Long-Haul Car Trip with a Baby

We traveled a lot with Timothy. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. Timothy is only 9 months old, but he already took long-haul car trips trips to Montreal for a weekend and Ottawa for a week-long cottage vacation, flew across the Atlantic to Moscow (Russia) to meet his grandparents and to Dominican republic for another vacation (obviously Timothy needs a lot of vacation… getting tired, poor thing :))

So I decided to share some tips and learnings about traveling with babies. I’ll start with the very first trip – to Montreal (600 km away from us). Timothy was 4 months old at the time.

How to survive a long-haul car trip with a baby.

Getting to Montreal turned into a nightmare. Timothy was unhappy almost the whole duration of the trip – and the usually 6-hour long trip took us 9 hours. Due to Timothy – and due to traffic.

Learning #1: sit next to the baby. Yes, perhaps you wanna keep your spouse company, but it’s so much easier to deal with baby crying in the back seat when you sit next to the baby! And it’s safer – the driver won’t get too distracted from the road.

Learning #2: time your trip so as to avoid high-traffic time when you leave AND when you arrive. We never considered that we’ll be arriving in Montreal exactly as everyone else will be leaving work – at the beginning of a long weekend. It was nightmare! On our way back we left around noon and arrived in Toronto around 7, past the high traffic time, on a regular Monday night.

Learning #3: bring breast pump and bottle with you. On our way to Montreal, we stopped for us to eat. We stop to change poopy diapers. We stopped to nurse Timothy. There were waaaaay too many stops. And at one point we were stuck in traffic and Timothy started wailing for milk. In the middle of a highway. In its stretch in Montreal where there’s not even a shoulder and at the speed we were going – 30 minutes away from the next exit. It was HELL. So. Next time I took a bottle and breast pump inside the car with me. Timothy gets hungry – I pump and give him the bottle, right there. No need to stop!

Learning #4: massage the baby in the carseat. It’s a long-hail drive. Your limbs get all tired, your bum feels flat, you keep stretching your shoulders and legs. Well, your baby can’t do it. Massage the baby in the carseat! Just a bit of rubbing ans squishing and shaking of those pudgy thighs and arms will do. Ahhh, that’s better. Now we can go peacefully for a couple hundreds kilometers more.

Learning #5: lay him flat. During our meal stops, we took Timothy out of the carseat and lay him on the table (covered with a blanket) to stretch out his limbs and flatten his back and exercise a bit. You eat with one hand, hold the baby with the other. Timothy loved the break from being strapped in the same boring carseat for too long.

Learning #6: entertain. I sang so much during that trip – I lost my voice. I know a lot of songs – so that helped. Still, I was exhausted. I showed him some movie clips on my phone of – well, him 🙂 – and that seemed to entertain him. So I’d say even a four-month-old isn’t too young for a DVD. It buys you some quiet time to restore those voice chords. And perhaps for the driver to restore those ear drums 🙂 Invest and buy a portable DVD-player for your car!

Learning #7: prepare for the road. There are stops every 80 km or so along the Montreal-Toronto highway, so we passed one thinking “oh, we’ll step at the next one”. Only the next one was closed for renovation. By the time we reached the next one after that, Timothy was all poopy and grumpy, I was all hungry and grumpy, and hubby… well, he really needed to use the washroom and so was beyond being grumpy. Plan your trip. Make sure that the places where you plan to stop are available!!!

I will remind: Timothy was 4 months old at the time of that first trip, so there were no snacks involved. For babies a bit older, it’s a good thing to have.

And – also important – make sure your baby hasn’t outgrown its carseat! Surviving hours upon hours squished into a carseat that is too narrow for you doesn’t sound like fun. So your baby won’t let you have fun either.

We took another long-haul car trip to Ottawa when Timothy was 5 months old, using all of the above learnings – and it was a BREEZE. Honestly. A complete non-event.

Happy travels, everyone!


14 thoughts on “Long-Haul Car Trip with a Baby

    1. newtorontomom Post author

      Thanks Katy 🙂
      I will keep writing, that’s for sure. I am basically bursting with all I have to say – and I wanna remember for when the next baby is in the plans 🙂

      1. Vancity Mom

        Ha, I don’t know cause I don’t have a play pen or a portable crib. I’m travelling to LA next week and deciding whether I should invest in one. i.e. Bjorn and Phil and Teds have one. Looking for one that is easy to pack, set-up, etc.

        1. newtorontomom Post author

          They seem the same to me. I can’t advise on which one to buy: we have a hand-me-down one, and a pretty old one at that. It works just fine.

          If you’re flying, check it in as a “breakable” baggage item to be on the safe side – that’s what we did on our flight to the Dominican (it didn’t cost us anything extra).

          Where are you staying? Hotels usually provide a crib or playpen.


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