As a military family we go where we are sent. For the time being we are stationed in a location away from family, in specific 7 hours to Jer’s family, 3 to my mother, and 1 ½ to my sister and her family. Spending time with family, especially when we are stationed in weekend traveling distance, is of prime importance to us, and as such we have become quite adept at road trips with baby. The first few, however, were a bit hairy.
Packing for an overnight trip with baby, no matter if it’s one night or 7, is quite the undertaking. I’m sure there are some brilliant moms and dads out there who have found a way to raise a baby who only requires what fits in one suitcase. We are not these people. I highly recommend making a detailed list of all that is needed and delegating (if possible in your situation) who is to gather and pack what. We have been on a few trips with haphazard packing resulting in coming home with duplicate baby wash, laundry detergent, more clothes, etc. For what it’s worth we are now such road warriors we could pack up for a week in our sleep.
Feeding Baby E on the road is a somewhat involved process. For formula fed babies, I imagine eating on the go is far less of a process than for the breastfed. If you’re a breastfeeding mom you certainly have the option of pulling over and nursing whenever need be. For myself the thought of prolonging an already 7 hour road trip sounds like a terrible idea. If you are a breastfeeding working mom you probably already have a great travel pump. If you are, or are planning to be, a breastfeeding stay at home mom, but envision taking some road trips in baby’s first year of life, invest in a good breast on the go breast pump, like Medela’s Pump In Style Advanced. I’m sure I’ve given quite a few people a good show pumping in the backseat, but really it’s quite easy, no different than pumping at home or work, and much safer than unbuckling yourself and leaning over the car seat. Though I do have to say that by hour 5 on the road, sometimes only a boob will do for Baby E, and I’ve found myself precariously perched over her, trying to steady myself and my boob.
Diaper changing on the go brings its own challenges, especially with cloth diapers. Oh, did I mention that before? Ya, we cloth diaper, on the go as well as at home. I’d love to say it’s because we are so dedicated to cloth that we refuse to use disposables, but really it’s because her tush breaks out in a terrible rash at the sight of a disposable diaper. Changing a cloth diaper isn’t terrible, but its a bit more involved than a disposable, so lap top changes in the car, at least for me, are out. Enter public changing tables. Disgusting yes, but doable if you are prepared. In my experience you should have on hand something to disinfect the changing table or surface. Lysol wipes, Thieves spray, etc, which you will also use to disinfect your changing pad before putting it back, just in case. I have a bottle of Thieves spray, and a small container of Lysol wipes for the really gross places where only some serious disinfecting will do. With the cloth diapers I use bamboo liners for road trips for easier cleanup, place all diapers in our travel wet bag, and deal with them when we get to where we are going.
Once we get to our destination, setting up Baby E’s space commences. Babies in general, and Baby E in particular, are all about routine, so when traveling we do our best to keep to her schedule and to make where she is sleeping is as much like her home environment as possible. Baby E falls asleep to the gentle sounds of the Pacific Ocean as her white noise at home. Portable speakers and her white noise waves help make wherever we travel to easier for her to adjust. If you plan on traveling a lot with baby having something in their bedtime routine that can be portable to help recreate their home environment when away is something to consider, like white noise, a mobile, etc.
Inevitably when visiting family someone is sick, or just getting over being sick. We have learned the expensive way that having a travel sick kit for baby is a really good idea. The funny thing is she has never actually gotten sick while we’ve been away, but the mere thought of it once she’s been exposed to a sick person puts me a tizzy resulting in a run to the nearest pharmacy. Rather than shelling out money every trip I now carry in my diaper bag a thermometer, nose bulb, saline solution, fever reducer and pain reliever, saline wipes and gripe water. Even when close to home these are great to have on hand, your friends with babies will thank you.
Less necessary, though really useful, are lots of toys and favorite books, etc for baby. Being away from home and normal daily routines is hard on baby and you, some familiar toys and books, to comfort, amuse and pass the time, are a good idea. It may seem like a pain and just one more thing to stuff into your already overflowing vehicle, but I guarantee you will be happy you packed more than you thought you really needed!
I hope our experiences on the road with Baby E will help you on future road trips. It does get easier the more you do it, I promise!