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9 Tips for Traveling with a Baby without Losing Your Mind: Road Trip Edition

My today’s tips for traveling with a baby come as a result of  our recent weekend trip to Portland, OR – our first road trip with 9 month-old baby J. During this trip, we did everything we could to make things more comfortable – and thus, more enjoyable – both for us and for her.

Of course we had to adjust our expectations for what this trip was going to look like, and to be ready to switch things up if needed.

How to travel with a baby without losing your mind

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The drive from our home base to the north of Seattle down to Portland usually takes 2.5 – 3 hours if traffic is good. We booked a hotel in the downtown Portland area for two nights.

When choosing the hotel location, we wanted to stay in an area where we could easily walk to various fun places and vegan restaurants (I shared our dining experience during this trip in my previous post), and still could return to our hotel quickly if baby J needed a nap.

Today I’m sharing a few tips for traveling with a baby that helped us have a good time during this trip while keeping baby J mostly happy and tantrum-free. (Please note that I can’t guarantee that this will work with every baby, but for us these few steps helped keep our sanity and enjoy our little getaway.)

Tips for Traveling with a Baby: Road Trip Edition

1. During the drive to your destination, factor in your baby’s nap times

We left home mid-morning so that to accommodate baby J’s morning nap that we were hoping she would take in the car during our drive. She struggled for a little while to fall asleep (these days she takes most of her naps at home, so she’s not as used to napping in the car anymore). Eventually she succeeded and slept for 1.5 hours.

2. Bring entertainment

To keep baby J happy while she was awake in the car, we brought along plenty of toys that I kept rotating to make sure she didn’t get bored. I also heard a tip to bring a few brand-new toys whenever you’re traveling so that their novelty entertained them longer. I didn’t buy any new toys for this trip specifically, but I’m sure that eventually I’ll need to try this when we go on a longer trip, or when baby J gets older.

3. Choose your lodging at destination wisely

When researching possible places to stay, we decided to get a suite-type of room at a hotel instead of a regular single room so that baby J had her own quiet place to nap and sleep (in the ‘living room’ part of the suite) while we relaxed and watched TV in the bedroom.

I know, of course, that suites are more expensive, but we had some credit on the website that I usually book our hotels through, plus we were only staying there for two nights instead of taking a week-long vacation. I think next time we’ll look into AirBnB for an alternative to a hotel suite.

4. Reserve a baby crib in your hotel if possible

Our hotel provided a crib for baby J to sleep in, so we didn’t have to bring along a pack-n-play. I reserved a crib when booking our room online, but it’s always worth a call to ask the hotel if they provide cribs if it’s not mentioned on the website. This is also very useful if you’re flying to a vacation destination with a baby and would rather not bring a pack-n-play.

5. Plan your days to accommodate your baby’s schedule

In order to keep baby J happy and ourselves sane, we knew that we needed to keep her on the same schedule as we do at home. She takes two naps every day, usually sometime between 10 am and noon, and then between 3 and 5 pm.

I know that some babies are happy to nap just about anywhere, but baby J is not one of them. She naps best in her crib with a 30-45 minute long breastfeeding session beforehand.

To make sure we were back to our hotel room in time for her to feed and then nap, we decided not to veer off too far from our hotel in our explorations. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to see more of Portland in the future, so for now it was a reasonable sacrifice.

Luckily for our vegan appetites, there were plenty of vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants within a walking distance from our hotel. Speaking of food…

Tips for traveling with a baby - how to feed a baby when traveling
Rob is feeding baby J at Los Gorditos

6. Bring shelf-stable baby food

Since baby J eats two solid food meals every day these days (lunch and dinner), I brought along a few store-bought containers of various baby foods (this is the brand she’s OK with) At home I try to make her meals myself (here’s a list of seven vegan baby food recipes that I’ve developed for her), but for this trip I needed something that would keep without refrigeration.

So whenever we sat down for a meal at a restaurant, I took out one of the containers and started feeding baby J as we were waiting for our food to arrive. If your baby is picky, it makes sense to bring along a couple jars of different baby foods in case they dislike the first food you offer.

7. Well-packed diaper bag = peace of mind

It goes without saying that a well-packed diaper bag can make life much easier during any outing.

On top of the regular things like extra diapers, wipes, a changing table pad, a spare outfit, bags for used diapers, etc., I also packed a bib, a spoon, and a washcloth that we tuck under baby J’s bib to protect her clothes when she eats. I brought two sets of these things with us for this trip. This way I put a clean set into the diaper bag before we headed out to eat while another set was cleaned and left to dry at the hotel.

8. Bring baby sunscreen*

Our Pacific Northwestern summers bring lots of hot, sunny days. Since we do most of our outdoor walks with baby J roughly between 12 and 3 pm these days, I always make sure to put sunscreen on her exposed parts.

This sunscreen lotion by Babyganics is out go-to sunscreen right now – I prefer the lotion for baby J over a spray because I don’t want her to accidentally breathe in any spray residue, plus the coverage is more even. Add a nice hat and a pair of stylish shades, and she’s ready to go!

(*Note: sunscreen is not recommended for babies younger than 6 months, so please do your research to explore other options.)

Baby carrier is a great solution for exploring new places with a baby.

9. Use a baby carrier instead of a stroller

These days, for almost all walks we do with baby J she sits in her carrier (I can’t recommend our trusty Ergo 360 enough!). I find that it’s much easier to maneuver in crowds if she’s sitting in the carrier as opposed to in a stroller, plus it’s comforting for her to know that I’m so close to her (she usually holds on to my thumbs as we walk).

We enjoyed navigating the busy streets of downtown Portland as baby J sat in the carrier, which was very convenient when we walked through the crowds of the Portland Saturday Market. The carrier is also very convenient whenever we go on outdoor hikes.

So these are the tips for traveling with a baby that helped us make sure that our road trip was enjoyable both for us and for our little girl. With some extra planning, we’ve been able to fit in a little weekend getaway or a day trip every now and then even after having a baby.

Actually, when you become a parent, extra planning becomes your second nature (or so it did for me). 🙂 I hope my tips for traveling with a baby come in handy for your next road trip!

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author avatar
Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats
Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Eventually she embraced veganism as a way to be kinder to fellow living beings and the environment. Alina hopes that this blog helps its readers on their path to becoming vegan and making this world a better place.


Thursday 4th of April 2019

Great article! Always it is a good idea to Google the reviews and to find kid-friendly places to have a rest, to eat, to stay!

Anupama Mishra

Monday 17th of September 2018

Thanks for your informative article.

Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Monday 17th of September 2018

You're welcome Anupama!


Tuesday 21st of August 2018

Thank you, Alina, for sharing this helpful post! I agree with you that traveling with a baby can seem like a daunting experience at first. However, with enough preparation, that experience can turn into an enjoyable one. Having read your article, I feel it would help new parents who have never gone on a trip with a baby the most. You provided some helpful suggestions, such as reserving a crib at the hotel you're staying at, that I wouldn't have even thought about if I had a child of my own. Great article Alina!

Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Wednesday 22nd of August 2018

Thanks Ron, glad you found my post helpful!

Monday 30th of July 2018

Thanks for your informative article. Traveling with the baby is a challenging one. As a mom most of the time I face different kinds of problem with this. But when I read your article, I found something useful tips about travel with kids. I feel these ideas are helping me with making my travel more most comfortable with my baby. I will keep it in my mind and apply this on my next trip. If you had more insight, I would much appreciate it.