Travel with an Infant: Road Trip and Beach Edition

Beach travel with baby in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Road-Trip with a Newborn

Traveling with a newborn is no joke. The amount of stuff that we had to pack for our 10-hour road-trip was overwhelming and even led us to purchase a car-top carrier taking me back to my childhood days. I always said I would be a ‘minimalist traveler’ once I had babies since I always prided myself on traveling light (carry-ons only!). This is exactly opposite of how my first big road-trip packing experience turned out. Pack-and-play, sound machine, video baby monitor, beach clothes, baby tent.. the list goes on and on.

Our first big road-trip was form Atlanta to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. The distance from our home in Georgia to our spot in the Outer Banks is approximately a 10-hour drive that I split into two days; stopping and staying at a hotel (Aloft Chapel Hill – bonus it’s dog friendly!) in Chapel Hill, NC to break up the trip.

As any new parent can imagine, I am learning new things every day, along the way. Although I am by no means a seasoned ‘baby traveler’, I hope that my experience thus far can help some other new parents out there looking to road trip and explore with their little one.

Below are some of the product ‘musts’ that helped our first family beach and road trip go smoothly.

For more of on our favorite newborn baby products, check out my blog post here.

Staying up past bedtime thanks to my ergobaby carrier which makes travel and getting off routine with a baby much easier!

Road-Trip Travel Products:

DOONA Car Seat / Stroller Combo:

This is hands down one of the very best travel product investments we’ve made to date. The Doona is a car seat AND stroller all in one. Instead of having to cram in a big bulky stroller into an already overly full trunk, the stroller folds up into a car seat and pops directly in. (Incredibly handy when baby falls asleep on-the-go or in the car as well making for super easy transitions!)

Bonus: This car seat can be easily installed without a base!

Portable Sound Machine:

We use our portable sound machine all the time. Whether we are trying to keep the little guy asleep while running errands or at a crowded, noisy restaurant; the sound machine provides a consistent and familiar noise. There are a ton on the market and they’re pretty affordable so I’d recommend having one in your diaper bag for whenever that time comes!

SkipHop Changing Pad:

Sh** happens?! Am I right? I feel like it is always when we are finally out and about that a diaper change is needed. We have loved our SkipHop Changing pad making it super easy to clean up while on the road (think road trip pit stops, airport changing stations and more).

Diaper Bag:

Whichever diaper bag you choose, just make sure there is lots of pockets and storage space. I always carry an extra outfit (or 5) for baby, a change of shirt for myself (spit up happens, of coarse), extra diapers, burp cloth, changing pad, trash bags (use these – for dirty diapers or wet clothes), portable sound machine, extra pacifier, wipes and paci wipes! PHEW. That’s a lot. We love this diaper bag as it has plenty of room for everything.

Pack-and-Play

If you are traveling and staying at a hotel or resort, there is a decent chance you can request a pack-and-play or travel crib to your room. However, if you are staying at a rental home or somewhere without these amenities, you will need to bring your own sleep set up. We have had great experience with our 4moms Pack-and-Play. It’s incredibly easy to set-up and packs up in a travel bag nicely.

Road-Trip with an Infant: Travel Tips from a First-Timer’s Experience

  • Be Flexible and Don’t Rush: See below. I truly think a road trip would be a nightmare if we were rushed or rigid, not listening to James’ cues. The more you can go with the flow, the better.
  • Drive to your babies schedule (if at all possible): We’ve been following the Mom’s on Call schedule since James was 2 weeks old. Lucky for us, the boy loves a good structured schedule and (almost) always can predict his awake / nap times. As long as you can be patient on your road trip, I highly recommend driving to your baby’s schedule. It will lead to less fussy time and more peace along the way.
  • Partner Up: If you are able, partner up with someone so you are not traveling alone. I was lucky enough to bring my mom
  • Break Your Trip Up: As mentioned above, we broke our 10-hour road trip up into 2 days which I would highly recommend. It made what felt like a daunting road-trip with a newborn feel a lot more feasible. Oh and on top of a newborn, we also had our 105 lb. dog so a 10-hour road trip was really like a 17-18 hour road-trip when it was all said and done.
  • Rent Baby Gear at your Destination (if space constrained): I haven’t had to do this yet but I’ve heard great things about Baby’s Away and BabyQuip. I would 100% consider renting items especially for far-away trips; for example, hiking trips out west where we could rent a baby hiking backpack carrier.
  • Pack Strategically for Overnight Stays: We purposely packed a small overnight suitcase for the essentials to get us through the night at the hotel. If we hadn’t organized out our stuff properly, I would have been forced to lug in my massive suitcase packed for two, for 10+ days away.
Evenings and golden hour at the beach in the OBX with my 9-week old baby boy!

Baby (<6 months) at the Beach: Recommended Products (Newborn)

Baby Dome:

This baby dome was perfect for this age. It kept the sand out and was easy entertainment while he was awake. However, I would say to be careful about the sun. I’m not sure it has great sun protection so we kept it in the shade at all times.

California Tent:

A playpen/tent combo. Great for babies of all ages but especially the little ones who are crawling around so you can keep them contained!

Full Coverage Rash Guard:

Babies under the age of 6 months are not supposed to wear sunscreen which makes beach trips a little tough. Find a cute full-coverage rash guard and keep them in the shade as much as possible. (Their skin burns fast, I learned the hard way so stay covered!)

Baby Pool / Floatie Blow-Up:

Bringing a baby pool or blow-up floatie to the beach on a hot day with a baby or toddlers is seriously genius. We saw other families doing it and ran out to the store immediately to follow suit. On a hot summer day, it makes all the difference to fill up a little pool space with cool refreshing ocean water to splash around in.

Nursing Cover (if BF):

In my experience, it is quite a hassle to leave the beach every time I needed to nurse. Especially if you have a little baby only a couple months old and they are eating pretty regularly. I loved having a nursing cover to drape over us allowing for privacy but no FOMO ;).

Baby Carrier:

Baby carrying is not for everyone. However, I have found it extremely helpful in keeping baby close and calm especially during the fussier evening hours. Using a baby carrier was also a great way to go out past baby’s bedtime and led to an easier transition from sleeping on me to sleeping in his pack-and-play. I always switch between my Solly Baby Wrap and my Ergobaby 360 Carrier. (Solly is more leisurely, Ergobaby has more support for faster pace walking)

Baby Sunglasses and Sunhat with SPF:

Gotta protect that precious and easy to burn head and eyes! Enough said.

Baby play dome perfect for days at the beach with a portable fan and rash guard as well!

Stay tuned for a post coming soon all about traveling with a baby (< 6 months) via airplane!

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