Last updated on April 8th, 2021 at 11:04 am
This blog post was co-written by my sister & best friend—Dayna Nicole.
For my 26th year, I’ve made it to point to find joy where I can and for me—travel is a part of that. Being in the middle of pandemic taught me it’s okay to grieve the life you once had: the partying, seeing friends, being out and about, and international travel.
I’ve had the blues and mourned the loss of all the travel plans this year. Making it hard to focus on the positive, but I still practiced gratitude.
I still wanted to be outside, to move and to feel free again.
So I had the idea to do a social distance road trip.
I could get the satisfaction of being outside, while limiting my interactions with people. Yes, this would work! As much as I love solo travel I wanted to make this trip a family affair — I asked my sister to join me with my baby niece.
Yup, it’s different from my normal travel style, but I’m always down for an adventure.
Things needed to be planned yet flexible; my sister and I have never road tripped with just the two of us, let alone with a baby! Especially in the middle of a pandemic.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of your road trip with a baby in tow:
While you’re planning a trip it’s important to remember you have a little one with you. You must drive in shorter intervals, stopping every 2-3 hours to give your baby a break to move around and to eat. I wouldn’t suggest driving over 6-7 hours in a day too.
For the baby:
- Travel potty, if your baby is potty learning.
- Disposable diapers and wipes (obvi).
- Sound machine. Using a battery operated one helped my niece nap in the car. But make sure you have rechargeable batteries and/or extra. We also used one for our AirBnb’s because you don’t know what the noise situation might be where you’re staying.
- Infant floor seat. So that your baby has a comfortable place to eat, also doubles as a place for them to sit and play.
- Baby Carrier. One for hiking (if you’re planning on it) and an easy to use daily option.
- Snooze shade. Serves as a cover for the car seat and stroller so that a baby can sleep while on the road and everywhere in between. This was my sister’s favorite purchase! She said it was the best $50 she’s spent on baby items so far. My niece typically takes naps 2x a day. With this (in combination with the sound machine) we could maintain her nap schedule while on the road. A well-rested baby is a happy baby!
- Travel stroller. We purchased an in new condition Baby Jogger stroller via FB Market. Small, compact, easy to open and comfy for a baby.
- Pack n Play. Dual purpose as a bed and a place for the baby to play. When staying in homes that are not your own baby proofing can be nonexistent. It’s imperative to have safe spaces for your baby to spend time. This and the floor seat were essential for creating safe spaces for my niece.
- Slumber pod. It creates a dark and optimal environment for the baby’s sleep. It’s important to recreate the same sleep environment at home while on the road, that way you can ensure that everyone is getting the rest they need. Also, you don’t know how the lighting will be in your accommodations, and with the sun setting even later, it’s typically light outside at my niece’s normal bedtime (7p).
- Life jacket for taking the baby swimming. Safety is priority #1 when bringing a tot along.
- Baby monitor and baby monitor stand if needed. The slumber pod has a pocket for holding the monitor, so we didn’t need a stand this time around.
- A small extension cord. You don’t want to run the mistake of not having a plug outlet where you need one (for the monitor.)
- Neck brace (fabric and foam construction, better than a neck pillow) · Regular pillows
- Multiple chargers—one for the car, a portable charger, one for the Airbnb
- Lightweight jacket
- Cash for tolls
Airbnb is a good first option. There are various options that can accommodate your space needs within your budget. Many places will tell you if they aren’t infant or child friendly in the house rules. It also helps to read the reviews to see what others have experienced.
You can also email the host to see what their thoughts are with bringing an infant to their property. We had one host tell us that their space wasn’t baby friendly and listed the reasons. It was a big help for us because beyond the pictures we weren’t sure why.
Another place that we actually stayed in had an additional Pack n Play which was great because we could keep one in the primary area during the day. Airbnb also gives you flexibility with different housing options; you can book RVs, tiny homes, cottages, etc.
We originally booked an RV on Airbnb for one leg of our trip, but the night before the host cancelled because of mechanical issues. We were so sad.
With Airbnb’s you don’t interact with people that much and they can be more affordable than a few hotel rooms. Andddd you can get a place with multiple bedrooms, so that the baby can have their own room (if you want).
If you choose one with a kitchen, it gives you the space to cook and prepare meals for the little one. Airbnb has also rolled out a new cleaning standard designation, so you know which places have done a thorough job of ensuring that they are safe and COVID-19 free.
A road trip isn’t a road trip without snacks! We loaded up on plenty of snacks from Trader Joe’s like chips and guacamole, carrots and hummus, cashew yogurt and more! Not only does it save money, but packing snacks gives you more options. Because rest stop food isn’t all that great. And you don’t really want to spend that much time in public places during a pandemic, so it’s a win-win.
You can use Yelp, Google, and HappyCow (vegan friendly) to find food on the road. Keeping with our own safety standards and practicing social distancing, we ordered takeout at every restaurant we tried. But once things become a new normal, I’d suggest checking out local spots to eat at.
Getting a car rental is the best option if you don’t want to put more wear and tear on your vehicle. If you have enough people renting, an RV could be an option. I recommend getting a class C if you have a smaller group <4; they are smaller and tend to be easier to maneuver. That was our original plan. We found an RV on Airbnb, but the night before our host cancelled because of mechanical issues.
This trip had a lot of trial and errors. That’s why it’s good to start off with a shorter trip—in distance and time—to see how it goes. Not only was it my first time road tripping with my niece—it was my sister’s first time road tripping with her daughter.
We had to deal with Airbnb cancellations, fire alarms going off our rental, over packing, stopping more than we planned, and exhaustion. All while maintaining my niece’s sleep/feed schedule, making sure we were also well rested and fed, and seeing a part of the country we had never seen before.
All in all, it was a splendid adventure, and my niece seemed to enjoy herself too. Overall, I’m happy to have had this new experience with my family.