My family drove from Delray Beach, Florida (where we had been quarantining since March) back home to New York City in May. Our LO was 5 months old. A road trip during a global pandemic is way less fun than a regular road trip, and throw in a 5-month-old baby, and you have yourself a pretty unique situation.
With many families not ready to get on planes just yet, a lot of parents are looking for some tips for long car ride success during a pandemic. It went really well for us. Below I outlined what we did and what I learned.
Here’s the deets: This drive with no stops or traffic would be about 17 ½ hours. Our trip was about 20 hours and 45 minutes of time on the road, not including our one overnight stop. In total, we left at 6:45am on a Thursday and got back to our apartment at 2:30pm on Friday.
- Be over-organized – Make sure you know where everything is for the baby (change of clothes, pacifiers, diapers, teethers, toys, extra bibs, fan that clipped to car seat) and for yourself (water, hand sanitizer, snacks, masks, car charger). I suggest trying to separate everything by category (i.e. Baby stuff, Parent Snacks, Pandemic-Specific Accessories – yes, that is a category now!). Chances are you will have a pretty packed car so make sure you put all of the things you don’t need until you get to your destination in the car first, and the things you’ll need along the way in a more reachable spot. I sat in the back with baby Charlie, so I had his diaper bag with bottles, diapering items, pacifiers, teethers, and extra bandana bibs sitting on the middle seat in between us. I also had the stroller rain cover readily available, which we used to cover Charlie’s stroller when we walked into the hotel.
- Pack your meals – We didn’t want to stop for food, so we packed 2 coolers with hardboiled eggs for breakfast, sandwiches and salads for lunch and dinner, and some fruit and delicious road trip snacks. Is it even a road trip if you don’t finish an entire box of Cheez-its? The sandwiches were absolutely soggy by Day 2, but it got the job done.
- Prep for things in advance – Before we left, I filled up all of the bottles we had with formula powder so I would just have to pour the water in and be good to go. We also brought a case of water bottles with us to use for Charlie’s bottles.
- Use your space wisely – We put a full-size hand-sanitizer and a container of sanitizing wipes in the driver’s side door pocket. I put a travel-size hand wipes and a paper towel roll in my door pocket in the back seat. We kept extra masks and hand sanitizer in the center console. I put a box with Charlie’s toys behind the passenger seat, below the car seat so they were easy for me to access. And we had plenty of plastic bags for garbage in the glove compartment.
- Try to time your bathroom breaks with stops for the baby – I felt like a race car pit crew every time we stopped – we actually timed it and would try to beat our previous time (clearly we were bored). This is how it went: I prepared the bottle right before we stopped to save time. Once we stopped, Husband went to the bathroom, while I took the baby out of the car seat and fed him. Husband changed the baby’s diaper, while I went to the bathroom. And we were off! We did make one longer stop, found some grass to put a blanket on and hung out for a bit. (A note on the bathroom: Be prepared to use nature as your bathroom if you are uncomfortable with using public restrooms. I’ll leave it at that!)
- Get that iPad ready – I was definitely one of those people who thought I would NEVER resort to putting an iPad in front of my kid’s face to distract them. Welp, I was wrong. I think many of us have had to resort to screens during the pandemic to allow our kids to attend virtual music classes or see family members on Zoom and FaceTime, and that’s okay! We’re all doing what we have to do to get through this. I downloaded a bunch of Little Baby Bum episodes on my iPad and it was a life saver every time Charlie started getting fussy. Don’t skip over this recommendation if you are taking your first long trip with your LO.
- Bring toys – We had an actual toy box below Charlie’s seat. It was filled with books, his favorite toys and some new toys I purchased specifically for this trip. Check out the series: a curated toy guide for every age under the PLAY section for some ideas.
- Pick a good outfit – We dressed Charlie in a footless, light wear MagneticMe onsie. It was easy to get on and off and was comfortable for him.
- Don’t complicate things – This will mean something different to everyone. For us it meant something that I am a little embarrassed to admit, but in the spirit of being honest, I want to share. We had introduced Charlie to solids less than 2 weeks before we left for our road trip. He was doing great and enjoying the new experience, but he was still getting all of his nutrients from a combination of bottles and breast milk. We decided that for the 2 days we were driving we wanted to make less stops and were going to skip the purees. We brought a little container of sweet potato just in case, but never gave it to him. To be honest, I didn’t have any mom-guilt about it because I knew I was making a decision to Charlie out of the car seat faster. I’m sure there will be little things that you have to compromise on to make the best of your situation at the time, and in the long run it will make ZERO DIFFERENCE. Charlie is a monster eater and those 2 days we skipped solids made no difference.
If you need to stay some place overnight:
For our trip, the stars aligned and we made it from Florida to Richmond, VA in 1 day. Since we had no idea in advance how far we would make it with the baby, we actually didn’t have a hotel reservation. Once we were about an hour outside of Richmond, I started calling hotels for availability. We stayed at the Westin in Richmond, VA and never saw another soul during our stay. They also told us that they had a policy of waiting 2 days before using a room again. Unfortunately, I do have to point out that the person checking us in was not wearing a mask during my interaction with him which was upsetting and scary after all we were doing to stay safe. If that concerns you, you might want to call in advance and find out the hotel’s policy on masks.
Tip: Pack a small weekender bag with the things you will need to stay overnight. Below was my packing list:
- Clothes for Day 2
- Toiletry Bag
- Cell phone charger
- Sanitizing wipes to wipe down the room, door handles, light switches, everything
- Clothes for Day 2
- Toiletry Bag
- Cell phone charger
- 2 Pairs of Pajamas
- Sleep Sack
- 2 Pairs of Clothes for Day 2
- Extra Diapers / Wipes
- Pack n Play
- Pack n Play Sheets
- Water bottles to make bottles
- Formula Powder
- Bandana Bibs
- Diaper Bag with lots of diapers, wipes, Aquaphor, Tylenol, Benadryl, more hand sanitizer
Good luck! I would love to hear if you have any other ideas or suggestions.
Don’t forget to bookmark or pin the image below so you can come back to these tips during your next road trip!