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Driving across the USA with an infant

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Road trip from Arizona to New York with a baby

Looking back on it, it sounds even crazier than it did at the time. My young family was going to leave sunny, warm Arizona in the beginning of December to drive all the way back to snowy Western New York to visit my husband’s family for Christmas. And by young family,  I mean young: Petra was only four months old.

Wade’s archeology job in Arizona had ended and his parents still hadn’t met Petra, so we were headed to New York. Which is a hell of a long drive from Arizona. Petra is a trooper and generally does great traveling, but even so this trip took its toll on us all.

Travel with an infant in New Mexico

Tips for taking a road trip with a young child

1. Listened to Petra. When she complained about being stuffed in a car seat a little, I tried to distract her. When she complained about being stuffed in a car seat a lot, we pulled over and took a break.  Taking breaks is definitely worth it. Half an hour to change a diaper, breastfeed, and walk around a rest stop did wonders for all of our spirits.

2. Drove when the baby was sleepy. This is tough when you have to drive like twelve hours a day, but it was much more pleasant to drive through nap times and at night and then take breaks in a mall in Texas when Petra was awake.

3. A parent rode in back with Petra. Wade tried it for a few miles, but Petra’s first crying fit scared him back to the driver’s seat. Riding in back meant I could sing to Petra, play with our fingers and toys, put pacifiers in her mouth and even pull some gymnastics to breastfeed.  If there is more than one adult on the road trip having one sit in the back seat with the baby is definitely worth it.

4. Brought on the distractions. Everyone is different, for us it was really nice to have some music in the car. Petra especially has always loved music. We also bought her a little mirror that attached to the car seat so she could look at herself and play with the “baby in the mirror,” she liked that too.

5. Took a few days off  to visit friends. It definitely made us less road crazy to take some days off driving and visit friends. We visited friends on the Mexican border of Arizona, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in St.Louis. Good to get a break from the road, the car, fast food, and even each other.

Petra with Wade's best friend, Erik, in St. Louis

I wouldn’t necessarily jump at the chance to do another cross country road trip with Petra, but now that it is possible.

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Filed under: Road Trip, Travel With Family, USA

About the Author:

After traveling on her own for three or four years, Chaya met up with Wade Shepard, the editor of VagabondJourney.com. They were married in 2009, and continue to travel the world together with their young daughter. From time to time Chaya blogs about family travel and life on the road. has written 102 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Chaya Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, China