Traveling with a Baby {Road Trip Tips}

Whether it be day trips, weekend getaways, or international adventures, travel has always been a big part of Justin and my marriage. We love exploring and trying new things and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a bit nervous that we’d lose the ability to travel once we became parents. What would traveling with a baby look like? Will it be so stressful that we’ll just prefer to stay home? Will we have to stop traveling until our children are older? We had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers with what traveling would look like once there was a third person tagging along.

It turns out that we didn’t need to worry – we have still been able to travel (and actually enjoy our trips!) with a baby in tow. We have traveled by car and plane with LJ and much to our relief both methods of travel have gone smoothly thus far. We have obviously had to make adjustments to the way that we travel and we have learned a few things along the way. Since we are currently at the beach after a 12+ hour drive, I thought I would share some of the tips we have used in our road-trips with LJ (4 multi-state/country road trips under his belt so far!) as well as some of the gear that helps us greatly on these road trips.

Road Trip Tips with a Baby

I know every baby is different and these tips might not work for everyone but these are the things that have helped us to simplify the chaos of travel so we can actually enjoy our time together and look forward to travelling with a baby. 

Tip #1: Start early.

LJ Carseat Going Home

This tip was more for me personally to get to a “we can do this!” mindset. We took our first road trip from Indiana to Virginia when LJ was about 5 weeks old to visit family for Christmas. I think if I had waited months to attempt a trip, I would have stressed out thinking of everything that could go wrong or how it might mess up his routine and I might have talked myself out of even trying. Planning a trip early in LJ’s little life stopped me from having too much time to talk myself out of it and didn’t mess up his (honestly, non-existent) newborn routine and bonus – when it went smoothly it gave me the confidence to continue to travel! I also believe starting early helped LJ form good travel habits (like being comfortable with sleeping/staying in his car seat).

Tip #2: But don’t start early.

LJ Sleeping with Spoon

Whenever Justin and I used to road trip we would pack the car up the night before, wake up early and hit the road as soon as possible. Nowadays, we still have everything packed up and ready to go ahead of time, but we let LJ wake up at his normal time. I breastfeed him, let him play and get out some energy, feed him again, and then hit we the road around the time of his morning nap. In other words, the first 2 hours of the day are like any other day for him. Sure, this means we get on the road a little later than normal (his morning nap is around 9:00 am) but it also means he is tired and will often sleep for a good long stretch at the beginning of the trip so we can knock off a lot of miles. Our trips start on a positive note and this makes a big difference!

Tip #3: Plan for extra time on stops

Fargo Pit Stop.jpg
A photo op during a pit stop walking around downtown Fargo, ND

When LJ was a newborn, stopped when it was time to breastfeed and then he went right back into the car seat and happily slept as we journeyed on. Now that he’s older, he gets pretty fussy after a pit stop if he didn’t get adequate time out of the car seat so we stop at places where we are able to get out for a while. It might mean a rest stop with picnic benches and a grassy area where LJ can roll on a blanket or a restaurant where we can sit down and eat rather than grab food to go. I have even stopped at a Target and just walked around with LJ in the cart. Yes, this adds time to our trips (at least 30 mins per stop) but makes the car ride so much nicer. It allows LJ to get some energy out and get a little mental stimulation and then he is a much happier camper when he gets put back in the car seat. I would way rather extend the trip a little if it means having a pleasant travel companion! 

Tip #4: Slim down the packing list

M&M Bag

Yes, babies need a lot of stuff. But your trip is only going to feel stressful if you can never find what you or your baby needs because you brought so. much. stuff. and your trunk is packed to the brim. A few things we do to try to limit the amount of things we pack are:

-Toys. I keep a few toys in my diaper bag at all times. Other than those toys, I do not pack extras on road trips. LJ is entertained by almost anything we might have in the car. Some things he’s spent significant time playing with before are a plastic spoon (see pic under tip #2 – can you spot it?), an empty M&M bag, a plastic water bottle, etc. He loves shiny and crinkly things and there’s been no need for us to pack a ton of extra toys for entertainment. Saves so much space!

-Don’t pack what you can easily buy. For example, on a week-long vacation where we’ll go through lots of diapers, we don’t waste trunk space taking a bunch since we can pop in to a grocery store or a Target to buy a pack once we get where we’re going.

-Crib Rentals. Our pack n play is awesome but it’s one more thing to lug around/take up trunk space. Many hotels and rental homes will provide a crib or pack n play, often for free or a nominal charge. Just make sure to call ahead to reserve a crib! I also pack my own crib sheet – I think laying on a sheet that smells and feels like home helps LJ sleep in an unfamiliar crib (plus I know that the sheet is clean to my standards).

Tip #5: Helpful Gear on Road Trips

-Collapsible high chair

We use this high chair that folds up like a camping chair and love it. It is compact, lightweight, and an easy way to make sure there is somewhere for LJ to safely sit no matter where we are. I honestly keep this in my car at all times and have used it in so many different situations. I highly recommend it!

-Ergo Carrier

Austin, TX

Our stroller takes up a lot of car space, so there have been several road trips where we just take this and no stroller. It doesn’t take up a lot of room and is a comfortable, easy way to walk around with LJ.

-Breastpump

I was able to get the Spectra S1 pump through my insurance and I LOVE because it has a battery and therefore doesn’t need to be plugged in when charged. I can pump comfortably in the passenger seat while Justin drives and then we have a bottle to quickly and easily give LJ whenever we stop. If space is an issue or I just don’t want to take my nice pump along, I have also taken my Medela Handheld Pump. This pump is not as convenient to use but it is a good, inexpensive option to take along, particularly when packing light.

What tips do you have for traveling with an infant?

 

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30th Birthday Weekend

Good morning!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. Mine was extra special because Justin planned a surprise getaway to South Haven, Michigan to celebrate my 30th birthday (which is actually tomorrow) and we had so much fun! While he planned everything out in secret, he did tell me about the trip a couple weeks ago because he had arranged for my parents to watch LJ overnight and he knew I would want to prepare mentally (first night apart from him!) and to make sure to pump a little extra milk to add to our small freezer stash so LJ would have plenty.

Just a warning, this is going to be a long post because I can’t resist recapping our trip!

Saturday

After dropping LJ off with my parents on Saturday morning, we started our drive to South Haven. Justin went all out and booked us a suite at Yelton Manor Bed & Breakfast and while check-in was not until 4:00, we were able to park our car there upon our arrival at noon. We decided to leave the car and walk the 7 blocks to downtown to start exploring. We started out on Phoenix Street and immediately spotted the South Haven Farm Market. The market was full of delicious food, unique crafts, live music, and gorgeous flowers. We enjoyed walking around and checking out all the booths!

South Haven Welcome

We continued down Phoenix Street just taking in the town and getting our bearings a little bit. We soon worked up an appetite and decided to grab a quick bite at Venezia Pizza. The place didn’t look like much on the outside, but the server was so warm and friendly, the food was delicious and very reasonably priced (we split the sampler platter), and the chef gave us extra large portions because we had to wait on our meatball. It was a great spot for a quick and filling lunch!

Venezia Pizza

After lunch we continued our walk out of town towards the water.

South Haven 1

South Haven is a harbor town on Lake Michigan and has nice little beaches and a pier with a lighthouse. We walked all the way out to the lighthouse and enjoyed the gorgeous views.

South Haven lighthouse

South Haven 4

J on edge of pier

On the way back from the pier we had to stop and get some ice cream at Sherman’s right there on the beach. Even though the day was pretty chilly, I can never turn down a local ice cream joint and this place did not disappoint!

Sherman's Ice Cream

We walked back into town and started checking out some of the little shops. There are so many unique places in South Haven – we stopped in shops with home decor, quirky children’s toys, beautiful clothing, and even one shop entirely dedicated to blueberries! It was just the cutest downtown!

South Haven 5.jpg

We headed back to Yelton around 4:00 to check in. We were greeted by innkeeper Elaine who was so warm and friendly. She showed us around the main house of the inn, which was built in the 1980’s but looks like a hundred-year old house. It had so much character and so many cozy little nooks and personal touches like a 24/7 popcorn machine and a cake stand filled with fresh brownies. We left the main house armed with not only our room key, but also a triple chocolate brownie, popcorn, and a DVD from their impressive movie collection.

Yelton Guest House

Our room, the Biltmore, was located in the Guest House and was gorgeous! Justin surprised me with chocolate covered strawberries he had brought along and we relaxed and watched our chosen movie (The Post – so good!) and then took a nap. Side note: If there is something more luxurious to an almost 30-year-old mom than an uninterrupted afternoon nap, I can’t think of it.

We freshened up and headed back into town to catch the gorgeous sunset and grab a delicious dinner at Taste. I had their ultimate grilled cheese and tomato parmesan bisque while Justin had their spicy tuna sushi. We then split a cookie pie which was divine. Please enjoy this picture of our delicious dessert and my awkward hand placement – ha!

Taste Cookie Pie

We finished off our evening at Clementine’s with some after-dinner drinks. While we ended up talking about LJ quite a bit, it was so fun to get to stay out late and just enjoy one-on-one time with Justin.

Sunday

After sleeping in (another luxury!), we moseyed down to the main house where we were treated to a heavenly breakfast. We each sampled several different dishes but my hands-down favorite was their blueberry breakfast cake. I can’t say it enough – the Yelton had so many special touches that made our experience so lovely. I can’t recommend this place enough!

We had some time before check out so we headed across the street to the north beach and walked the shoreline. The water was so cold but it was really pleasant to walk barefoot in the sand.

Lake Michigan

Back at the Yelton, we said our goodbyes (and snagged another brownie) and headed back back downtown toward Old Harbor Village, a unique cluster of shops and restaurants right along the water.

Old Harbor Village

We decided on lunch at Admiral Jack’s, a restaurant located on a riverboat where we enjoyed lunch (cheeseburger for me and fish for Justin) while watching boats go by.

Admiral Jacks

After lunch we wandered through more shops downtown before heading to 12 Corners Tasting Room for a wine tasting. The tasting room wasn’t too busy and we enjoyed chatting with the servers while sampling delicious wines. We left with a bottle of their Beach Cottage Vacation White which I can’t wait to enjoy at a later date.

12 Corners

Next we stopped in Black River Tavern where Justin enjoyed a local brew and we watched a little football before we checked out the last few shops we hadn’t gone into yet. We finished our time in South Haven with one more sweet treat from Kilwins.

Kilwins 1

Kilwins 2

Even though we had so much fun exploring the town and spending some time together just us two, we both agreed that we couldn’t wait to get back to LJ. We were so happy to hear that he had a great time at grandma and grandpa’s house and we got lots of smiles and snuggles with him back at home.

And now, after a fun and relaxing weekend away, I am officially ready to bring on 30!

Spring Break Adventures, Part One

I’m back!

Last week I took a blogging hiatus because Justin and I took off on VACATION! It was spring break for him so I took some time off work and we hit the road and headed south!

We spent the weekend visiting friends in the Carrboro/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. Leah, one of my best friends from childhood, and her husband Kraig moved there about a year ago and it was so great to get to visit them and explore the area!

We got into town on Friday night and it just so happened that UNC was playing in the NCAA tournament so Chapel Hill was a happenin’ place! Every restaurant and bar with a TV was packed so since none of us were super invested in the game we decided to just walk up and down Franklin Street (an absolute must-see if you go to Chapel Hill; this strip had so many amazing little shops, restaurants, and bars) and soak up the atmosphere. It was so much fun! There was so much energy and excitement after they won– it made me wish that we lived in a college town again. So fun!

We spent Saturday walking around and exploring Chapel Hill. We hit up several markets and grocery stores (yes, you read that right. I love grocery stores and the fact that Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods were close by was enough to put me in a grocery shopping mood!) and also walked around UNC.

UNC Campus

Justin and I both went to smaller colleges so we were blown away by how huge the campus was! All the buildings were so beautiful and we really enjoyed checking it all out! Justin especially enjoyed getting to sample the water in the drinking fountain under the trademark gazebo. 😉

UNC Chapel Hill UNC Chapel HIll

Sorry about the light streaks; all these pictures were taken on my phone and it doesn’t take good night pictures!

After a day full of walking, we were all super hungry. We decided to eat at the famous Top of the HIll restaurant. We had a pretty long wait to get out on the patio, but it was definitely worth it! The restaurant rooftop is perfectly placed on the corner of a major section of Franklin Street so it has a great view!

Top of the Hill Top of the Hill

The food was so delicious that I scarfed up all my food before I even thought to take a picture! We all four agreed that the food was top notch and the guys loved the house beers they chose. My favorite part was just looking out over Franklin Street and people watching (yep…I’m one of those creepers who love watching other people!)

We also hit up Yogurt Pump after dinner which was the best decision! Their frozen yogurt was the perfect way to top off a great day and I only wish we lived closer so I could further fuel my fro-yo addiction.

Before we knew it, Sunday morning rolled around and we packed our bags, said goodbye to Leah and Kraig, and hit the road to head even further south to Charleston, SC! More on that adventure tomorrow!

***

A few outfit catch-ups from the last few teaching days!

pink cardigan, checked shirt, skinnies, leopard flats, chunky pearls

Cardigan: Target (similar here)~ Checked Shirt: Target (similar here) ~ Navy Ankle Pants: Target (exact here)~ Leopard Flats: Target (exact here) ~ Necklace: Maurices (similar here and here) ~ Renegade Bracelet: Stella Dot (exact here)

blue striped shirt, white jeans, nude pumps, statement necklace

Shirt: Target ~ Jeans: Target (exact here)~ Pumps: Target (exact here) ~ Necklace: Purple Peridot (exact here) ~ Link Bracelet: J. Crew Factory (exact here) ~ Bracelets: Chloe Stack (exact here)

purple cardigan, floral shirt, skinnies, black boots

Cardigan: Old Navy (similar here) ~ Flower cami: Old Navy (exact old) ~ Courduroy skinnies: Old Navy (similar here) ~ Boots: Forever 21 (exact here) ~ Necklace: Lia Sophia (exact here) ~ Earrings: Lia Sophia (exact here)