3 Secrets to Stress-Free Road Trips with Littles

Toddler boy car seat road trip sleeping

Traveling with littles can feel EXHAUSTING. If I said there isn’t a part of me that misses traveling pre-baby, I’d be a liar. It was obviously so much easier to pack up and go when it was just me and my husband. I remember the first time we decided to drive from San Diego to San Francisco with Mason when he was about 2.5 months old. I’m pretty sure I packed for a week straight...and basically brought our entire house with us.

Not practical. Clearly...especially when I was trying to nurse him in the car on the way and navigate through all of our stuff and our dog. Not easy.

Well, we’ve taken countless road trips since that very first time and it has definitely gotten easier over time. So far, our trip that we’re currently on has been pretty smooth sailing! Every family and every baby is different, but I’m going to share 3 secrets with you that have made our family road trips SMOOTH & STRESS-FREE.

  1. DRIVE AT BEDTIME. This has got to be my #1 secret tip that I actually got from a dear mama friend of mine who had a baby a few months before I did. We’ve been doing this since our very first road trip and we pretty much won’t do it any other way if it’s a lengthy drive. WHY? Because this is when you get your long stretch of sleep from baby, especially if they’re at an age when they’re already sleeping through the night! This means you don’t have to worry about meltdowns or entertainment in the car, which makes your drive exponentially easier. It’s also dark, which means the sun won’t be bothersome to baby. AND you generally avoid TRAFFIC. Traffic can add so much unwanted drive time, which is NOT what you want with a baby in the car. Just MAKE SURE you plan ahead for an overnight drive- the driver needs to nap during the day or you need to have a good game plan to switch off every few hours. For this trip, we left at 7:30pm and arrived at 3:30am. It’s exhausting for mom and dad, but it is WAY better for us all in the long run. 

  2. ONLY PACK THE ESSENTIALS. I promise you don’t need as much as you THINK you do. Run through your average day and write down all the things you use. Only bring those specific things! Don’t bring 10 extra things because you MIGHT need it. If you really need something extra when you get to your destination, chances are you can buy it. Unless you’re going somewhere in the boonies, you should have access to a Target or grocery store for a last minute emergency. But kids are pretty adaptable and will be entertained by being in a new environment, so just bring what you REALLY need. This will help make packing quicker and unloading at your destination easier. (Although...I DID almost forget my contacts this trip - thank you, pregnant brain - which would have been tragic. So seriously...make a list of all the essential things you use on a daily basis and pay extra attention to the things that would NOT be replaceable at your destination!)

  3. RELAX! Vacationing with littles is VERY different than vacationing pre-baby. It’s stressful getting packed and ready to leave. It’s stressful arriving at your destination and getting settled. It’s exhausting taking care of your kiddos in a different city and figuring out all the activities to keep them entertained. But you have to find ways to RELAX because this is YOUR vacation too! And, while it might look really different than your pre-baby vacations, there are still ways to make it a great trip for yourself. For me this trip, I chose to be much more relaxed on planning and packing. I spent the morning getting a workout in at Orangetheory and getting my nails done. I leisurely packed throughout the day and just didn’t put the usual pressure I put on myself to be extra organized and on top of things. We left about 30 minutes later than I wanted to, which would’ve put old me in a frenzy, but I chose to not care because what will that do? Mason’s nap schedule has been SO OFF so far this trip, which TOTALLY stresses me out...but I chose to make him flexible around activities and he’s been FINE. He’s actually been a great sleeper even with the disruptions in his usual routine! A mama’s mental load can be INTENSE, but, if there are any areas where you can lighten the load, DO IT. Vacation is the time to let some things go a bit. I promise it’ll be okay!

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