My today’s tips for traveling with a baby come as a result of our recent weekend trip to Portland, OR – our first road trip with 9 month-old baby J. During this trip, we did everything we could to make things more comfortable – and thus, more enjoyable – both for us and for her.
Of course we had to adjust our expectations for what this trip was going to look like, and to be ready to switch things up if needed.
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The drive from our home base to the north of Seattle down to Portland usually takes 2.5 – 3 hours if traffic is good. We booked a hotel in the downtown Portland area for two nights.
When choosing the hotel location, we wanted to stay in an area where we could easily walk to various fun places and vegan restaurants (I shared our dining experience during this trip in my previous post), and still could return to our hotel quickly if baby J needed a nap.
Today I’m sharing a few tips for traveling with a baby that helped us have a good time during this trip while keeping baby J mostly happy and tantrum-free. (Please note that I can’t guarantee that this will work with every baby, but for us these few steps helped keep our sanity and enjoy our little getaway.)
Tips for Traveling with a Baby: Road Trip Edition
1. During the drive to your destination, factor in your baby’s nap times
We left home mid-morning so that to accommodate baby J’s morning nap that we were hoping she would take in the car during our drive. She struggled for a little while to fall asleep (these days she takes most of her naps at home, so she’s not as used to napping in the car anymore). Eventually she succeeded and slept for 1.5 hours.
2. Bring entertainment
To keep baby J happy while she was awake in the car, we brought along plenty of toys that I kept rotating to make sure she didn’t get bored. I also heard a tip to bring a few brand-new toys whenever you’re traveling so that their novelty entertained them longer. I didn’t buy any new toys for this trip specifically, but I’m sure that eventually I’ll need to try this when we go on a longer trip, or when baby J gets older.
3. Choose your lodging at destination wisely
When researching possible places to stay, we decided to get a suite-type of room at a hotel instead of a regular single room so that baby J had her own quiet place to nap and sleep (in the ‘living room’ part of the suite) while we relaxed and watched TV in the bedroom.
I know, of course, that suites are more expensive, but we had some credit on the website that I usually book our hotels through, plus we were only staying there for two nights instead of taking a week-long vacation. I think next time we’ll look into AirBnB for an alternative to a hotel suite.
4. Reserve a baby crib in your hotel if possible
Our hotel provided a crib for baby J to sleep in, so we didn’t have to bring along a pack-n-play. I reserved a crib when booking our room online, but it’s always worth a call to ask the hotel if they provide cribs if it’s not mentioned on the website. This is also very useful if you’re flying to a vacation destination with a baby and would rather not bring a pack-n-play.
5. Plan your days to accommodate your baby’s schedule
In order to keep baby J happy and ourselves sane, we knew that we needed to keep her on the same schedule as we do at home. She takes two naps every day, usually sometime between 10 am and noon, and then between 3 and 5 pm.
I know that some babies are happy to nap just about anywhere, but baby J is not one of them. She naps best in her crib with a 30-45 minute long breastfeeding session beforehand.
To make sure we were back to our hotel room in time for her to feed and then nap, we decided not to veer off too far from our hotel in our explorations. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to see more of Portland in the future, so for now it was a reasonable sacrifice.
Luckily for our vegan appetites, there were plenty of vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants within a walking distance from our hotel. Speaking of food…
6. Bring shelf-stable baby food
Since baby J eats two solid food meals every day these days (lunch and dinner), I brought along a few store-bought containers of various baby foods (this is the brand she’s OK with) At home I try to make her meals myself (here’s a list of seven vegan baby food recipes that I’ve developed for her), but for this trip I needed something that would keep without refrigeration.
So whenever we sat down for a meal at a restaurant, I took out one of the containers and started feeding baby J as we were waiting for our food to arrive. If your baby is picky, it makes sense to bring along a couple jars of different baby foods in case they dislike the first food you offer.
7. Well-packed diaper bag = peace of mind
It goes without saying that a well-packed diaper bag can make life much easier during any outing.
On top of the regular things like extra diapers, wipes, a changing table pad, a spare outfit, bags for used diapers, etc., I also packed a bib, a spoon, and a washcloth that we tuck under baby J’s bib to protect her clothes when she eats. I brought two sets of these things with us for this trip. This way I put a clean set into the diaper bag before we headed out to eat while another set was cleaned and left to dry at the hotel.
8. Bring baby sunscreen*
Our Pacific Northwestern summers bring lots of hot, sunny days. Since we do most of our outdoor walks with baby J roughly between 12 and 3 pm these days, I always make sure to put sunscreen on her exposed parts.
This sunscreen lotion by Babyganics is out go-to sunscreen right now – I prefer the lotion for baby J over a spray because I don’t want her to accidentally breathe in any spray residue, plus the coverage is more even. Add a nice hat and a pair of stylish shades, and she’s ready to go!
(*Note: sunscreen is not recommended for babies younger than 6 months, so please do your research to explore other options.)
9. Use a baby carrier instead of a stroller
These days, for almost all walks we do with baby J she sits in her carrier (I can’t recommend our trusty Ergo 360 enough!). I find that it’s much easier to maneuver in crowds if she’s sitting in the carrier as opposed to in a stroller, plus it’s comforting for her to know that I’m so close to her (she usually holds on to my thumbs as we walk).
We enjoyed navigating the busy streets of downtown Portland as baby J sat in the carrier, which was very convenient when we walked through the crowds of the Portland Saturday Market. The carrier is also very convenient whenever we go on outdoor hikes.
So these are the tips for traveling with a baby that helped us make sure that our road trip was enjoyable both for us and for our little girl. With some extra planning, we’ve been able to fit in a little weekend getaway or a day trip every now and then even after having a baby.
Actually, when you become a parent, extra planning becomes your second nature (or so it did for me). 🙂 I hope my tips for traveling with a baby come in handy for your next road trip!
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