Tips for Camping and Road Tripping with Baby

Hunter takes a rest while on the road and shows off his sleep sack and panda hat (gift from a fellow camper) at camp!
Before heading out on our adventure in Lake Tahoe, I did a bit of research on camping with a baby. I made lists. Meal plans. And I was definitely nervous. The drive from San Diego to South Lake Tahoe is easily over 8 hours. We'd have to make tons of stops. Then, once we got to camp, we'd have to deal with no bathtub. No rocking chair. No swing. (Yes, the baby still fits in his cradle swing -- what can I say -- he's petite!) Hunter is on the... high needs end of the spectrum. On top of it all, he's teething (not just drooling, I mean cutting teeth), but he loves being outdoors, so we knew any challenges would be worth it.

Really, the worse part was sleep. Luckily, since Hunter already sleeps in our bed, sharing the tent floor with him would be no problem. We covered the whole thing with camping mats and a wool blanket. Then, Isaiah and I each had our own blanket (plus I had a light sleeping bag), while Hunter had his swaddle (a Woombie -- update and review on that soon). The first night, he kept waking screaming. We figured it was his top tooth cutting, so we gave him Baby Motrin. Blessed Baby Motrin. Which brings me to my first tip:

1. Pack a first aid kit. This should include normal stuff like band-aids for owies, but also any medications your family needs. We brought adult ibuprofen for us and the baby stuff for Hunter. We also brought saline spray, which really helped all of us because the Lake Tahoe area has such a dry climate. Some other important items: hand salve (again for dry skin), nail clippers (adult and baby), Swiss Army pocket knife (has tweezers), chamomilla tablets (calming for teething), Hyland's colic tablets, arnica tablets (for muscle soreness), sunblock (we like Thinkbaby for the little one), and Zicam cold remedy. 

As it turns out, Hunter didn't need to be swaddled anymore. The second night, at one point, he started tossing and turning. I offered him the breast, but he just popped off. Then, I unzipped his swaddle, and he spread his arms out like an eagle and quickly settled to back asleep. Good thing I also packed his never-worn sleep sack! (I love this one from Swaddle Designs.) Next tip...

2. Pack more baby clothing options than you think you'll need. I brought a short sleeve romper for each day we'd be gone, just in case laundry seemed impossible. I also brought pants to layer on top and long-sleeved bodysuits to layer underneath, plus a cardigan. Don't forget burp cloths, a muslin swaddle blanket (these thankfully dry pretty quickly after hand-washing), bibs (because up until recently, a bib was part of every outfit), pajamas, hats, and extra socks! And, since young babies shouldn't really sleep with loose blankets, I recommend packing some type of wearable blanket.

One of the best suggestions I found here said,

3. "Walk through your day and anticipate what your baby will need." The first thing Hunter does after waking up, getting a new diaper, and putting on clothes for the day is PLAY! I grabbed his favorite toys. Not all of them, but the best ones. The ones that always capture his attention: a crinkly book, Sophie, a spiky ball, an Indestructible, and some plastic monkey links. One thing I read about after the fact was how it's a good idea to bring a new toy the baby has never seen before that you "unveil" at just the right time. Also, think about your "bag of tricks." What do you do to calm baby when he has a breakdown? If you have something special, bring that! Think about things like your diaper changing set-up, feeding time, and maybe a sippy cup if your baby is drinking water. Also, if you're nursing, what will you need? Nursing pads! (I brought a mix of reusable and disposable so I could have something while the reusable ones were on the clothesline drying.)

4. Bring along some familiar items that remind baby of home. Part of the joy of taking a baby camping is watching him take in all his new, unfamiliar surroundings. It brought such huge smiles to our faces to watch Hunter stare at chipmunks, reach out to touch the bark of the pine trees, giggle at the birds chirping, and play in the sand at the beach. Still, it can be overwhelming and exhausting for them, so little things from home may bring them comfort. Toys are the easiest, as I mentioned above, but also think about any special routines you have. At bedtime, Hunter is crazy about Llama Llama Nighty-Night, so we brought that book along. For the road, play your baby's favorite music! Any time Hunter would get a little stir crazy, and the next rest stop was some miles away, we'd turn on his favorite CD and play "El burrito enfermo." He immediately stops fussing when that song comes on.

5. Know your baby. Of course you know your baby, but really think about what your baby can handle. First of all, we know that Hunter goes crazy in the car after 5 pm, and is still pretty sleepy early in the morning, so we did all our traveling VERY early in the morning, and he slept most of the drive. He really only woke to eat. We also knew Hunter would never be able to deal with 8+ hours straight in the car, so we booked a motel halfway to our destination on the way there and on the way back.

6. For the road, plan your stops. Next time around, I think I will research rest stops and the distance between towns with services. You can anticipate more or less how often the baby needs to eat and plan the stops accordingly. It was really helpful to get out and play with him after a feeding and wear him out a bit before getting back on the road. This is much more comfortable to do at a rest stop than on the side of the highway.

A nice place to rest along highway 395 -- the shop has a changing table in the restroom!
7. Figure out what you're going to do about diapers. This depends on so many factors: how long will you be gone, how much room do you have for packages of diapers, do you use cloth, etc. We ended up doing a combination of cloth and disposable. Hunter's bottom can be very sensitive, so I wanted to make sure that during the time that he would be wearing a diaper the longest that he would have the most natural fiber next to his skin, so that's why we brought his cotton fitteds and several prefolds for overnights. We also brought reusable wipes and a spray bottle with wipe solution. During the day, we used Honest diapers and changed them very frequently. One package of 42 lasted the whole week (with some diaper-free time at the beach). We also washed the cloth diapers while at camp. Here is a guide to washing cloth while camping, but my simple version is this: prewash no soap at the basins near the bathrooms with warm water, boil water in a pot on camp stove, then dump hot water into a bucket with the diapers to do hot wash with soap (stir with a smooth stick), finally rinse clean with cold water until suds disappear. 

8. Bring a baby carrier or two. Besides wearing Hunter in a carrier during our hike and around the campground, the carriers came in handy for nap time. He took nearly every nap during our trip in the Beco Gemini!

A lot of these ideas can work for any kind of travel with baby, and many of these ideas I got from bloggers who posted about international travel with little ones. (Check out this post and this one for fun.) As much as we would have loved to go on a big trip to Europe this summer (one income, buying a house, and renovating a house means more budget travel for us for a while...), I go back to the whole "know your baby" tip and realize that Hunter would probably have had a very hard time on a long haul flight. So, everything worked out for the best :)


  1. Mandy you two were very prepared. I'm glad the family had a great trip. Love you guys.

  2. your baby is darling!! you look like you prepared for the tip like a pro!
    Xo Courtney Q ||


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