15 answers

Car Travel and Camping with One Year Old

Does anyone have suggestions for car travel of approx. 5 hours, and camping with a one year old. How difficult is it? Does their schedule get completly thrown off? Any tips as to when is best to do the drive? After first nap; before first nap; later at night; or earlier in the morning?

Thank you in advance,
N.

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Okay, so I'm not real sure how to respond to all of you wonderful mothers. But THANK YOU! This is very helpful - great suggestions.
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Hello, went camping up to Bass Lake with our 1 year old last summer (went again this summer, it's an annual thing, she was 2 this time). It is a 5 hour drive for us, and I knew her limit was like 2 hours in the car awake, so I planned it that we left at about 6:30 pm, stopped for dinner at 8, changed her into PJs and she conked out for the night after that. Of course, that meant arriving at midnight and setting up our tent by flashlight. Not the best, but it worked for us and we were camping with a ton of other people who were already at the site and had a spot staked out for us and were happy to help us (we can be a rowdy group, yes there were still some up to greet us when we arrived at midnite!)
This nighttime driving plan worked better on the way home because no tent to set up back at home. We just didn't unpack the car till the next morning.

As far as camping she did fine, we did not adhere to a nap schedule, it happened when it happened. I never know what time it is while camping anyway. At night she was in her packNplay in the tent, covered with tons of blankets (it will be cold no matter where you are camping!) During the day she usually slept on a pile of beach towels or a raft in the shade (it is lake/beach camping there).

I did bring some brand new toys for her to entertain her on the ride, and when we were in dire straights at camp. Mostly she did not need toys or diversions while camping. The people, the water, and nature were enough for her. But it did help in the car.

Wore almost every outfit and pair of socks we brought... they get dirty!

Don't know how long or where you are going, but we gave her a little rinse in a sunshower every day in the late afternoon, I liked thinking she was a little clean...

Have fun! It won't be too difficult, just go with the flow and you'll be fine!

what worked best for us was either early in the morning or about an hour before bedtime. either time, they are really tired. if those aren't options for you go about an hour before regular nap time, drive until baby wakes up from nap. then find a good place to get out, eat and play for about an hour. then get back in and finish your trip if able. otherwise, find another good spot to pull over and play some more. just pack some good finger foods, and sippy cups or bottles, and a couple of favorite toys to play with. if they actually watch TV, a portable DVD is GOLD!!!!!! i have three children (almost 7, just turned 2 and 4 months) and have been camping since my oldest was about 2 weeks. the best thing at a year is to just bring some toys that are easily washable, lots of extra clothes, a playpen that can be outside (if you have two its great cuz you then you have an outside and inside one), and lots of baby wipes. just let them be free to explore if they're walking, and just chatter about what you see. i don't know what kind of camping or where you're going, but we camp in the mountains. no toilets or shower, just two outhouses and two spickets at the opposite ends of the campgrounds with clean water. we fish and hike (if you have a backpack its great for hiking) and just let everyone play. when you do a fire, that's playpen time or bedtime. i hope you have fun. let me know how it goes or contact me if you have more questions. its a lot of work at this age, but really worth it.

purchase a Kiddie Kangaroo (Amazon.com or www.kiddiekangaroo.com) for your little guy's car seat. Kiddie Kangaroo is a soft travel pocket system which gives your one-year old a place to keep and access his stuff while traveling! Sippy cups, bottles, toys and snacks stay next to him while traveling in his car seat. No more dropped stuff and crying from the back seat!
Travel safer as you can stay focused on the road. Starting travel before morning nap gives your little guy some great happy travel time and then he can sleep in his car seat before awakening for lunch.

With my experience with traveling with a a young child I would suggest traveling at night. If you have to pull over it wont be as hot and hopefully he or she will sleep most of the way. Are you going alone? If not I suggest sitting in the back seat with your child. Bring entertaining books, hand puppet etc. As for your schedule being thrown off, I think that if you want to live your life , yes schedules will have to be adjusted! When you get back home you can get back to normal. P.S Bring lots of plastic trash bags and wipies!

We just took our 14-month-old on her 2nd camping trip. FRom someone's suggestion on here, we took a battery-opperated desk fan for the tent so that it could provide some air and to mask out some of the campground noise (birds, dogs, people, etc.) while she was sleeping. We use the KidCo Peapod sleeping tent for her. I would try to leave when your little one is ready for their first nap of the day. The trip will take longer than you plan and you want to get there so your little one can run around some at the campground before having to go to bed for the night. Bring lots of wipes. For her bath, we used the dishpan as her little tub.

dif it were me i would leave early after breakfast so you can get your little one settled. just take some snacks for the ride some drinks and toys.
i will be taking a 21 hour dive with my 28 almost 29 month old daughter. we wll be taking a dvd player for her and movies, toys lots of snacks and color wonder books. we will be leaving by 9am and then we will stop about 4 hours later for lunch.
remember if they get a little off schedual its ok your going out for fun. just make sure that your baby is getting enough sleep at night. just have fun with it :)

We went camping with my first DD when she was just a little over a year. It was more time consuming but she loved it. We woke up, ate breakfast, played a little and then packed up the car to leave. By the time we left she was ready for her first nap and slept about 2 1/2 hrs of our 4 hr trip. We stopped for a rest and played on some grass, ate a snack and just kept her busy. We didn't make good time but most importantly she was happy :) We took a pack and play and she took naps in it and played while we set up camp, took it down, cooked dinner, etc., we had it outside in the shade during the day. We just co slept in the tent at night, or you could put the pack and play inside the tent. She wasn't too thrown off, but she's also very easy going and does whatever. It was hard though, it didn't seem I ever got a break! LOL It was still fun and have lots of fun memories.
We just took our youngest DD who is 4 mos and our now 3 yr old camping 2 weeks ago. Did the same as mentioned above, a shorter driving distance. Sometimes you think "why did I bring a baby camping?" LOL but all and all it's a great experience for the family and worth it. Our 3 yr old loves camping now so best to start them early :) Have fun!

Hi N.,

I just went camping with my 10-month-old and we were in the car for about 5-6 hrs as well. We left first thing in the morning so we'd get to the campsite with plenty of time to set up and settle in before night. I'm glad we did because it took much longer to do all of that with a baby.

I had her take naps in the car at the regular times. We would go through her regular sleep routine (blankie, songs, saying "night night") to let her know that it was time to go to sleep. She took short naps (45 minutes instead of her regular 1.5 hrs), but it was enough to get her through.

Be sure to bring a noise maker for night time if you'll be sleeping in tents. We were camping next to a group with a lot of children and dogs and it was pretty noisy.

Hope that helps. Have fun!!!

My family went on a cross-country camping trip with our 14 month old. We always traveled in the car during naptime. We stopped a lot to play. I was still nursing so I BF whenever she was cranky at the campground. It wasn't really a problem. We didn't bring any big accessories bc they wouldn't fit in the car, but there is plenty to entertain them! You just have to have an easy going attitude bc baby will pick up on your stress. Have fun! It isn't impossible!

when we've traveled with our kids; we've tried to time the car rides to coincide with their naps so they'll spend at least some of the drive getting their much needed rest.

Also, when camping, my kids get up at the crack of dawn and my non-napper needed a nap and my once a day napper needed two naps, as we were inevitably up late too! I took my backpack carrier and ergo so we planned a hike for a nap or if they were just super fussy and I knew they needed to sleep, then I'd just go for a walk with them in the ergo then transfer to the tent once they were asleep. It was a four day camping trip. They were exceptionally tired by the time we came home and it took a few days to "recover" but the memories are PRICELESS and they had a WONDERFUL TIME!

Good luck!

Bring a pack-n-play, sleep will be off, it will be hard! We just got back from a camp out with our 1 1/2 year old and thought we'd leave so he'd fall asleep in the car but he didn't, you might have better luck! Going home he did pass out close to bed time...our kids usually sleep well when we drive at night!

In the car bring some snacks, things for him to play with, but be prepared for it to throw him off a bit. If he's getting cranky stop at a park (or a fast food place with a play area) and play for 20 minutes and get back in!

Good luck!!!

Hi...there's some great advice here mamas! We're seasoned campers, but taking our 19-month old son camping for the first time in about a week. (I can't wait!) The advice that I've received from my experienced kid camping parents is to bring LOTS of clothes as the kids get very dirty and her 4 girls often go through 2-3 outfits a day. She also suggested bringing old clothes or hitting the thrift store for camping clothes as she says the stains from camping don't ever seem to come out! She also said to bring tons of wipes.

Although it's my son's first time camping, we've done many driving trips with him. On this camping trip, we've decided to break the trip into two days with an overnight stay on the way up and back...it just worked out that way. We've done the nighttime driving, but I wouldn't recommend it for camping. Our son always wakes up when we arrive and then he wants to "play" and be active. Plus, you'll need to set up camp and, even under the best of conditions, it's never fun setting up in the dark. If you can coordinate with your little ones nap schedule. Our best travel seems to be after breakfast and a little play. Also, my son is usually so "active" because of packing up the car, etc. that he usually drops off to sleep soon after we're on the road. A 5-hour trip is pretty easy. We usually stop once to eat and run around a little and then back on the road. I bring some good car toys and books for when my son is awake, but usually he likes looking out the window and listening to the music. I'll sing with him and we play games (Yell Mommy when you see something yellow! etc.) With our son, the car trips have been very easy. I've even done a 5-hour trip with him on my own. If you relax, your little one will relax. Just be prepared for a lot of energy when you hit your destination!!! LOL

As far as schedule...you probably won't have too many problems while you are traveling. There's so many new things, people, physical activity that they usually sleep really well. Although we try to keep our son as close to his regular schedule on a trip, there is always an adjustment upon return. It may take a few days to a week to get back on track. We've always felt that it was well worth the experience and memories.

Don't stress. Have fun. Travel safe!

We went camping in March with our then 15 month old boy and it was strenuous but lots of fun. He usually has a hard time falling asleep but during the trip his days were so full and active that he fell asleep more easily than he ever has. It was helpful to have lots of sand toys to play with. We were with friends who have camped with their little ones many times before and that was very helpful. They had brought a little kids size chair which was very helpful for sitting the kids in to feed them. Having the kids food prepped before you leave is helpful. Our baby didn't get his usual night time bath while we were camping and so I think that was why he ended up with diaper rash when we got home. Next time I would figure out how to do that better, either bring something to bathe him in for a bath or find some way to run water over him. We did coordinate our departure with his nap time and that was helpful in getting there. Our destination was about 4 hours away. We stopped once on the way to let him run around. On the way back, he was so tired from all the running around he had done during the trip that he slept almost the whole way home... longer than he had ever slept at a nap before. We were lucky in that the campground had a playground so we did spend a lot of time there. It turned out to be so much fun and I would definitely do it again.

We just drove 7 hours with three kids ages 6, 4 and 1 and it was a piece of cake! Got up at 5:00am, got organized and put kids in the car at 5:30am and hit the road! Stopped three hours later for breakfast and to get the kids dressed and then drove another 4 hours. It was great, kids were amazing, had a portable DVD we put on the front console to face the backseat. Used it on the last 2 hours of trip and it worked out great!!! Good luck!!

We just did an 8 hour car trip with an 11 month old to go camping and are doing another 5 hour one this weekend! we found the best thing to do is travel at least part of the time while baby is sleeping (night sleep best, but morning nap worked too). If you can, we found it worked best to have one of us in the back seat with her singing songs, playing games, and feeding her cheerios, rice cakes, and helping with the sippy cup (Cheerios and bits of rice cake handed out one at a time were an amazing distractor!). We also stopped every 2 hours or so that she was awake to let her walk around, change her, etc. It didn't throw her schedule off too much, but she definitely got bored and needed us back there to entertain. It was worth it to see her face when she got to see the trees and water and play in the dirt at the campground though! :) Good luck!!

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