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When you have a baby, it’s easy for your world to shrink. I get it. I’ve been there. I still am. But it doesn’t have to. It’s possible to take a day trip with a baby — and have fun doing it!
Is traveling with a baby easy? No. Anyone who tells you otherwise is bonkers. This is especially true if you were used to taking spontaneous trips pre-baby. Gone are the days of slipping on your shoes, grabbing your keys, and hitting the road.
That being said, traveling with a baby doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming or miserable. It requires planning. It requires extra gear. And, it definitely requires patience. But the payoff is incredible. And the sooner you start, the easier it will be for everyone.
The Best Washington Day Trip with a Baby: Ocean Shores
There will be some arguments about this, but we’ve found Ocean Shores was the perfect place to take a day trip with a baby. It’s only about two hours from Seattle. It’s filled with wide-open spaces. The beach offers endless fun for exploring tidepools, jumping through waves, and learning to fly a kite!
Located on a 6,000-acre peninsula, the beaches here abound. And while it’s sometimes referred to as “Washington’s Best Kept Secret,” the sandy shores can often get quite crowded.
In order to claim some space, it’s best to arrive early. Furthermore, the beach access points tend to be more crowded. If you’re looking for fewer people (and fewer cars), consider driving a bit down the beach.
The beach is public. So while the space in front of a resort, like the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, may not have a nearby access road, it’s still fair game!
10 Tips to Make Day Tripping with a Baby Easier
1. Take Your Baby on Shorter Trips Initially
Don’t just expect your baby to pop into a car seat and be ready for multiple hours riding around. Long stretches in the car are something your babe needs to get used to. Start small.
In addition to doctor visits, we started with 15-minute car rides to the grocery store and 30-minute drives across town to see our parents. Gradually, we made these trips longer. An hour to visit a friend in Everett. A rush-hour extravaganza to Fremont to get sugared.
The key is to make car trips normal. From day one, I’ve always sung the same song as I put Pepper in her car seat and I always have a big smile on my face. I want her to associate going somewhere with having fun, so she’s not anxious to begin with.
2. Plan for the Blowouts
Blowouts happen. They suck. They’re gross. And, they’re exponentially worse if you’re not prepared. Make sure your diaper bag has :
- Extra Diapers
- Plenty of Diaper Wipes
- A Change of Clothes
- A Sealable Plastic Bag for Gross Items
3. Be Prepared to Stop and Feed
Depending on the stage of your baby and whether or not you’re breastfeeding, feeding on the move can be difficult. You need to be prepared to stop and feed your baby. Because there’s nothing so daunting as a hangry little human.
4. Take Advantage of Downtime for Playtime
Babies need a chance to move around and play — which can be difficult when they’re strapped in a car seat. So make sure to take advantage of downtime as it’s available. If you’re stopped for a bit, get them out and let them move around.
Does it seem like a lot of work? Maybe. But this activity can help them stay calm and happy. It also promotes car naps, which can make your drive more enjoyable.
5. Bring a Variety of Toys
Like adults, babies can get bored during car trips. This is especially true if they’re asked to play with the same thing for long periods of time. We’ve found that having a bag of toys in the front seat, allows us to gradually introduce new items and keep Pepper entertained.
These are some of our favorite toys to bring:
- Caterpillar Rattle (From 1-month to nearly a year old, this thing is still keeping her entertained.)
- Hanging Car Seat Mobile (This thing is GOLD)
- VTech Click and Count Remote
- Nuby Ice Gel Teether Keys (Pro Tip: If your baby is teething, store these in the cooler to make them extra soothing.)
- Crinkle Books
- Small Rattles (We were gifted a set very similar to this and she’s been using it since she was 4-months old and still plays with them.)
- Hallmark Zip Along Turtle with Sunglasses Stuffed Animal
- Anything you have on hand – like a headlamp!
6. Have Adult Snacks On-Hand
Sometimes stopping for an adult need — like food — can be more trouble than it’s worth. For instance, when your baby is sleeping. That doesn’t mean you want to keep driving hungry. Make sure you always have some adult snacks on-hand, to keep everyone in the best mood possible.
7. Pick Baby-Friendly Pit Stops
Know you’re going to need to stop and refuel or go to the bathroom? Plan ahead to pick places that are baby-friendly. Often this means finding a place with a park nearby so your baby can easily and safely get out of the car. Or at the very least you aren’t feeling rushed to give up your parking space and get back on the road.
Rest stops can also be a good choice, as there are frequently grassy areas for your babe to get out and more around.
8. Have a Sturdy Baby Carrier for Exploring
I can’t say enough good things about having a sturdy baby carrier. I bring ours everywhere. Day trips. Overnight trips. The grocery store. Walks. Hikes. Donuts with a girlfriend.
When you can give your baby a safe, comfortable place for them to be — that doesn’t require your hands — you can both have fun! In fact, Pepper loves her carrier. She can see. She can play with toys. I can check on her using FaceTime on my iPhone.
And, with a sturdy carrier, the weight is evenly dispersed on my body making her 28-pound (and growing) body feel like hardly anything!
Our Favorite Sturdy Carries: Osprey Poco Plus
9. Be Patient
Deep breath. Babies are hard. Emotions can run the gamete. And it’s easy to lose your cool.
So as much as possible, remember to be patient. Don’t set big expectations for yourself. Be ready to scrap your plans and change course. Sometimes just trying to take the trip is a win.
10. Turn Your Car into a ‘Playpen’
Depending on your vehicle, your mobile playpen could vary. In our truck, we’ve taken everything out of the center console and just let Pepper roam between the two of us.
In my Acura MDX, I often spread a blanket in the back. I toss a few toys back there, leave the trunk door up, and use my body as a human baby gate. It’s not perfect, but it gives a clean, dry space to romp around and we make it work.