Are you planning a cross-country move or an extended road-trip? Here are some helpful tips for traveling with babies and toddlers–and remaining sane.

Set Time Limits

Set a limit on how many hours a day you’ll travel (our family only travels six), and try to arrange your driving schedule to coincide with your babies’ routines. Try departing immediately after breakfast. The little ones will have a full belly, will hopefully be sleepy, and you can make the most of that morning nap time/drive time. Let the babies’ tummies tell you when it’s lunchtime, and then make a stop. Avoid going through the fast-food drive-thru. Instead, get out of the car (babies included) and let everyone enjoy a bite to eat, a good stretch, a change of scenery, and a change of diapers!

Have Entertainment on Hand

To keep the kids from getting restless after they wake up from their naps, have plenty of playthings for them. I’ve found that you can attach toys to plastic links and make a chain of connections across the back seat of the car, attaching each end to the car’s clothes hook. This puts the toys at a perfect level for the babies and keeps them from repeatedly dropping everything! 

As my twin girls got a bit older, we put their toys and books in a small plastic tote and set it on the seat between their car seats. Also, be sure to have some juice in a cooler and some healthy snacks on hand (Cheerios, baby crackers, etc.). This will help occupy the babies and quiet their stomachs until mealtimes.

Plan the second leg of your trip immediately after lunch. With full bellies and the hum of the road, the children should hopefully fall fast asleep. If they need sleep time assistance, try playing some soothing lullaby music, and minimize your talking and noise for a bit. If you have a fussy baby that you can’t do anything for, try my husband’s remedy–earplugs (passengers only please)!

Except for stopping for diaper changes and crisis situations, plan your next stop for dinnertime and, subsequently, bedtime. Try sticking to your usual bedtime routine as best as possible even though you are away from home. Pack familiar items from your babies’ nursery to help ease them into their odd nighttime environment (for example, crib bedding and any other comfort items you think might help). Help your tired travelers settle into their unusual surroundings by darkening the room and playing that same familiar soft music. And don’t forget to pack the night-light.

Make Hotel Arrangements

Request two cribs when you make your hotel reservations and ask to have them already set up in your room (especially if you’ll be arriving late). Check on the status of your room and cribs about three hours prior to your arrival. Get the name of the person you spoke with in case the cribs aren’t available when you arrive. Take it from one who learned from a bad experience–you DO NOT want to show up at a hotel late at night with a reservation and two sleepy babies, only to find that your cribs were given to another guest, and the hotel has no more!

Once you’ve checked into the hotel, ask the desk clerk to put a “call-hold” on your phone line. Even if you’re not expecting to receive any calls, you don’t want your babies (or you, for that matter) to be rudely awakened by a misrouted call. If you’re planning an extended hotel stay, you may want to consider packing some of the following items: plenty of outlet covers and any other essential safety items, small toys, books, and even DVDs — some hotels have loaner DVD players. You’ll also want to have some bath toys and a bath mat or tub ring.

I’ve found that bottles warm nicely when placed in a hotel ice bucket filled with boiling tap water (be sure to keep this away from the babies). It might help to have some laundry items packed in case your hotel does not have coin laundry facilities. I always packed a small canvas laundry bag, a stick of stain remover, and some Ivory soap in a small leak-proof container. You can always wash needed baby clothes in the tub and hang them to dry.

If your babies use highchairs and you have booster seats or portable highchairs (and room in the car), pack them! These come in handy at relatives’ houses, restaurants short on highchairs, and when feeding babies in a hotel room. If you think you’ll need it at your destination, pack a portable or collapsible baby gate. Gates are often essential when visiting family or friends, and in two-room or suite-style hotels.