How to Pack for Road Trips with Infants

Packing tips from our columnist mom when taking a newborn or infant on vacation.


Hey, you.

Yeah, you—the one considering a road trip with a newborn.

Come a little closer … closer, closer … I have a secret.


This advice is coming from a very deep and honest place in my heart because I am living this experience in real time.

Yes, my friends, we’re on another road trip—only this time, we’ve added a new soul to our little band, in the form of an 8-week-old baby boy named Henry. The sleepless nights and fussy days just aren’t enough of a challenge for us, so we decided to hit the bricks with not one, but two children, one of whom considers me his personal bathroom attendant.

What’s that? You’re questioning my judgment? Are you blaming my hormones? Because buddy, I’d back off if I were you. I was trapped on the prairie for the better part of nine months, without a drop of water in sight. I needed to blow that Popsicle stand.

Plus, I really miss my mom. Ask me how I feel at the end of our two-week stay in Rochester, N.Y., and you might get a different answer, but right now this mommy wants, well, her mommy.

In order to get to my mommy, I had to endure 12 hours in my minivan with my husband, 3-year-old daughter and Sir Fussy Von Fusserstein. You know life has taken a drastic turn when this is considered a “vacation.”

Oy to the vey.

Preparing to Pack

Where was I? Sorry, my concentration isn’t what it used to be. Newborns should come with a black box label: Warning: Do not operate heavy machinery under the influence of this child.

OK, right. Newborn, 3-year-old, road trip.

Getting ready for the trip took almost as long as getting here. Want another piece of advice? Dude, have your kids close together. It’s been more than three years since I had to carry a diaper bag, and even going to the grocery store is a challenge. I always forget something essential. Like, say, diapers.

You can imagine what it was like preparing for 17 days away from home. I made lists rivaling the plans for the invasion of Normandy.

Before kids, I never made lists. Of any kind. In fact, I mocked my husband mercilessly because he made a “packing list template” in Excel and actually planned out his travel wardrobe by day.
Oh, I was mean. Now he smirks as I whip out the notebook I carry with me at all times to write stuff down so I don’t forget to do it, like “feed baby (see: inability to concentrate).”

Considering we’re nearly 1,000 miles from home, I needed to bring just about everything we own with us: diapers, wipes, bottles, pacifiers, two sets of pajamas for each day, two changes of clothes per day, a portable crib, sheets for the portable crib, a baby gym and play mat, a bouncy chair, baby bathtub … my husband should count himself lucky that I didn’t ask him to pack the kid’s dresser/changing table combo in the back of the van.

No, I am not kidding. Are you scared yet? Those of you contemplating a second child, run, don’t walk, to the “family planning” aisle.

Packing List Tips

Packing for any family trip requires a list, but bringing a tiny babe with you means you have 10 times the amount of stuff you normally travel with, and that baby won’t understand if you try to explain how you’re sorry, but you just left the pacifier at home by accident.

I used my trusty pen and notebook to make my lists, but as I said, I’m a little distracted. So I looked online and compared notes with a few infant-specific checklists. Some good ones can be found at Babycenter and

The list at Babycenter also recommends you bring some items for yourself, like “high energy snacks.” Do Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls count? Sugar converts to energy, right?

I really like the suggestion by to bring baby-proofing gear. Sometimes grandma’s house isn’t fully equipped to handle a curious crawler.
Once you decide what to take with you, the next step is getting it all in the suitcase. When my daughter was little, I used to pack all her stuff in my bag. I don’t do that anymore, because it is nearly impossible to find wee duds when they are mixed in with grown-up ones. Here are a few essential tips for traveling with your babe:

Are you tired yet? I am. But I’m here in my mom’s kitchen, watching while she makes dinner. Did you hear that? Someone else is making dinner.

This is totally the best vacation, ever.

(Read more in: On the Road Again: Infant Travel Part II.)

Themes: Family Travel

User Comments

This is making me re-think our 9 and a 1/2 hour trip to paducah kentucky to see family at christmas. we would be leaving two weeks after my expected due date for my daughters arrival and my son would only be 19 months. the trip was my husbands idea and i am really starting to think that he never thinks things through

That was a good (much needed) laugh Our family has scheduled a vacation 3 weeks after the expected birth of our second son. It's becoming apparent it is indeed a crazy thing to do! And we're not even going to see my parents. We're bringing them with us! It's going to be a tough one to pack everyone in a minivan!!!