If you’ve read Emma’s 5 month update, then you know that we did something totally crazy with her – we went took a 10-hour road trip to Tennessee. What’s crazier is that it’s 10 hours one way, and when her 6 month update published we were actually there again. So, our little lady has over 40 hours of road time under her belt already.
I don’t think I’ve talked about it publicly, but I struggle with anxiety from time to time, and when our very first trip to Tennessee was coming up, I was incredibly anxious for weeks beforehand. I had no idea what to expect, which meant I had no clue if I needed to bring anything special, how to plan for the break in her routine, or how it would affect her to be out of her normal environment.
The car ride and visit with family actually went pretty well (not counting that she was in a leap at the time meaning there was literally no sleep happening – ha!). That paired with the fact that we’ve now done this twice is what led me to want to share what worked for us in case any of you are thinking about doing a trip with your little one this summer.
Think about what you’ll need for the visit
This is obvious, but when you’re getting ready to go out of your normal environment you have to make sure you’re bringing the essentials and then some, and I mean beyond the obvious stuff like clothes and diapers. This is especially important if you’re going to a hotel or to a house that doesn’t regularly host little ones. For example, Emma is the only grandchild for my parents, so they don’t have a ton of baby things, whereas my in-laws regularly have our nephews visit so we don’t need as much when we go there.
Even if you’ll only be gone a few days, you’ll likely want to make sure you have a thermometer and medicine in case your little one gets a fever or has any tummy troubles. Since we were gone long enough to need to do laundry both times, I also took our laundry detergent since Emma has somewhat sensitive skin. The main point here is to be ready in case something goes wrong while you’re visiting, and the great thing is that if you’re visiting family members you’ll see regularly, you can buy extra sets of some things to leave there for future visits.
Pack a bag for the car ride
The car ride was the thing that caused me the most stress for our first trip, and one thing that helped while we were on the way up that time was that I packed my diaper bag full of things to keep her busy and prepare for the worst while on the road. For those of you who regularly go out with your little ones, this is probably not very different from what you usually keep in your bag. You’ll definitely want a variety of small toys they can play with while in their car seat, and bring several because Emma dropped at least one toy out of our reach every time we were on the interstate. You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of wipes, diapers, and a change of outfit or two in case you have a situation.
When you’re traveling with a baby who hasn’t started solids yet (which was our situation), something else you want to prepare for is feeding. Emma is EBF (exclusively breastfed), which meant I didn’t have to worry about packing bottles or formula for our first trip and I didn’t. Then, that first trip she wouldn’t nurse while in the car, which was frustrating to say the least. For the trip back home I grabbed a manual pump, and it worked wonders to help get enough out to make sure she was eating well when we were stopping. For our most recent trip she ended up nursing fine and refusing a bottle, but I was still happy to have my pump and bottles just in case!
Extra things to keep in mind
Plan your stops on your drive. I’m a planner, and although I know we’ll never be able to plan exactly when we’re stopping, it helps to have a general idea of what our day is going to look like. This means knowing about how many times you’ll need to stop, how to make the most of your stop so you’re not wasting a ton of time, and how they’ll fit into your babe’s normal routine. For us that meant stopping at least 2-3 times no more than an hour after she woke up to stick with her eat, play, sleep routine. We also planned our stops so that my husband was ordering food and taking a bathroom break while Emma nursed, and then I’d go while he was eating. That way we didn’t waste too much time making a ton of stops for the four of us (Zoey needed breaks, too!).
Bring a piece of home. Regardless of where you’re staying, unless you visit the same place routinely, your little one is going to know she’s out of her normal environment and it might mess with her routine. If she’s used to sleeping with something special, obviously make sure you bring it with you. For our most recent trip, Emma had been used to sleeping with a lovey at home, so she got that in her car seat, but she also got it in the pack-n-play for naps and bedtime. I also kept her bedtime routine almost exactly how it had been at home, with the exact books I read. I like to think that helped her know it was time for bed even when things were all thrown off.
Just go with the flow, mama. I’ve only been a mom for 6.5 months, but I can tell you that doing anything new with a baby is stressful. Your baby could be a total angel or make things a total nightmare. Regardless, all you can do is go with the flow. Try to stay calm so your babe doesn’t pick up your stress too much. Also, try to focus on the fact that you’re making new memories. As anxious as I was for our first trip, I was excited for Emma to meet more family members and that I’d get some time with family I hadn’t seen in a while so a day or two of craziness was definitely worth it.
Have you traveled with your babe yet?
If so, I’d love to hear what worked for you! We’re considering taking a shorter trip to Savannah sometime this summer, which means staying in a hotel room with Emma for the first time. So, if you’ve done that before, I definitely want to hear how that experience went!