How to take your first road trip with a newborn baby

Teensy newborn in a car seat (courtesy chimothy27 at Flickr CC)I’m thrilled to report that Sean Keener, the CEO of BootsnAll (the travel network that hosts this blog) and his wife just welcomed their new son Kai into the world.

Here’s his announcement tweet about it, which of course made me bawl.

They’ll probably be thinking about taking at least a short trip soon, because boots are made for….well, you know….

When my daughter was born, I could not WAIT to get out of the house after a couple of weeks. Part of the urge was to prove to myself that motherhood wasn’t going to mean the end of travel until the kid was older, and part of the urge was to do something besides baby care plus trying to figure out how to shower and sleep occasionally.

I also wanted to see if I could nurse a baby while traveling (answer = oh yes.)

When our new baby was three weeks old, we drove from the Washington DC metro area to New York.  My Mom was rather aghast that we would venture out so soon (not done in her day) but I itched to pack my suitcase.

Here is what I learned about road trips with newborns:

  • You will be terrified because the baby is so tiny and you feel so clueless. Within reason, proceed anyway.
  • New York was a pretty far drive for us with a wee one in the back seat who has to face backwards, as infants do until a year or so.  There was a lot of crying and yelling until I sat in back with her and soothed her to sleep. We made it to NYC and back, but a shorter trip would have been better.
  • You are going to fill up the car with a ton of crap that you don’t need, if it’s your first baby.  Then you’ll worry about having all that in the car and whether it will be stolen, so you’ll schlep it into the hotel room. Then you’ll have to schlep it back out to the car.  You’ll learn.
  • You do need a few of those removable window screens/sunshades for your car windows.  Babies seem to yell a lot about direct sun.
  • You will overdress the kid, if it’s your first baby.
  • A newborn can sleep in a drawer, as long as it is well-padded. Don’t bring a giant portable crib contraption when they’re that tiny.  We used a Moses basket with a little mattress till our daughter outgrew it.
  • There are stores where you are going. Really.  You do not have to bring everything!
  • Lots of large, gallon-sized Ziplock bags can corral any number of stinky messes, like that cute onesie that baby immediately poops upon.
  • Do not buy a pink, googly-looking doofus diaper bag that Dad is embarrassed to tote around.
  • Have a nice big mat for changing diapers. Some changing surfaces are pretty, um, questionable in terms of hygiene.
  • A newborn child is not walking, crawling or even turning over yet, and therefore does not need shoes, or even socks if it is warm. Duh.
  • Moms need to wear tops that are easily accessible for nursing. My one-stop shop was always They can be pricey because they’re built with special features, but there’s a sales page and believe me, they wear like iron through every sort of barf, milk, spills….I’ll spare you any further liquids details.
  • Get a sling and carry that baby. You’re going to want the freedom of walking around (interacting with adults! Yay!) while the baby hangs out/sleeps in the sling. You do not want to wrestle up and down stairs and around sidewalk foot traffic with a stroller.
  • Don’t plan to do anything but walk around, maybe have one semi-nice meal if the baby’s quiet and take a luxurious shower at the hotel.  You’ll spend the rest of the time changing diapers, nursing, changing diapers again, walking, sitting, nursing and probably changing another diaper. BUT,  you’ll get to do it with different scenery than your home, which is nice.
  • Always check to see if the men’s bathroom has a Diaper Deck or other diaper changing table before Dad marches in there with baby. If it doesn’t, complain to the restaurant/shop manager. Dads have duties, too.

We still talk about the epic trip to New York to this day, although that daughter of mine will head to college this fall.  We learned that we could still travel, the baby was fairly adaptable, and if we scaled way back on expectations, we could have a really nice time and get a break from routine.

Did I miss any newborn road trip travel tips? Let us know in the comments!