Over the years I've gathered many fond road trip memories. Whether its jamming out to my favorite music (a little Backstreet Boys, anyone?) or philosophical chats with some of my closest friends, road trips have always represented youthful freedom at its best.
Like so many other things, road trips take on a whole new meaning when little ones come along. It's not necessarily bad, it's just different.
The first road trip with my daughter was a harrowing experience. There was screaming, crying and enough spit up to fill a small bucket. Gone were the days of a leisurely trip on the open road.
Thankfully, after much practice (and gray hair), I’ve kinda got this baby road trip thing down.
Today I'll share with you my 10 sanity-saving tips on taking a road trip with 6-month old baby. Not all of these tips will necessarily work for you, but try to mix-and-match to figure out what works with your little one.
Road Trip with 6-Month Old Baby: The Tips
#1: Plan Your Departure Carefully
According to sleep consultant Lauren Engler, getting in at least one nap at home before you take off can set the tone for a much happier baby as the day goes on.
In short, let your baby take a morning nap, then get on the road shortly after.
Alternatively, depending on how long your trip is and how long your little one is sleeping at night, you could also leave right around bedtime and try to make it further without stopping.
If you do plan on leaving at night, just make sure you are on plenty of rest and are fully alert. The last thing you want to do is travel while tired which can jeopardize you and your baby's safety.
#2: Take a Friend (Four-Legged Friends Work Also!)
I totally understand that for some trips, you’re on your own. But whenever possible, have a road trip buddy! This way you have someone who can entertain the baby in the back, share the driving responsibilities, and trade off diaper duty.
My mom did this regularly - she would ask an older friend who was retired or a friend with no kids of her own to join us on road trips, which gave her someone to talk to and helped make sure that the kids had what they needed.
If you can't convince a friend to join you, maybe you can convince your pet! It may seem crazy to add a furry-friend to the mix, but dogs have a way of calming your nerves even in the most stressful times.
#3: Break Up the Trip
In college, I traveled 6 hours between my parents house and my school on the regular. I would load up on snacks and could usually make it home with just one stop.
I found out (rather painfully) that this get-there-at-all-costs technique does not work so well for a road trip with a 6 month old baby.
Try to stop for at least one full meal where you and your little one can get out of the car and stretch for a while.
For bathroom and feeding breaks, plan to stop for at least 20-30 minutes to get your baby out of his/her carseat for a diaper change and some tummy time.
Always leave yourself with plenty of time so you aren't in a rush - remember, you aren't traveling alone anymore!
#4: Overpacking Isn’t Bad
Make sure you take plenty of supplies in case you hit traffic or can’t find a place to stop right when your little one decides it’s lunch time.
My parents live at the edge of the Allegheny National Forest, so stops aren’t readily available for a couple hours of our drive to see them. This means we take a few extra necessities.
This might mean you pack a thermos with hot water for warming up bottles. If your baby is eating solids, bring along some applesauce pouches in a cooler.
Don’t forget about your own needs - water and granola bars can go a long way between rest stops. And a blanket on the side of the road works for tummy time just like a giant play mat at home.
#5: Invest in Some Window Shades
You want your little one to be as comfortable as possible on your big trip. Something as simple as having the sun in their eyes can make for a very cranky baby.
Buying window shades, like these, for your side windows is a proactive way to protect your little one’s eyes and hopefully cut down on some fussiness.
#6: Use a Baby Car Mirror
For your own piece of mind, make sure you can check on your little one without having to stop the car.
A simple invention that has given me huge peace of mind is a baby car mirror. This helps you see what your little one is doing with just a quick glimpse in the rearview mirror.
#7: Take Plenty of Dangly Toys
Babies at this age love having lots of things to look at, and they’re starting to reach for and kick at things near them.
Your baby also may be teething, so textured toys are a great road trip hack to keep a baby entertained.
Whatmomslove observes that babies love to look at face. Hang pictures of family members for baby to study.
#8: Take Advantage of Your Baby’s Favorites
You know your little one and their likes and dislikes better than anyone. What entertains her when you’re not traveling? Since my daughter’s earliest days, the thing that relaxes her the most is music.
She can be fussy, but as soon as we turned on some music (at that point, we were listening to a lot of Hamilton), she would calm down immediately.
Think about what helps keep your child content. Favorite toy they like to snuggle? A teething ring that they chew on? A song that makes them light up? White noise? Whatever it is, make sure that you pack it and it’s easily accessible.
If it’s a teether or pacifier, use a paci clip to make sure your child can’t throw it where you can’t reach it.
#9: Keep Supplies Handy
While most of your big items can be safely stored in the trunk, think about what you may need for your road trip.
Formula/milk and bottles, as well as anything you need to change diapers, plus at least a couple outfits. Several hours in a car with my daughter, and she went through 4 outfits in 8 hours!
Try packing anything you’ll need en route in a smaller bag that can be stored between the seats for quick access. This would also include extra toys, books, and small trash bags.
#10: Find Ways to Make It Fun For Yourself
Road trips with 6 month old babies can be stressful and exhausting for even the most seasoned parent. Don’t forget to take some time to think about what will make YOU (and your driving buddy) more comfortable as you go.
Stop at your favorite coffee shop on route, download an audiobook to listen to while baby naps, and give yourself extra time.
Robyn Correll at Trip Savvy suggests finding ways to laugh about the good and the bad by making your own “Road Trip Bingo” cards.
Fill it out with successes (baby napped for an hour straight!) and potential pitfalls (baby fills her diaper right AFTER leaving a rest stop). Maybe that extra diaper stop will push you to Bingo victory!
Road Trip with 6-Month Old Baby: Conclusion
At the end of the day, even if you have to make extra stops or change a blow out diaper on the front seat of your car, a road trip with 6 month old baby is doable!
It will be different than a trip by yourself, but can still be a fun experience for you and your baby.
Plan ahead, be patient with yourself and your baby, and go with the flow- the memories will be worth it!