Experiences, Travel Essentials

Surviving a Long Road Trip with a Baby or Toddler

Our first road trip with Baby Rigel was when she was just 3 months old. It was December, so we decided to spend Christmas at my parents’ house in Iriga City, Camarines Sur and New Year’s at my in-laws’ place in Calbayog City, Samar.

Because it’s our first time, we didn’t know whether it would work or if the trip would blow up in our faces. I mean, the Quezon City to Iriga trip is 445 kilometers which will take approximately 10 hours! Imagine being stuck in a car with a 3-month old baby for almost half a day!

Also, the drive from Iriga to Calbayog involves a 1.5 hours ferry rider. Will the baby get seasick? Is the ferry baby-friendly? What if si mommy ang mahilo at magkalat? Yayks!

But my husband and I were eager to experiment and find out what would happen, hence we made final plans to hit the road.

Fortunately, the trip was an overwhelming success (thanks to good planning and a great deal of patience). While there were certainly troublesome moments involving a cranky baby (and mommy), we can safely say that we pulled it off!

Here are some of the things we think we did right and helped us survive the journey. We hope you may learn from our experience and feel more confident in taking your own adventure with the little one.

Yes, it can be done and it can even be fun!

road trip with baby

1. Plan, Prepare, Pack

Plan which bags to bring and what goes in them. Identify the ones which you need easy access to, so you won’t have to dig around in a suitcase. Even worse, you might have to pull over because you need something from the trunk. Keep the important stuff handy, like the diaper bag which contains the bottles, pacifiers, toys, snacks, and the like. Here’s a checklist for packing strategically:

Diaper Bag Essentials

  • Feeding bottles
  • Formula or breastmilk
  • Diapers
  • Changing pad
  • Wet towelettes
  • Change of clothes for baby
  • Pacifiers this is a must for Rigel because it makes her go to sleep a lot faster)
  • Baby food, snacks, and drinks

Items which should be within your reach:

  • Baby’s blanket, jacket, and socks
  • Car seat pillow or head support
  • Empty plastic bags for leftovers and trash
  • Vitamins and prescription medication, if any
  • A bin full of toys, books, and other stuff to keep your baby busy

In the trunk or back of the SUV:

  • Sterilizer
  • Bottle warmer (we don’t have one so I just keep the bottle close to my body to keep the milk warm)
  • Baby’s stroller, carrier, and portable crib
  • Luggage full of baby’s clothes, diapers, and toys

2. Plan your travel time and route

If you’re going on a long drive for the first time, here are some important things to consider before heading out:

  • Your planned time of arrival will depend on the time of your departure. So, do a little research regarding your route and regular travel time before your scheduled trip. Because there is a baby on board, add an extra hour or two to your forecast travel time for diaper change, play time, meals, etc.
  • Identify gas stations within your route
  • Pin the places where you can stop over for a meal or get some stretching exercises with the kids
  • Check the weather forecast to avoid getting caught in a very bad weather – or worse, being stranded in an unfamiliar and unsafe place. This is also necessary when your trip includes crossing the sea (from island to island via ferry). Back in December 2017, we were supposed to go to Samar (from Camarines Sur) for New Years, but the typhoons came one after the other bringing waves up to 5 meters high. It’s a good thing we checked the weather first or we might have been stranded at the port.
  • Pick out major landmarks to visit and have pictures taken
  • Book a hotel where you’ll stay during your trip. Let them know your arrival time.

Our ferry ride (via Fast Cat) from Matnog Port, Sorsogon to San Isidro Port, Samar

3. Load the car the night before the trip

It’s true that traveling with a baby comes with gear – stroller, car seat, play pen, and suitcases full of clothes are just some of the things you’ll pack. Loading everything in the car the night before really mitigates the pre-departure stress and also helps everything to move along swiftly.

This is where my husband gets all the credit. He makes sure that everything is placed, inserted, or attached – and that every available space is maximized, just like Tetris!

4. Prepare plenty of entertainment

Before we hit the road, we made sure that our gadgets were fully charged and loaded with songs, movies, and fun videos to keep Rigel entertained. Don’t forget to bring back-up power supply (power banks or car charger) just in case your gadgets run out of batteries.

Also, bring a good deal of toys and books to keep your baby busy. Usually, each toy will buy us 5 to 10 minutes of quiet time.

Playing with her friend, Rabby.

5. Keep your own stuff handy

Keep your snacks and drinks within arm’s reach to tide off hunger or thirst. With Rigel, we noticed that she instantly wakes up when we pull over. So, we just wait until she wakes up to pull off the road to get a proper meal and some fresh air. You definitely don’t want a cranky baby during your road trip because her nap time was cut short. Trust me, we’ve been there!

6. Safety is a priority

Of course, a thorough check of the car before you hit the road is non-negotiable. Also, make sure your baby’s car seat is installed properly. Don’t forget to bring lots of water and a first aid kit.

Likewise, I highly recommend that the driver/s get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation contributes to tired nerves and slow reaction time, therefore, unsafe driving. My husband usually sleeps at around 7 o’clock in the evening for our 2AM departure time. This helps him get enough rest for the lengthy travel ahead.

7. Be prepared for frequent stops

Your baby might get bored having to sit still or sight-see for long periods of time, so prepare for frequent stops. During our travels, we usually break up our trip so that Rigel can stretch her limbs and move around to blow off some pent-up energy. This will help her relax and have a more comfortable ride.

 

Exhibit A: Grumpy Baby! Lol!

Overall, we had an awesome time. There were definitely unforgettable moments, but in the end it was well worth it.

Best of luck! I hope you have an incredible time!

 

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