In June, my husband, 9-month-old daughter, and I took a trip to Minnesota for my grandmother’s memorial service; 1200 miles there and back, about 20 hours each way. We knew about the trip well in advance and took to social media to enlist help from friends and gather some advice to make the trip run as smoothly as possible.
I have compiled the most helpful advice on traveling with infants and what worked well for us.
- Rest: We were very familiar with the route and decided to take as much time as needed to make the trip. We decided to break the drive into three roughly 6-hour day chunks (stopping overnight in Billings, MT, and Bismarck, ND). Many people suggested we just drive through the night. The problem with this is that both parents would still need to be available to drive and take care of Arlo during the day. Staying overnight in a hotel, although not cheap, allowed us all to get good rest, take a shower, and have access to a fridge and sink.
- Feeding: I am combination breastfeeding and bottle feeding (pumped breast milk and formula). I have struggled with supply issues so feeding our daughter, Arlo, was a major stressor. We ended up packing enough frozen pumped breast milk with dry ice to have one bag of breastmilk per day. (As a note, be sure to check before you leave where dry ice will be available; in Bismarck, we could only find it at a welding shop.) She received a combination of thawed frozen milk, freshly pumped milk from the previous day, and formula. Babies at this age do not necessarily need to snack; however, we did offer puffs, cheerios (no honey), Cerebelly packets, applesauce, and whatever we could accommodate for her out of the meals we were eating if she demonstrated interest. Just a reminder: at this stage, infants should not be fed solids while in their car seat due to the increased risk for adverse events and delayed time for initiating intervention. Solids were only offered during stops when she was removed from her car seat.
- Entertainment/Play: We set up the car so that our pup was in the front passenger seat (he has a harness and seatbelt) with the driver and the other adult was in the back with Arlo at all times. We downloaded several movies on the iPad and used a bungee cord to attach the device to the middle seat headrest. We used this mostly during nap times and times when Arlo looked sleepy but was having a hard time winding down. We also got several new toys just for the trip so that she had time with novel play, keeping her occupied for much longer. The adult in the back was able to keep fussiness to a minimum despite the prolonged confinement.
- Diaper Bag and Stops: Make sure your diaper bag is stocked with a day’s worth of diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and pee pads; emergency medications; and, oddly enough, a neck pillow. Sometimes we were able to stop at nice rest areas or gas stations, other times the places we stopped didn’t have desirable facilities. The pee pads were nice to have on hand as we could use them as a barrier either on changing stations or making our own changing station in the back seat of the car. We were also able to set up the back seat of the car as a feeding station; using the neck pillow (kind of like a Boppy) to help support her (Miss Independent would rather NOT have mom and dad hold her to eat). The emergency medications were helpful when, 2 days into our trip, she developed a low-grade fever.
- Packing: As you can imagine, 2 adults, an infant, and a pup create A LOT of stuff to pack for a week away from home. In the trunk, we had everything we needed but packed an overnight bag to take care of all of us for each night on the trip there and back; that way we didn’t have to bring everything into the hotel with us each night.
- Routine: Despite traveling in general, and even crossing time zones, we kept Arlo on her routine for the majority of the trip. Knowing what I do about development, this can do wonders for minimizing fussiness and major breakdowns. Feedings, naps, diaper changes, and play were not overly impacted.
The anxiety leading up to our trip was worth it and helped us prepare for the worst, but Arlo did amazingly well and we felt prepared for any circumstances that might come up. Thankfully things went relatively smoothly!