Is there anything better than a good summer road trip?
Last month, we took advantage of baby leave and hit the road to my home state of Rhode Island and then New Hampshire. I have to admit the thought of spending nine hours in the car with a three year old and six week old was a bit intimidating but we were prepared for the challenge! Here are our lessons learned whilst road tripping with a newborn and toddler.
When considering the road trip I was more concerned about our toddler than the newborn. Our little guy still sleeps a lot and he can sleep in his car seat as long as he is comfortable and not too hot or hungry. I did pack our travel activity set and this mobile that I had from the road trips we took when Aiden was a baby.
Keep them Busy when Road Tripping with a Newborn and Toddler:
As for Aiden, I figured I would keep him as busy as possible to avoid any toddler meltdowns. About a week before our big trip I hit up Michael’s and Target for some toddler boredom busters. I always like to get a few new things so he will be excited about playing with them. New things definitely capture his attention and keep him occupied for longer.
I came out of Target with an art supply clipboard that I could fill with crayons, paper, stickers, etc. and that he could use as a hard surface for his activities.
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At Michaels I found lots of fun arts crafts that were perfect for sitting in a long car ride including these dinosaur suncatchers, beads and string, and space scratch art kit. He loved all of them and each activity kept him occupied for at least 30-45 minutes.
HINT: The most difficult of the activities to do in the car was the suncatchers. We used the inside of the clipboard to hold the paint and dinosaurs, but it was still pretty messy. Also, the paint had a smell so we had to keep the windows open while using it!
I also packed a few of his favorite books, a Color Wonder activity set (these are great for travel because they are mess-free), a Melissa and Doug Water Wow book, and his kid’s Fire tablet. I was so happy that we barely used the tablet — my goal was to resort to as little screentime as possible!
In addition to everything above I also saved a few things we got from Chicfila kids meals. If we do get a kid’s meal I like to save the toy or activity for travel. The biggest surprise was a pop out activity set from Petite Collage — it was a huge hit so I actually plan to get more of these for the future.
When it was time to go I had everything in a bag in the backseat. I sat in the backseat so I could easily reach the kids and help keep Aiden entertained.
Road Tripping with a Newborn and Toddler: Think about your Timeline
We were very intentional with our timeline. We left on a Thursday mid-day to avoid traffic. Aiden still naps so we wore him out in the morning so he would take a nice long nap shortly after leaving. We brought sandwiches so we wouldn’t have to stop for food. We were actually able to make it about three and a half hours before stopping.
When we did stop, we would choose an exit that had a fast casual restaurant so we could get out and stretch our legs and didn’t feel the stress of rest areas along the highway. The benefit of this is experiencing the local culture of the cities we are driving through. For example, in New York Aiden got his first authentic cannoli!
Road Tripping with a Newborn and Toddler: Feeding Times
I used my manual pump to express milk shortly before Nolan’s feeding times so we didn’t have to stop to feed him every two hours.
Hint: It’s a good idea to practice bottle feeding with your newborn before a road trip to make sure he is comfortable with it.
We stopped at our favorite road trip dinner spot Shake Shack and ate in so we could unwind for a bit before getting back on the road. Breaking up the trip with a few longer stops really helped.
Once it got dark we switched on the tablet and Aiden watched a movie. We love this headrest tablet mount. It fits Aiden’s Fire perfectly and you can adjust the angle — don’t forget the headphones.
We arrived around 9pm. Just in time for Aiden to go to bed. We unpacked the car while he visited with family and then we all went to bed. We took a day off from driving the next day and then started our shorter trip from RI to New Hampshire and spent an overnight before returning to RI. We spent the next several days in RI before coming home. I really like getting the bulk of the travel done on the front end so there is time to relax before the long trip home.
Definitely check out all the routes available. We decided on the way home to avoid the direct route which is straight down I-95. We always get stuck in traffic in parts of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Baltimore. Plus, the tolls are really expensive. We decided to take a less direct route that only had one toll and although the milage was a bit longer and the projected time was a bit longer, there was very little traffic and we enjoyed the views of the country along the way. We followed the same schedule and activities as the way up.
Hint: Once home, tuck the activities away until your next trip that way when you travel again they will be like new!
Road tripping with a baby and toddler does not have to be a bad experience. By planning a bit ahead of time, you can have a relatively stress-free trip.
What about you? Have you taken a road trip with a baby and toddler? Share your best tips in the comments below!