Road trip with a baby | Little explorer

8 must to know tips for taking a baby on a road trip.

On this post, I'm writing all about our first road trip as a family of 4 (because our pup is part of the family too!).

Do you have a brand sparkling new baby and are wonder when you can take him or her on the road? Do you love traveling and want take your kids? Are you curious to know how our first adventure as a family of 4 went? Or you are just excited to check out the pictures? This post if for you! I'm so excited to share all about our trip with you. I hope you enjoy it!


When Jacob and I received the news that our dear friends Cris and Marcio were coming all the way from Brazil to get married in Las Vegas, we knew we couldn't miss it! At that time, I was pregnant and a little unsure of how to making it work - going to Las Vegas with a 3 month old baby.

My husband had the brilliant idea of making of it a big adventure - we were going on a road trip! Money was tight, so we decided we would camp our way there. 

We didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into, so we did as much research as possible on the subject road trip and camping with a baby.

Once we had read all the blogs and Pinterest pins on how to road trip (and camping) with a baby, we decided to make the best of this opportunity. Now, that was exciting!

First, we came up with the following itinerary using the Roadtrippers app:

1- Kingsland, TX - to visit Evelyn's great grandparents

2- Palo Duro Canyon State Park

3- Denver, CO - to visit friends

4- Arches National Park, UT

5- Zion National Park, UT

6- Las Vegas, NV - The Wedding!

7- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

8- Petrified Forest National Park, AZ

9- Elephant Butte - we thought it was a fun place for a pitstop before getting to the White Sands

10- White Sands National Monument

I'm happy to say that in 9 days, we drove through 6 states, about 3,507 miles, saw old friends, made new ones, and we visited all of these places (plus Cibola National Forest for an unplanned night) and camping was a success! What an adventure!

How did we manage to do it in April, with a 3 month old baby and a dog, you ask?

We had a plan, but we were flexible. This may be the biggest secret of making the best of this adventure with our little human and fur baby.

The details of our adventure follow:

Pedernales Falls State Park, Family picture, mom, dad, baby and pup

1- Test run: Before we went on our road trip, we did a test run close to home to see what that would entail. We camped at Pedernales Falls State Park. We were so unprepared! I made a bed of blankets for baby girl in the tent and that sure wasn't enough to keep her warm. It started raining and was so cold that her body temperature kept dropping. I, of course, freaked out! In the middle of the night, baby girl and I went to sleep in the truck, wrapped up in my sleeping bag, turning the heater on every once in a while. Lessons we learned: 1) To pack fleece sleepers and layers 2) Take advantage of body heat! In the colder nights during the road trip, she slept wearing a long sleeve onesie, pants, and a fleece pajama or sleeping sack, and a hat, and she slept in the sleeping bag right by my side. That helped to keep her warm. We made sure to always keep the sleeping bag unzipped on the top, the area close to her head was clear, keeping her safe and sound. We were also used to co-sleeping at home, what made it a little easier.

Other options for sleeping arrangements that I have not tried are SnuggleNest Infant Sleeper, SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper, The First Years Close and Secure Sleeper, to name a few I saw on Amazon. The most important is that you do what feels right to you and your family.

We think that camping close to home on the first time was great, because it gave us an idea of what camping with a baby is like and we could have run home if it didn't workout.

2- Vehicle arrangements: the truck was packed in a way that gave us fast access to snacks, diapers, wipes, and the boppy pillow. Nobody rode shotgun. We packed essential luggage like rain jackets (which we never ended up using), water bottles, a roll of PAPER TOWELS sunscreen, sleeping bag and a couple of towels in a duffel bag in the floorboard. The front passenger seat was all the way forward leaving enough room for whoever was in the back to stretch their legs, and access the diaper bag that was hanging from the backside of the front passenger seat. In the back floorboard, we had a small cooler within arms reach with some fruits, nuts, yogurt, and other snacks. Another essential item was a small trash bag that hung behind the driver headrest. It filled up fast with diapers, snack baggies, wipes, and orange peels. We made sure to empty it at each stop. In the bed of the truck we had: stroller, dog crate, big cooler with sandwich meat, bread, s'mores, coffee, etc). Jacob made a locking truck bed cover with plywood so we didn’t have to worry about rain or wildlife getting into our cooler or camping gear. We also packed our favorite advocare products (rehydrate - to hydrate after our long hikes, sleep works - because whoever wasn't driving needed to rest at night, and spark - because whoever was driving had to be awake and focused). Yes, we’re not afraid to say that we stayed well supplemented with advocare, french press coffee, and sleep aids.

baby laughter, in the truck during road trip

3- Getting to our destination: we added 2-5 hours to each leg of our drive. For example, from Kingsland to Palo Duro is 7 hours. We wanted to get to Palo Duro before noon to be able to enjoy the day, camp and leave the next morning. We went to bed early and woke up at midnight. Fed the baby, put her in the car seat and left. This allowed us to drive for longer stretches while baby (and 1 parent) slept. We stopped in the morning for breakfast (cooked on a picnic table in a small park around the corner from a gas station) and made the trip in 10 hours.

pit stop, pup

4- The stops: every couple of hours we made sure to find a rest stop or a small town to stop at, stretch our legs and feed the baby. It made for a happy crew! Most of the time we would find a quiet corner of the gas station parking lot to let Evelyn feed after refueling the truck. Jacob would let the dog out to sniff around and water the grass, and he would make some sandwiches on the truck tailgate and refill water bottles while baby nursed. That helped us make the most of each stop. Diaper changes took place on the center console between the front seats (thank goodness for a big truck, but I’m sure the back or front seat would have done just as good, in case of a smaller vehicle).

Sunrise breakfast, rest stop New Mexico

5- Driving at night: one of the best tips some of our friends gave us was to drive when baby sleeps. At this age, she was sleeping a lot more at night than during the day (and as she gets older, I think this will do the trick!). It worked out really well for us to do it this way. We would wake up whenever Evelyn needed to eat (between 12 and 2am) and get to our next destination bright and early, with enough time to explore. You also avoid much of the daytime traffic you would otherwise encounter in the bigger cities and towns.

papai holding baby girl tight as we hike in Palo Duro Canyon SP, TX

6- Exploring by day: we were able to arrive at our day destinations around 9-10 am on most days. For places like Arches and Zion national park (where dogs aren’t allowed on the unpaved trails) we made a quick stop at a local vet or doggy day care to board Miley. We knew when we had to pick her back up each day, so we had an idea of how much hiking and sightseeing we could do in the parks before leaving.

Our suggestion: Take it slow. Don’t overbook your day. We picked one or two hikes that we really wanted to do, and sometimes, we were only able to squeeze in our first pick. Hiking and exploring takes extra time when you factor in the trailside feedings and diaper changes - but it was definitely worth it. People couldn’t help but smile as they passed us by as we carried Evelyn in our arms or her carrier. Some commented on how brave we were, others applauded our adventurous little one. She seemed to lift the spirits and give inspiration to everyone we passed on the trail. You will probably want to stop and take a lot of pictures, of course! Take your time to compose your shots. There are too many dramatic backdrops to choose from. We highly recommend taking a small tripod with you, so everyone can jump in the picture. We hiked with a full size tripod, but it takes time to setup and break down, and took up precious space in our backpack. Half of the time we just balanced the camera on a random rock or our bag. We had an “all-terrain” stroller, but we only used it in the city park in Denver. It’s much easier just to carry the baby at this age, and many of the trails we hiked would have been a nightmare to navigate with a stroller. Paved trails would have been a piece of cake with the stroller, but we preferred some of the more rugged hikes, often having to scramble up uneven and steep rock faces, using our hands and feet.

We packed plenty of layers for mom, dad and baby. Some of the hikes we did had more than 1000 feet of change in elevation, so what may have started out as a hot, breezeless canyon hike turned into a chilly, blustery hike at the top in the high desert of Moab, Utah. Don’t forget the sunscreen! We used a big sun hat to keep Evelyn’s face protected from the harsh sunlight, since she was too young for sunscreen.

pup and baby camping in Utah, BLM

7- Making and breaking camp: we planned to arrive with plenty of daylight remaining at our tent camp stops. Our 2 person tent sets up easily with one person, so Jacob would usually get it set up first thing while Evelyn nursed so we had a warm windbreak to place her in. With 2 inflatable sleeping pads, sleeping bags, boppy pillow (which Jacob slept on), plus the dog and her bed, things got pretty cozy! Only essential items came into the tent overnight: headlamps, truck keys, phone, water bottle, diapers, and a change of clothes. We packed the corner pockets of the tent with these items, and hung the headlamps from the tent ceiling if we ever needed a night-lite. After the tent was set up, Jacob would get the meal going. We packed an old coleman camping stove that had 2 gas burners. We splurged at REI and bought a nesting camp cooking set with 2 pots, 2 pans, and plates, cups and bowls for 4 people. This made whipping up our dehydrated campground meals a breeze - and we enjoyed rice and chicken, fettuccini alfredo, stroganoff, and creamy potato stew. We packed bacon, eggs, bread, milk, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast (in that big cooler we stored on the bed of the truck). All of the kitchen essentials stayed in a plastic crate, so setting up and stashing the kitchen was efficient.

8- Sleeping under the stars: with the 4 of us squeezed in the tent, we were able stay cozy despite the temperature dipping below freezing in Moab. Evelyn stayed wrapped in fleece sleepers and a warm beanie cap. Tucked into one of our sides, with a partially zipped sleeping bag, she slept like a champ! Jacob’s dad packed us a large campfire log that warmed our spirits in our campsite outside Zion national park. Being flexible allowed us to see one of the most starry sky, when we camped at Cibola National Forest (an unplanned stop).

Make sure to check with local authorities if campfires are authorized, and the weather conditions are safe for having fires. By the end of the day, all of us were pretty exhausted, so there wasn’t much in the way of campsite activities. We simply enjoyed one another’s company over a hot meal, taking in the view. As the glowing campfire coals faded into ash, we slipped into the precious hours of sleep to recharge us for the early start the next morning.

Camping at Cibola National Forest, NM

Tip:

If you enjoy exploring the great outdoors, like to save some money and won’t miss the luxurious amenities that a traditional campground can provide, we recommend you look for primitive, dispersed camping. In the United States, you can camp for free on some National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) across the country.

In Texas, free camping sites are little trickier to find, but as I was writing this post, I looked up on google and I was able to find some that I’m adding them to our family-camping-list. Finding the right campsite takes time and research, but it’s well worth it.


 

Apps and websites we used to plan our trip:

Roadtrippers.com - created the route with all our stops and estimated travel time.

Freecampsites.net - campsites resource

Campendium.com - campsites resource

Recreation.gov - campsites resource (here we booked our campsite at Grand Canyon)

iExit Interstate Exit Guide - it was a great help finding a gas station to stop during the hail storm when getting back in Texas

If you would like to check out a few more photographs from our trip, take a look here:


By the way, the wedding was so much fun!! It was awesome to get to see Cris and her family that I hadn't seen in a long time. Plus, they all got to meet Jacob and Evelyn. Evelyn did not like the Party Bus ride (and we will make sure to remind her of that later), but slept the whole reception at Ceasar's Palace Hangover suit. Did I mention that she had a poop explosion right after the ceremony? Oh well... good memories!

Cris and I met on the first day of college back in 2005. I think it's safe to say it was friendship at first sight. I've missed too many of her birthdays, since it is during our winter break and I was always with family back home, so it was a real treat to be there on her big day! To be able to witness her getting married to the love of her life was so special!! Shout out to Caroline Ribeiro, from Carol Dan Events, who did an amazing job planning the wedding. **Photo by Rhebeka T. Photography*

Now, what we have are memories, a map, and this well loved book to remind us of such great experience (and the crazy idea of taking portraits of our family at 6am under 20-something-degree-weather in Grand Canyon).



By the way, the wedding was so much fun!! It was awesome to get to see Cris and her family that I hadn't seen in a long time. Plus, they all got to meet Jacob and Evelyn. Evelyn did not like the Party Bus ride (and we will make sure to remind her of that later), but slept the whole reception at Ceasar's Palace Hangover suit. Did I mention that she had a poop explosion right after the ceremony? Oh well... good memories!

Cris and I met on the first day of college back in 2005. I think it's safe to say it was friendship at first sight. I've missed too many of her birthdays, since it is during our winter break and I was always with family back home, so it was a real treat to be there on her big day! To be able to witness her getting married to the love of her life was so special!! Shout out to Caroline Ribeiro, from Carol Dan Events, who did an amazing job planning the wedding. **Photo by Rhebeka T. Photography*

Now, what we have are memories, a map, and this well loved book to remind us of such great experience (and the crazy idea of taking portraits of our family at 6am under 20-something-degree-weather in Grand Canyon).

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Photography by Taila specializes in portrait photography, offering maternity, newborn, children, family, and senior photography serving Austin, TX and surrounding areas including but not limited to Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, New Braunfels and San Antonio.


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