Rachael and Luke have recently survived their first experience of road tripping with their baby. And despite preparing as much as possible, it wasn’t as smooth sailing as they’d hoped. Here’s what they learned.

 

We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Ngarigo people who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

From Care Free to Child-Friendly Camping

Luke and I have always loved travel and adventure. Throughout our time dating and into marriage, we’ve almost always had a plan for where our next trip would be. 

Luke’s always been more of a camping fanatic than I, but over the years I’ve grown to enjoy some of the simpler things and we’ve found a middle ground of comfort and remoteness that suits us both.

Fast forward a few years and we now have a five-month-old bub, named Tallulah. This has changed how our lives and travel look, more than we could’ve imagined! 

 

 

Determined not to stop doing the things we love, we began our travel plans shortly after she was born. By three months old, Tallulah had already been on the annual family beach holiday and a safari in South Africa. 

After a recent meeting with a mortgage broker, we realised that for us, the Australian dream was going to be nothing more than that, a dream. So we decided to use our small house deposit to buy a secondhand Jayco camper trailer. 

Within three days of picking up the camper, we were on the road, tagging along with a group of friends down to the Victorian High Country. Here are some lessons learned from a first time Mum, on our baby’s first camp trip.

Read more: Parental Leave Gap Year

1. Time Your Run

Tallulah isn’t known for loving a car ride, so I was petrified at the thought of the long drive down to Victoria. When awake, she needs to be constantly entertained with a healthy supply of toys. The Emu puppet we got at The Big Merino was a good buy! Eventually, she was well and truly over it, and long breaks were essential for everybody’s sanity. 

On our way home from Victoria, we attempted a late night drive to smash out some big kilometres while Tallulah slept. This didn’t go exactly to plan. 

Instead of going to sleep at her normal time of 7pm, she decided to stretch it out until 9pm. We sat and waited, frustratingly watching the clock until she hit the pillow and we could hit the road. 

Fortunately, we’d booked a motel that night, as setting up the Jayco at 2am would’ve been far from ideal. After a long night of driving into the early hours, we both woke up exhausted and decided we won’t do that again in a hurry. 

This is one of the biggest differences in travelling with a baby – the meticulously thought out driving schedule. 

We found our best bet is to time our drives with Tallulah’s naps. These are normally only 30-45 minutes, and once awake we can usually keep her entertained for half an hour. This gives us about an hour of driving before Tallulah needs a break from the car. This break would be until her next nap, about two hours later, meaning a usual three-hour drive becomes an all-day affair.

If this is something you’re not prepared for, it can be extremely frustrating! 

Travelling with a baby has forced us to slow down, enjoy some of the places we wouldn’t normally stop at along the way, and embrace the saying ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey’.

 

2. Head North for the Winter

Our next challenge arrived when nightfall came. It was freezing. We knew the High Country would be cold and we were prepared with lots of warm clothes for Tallulah. 

As most of our camping pre-baby had been in a double swag, we had no idea how little heat the camper would retain overnight. We’d planned for Tallulah to sleep in her own bed, but on the first night we quickly realised there was no way she could regulate her temperature well enough. 

We ended up having her share the bed with us to keep her warm. This was an ok temporary fix but she still woke multiple times and moved around lots, which meant not much sleep for any of us.

After our week in the High Country, we made a trip down to Melbourne to visit some family. We set up our camper in the front yard and were able to borrow a portable fan heater out of my uncle’s caravan. This worked a treat for the two nights we visited and is on the ‘To Buy’ list for future cooler weather camping trips.

Our original plan was to continue south after Melbourne and visit the Great Ocean Road. The fact we couldn’t keep Tallulah warm enough without sacrificing our sleep was the deciding factor in cutting our Victoria trip short and heading home to recoup before heading north.

3. Babies Aren’t so 4WD Friendly

One of the big attractions of the Victorian High Country is the 4WDriving. Luke was excited to tick a few tracks and sights off the bucket list, however it only took a couple of bumpy roads for us to realise 4WDriving isn’t a baby-friendly activity. 

Tallulah didn’t enjoy being bumped around, which was clear by the expression on her face and the way she held onto the side of her car seat. Like any five-month-old, Tallulah’s neck muscles are still developing and the movement of the car caused her head to move around more than we liked, so we decided to scrap the tracks. 

Instead we used this time to head into some of the local towns, like Bright and Omeo, walk around and enjoy the local attractions, cafes, and eateries.

4. Travelling in a Group Isn’t Always Simple

Being young parents, most of our friends don’t have kids yet. We were the only ones on this trip with a baby, which was more difficult than it sounds. Gone are the days when we could stroll around an unfamiliar town aimlessly, not having to watch the clock for the next nap. 

We learned to make quick decisions on what or where we were going to eat, something I was never very good at pre-baby. 

We often had to split away from the group and do our own thing which at times felt a bit isolating and anti-social. This included leaving 4WD tracks when the rest of the group kept on; getting up and walking around the streets with a fussy baby instead of kicking back for a couple of hours at the pub; hurrying off to find a quick lunch pre-nap instead of browsing through the local stores… you get the idea. 

We were perfectly fine with this schedule when it was just us, but it was difficult to feel a part of the group when we were often having to go off on our own. 

We’re yet to do a camping trip with other families of young kids but we feel there’d at least be a mutual understanding of the need for a baby-friendly schedule.

 

Would we do it again?

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the time on our trip however stressful or inconvenient it was at times, and it definitely isn’t the end of our baby travels. 

We’re both very passionate about getting Tallulah outdoors so she can learn about the world around her and one day have her own adventures. 

We learned a lot on our baby’s first road trip and will continue to tweak things here and there for the many adventures to come. 

Hopefully there are some people out there who can relate to some of this, or at least gain some insights into what they may be in for on a road trip with a bub!