Baby Road Trip: The Secrets to a Happy Car Ride {Part 1}

Let me predict your future.

If I’m right, you have to read the rest of this article.

If I’m wrong, I will change 10 up-the-back-into-the-hair dirty diapers for you. *

*You will have to arrange my transportation to your home, but I’ll bring the wipes!

Secrets of a Tear-Free Baby Road Trip (with free Packing Checklist!)



Here’s the bet:

At some point you’re going to take your baby on a road trip.  

How’d I do?  Ready to keep reading? Or should I start packing?

When you take said “baby road trip”, it won’t matter if it’s an hour or eleven hours: you’re going to wish you had read this article.

After all, what would you rather listen to?

  • An eleven hour soundtrack of Howling Howie or Wailing Wendy?
  • Or eleven hours of giggles, gurgles, and the occasional productive grunt?

Today I’m going to unload all the suggestions I can think of (or find online) to keep Joy behind your baby’s brain control panel.

Did you choose to fly instead?  Read this: What Every Parent Should Know About Flying With a Baby

Baby Road Trip Stop #1

Our first stop on this Tour de Family has got to be Safetyville.

This is the quaint little village that helps ensure you all stumble back from vacation exhausted, but living.

As you’re planning and getting ready to go, keep these important tips in mind.

  • Make sure you have your car seat installed correctly.  Click here to find where to go in your town to have your baby’s car seat inspected for free.
  • If you have a really long trip ahead of you, I would encourage you to make sure your baby’s car seat is not only safe, but comfortable.  Sitting on a hard board for 8 hours will make anyone cranky.  See my convertible car seat reviews here.
  • The AAP recommends that all children under age 2 ride in a backward-facing car seat.  They aren’t trying to make your life annoying, there’s real evidence that it makes a big difference in fatalites.  (75% less likely isn’t chump change!)
  • Consider projectiles.  Hard items can cause serious damage when flying around the inside of a car.
  • Since your baby will (hopefully) be sitting in a rear-facing car seat, you’ll need a way to keep an eye on that mouth of his.  This is the baby mirror you’ll be glad you’ll have.  (Hint: It’s the sturdiest adjustable mirror I’ve ever come across.)

Baby Road Trip Stop #2
The Plains of Playdom

Our next pit stop on this baby road trip, once we’ve passed through Safetyville, is the great Plains of Playdom.

These consist of a plateau of playful toys, apps, music, and activities to keep his attention occupied.

Warning! Don’t pull out all of these at once!

These are meant to be trickled out one at a time, so you always have something else to use in your back pocket.

If you’re planning on taking a really long roadtrip, I would consider purchasing some of these new.  After all, nothing quite entertains a child like something new and unexplored.

Baby Road Trip Distractors #1: Car Seat Toys

#1: Sunny Arch ~ Attaches onto the car seat and is filled with exciting things to play with and look at!

#2:  Spiral Activity Bar ~ Easy to move from the car seat to the stroller.  Older babies will enjoy the spring-y action, even when they’ve outgrown the newborn carrier.

#3:  Captain Calamari ~ How can you not love something with such a cute title?  Also has a hidden mirror on the underside, which is exactly the part your newborn will be gazing at.   A good distractor from birth on.

#4:  Wrist Rattles ~ What’s the first thing your baby does when you put something on his hands and feet?  Yup. Tries to take it off.  Guaranteed time-filler toy!

#5:  Butterfly Arch ~ Exactly like #1, only feminized.

Want More Developmental Toy Ideas?

If you’re looking for other brain-boosting toy ideas to travel with, browse through my toy gift guides for some award-winners:

Baby Road Trip Distractors #2: Apps & Music

#1:  Educational (yet still fun) Game Apps

  • Baby Piano ~ It’s exactly what you’d think.  Baby pushes a key, it makes a sound.  Excellent for teaching cause-and-effect.  Plus it’s free on the iPhone.
  • Wheels on the Bus ~ It’s an interactive version of the song.  Kids can touch the screen to make the wheels turn, wipers swish, etc. Available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
  • Bubbles ~ Popping bubbles over and over again – without the slimy sticky mess. #winwin  Available for iPhone and iPad.
  • Peekaboo Barn ~ Farm animals pop out and surprise your baby, getting lots of giggles.  Also helps baby learn the names and sounds of various animals in up to 12 languages.  Find it for iPhone, iPad and Android platforms.

#2:  Musical Collections

  • I grew up listening to Peter, Paul, and Mommy and love that I can introduce my kids to the same folk songs (Marvelous Toy, Puff the Magic Dragon, etc.) on Amazon or iTunes
  • Mickey and Minnie sing childhood classics in this collection on Amazon or iTunes.
  • Beethoven’s wiiiiig is very biiiig.  See why my girls LOVE these.  They are clever and hilarious takes on the tunes you’ll want your kids to recognize.  Amazon or iTunes.

#3: Smartphone Holder ~ Comes in several cute designs!

#4: Tablet Holder ~ so you can download videos for your backward-facing baby.  (BTW, don’t forget to pick up an adapter to charge your electronics and your bottle warmer!)

Baby Road Trip Distractors #3: Portable Toys

#1:  Take Along Activity Box ~ A five-sided activity box with mirrors, gears, blocks, a even a maze.  A great time waster for babies who like to move but are restrained in a car seat!

#2: Flip & Play Turtle ~ This wooden toy clacks and folds in on itself.  Not only great for motor skill development, wonderful for matching skills as well.

#3: Little Red Riding Finger Puppets ~ A fun bonding activity for baby and older siblings!

#4: Twist and Smile Crocodile ~ The body twists in three directions, rewarding baby with clicking noises and chimes.

Other Great Activity Sources

There are a few other blogs out there that have some great hands-on games and activities worth mentioning.  Heads up, though, most of these suggestions are for toddlers and preschoolers!

  • While He Was Napping ~ there are some great inexpensive ideas in here – from reusing Daddy’s old wallet with homemade “credit cards” to take in and out, to using glow-in-the-dark stars in the car ceiling.
  • Wild Rumpus SchoolHouse ~ Wonderful suggestions for a one-year-old here, including looking ahead for parks you can stop at to burn off some energy.
  • Playing to Learn ~ My favorite ideas from this blog were Playdough in a balloon (genius!) and the DIY magnet face maker with a cookie tray and magnets.  Definitely check this site out.
  • File Folder Fun ~ This website is really for toddlers and older, but it’s so cool I had to include it. “File Folder Games” are free interactive games you print, cut, and glue into a…wait for it…file folder.  Utterly simple, but sophisticatedly brilliant.

Where to Next?

In the next post for this tear-free series, we…

  • narrowly avoid Clutter Cliff (a.k.a. how to keep the car clean and organized)
  • appreciate the tummy-rumbling vista of Munch Mountain (a.k.a. on-the-go snack ideas for chubby little fingers!)

But that’s in a few days.   That’s now!  (And if your baby is in the Anti-Napping League, you may find this post helpful as well!)

For the moment, I’d like to hear how things went on your last road trip with baby. 

How did you keep him busy and occupied?  Is she a good traveler?

Tell me about your last road trip in the comments!

 I ♥ honesty. Affiliate links may be present. (See what this means.)

Meet Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor

Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at Incredible Infant and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007.  She's certified in baby sleep coaching (yes, that's a real thing), has served as an Expert Parenting Panelist for numerous events, and has been a featured writer on blogs like,, My Kid's Adventures, Cafe Mom, and others.  If it's 2am and you're desperate to read SOMETHING, click here for all her darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn't be allowed to blog.  


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  1. O is a year and a half and during daylight hours he travels okay as long as he can see out a window. When he gets fussy I pass back the iPad or the nabitab and he plays with it, turning it on and occasionally finding his games. But it’s the night time traveling that sucks with him, he isn’t afriad of the dark at home, but in the car he starts crying. I’ve tried to offset it with dvd players and it works sometimes, other times he just cries. E is 4 months old, and i have a spiral activity bar he doesn’t care about, wrist band rattlers he doesn’t care if they are on or off his wrists, sometimes we luck out and he sleeps but if he’s awake he’s crying. If all 4 of us are in the car then we have to pull over and settle him, but if O is with the Grans then either hubby or I go into the backseat and when he sees us he laughs and is okay. We tried to put a mirror in the backseat so he can see us but it doesn’t work, maybe I need a different mirror. We live 5 hours away from my family and 2 hours away from a major city, so we travel a lot.
    Can’t wait to read part 2, teavellias much as we do I need all the help we can get wih here two boys.

    • Danielle Miller says:

      Oh, Kate! You have my sympathy! Nothing worse than being stuck in a car with your crying kiddo(s)!
      Perhaps it will help to think ahead a few months and realize that soon your two little ones will be interacting more and entertaining each other. 🙂
      Hold on til then (and hopefully part 2 will help too)!

  2. Stacey Stenabaugh says:

    -mesh net feeder (put frozen carrots inside for baby to suck on – tip pack more in zip loc snack bag!)
    -lots of singing and good (fun), long breaks. We found after 3 hrs Grayson needed to get out of the car seat.

  3. Let’s see…the last road trip I took with my daughter, she was 20 months old, and we traveled from Seattle, WA to Podunk, NV, approximately 16 hours. We’ve done the trip several times, and the only thing that keeps her happy are movies, and snacks.  Definitely is vital to stop every couple of hours and let her run around for about 30 minutes.  It adds tons of extra time to the trip, but it keeps her from screaming…pick your battles, right?   We also stay over night in a hotel room…we’ve done it several times, and it’s hell every. single. time.

    • Traveling is never easy – and the smaller you area, I think the harder it gets. Definitely not the time to feel guilty about screen time. I’m with you – We’ve always allowed our kids to watch movies (I even brought a laptop back in the day!) to help pass the time. Now that they’re older we can read out loud (or have them read alone) but babies aren’t interested in the adventures of the Borrowers or TumTum and Nutmeg… (Both highly recommended for older kids, btw!) It does get better, friend! 🙂

  4. Great post! But next time can you write something on how to get your kid to sleep in the car? For more than 30min?My daughter is 15 months, and I can count on one hand the number of times she’s fallen asleep in the car since she was born. She was a screamer (she would turn blue) until I put her in a forward-facing seat (I’m in Australia, I guess the recommendations for rear-facing are a little different?) which made car trips much happier, but she still won’t sleep. We went on a 5 hour road trip, and she did not get a wink of sleep even though we left when she was due for a nap. She was happy for a portion of the trip, and then started to fuss about half way through, and then was ballistic by the time we arrived at our destination. I don’t think she’ll ever be a car person…she takes after me, I guess.

    • Thanks Rebecca! That’s a good idea. I’m finishing up Part Two today, and will go ahead and jump into research and writing one on sleeping techniques. I’ll do some rearranging on the posting calendar and see what I can do. This is why I love readers so much! Thank you for helping me see that’s an area I need to write about! xo

    • Rebecca, Just wanted you to know that I did actually write a post about this – per your awesome request!

      I hope you can find it useful next time! 🙂

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