Tips for Traveling with Your 6-9 Month Old
Traveling with a baby can be daunting, especially if you’re planning a long road trip. Hours in the car, messed up sleep schedules, interrupted naps and feedings, and more. Check out these tips for traveling with your 6-9 month old to help you make sure you’ve got a good plan before you head off!
In October, Andrew and I took Camden on a loooong, 17 hour road trip to Florida. Camden was 8 months old, and I was super nervous about a 34 hour round trip (and that’s just driving time, not including all the stops!) with an 8 month old. Camden was crawling and moving, and he didn’t like to be contained to a car seat for very long.
I planned and planned and planned how to keep Camden on his schedule (as closely as possible) for the entire trip. My biggest fear was that, if I messed up his schedule completely on our 10 day trip, I’d have to fight for weeks to get back to a schedule when we got home. And my little man is a baby who needs a schedule to be happy and functional.
Here’s my tips for traveling with your 6-9 month old (basically, a mobile-but-not-walking baby):
Do as much traveling as you can during sleep times and nap times.
We left on a Friday evening at Camden’s bedtime (around 7:30pm). He was already fed, in his pajamas, and sleepy. So we knew we could knock out the first 5 hours while he slept, and we’d still be at the hotel close to midnight.
On Saturday, we let him wake up, eat and play in the hotel room. When it was time for his morning nap – around 9 a.m. – we packed him in the car and drove for about 2 1/2 hours. This was longer than his nap time, but he slept for a while and then was content to be awake and babble for a while. We continued our drive the same way – most of our driving was done during his nap times and bedtime, so he was content to sleep and not feeling trapped in the car.
Leave time for extended stopping.
At lunch time on Saturday, we stopped at a park. We put out a blanket, fed Camden quickly, and then just let him crawl, explore and move. We stayed at the park for at least 1 1/2 hours, just to let the little man get out some of that energy. And Andrew I both agreed that it was so much nicer than sitting inside a restaurant or something – the sunshine and outside air are glorious after being trapped in a car.
We tried to make extended stops in between Camden’s nap times often, just so he could get out and move.
We stopped at a park at lunch time so Camden could crawl and explore.
Pack your own food – don’t plan on stopping at restaurants.
We took a big cooler packed with sandwiches, pasta salad, yogurt, cheese – all things I could make and pack ahead of time, and that were easy to pull out and eat. By taking our own food, we saved money, didn’t have to worry if we could find something for Camden (or have to make sure we had something separate for him), and we were able to stop at places Camden could crawl around – like the park – instead of making the stop at a fast food joint or restaurant.
This was the first time I’d really packed our food instead of planning on stopping, and I was surprised by how much I preferred the freedom it gave us!
Take your own Pack ‘N’ Play if you can.
I don’t like to depend on hotels for their pack ‘n’ plays. For one thing, they all say ‘first-come-first-serve.’ So what am I supposed to do if they run out?? And secondly, I don’t really trust that they’re cleaned very well. Or at all.
Thirdly, Camden is familiar with his pack ‘n’ play, so he’ll sleep better in it than in some strange one that he doesn’t recognize and doesn’t smell or look like his. Plus, we had the pack ‘n’ play in the car if we ever needed it during the day for any reason, too!
Invest in a sound machine.
Camden sleeps with a fan or white noise machine at home, and I knew that we would definitely need one while we were traveling. Hotels can be noisy, and during the week, we were staying with friends who also had young kids. A sound machine helps block out the noise so that, no matter what everyone else was doing, when it was naptime, Camden could sleep.
We have this portable white noise machine. It can hang on the pack ‘n’ play, or anywhere else, plus it has a stand on the back to stand up. It’s rechargeable and has a USB port. The quality is great. We love it for traveling! And it’s a cute, adorable bunny!
Keep to your baby’s nap schedule.
I am that mom. The one who plans her day around her baby’s nap schedule.
Because, you know what? My kid is happiest when he has had adequate, quality sleep, and when he doesn’t, he is a cranky, little monster. I don’t want to deal with him like that, and it doesn’t seem fair to him to have to feel cranky because his mama couldn’t make sure he got his nap.
So, no matter what we were doing, we made sure to fit things in between his naptimes. We did things in 3 or 4 hour chunks so he could nap in between (and at his normal times).
And, we were in a different time zone (an hour ahead) but I kept everything to his normal naptimes/bedtimes in our time zone (so his bedtime at home is 7:30pm, which meant it was 8:30pm Eastern time when I laid him down each night).
Remember: he’s little and content to do anything. Or nothing.
We had thought about taking him to Disney or Universal. Or going to the zoo. In the end, we hung out with our friends by the pool, let Camden swim, and went a few small places. We checked out downtown, ate at a cute restaurant, took Camden to the beach for the first time. Nothing big, because he’s not big. He’s not going to remember it, and the point of our vacation was to see friends and relax.
We’ll save Disney for another time. And maybe we’ll have another baby at that time, and we’ll be working around his schedule! But this time, we only had one, and he is so little.
Just being outside, going for a walk and looking around was enough to tire this boy out!
The truth is, it was surprisingly easy to travel with our 8 month old. He was content most of the time, and happy just to be playing with the toys at another kid’s house. He didn’t need to go and do much, which made vacation more relaxing.
The biggest thing for me was keeping him to his schedule. I’m not a go-with-the-flow person, and I knew his routine mattered to him and to me.
And guess what? When we came home, I didn’t have to fight at all to get back to normal. His routine was still ingrained and we settled right back in!