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Road Trip with a Baby: Our Travel Must Haves






A few weeks ago, we shared the news that we are truly crazy taking our family on the road for nearly three months. That means loading up our car with a rambunctious ten month old and all the items that he needs in order to live nomadically for the first quarter of the year.

As many of you know—this autumn we sold our house, moved our stuff into storage, and have been living with family… all gearing up for a cross country road trip and a big adventure in the New Year.

Beginning in January, we are driving from our home in Annapolis, Maryland as far south as Florida and then all the way across the country to San Francisco, California.

We are stopping in Charlotte, Charleston, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Pensacola, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Albuquerque, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles by the end of February. Thirteen cities across seven weeks with an event in each location where we bring creative entrepreneurs and small business owners together to kick of the New Year together.

(You can learn more about our plans over on the Road Trip by HoneyBook | Rising Tide website!)

Must have items for traveling with a baby on a cross country road trip | Natalie Franke

As we prepare to become digital nomads for our cross country road trip, we have been getting a ton of questions about what we are bringing with us for our infant (soon to be toddler), we wanted to share all of our must haves with you here.

We will be updating this blog post with our learnings as we go and adding any items that we pick up along the way. Some of the links below are affiliate links and I earn a small commission if you decide to purchase any of our recommendations below. (So thank you in advance if you do!)


  1. Travel Crib
  2. Portable Play Yard
  3. Portable Highchair
  4. White Noise Machine
  5. Video Monitor
  6. Travel Diaper Changing Pad
  7. On the Go Drying Rack
  8. Car Seat Carrying Backpack
  9. Toy Links
  10. Suction Cup Toy
  11. Packing Cubes
  12. Car Outlet Adapter
  13. Battery Packs

Baby Gear

We are sharing the baby gear that we couldn’t travel without. From day trips to the ocean to overnights at grandma’s (to upcoming our cross country adventure) we’ve already put much of this gear to the test in Huey’s first year.

When it comes to baby gear, we have learned that less is more and sometimes it is worth investing in specific items that convert as your baby grows so that they last from infancy into early childhood without needing to be replaced. So while a few of the items below were purchased specifically for the road trip–the majority are things that we’ve already been using frequently during Huey’s first year.

Not listed below but also coming with us on the road include our Uppababy Stroller and baby carrier that we use daily to transport baby Huey whenever we are out of the house. Since most parents already have a travel system, I wanted to focus this post on more specific items for road tripping or living months away from home.

1. Travel Crib

When I made my baby registry, so many of my friends recommended registering for the BABYBJORN Travel Crib and I remember thinking—how many times am I possibly going to use that? Fast forward ten months later and I can honestly say that he has slept in the travel crib nearly as often as he has slept in his main crib.

Between moving, naps on the go, staying with family and now the upcoming road trip—we couldn’t live without our super safe + easily portable travel crib. It is my #1 must have recommendation for anyone that will be traveling with a baby (even for simple overnight trips to visit family).

Best Travel Crib for safe infant sleep by Baby Bjorn

2. Portable Play Yard

The Regalo My Play Portable Play Yard is a must have for traveling anywhere with an active baby. We have used this playpen frequently throughout the move, holidays with family, and even just when needing a safe space to put the baby in while cooking dinner. This playpen can be easily set up and taken down within seconds and it comes with a carrying case that makes it super easy to travel or store.

Ideally, we place the playpen on a rug or carpeted floor and then place a blanket on the top to make it more comfortable for the baby to crawl around in. It truly has been a life saver when visiting places that aren’t baby proofed to give Huey the freedom to move around while also keeping him safe.

3. Portable Highchair + Booster Seat

We did a lot of research and wanted to find a portable highchair that would last beyond the road trip. Something that we could easily bring to grandparents’ houses for family dinners and that would grow with baby Huey (converting into a booster seat) so we chose the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat for $27.99. The price is amazing and we have already been using this chair for a few weeks successfully. It securely attaches to any chair in seconds.

Portable Highchair and Booster seat for traveling with an infant or toddler.

4. White Noise Machine

We have a white noise machine that we use at home and we have finally bought a portable one for on the go.

Some of you remember that my #1 Spotify Song of 2019 was a white noise track because I’ve been using my phone to put baby Huey to sleep while traveling… and now I can finally get my phone back during nap times on the go! (PTL!) The Marpac Rohm Portable White Noise Machine will be a lifesaver for naps on the road. It lasts all night long on a single charge and recharges with a USB cable.

5. Video Monitor

Another well-loved registry item that we will be bringing on the road with us is the Summer Baby Pixel Cadet Video Baby Monitor that we chose on a recommendation from our friends Katelyn and Michael. We wanted a video monitor that we could carry with us around the house, was super portable, and worked really well in low light.

We have been using this monitor throughout Huey’s life and it has been such a blessing (especially for a loud sleeper like ours—we can see how he from any room in the house).

6. Travel Diaper Changing Pad

Whenever we leave the house, you’ll see our Skip Hop Portable Changing Mat clipped onto the outside of our diaper bag (or if I’m traveling light I can fit it right into the bag itself). I love this so much better than the simple mats because it has a pouch for diapers and wipes as well as a zippered section for diaper cream or other smaller items.

This is another one of those items that I got when Huey was a newborn and have used consistently throughout his first year of life. It enables you to turn nearly any surface into a changing table and is much cleaner than anything you would find in a public restroom.

7. On the Go Drying Rack

When washing and drying baby bottles on the go, we have loved our OXO Tot On-The-Go Drying Rack with bottle brush. It’s a simple little invention that truly simplifies our lives when we aren’t able to use our big drying rack at home.

And any parent knows how many bottles, sippy cups, and utensils you go hand wash in a single day—having one sterile place to dry everything makes life much easier.

8. Car Seat Carrying Backpack

We will be flying back from San Francisco and in order to make it easy to haul our carseat through the airport, we purchased this Padded Car Seat Travel Backpack. There were cheaper options available, but we opted for a padded bag to protect our carseat a little better when it gets checked by the airline so that it arrives in the same condition.

9. Toy Links

When I reached out to friends who have experience traveling with infants and toddlers, they all recommended buying a pack of toy links. Many baby toys have loops for links and it make it easy to attach them to anything (stroller, car seat, etc.) so that baby can access it without you needing to reach into the back seat or worry about something landing on the ground. And at $5 a pack—it’s a cheap investment that makes a world of difference.

10. Suction Cup Toys

When eating out with a baby, every parent learns how quickly toys can go from the table to the floor. We learned this the hard way when baby Huey learned how to throw things a few months back and since then—we invested in a few suction cup toys.

Most of these toys have a removable suction cup so that they can also be used separately or with the toy links mentioned above. We have the Sassy Fishy Fascination Station and the Sassy Wonder Wheel that we will be bringing on the road trip. They easily attach to a table using the suction cup and are perfect for keeping baby entertained at the table.

For the Adults

We travel a lot—flights one to two times a month over the last five years, driving across the United States four times, and monthly summer visits to the ocean. Here are a few of the items that we couldn’t live without whenever we travel (and we will be bringing with us to make life easier on the road trip as new parents).

11. Packing Cubes

I couldn’t live without them. Period. We will be packing all of our clothes, baby supplies, and more into packing cubes that help to keep everything organized and compressed within the suitcases.

We have used a few different kinds over the years, but Hugh’s favorites are the Amazon Basics Packing Cubes in a variety of sizes. I have a fun pack from Target with creative patterns.

12. Car Outlet Adapter

I first discovered car outlet adapters when I was photographing weddings. After an event, my second shooter would drive us home and I would use that time to begin culling and editing images for my couples. Being able to plug in my laptop charger and work from the car was a game changer on those longer drives.

On this trip, both my husband and myself are working from the road as digital nomads so being able to keep everything charged is important. We have an older adapter from a few years back, but there are plenty amazing adapters like BESTEK 300W Power Inverter that have multiple plug and USB ports. We have an unlimited data plan with hotspot capabilities on our phones so as we have done in previous road trips—we will take turns driving so that the other one can take meetings and get work done on drive days.

13. Battery Pack

I use my phone as a camera and work device throughout the day and when it runs out of battery, I don’t want to get stuck charging at an outlet. Whenever I travel, I always have a battery pack in my purse, camera bag, or back pack.

My husband and I both use Anker Powercore battery packs and have for years. If you are notorious for running your phone batteries down to 10%—keeping a backup battery is a must.

As we continue to embark on our cross country road trip with our baby boy, we will be updating this blog post and keeping it as relevant as possible. If you want to follow along, be sure to join us over on Instagram for daily updates + a behind the scenes peek at the adventure.

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links and I would love if you decided to use them. Affiliate links + referrals programs help educators like me to fund the free content that we provide on our blogs.

Road Trip with a Baby: Travel items you need when driving cross-country with an infant or toddler

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