Traveling with your kids Part 1: Young Infants

When my third child was 2 weeks old my husband’s grandfather died.  It was extremely sad and there was no way we were going to miss the funeral. So what did we do? We packed up the mini van and drove the 7 hours to Northern Virginia to give our condolences, attend the funeral and be with family… and we brought our 2 week old (and our 1 year old and 2 year old)

First of all, if possible, I advise not traveling more than 45 minutes with an infant under the age of 2 months. However, if circumstances require you travel, here are some tried and true pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t panic. For real. And not because I want you to be happy, although I do, but because you freaking out will set off your infant’s spidey-senses and they will then freak out, too. Truth.
  2. Don’t think you have to pack the entire nursery, your kitchen and the changing table. Your car can only handle so much stuff and clutter can actually contribute to stress, and what was rule number one? Try not to stress for your baby’s sake. Pack the essentials. If your infant needs their own full size suitcase you’ve packed too much. Pack enough onesies so you have 2-3 per day because spit up, diaper explosion and general mess tend to necessitate a couple changes per day. Pack enough diapers and wipes, but unless you’re traveling to the middle of nowhere, remember that more diapers are available for purchase almost anywhere. If you are breastfeeding bring whatever you need to do that comfortably and effectively. Bring something for your baby to sleep in whether it’s a pack-n-play or travel bassinet. Leave the bouncy seat, floor mat, changing table, giant wooden crib and high chair that they can’t even use yet at home.
  3. If you are bottle feeding I recommend bringing a couple bottles of water that are room temperature and have the formula pre-measured in zip lock baggies, labeled with how many ounces of water they need. You can buy little plastic formula Tupperware containers but they are expensive, take up space, and are hard to pour into the bottle without spilling. I also advise bringing a bottle brush to clean the bottle once you’re there! Bonus tip: most gas stations and fast food places will give you free hot water from coffee area, just be sure to use your bottled water to cool it down to desired temperature. I’ve found this extremely helpful for my first child when traveling, she just could not drink room temperature bottle!
  4. Changing your baby’s diaper in the car, once the car is parked, is the easiest, cleanest, most convenient option. Ain’t no one got time to take infant out of car, head into gas station, find bathroom, realize no changing station, angrily curse the idiot who engineered the gas station and stomp back to your car.
  5. Don’t underestimate the uses for a clean towel. I know I said be frugal with your packing, but do pack a normal sized bath towel. They can be used as changing mats, play mats, blankets, and clean up duty.
  6. Manage your expectations. Does that drive usually take 6 hours? Expect it to take 8. I know, not ideal, but you’re traveling with an infant, time to embrace lower expectations. Depending on how often you feed your baby, you might need to stop every 2 hours!
  7. Car seats get HOT, even in the winter because of the heat blasting in the car! Make sure your baby is dressed appropriately for the drive and check to be sure they’re not overheating!
  8. Think of it as an adventure, and baby’s first road trip! Attitude can genuinely change the entire mood of the journey and your children’s mood! Including that sweet little infant of yours!

All children and babies are different, so experiment and see what works for your family. The biggest mistake I used to make when traveling with my kids when they were tiny was overpacking. I didn’t end up using half of it, but I did feel overwhelmed by all the stuff we packed and then had to unload at our destination. On the flip side, we all have to experience the joys and evolution of being a new mom versus a veteran mom. We’ve all been in those newbie shoes. They’re terrifying, wonderful, beautiful and confusing. Yay, motherhood.

Comment with your best traveling tip for a parent traveling with their young infant!

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