Have you considered a road trip with your baby? Due to the flexibility and large luggage allowance, it’s perhaps one of the easiest forms of travel for that first family holiday. Just load up your car, grab a map and drive! We started road tripping with our kids when they were babies, and as these trips have always been such a success we ended up buying a Mazda Bongo camper for longer term travel.
When Arthur was just 5 months old we spent some time road-tripping around Scotland. We drove whilst he napped, discovered the most beautiful beaches, hiked through stunning mountain scenery, spent our evenings planning the days ahead and, would you believe it, Arthur actually slept better at night!
Road-tripping with babies and toddlers requires a fair bit of planning and organising. But it allows you the flexibility to travel on a schedule that suits your family and spontaneity to visit a destination when and where you want. It’s a fantastic form of travel for very young families, and here’s why:
Babies and toddlers nap
Nap time is your driving time between destinations. Most babies and toddlers fall asleep easily in the car. Something about the vibrations and sound. They love it! And it means no nap time battles for the parents. Just ensure they’ve had some grub before you set off. Up to the age of 15months, many babies nap twice per day which means you can do a 1.5 hour drive in the morning, stop for lunch, wander and play, then do another 1.5 hours in the afternoon to your destination that night. Of course all babies are different. But the important message is that you fit to their routine and plan your route in advance. Don’t try and do longer than their standard nap times. This only results in a grouchy bub and stressed parents.
And if you’re road tripping with a toddler and looking to keep them busy in the car when they’re not asleep, check out these brilliant car activities for toddlers on road trips.
They sleep better at night
Honest! We actually found that as Arthur was napping better during the day due to being in the car, he slept better at night! Meaning us parents felt much more refreshed than usual. As those sleep experts tell us, good sleep breeds good sleep.
Watch the scenery drift past, let your mind wander in peace, listen to your favourite music and catch up with your partner, all whilst your baby naps in the car. Plus, if they’re in a deep sleep, you can stop the car (but leave the radio and engine running), step out and admire the view.
Explore places you wouldn’t normally see
You’re led your baby’s routine. It may be the case that it’s too far to get to your desired destination in one day. So you look on the map and see a little village just a little closer and decide to stay there. It’s often these lesser-known locations that become the highlight of your trip.
Now the boys are a little bit older, we’d love to go back to Scotland for another road trip. Love this itinerary of Scotland’s NC500 by camper van.
You have the car to store all their stuff
For little people, babies come with a crazy amount of stuff; buggy, travel cot, sleep aids, sleeping bag, three (or more!) changes of clothes per day, black out blind, snacks if weaning, nappies, wipes, toys… the list seems endless. The thought of being able to throw everything the baby may need in a car is comforting for new parents. We suggest storing baby’s things in plastic shelves (like this), so it’s easier to search for items and handy for unpacking and packing the car at each destination. Good packing of the car is key to making life easier. Last thing you want to do is rummage under mounds of clothes and nappies, just to find their night light.
This is actually why we also prefer car hire when travelling overseas, as opposed to using public transport.
Space in the car for a cool box
Stock up on milk, drinks and food at the supermarket to store in your cool box. You can then enjoy a nibble whenever you fancy. Stumble across a stunning view point? Well there’s your lunch stop. Plus, it helps you save those pennies to spend on fuel and accommodation.
Because you’re moving from place to place, it is likely that you will want to wander around and explore on foot each destination. This is free! If you stay longer in one place, you often resort to paid activities to fill the time. Very young children don’t require too much entertainment, and certainly don’t need paid entertainment. They’re more than happy crawling through some grass, feeling the sensation of sand between their toes on a beach, or watching and waving at passers-by.
No flight costs, no enforced flight schedules, no squeezing as much as humanly possible into your carry on and no stresses of keeping bub peaceful at 30,000ft. No parent enjoys flying and a road trip means you don’t experience these hassles.
So get a map, and work out how many hours of driving you are prepared to do per day (considering naps) and how many days driving you wish to do. Work out a route from your front door, allowing a couple of days for contingency, pack the car with military organisation and drive. Remember to stay flexible to baby’s needs (those naps aren’t always predictable) and don’t push the distances too much. This is a road trip you will talk about for years to come.
If you are considering new car seat for your little one and envisage doing lots more travel with them, check out this great post from The Family Voyage.
And… apologies if you have one of those babies who hates the car – I feel for you! In fact my nephew is one! A road trip is probably not the best idea for your family holiday. Time to check flights?
Don’t forget your driving license too. You can order an international driving license online, and get the document emailed to you, if your overseas and realise you need one.
You may also like to read:
Africa with kids FAQ: all you need to about our overlanding family adventures
Iceland with kids: a 5 day itinerary
Tips for road trips with babies and young kids