I assume you’ve landed on this article because you’re considering taking your baby on the road and you want validation that it’s possible, and furthermore, some guidance on how to do it. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only possible, but enjoyable and special, too!
My husband and I spent two and a half years on the road full-time, living, working, and adventuring in our RV while traveling all across the U.S. We absolutely loved it and had no plans of stopping. But when we decided it was time to grow our family through adoption, our circumstances required us to take some time off the road in order to do so.
Not long after our son was born and in our arms, we started to get the itch to get back into RV traveling. We wondered if people would think we were crazy, or even worse, irresponsible parents, for wanting to take a five-week-old baby on an extended road trip in a tiny home on wheels! But we went for it anyway and our first trip was so successful and memorable that there’s no stopping us now.
I certainly hope that if you’re on the fence about RVing with your baby, that I can convince you to go for it. I’ve put together this helpful, 3-part Ready, Set, Go! guide to ensure you feel as prepared as you can be. So, let’s dive in.
Part 1: Get Ready for the Baby
What is your baby like?
You’ll likely have a good sense of whether or not your baby will be comfortable or able to adjust to being in the RV. But you’ll definitely want to consider the factors that may influence how your baby handles it. Is he healthy or does he need special medical care or frequent doctors visits? Is she generally a content baby or is she sensitive to loud noises and other stimuli? Does your baby thrive on a routine?
Every baby is different and you know yours best. Having a baby with more needs or who isn’t quite as flexible doesn’t mean RVing won’t work for your baby, but keeping this in mind will help you in preparing and traveling in a way that ensures both you and your little one are happy.
What kind of RVer are you?
Are you a newbie? Full-Timer? Or are you what they call a “weekend warrior” who just wants to take frequent camping trips and bring your baby along? This will greatly impact the time and energy you’ll need to put into preparing.
You may not even own an RV yet (I’ll share tips on that below) or you may have quite a few RV adventures under your belt. Assess your level of experience, the RV you have (and if it’s “baby-friendly”) and understand how you’ll need to prepare and adapt in order to RV with your baby.
When we took our baby boy on his first RV trip, we considered ourselves veteran RVers. Full-time RVing for over two years definitely helped us feel confident on the road. Therefore, adding in a baby didn’t feel too overwhelming. We weren’t learning how to be RVers and parents simultaneously. However, the RV we owned at the time didn’t feel right for our growing family. In assessing this, we made the decision to switch RVs and get into something more spacious and comfortable.
If you’re a novice RVer, we definitely suggest gaining some experience and confidence before bringing your baby on board. That may even be as simple as taking a quick RV trip without your baby first to learn the ropes. It’s not ideal to take your very first RV trip with a baby. It adds a lot of pressure and stress and when you’re under those conditions, you’re likely to make careless mistakes that could lead to more dangerous mistakes.
What challenges might you face?
The last thing to assess are the concerns that may be popping into your mind when you think about taking your baby out in the RV with you. Whether it’s managing being in tight quarters with little privacy or personal space, or juggling caring for your baby along with other children or pets, you want to make sure you anticipate some of the challenges you may face so you can prepare to tackle them before they arise.
Part 2: Get the RV Set for Your Baby
Choosing, Changing, or Modifying Your RV
As we mentioned, your first step is making sure you have or get the right RV for your family. In the same way you prepare a special space in your house for a baby, you’ll want to ensure there’s proper space for your baby in your RV, too.
I found that we needed our son’s items to be well organized and easily accessible. It made it easier to know exactly where to find all the things we needed quickly, as you know how fast a baby’s mood can change. For us, we’re okay with having some of our personal belongings in less-than-convenient spaces. But when your baby’s crying, you have to act fast!
It also helped our son to have his own little personal space inside our RV. We created a cozy changing station in our bedroom above the built in dresser. We kept toys nearby and we could tell that he quickly associated this area as his “safe space”. Some familiarity is so important for little ones, especially if you’re constantly moving and changing locations.
You’ll also want to consider sleeping arrangements for your baby. Since our son was only five-weeks-old when we took his first RV trip, we found a co-sleeper bassinet that worked great. As he grows, we may need to adjust and consider finding a different area that is suitable for a portable pack ‘n play or small crib.
But it’s not all about your baby’s space. You’ll of course need to take every family member’s needs into account. For example, since both my husband and I work while we travel in our RV, we needed an office area that allowed for some privacy so that work calls weren’t interrupted if our son was cranky. We chose an RV that allows us to easily have him napping in the bedroom and close the door so we can have quiet working conditions, too. We also had to take our dogs into account and ensure that they had their own safe and cozy space as well.
Other things to think about are where you will fasten your baby’s car seat, where and how you will bathe your baby, and solutions for some of those bigger baby items like bouncers and high chairs. Taking all these factors into account will help you when shopping for a new RV or making modifications to your current RV.
Baby’s do seem to need a lot of “stuff”, but you may also find in the RV that you don’t need as much as you may think you do. Of course when it comes to the typical baby items (diapers, bottles, pacifiers, etc.), you’ll need as much as you normally do. However, clothes and toys, for example can be limited, and frankly have to be because of space.
It may take some trial and error to find out what baby and toddler accessories your baby really needs while in the RV. Since we spend most of our time out hiking and exploring, we have less need for things like bouncers and activity gyms. In fact, we found that having loose items that don’t fit in storage compartments were a real hassle on travel days.
Here are a few of the baby travel items I recommend:
- Baby Delight Go With Me Jubilee Portable Chair
- Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Child Carrier
- Snuggle Nest Dream Portable Infant Sleeper
- BouncePod Travel Bouncer
- Go With me Eclipse Portable Play Yard
- An All-Terrain Stroller
- A foldable/collapsible or inflatable bath tub (we used the Puj, but it’s best for newborns)
- A white noise machine and night light (we love our Hatch REST)
- A baby monitor (we chose non-WiFi since we don’t always have great service)
Referring back to the assessment you did on your baby in the first part of this article, you’ll know what items your baby must-have or can do without. Where you’re traveling and the kind of camping you are doing will also impact the gear your baby may need. Overall, it’s best to pack light and know you can buy things on the road if need be. Too much clutter can make your small space feel even smaller.
Planning Your Travels
With the popularity of RVing on the rise, I highly recommend planning out your adventures well in advance. We found ourselves much less willing to be spontaneous with a baby and preferred to have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where we’d be staying each night.
You’ll also have to take into account your baby’s doctor’s visits and how often and far you can travel. One thing we found to be helpful was to look at a calendar and circle our son’s appointment dates, and cross out other family events or obligations we had planned. This gave us a better picture of when we had opportunities to hit the road in the RV. We could then choose where to go based on how much time we had, the season and weather, and the activities we wanted to enjoy.
Once you know when and where you want to go, it’s best to make reservations when possible. It seems RV spots are filling up several months in advance, so the sooner you can do this, the better. We found that planning out our travels about six-months in advance was the way to go!
Part 3: Ready to Go!
Set Your Expectations
Once you start planning your travels, it’s easy to get a little carried away with all the places you want to go and the things you hope to do there. My husband and I had to pump the brakes a bit when we started planning our adventures and realized we were planning in the same way we did when it was just the two of us.
Plain and simple, you’ll have to accept that traveling with a baby is going to be different. Remember, though, that different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, we found it to be more rewarding and discovered we liked the slower pace we had to take with our baby on board. We enjoyed low key days at the campground instead of trying to do everything we could possibly fit into our itinerary like we used to. We couldn’t do the same hikes we would typically do, but enjoyed the peaceful strolls along paved nature trails and seeing the wonder in his eyes.
There will still be plenty of things for you to do on your travels while taking your baby along. Try to think of those things you can enjoy together and plan your destinations accordingly. Having realistic expectations can make all the difference in how much you enjoy your trip. It’s best to think less about what you’re missing out on and more about the experiences you’re getting to enjoy with your sweet child.
Adjust as Necessary
It’s probably no surprise to you that you’ll need to be flexible on your RV travels. This is the case with or without a baby and in fact, flexibility is just a part of parenting alone. When it comes to RVing with your baby, you’ll learn as you go, and the more you take your baby out on the road with you. And of course, as your baby grows and becomes more independent and curious, you’ll always have to be adapting.
The first few days of our maiden voyage with our son, we scheduled in fairly long travel days, not knowing exactly how he’d handle it. We quickly learned that we needed to slow down and build in some extra days to get from one spot to another. We found that a comfortable pace for us was sticking to three hours of driving in one day and allowing for at least three days in between destinations.
We paid close attention to patterns we noticed in our son. The day after a travel day, he would seem extra sleepy and cranky. The days we got to explore and be outdoors, he was more content. This helped us in planning our time in the places we visited. There were times we had to cut out activities we wanted to do based on how he was doing that day, and there were other times that we fit in way more than we thought he’d be up for.
All in all, you’ll learn to take it one day at a time and realize that no matter how much planning you did, you’ll have to go with the flow.
Keeping Baby a Happy Camper
As I’ve said several times in this guide, you know your baby best and you’ll probably know the things he or she needs before the crying even starts. But I thought I’d share a few tricks we learned from the road that help make travel days go a bit smoother.
- TIP: Before getting on the road, we always made sure our son was changed and fed and ready for a good nap. He’d typically be asleep before we even left town. We’d plan our route out ahead of time so that every two hours or so we could stop and let him out to stretch and do another feeding or change if he needed. And like clockwork, every time the RV came to a stop, he’d immediately wake up and start crying. So, I would start warming his next bottle right before we arrived at our new destination.
Other than that, whatever makes your baby happy at home will most likely be the same in the RV. For our little guy, he just loved to be outdoors. We’d take as many walks around the campground and go for as many easy hikes as we could with him in his carrier. Oh, and snuggling by the campfire was always a big hit too! After all, everyone loves a Happier Camper.
I hope this guide gave you the extra dose of inspiration and practical tips you needed to start planning your first RV trip with your baby! If it’s something that is important to you, you’ll make it all work out. I encourage you to keep sight of the reasons you’re choosing to take your baby RVing with you. This will help you to keep pushing forward to make it happen, and keep going when challenges arise.
For me and my husband, travel has always been a large part of our life and our marriage over the past ten years. So, it was very important to us that we keep travel a part of our lives even after having children. We felt that being able to expose our son to traveling very early on would help him to be a more adaptable child and help him to love traveling, too. RVing is our favorite form of traveling because it allows us to take our dogs along on our adventures and have all the comforts of home with us. We get to choose our pace, our route, and get deeper into nature than a hotel room every allows. I can’t think of a better way to travel with a baby, can you?
And while your baby won’t remember the memories you’re making, those experiences will be a big part of shaping him or her and the photos you’ll get to share someday will be priceless! Happy travels!