of your driving in while baby is asleep means they won’t get tired of the car as quickly, allowing you to travel further within the day. And if you’re travelling with your partner it will give you some rare time alone to chat and enjoy each other’s company.

Driving while baby naps creates a natural schedule for feeding and play breaks – giving you and baby time to rest from the road. Mapping out some ideal rest stops ahead of you for each stretch of driving will ensure you always have somewhere to break coming up once your baby wakes. And it’s important to plan some fun bonding time in your breaks to settle your baby into the adventure. 

It’s important to remember all babies work to their own schedule, and things don’t always go to plan – so try to be as flexible as possible and enjoy the journey as much as the destination! 

Temperature

15. Temperature of the baby

Sunglasses and special cap against the sun, Yuri sitting in a back-carrier
Sunglasses and special cap against the sun

Contributed by Kristine from Wanderlust Designers.

When driving with a baby, it’s very important to keep their temperature just correct. You don’t want them overheating or being too cold.

If your kid travels in the “egg” type of back-facing car seat, know that they are snug and warm there, so don’t put any extra layers of clothing on. It’s enough to just have a onesie and pants.

When we went on a road trip with my baby, I was so afraid of her being cold (it was January) that I put a jacket on top of her long-sleeve onesie. That ended up with her throwing up all over me because she was too hot!

In the winter, you can just put the baby in the car seat in the clothes they’ll have on for the trip, fasten them in, and then put some blankets on until the car heats up. This way, you won’t need to stop to change the baby and they won’t be cold! Just take the blanket off, and voila!

Make sure to have sunshades on the window that actually fit so the sun doesn’t shine on the baby. Ideally, have some extra blankets to hang up when the sun gets in that oh-so-inconvenient position that no shade will cover. Plus, it doubles as a darkening when the baby needs to nap!

The last thing, make sure that the air-conditioning doesn’t blow on the baby. Yes, even when rear-facing! Wouldn’t want to end up with a sore throat, right?

Covering for the sun shining in the car
Covering for the sun shining in the car

16. Avoid driving during the hottest hours

Car in the shade with the window a bit open by France Bucket List
Car in the shade with the window a bit open by France Bucket List

Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List.

For road trips in the summer, it is good to avoid driving during the hottest hours of the day. Driving during the hottest hours is not good for babies and for all people in general because we all tend to be sleepy after lunch.

Most of our French road trips are in the summer and from June to September places like southern France are really hot. A good tip is to plan the itinerary for the day after with times and stops so you can avoid the hottest hours on the road. The stops can be places for eating, for a coffee /baby’s bottle, or ideally by a lake or a river for a quick dip with the baby.

And if you need to do extra stops because it’s too hot, then the shade of a tree in a park or along the road can do the job.

Bonus tip:

17. Best place for diaper changes

Contributed by David from David N Brace.

When it comes to road tripping with toddlers and infants, diaper changes are one of those guarantees of the trip. And when we were new parents, the biggest gross factor wasn’t the mess in the diaper, but where we would change our little ones. We have all had those moments where we lay out a sacrificial blanket over a changing table or something more ‘improvised’ but when out on the road there is often a clean, peaceful changing area as close as the next gas station or truck stop.

The interstate highways of America are scattered with rest-stops that provide clean and safe places to take care of bathroom business and this especially goes for diaper changes. Rest-stops have big bathrooms, including private family bathrooms, that are well maintained throughout the day. This means safe and secure changing stations without the need for giving up a blanket or box of sanitizing wipes.

Rest-stops are also located between cities, which means they are in rural, and peaceful areas in which the loudest commotion is often the noise of the nearby highway or tractors in a nearby field. All together rest stops are the number one utility stop for us on the road. If it’s a bathroom or lunch break, chances are we will stop at one of these over a gas station or fast food location.

The clean family bathrooms just make life easier with kids. There’s no worry about someone waiting behind you or improvising a changing spot.

So that’s a wrap on our best tips for a road trip with a baby

Hope these tips put you at ease for traveling with your baby and you embark on that road trip. When your road trip brings you to my hometown Utrecht, there’s so many things to do in Utrecht with kids.  

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