Updated: Jun 4, 2022
In most cases, going on a road trip is a great way to start traveling with Baby. Babies are typically already used to car rides and packing a car is much easier than packing a suitcase.
Additionally, road trips afford us a certain type of freedom that we don’t always have when we fly somewhere. We can usually stay in a hotel a little outside the city where it is cheaper and we can drive anywhere we need to during the trip.
Stella’s first road trip was a 4 hour drive to a family member’s lake house when she was 6 weeks old. A few weeks later we made a 5 hour drive to Nashville and have gone on plenty of road trips (both long and short) ever since. From those experiences, there are some things I think all parents should keep in mind before hitting the road for the first time.
1. The ‘Two-Hour’ Rule
This is an established safety recommendation endorsed by safety experts and car seat manufacturers that suggests babies shouldn’t sit in a car seat for more than 2 hours at a time.
This means during a road trip you should stop about every 2 hours or so for Baby to have a break. This is for two reasons: 1. Too much time causes a strain on the baby’s still-developing spine. And 2. While they are very little, the position can cause restricted airflow to the baby’s lungs. The chance of this can increase if Baby falls asleep with their head flopped forward.
Get them out of the car seat for a stretch before continuing on. Unfortunately, this can add a considerable amount of time to your road trip.
2. How will you feed the baby?
First and foremost, you should always stop your car to feed Baby. If for whatever reason Baby began to choke, it would take much too long to find a safe place to pull over and pull the baby out of its car seat. So this too will add time to your drive but you can always feed during the before-mentioned break that you are already taking.
If you are a breastfeeding momma, road trips are great. You have the privacy of your own car to feed the baby with no extra contraptions as long as the baby isn’t cluster feeding (in that case I would try to pump and feed them more at a time).
For pumping or formula mommas, there is one thing you may need to keep in mind when it comes to feeding Baby in the middle of a road trip. Do you need to heat up the milk/water and if so how do you plan on doing that? For babies that need their milk or formula heated up, I will share with you my favorite road trip hack:
Bringing your electric bottle warmer (if you have one)
With this hack, you won’t need to go find hot water or an outlet once you stop. You can begin heating up the bottle in the car before you even stop.
Some other options you have are:
Pumping before or during the car ride and then feeding that milk. Breastmilk can be out at room temperature for 4-5 hours before needing to be refrigerated or put into a cooler.
Heating up water before your drive and put it into a thermos to keep warm.
3. And finally, where will you stop to take your breaks?
My family and I typically prefer to stop at Travel Centers (Pilot/Flying J or Loves are a couple of go tos, IYKYK). One of us can pick up a few snacks or coffee for the drive while the other feeds and changes Baby in the car. We always park away from the pumps and store to give ourselves some privacy and these travel stops usually have plenty of space.
However this is while baby is still small, once they can walk or run they may want some more space to stretch and play during these breaks.
For this you still have plenty of options:
All give you the space and safety you need to let your little one take a much needed break.