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Car travel with babies

3-minute read

Taking a car trip with your baby can be stressful, especially if it’s a long journey. Using these simple tips when you prepare for the trip can help you ensure it’s as safe and as comfortable as possible for both of you.

Car seats

Before you start thinking about the journey, ensure you are using a baby car seat that’s suited to your baby’s age and size. All seats need to be approved, properly fastened and correctly adjusted so your baby can travel safely.

Babies under 6 months must be seated in a rearward-facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness. Babies aged over 6 months must be seated in a rearward-facing or forward-facing restraint, also with an inbuilt harness.

Preparation for the journey

Plan for regular breaks

Travelling with a baby by car will take longer than travelling with adults. Plan for regular breaks (about 1 break for every 2 hours travel) and expect unscheduled stops, such as for nappy changes.

Babies are not meant to spend long periods of time in their car seat. During stops, allow your baby to kick, roll or crawl around on a rug on the ground where it is safe for them to do so.

If your baby is sleeping as you reach your destination, take your baby out even if it means waking them up. Never leave your child unattended in the car.

Food and drink on the trip

If you breastfeed, remember to stop to offer feeds more often if it is hot in the car. Note that it is not safe to breastfeed in a moving car.

If your baby is on infant formula, take the formula powder and cooled boiled water with you so that you can prepare feeds on the trip.

If your baby is on solids, you can also pack simple snacks and water.

Sun protection

If the sun is shining directly on your baby, use a window shade or hang a damp towel over the window to provide shade. Don't use a hood over a capsule since it can restrict air circulation around your baby.

Keep your baby occupied

Bring some of your baby's favourite toys and books to help keep them entertained in the car. On a long trip, you may want to introduce one item at a time so your baby will stay interested for longer. Have a few new items on hand as well, in case your baby gets bored with familiar ones. Singing and music may also help keep your baby occupied for a while.

What to pack

Writing a checklist can help reduce any worries you might have about preparing for your car trip.

Here's what you may want to have on hand for your baby:

  • items to prepare formula feeds
  • snacks and water
  • toys and books
  • nappies, wipes and spare clothes
  • anything else that can help comfort your baby, such as a dummy, favourite toy or blanket

Allow plenty of time for travel

When travelling with a baby, you may find you need to stop more often or for longer than planned. Allow yourself lots of time to travel. You may also want to check real-time information on traffic jams, road conditions and closures from the following government sources.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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