What It’s Like Taking an RV Road Trip With a Baby

Aug 24, 2020 | Travel & Destinations

What It’s Like Taking an RV Road Trip With a Baby

As full-time RVers with a newborn, here’s what we’ve learned along the way, how to make RVing with a baby easier, and why we love it.

By Alyssa Padgett

Our RV was our first home together. After our wedding day, my husband Heath and I traveled to all 50 U.S. states, crossed the border to explore Canada, and drove on the left side of the road while RVing in New Zealand. Six years later we are still RVing full-time—but now we are bringing a baby with us.

As soon as we started RVing, people told us it was smart to “get it out of our system” before we started a family. Repeatedly, we were told that once we had kids, our travels would be over.

But when the time came for us to start our family, we realized we didn’t want to give up RVing and traveling. What if instead of forgoing our nomadic lifestyle, we could figure out a way to integrate our new daughter into the mix? And so began our transition from solo RVers to family travelers.

This idea pushed us to take our first road trip with our daughter Ellie when she was just 4 weeks old. When she was 4 months old, we traveled to Italy to RV abroad. Now Ellie is 14 months and sleeping in our RV bathroom (more on that later).

mom holding baby in front of mountain in italy
Photo: Alyssa Padgett

We knew travel would look and feel different with a baby, but we were ready to face those new challenges. The first time we changed a diaper in the backseat on the side of the interstate, Ellie made a giant mess, and I was beginning to think that people were right about traveling with kids. 

But instead of turning around and heading home, we kept taking our daughter on little trips, eager to figure out how we could continue traveling while managing being new parents. In her first year, Ellie traveled more than most people will in a lifetime. RVing with a baby is definitely challenging at times—but it also comes with its own set of rewards.

The Benefits of an RV Road Trip with a Baby

baby in car seat on a roadtrip with parents
Photo: Alyssa Padgett

Travel Fosters Adaptability

Before Ellie was born, my doctor asked when we were going to take her on her first trip. He knew we’d spent the previous five years traveling full-time and that we didn’t want to stop anytime soon. Proudly, we told him we already had a trip booked to Italy when she would be 4 months old. 

He was quiet for a moment, then asked, “Why are you waiting so long?”

Babies are malleable, especially newborns, he explained. If you watch TV all day, the baby will adapt to that. The sooner we started traveling with her, the better she would adapt. If we started now, Ellie could be the ideal RV travel companion for years to come. 

Even just in the past year, she’s become better at adjusting her nap times to when we are on the go and happier spending hours in her car seat—especially when we coordinate the two.

Travel Encourages Curiosity

They say the more curious the baby, the smarter he or she is. If that’s at all true, RVing with a baby will turn your kid into a genius. There are constantly new things to see and explore when you’re moving campsites every few days. 

As a toddler, this mostly means Ellie spends her days individually greeting every single dog in the campground with a wave and a very cute growl. 

It also means she’s had the chance to squish her toes in the sand on the Atlantic shore, soar over mountains in a gondola, and hike along trails with us (for about 3 minutes before demanding to be carried). 

Everyone Loves Babies

Sitting on a city bus en route to Vatican City, the metro police boarded to check everyone’s tickets. I sat in the back of the bus nursing Ellie while Heath stood 20 people away in the center with my bus ticket. 

I had no idea what to do if the police officer asked me for my bus ticket in Italian. I was about to panic when Ellie stopped nursing and started giggling. Suddenly, most of the people on the bus were smiling and making funny faces at my 4-month-old who squealed happily at all the attention. 

The more we travel, the more I find that people go out of their way to accommodate families with babies. Sometimes this means getting seated faster, skipping lines, or just receiving friendlier service.

Of course, it’s not all adorable moments and clean diapers: There are some major challenges to RVing with a baby, too. 

The Obstacles of Taking an RV Road Trip with a Baby

baby on floor with toys
Photo: Alyssa Padgett

Making Room for Baby

Unless you’re co-sleeping every night, you need space for a crib or pack-and-play. Or, if you have a bunk floor plan in your RV, you’ll need some sturdy rails, plus curtains for light and soundproofing.

Since our 40-foot Winnebago has two bathrooms, we turned the second one into Ellie’s very own suite. Really, all we did was set up a pack-and-play and put her bathtub in the shower, but it’s enough to make it feel like she has her own space and we have ours. 

By creating a separate space for our daughter, we can move around the RV while she’s sleeping without worrying about waking her up. Adding one more member to our family also meant that we needed a bigger RV. This is our full-time home, so by no means does everyone with a baby need a 40-footer, but you will want to intentionally find a floor plan that offers you and your little one(s) enough room. 

Moving at a Slower Pace

Before tackling road trips with a baby, Heath and I liked to move fast. We stayed places for three to four nights before we drove on to the next adventure. Now, we like to spend two to four weeks in new places. We find all the local parks and playgrounds, Ellie makes friends with the other toddlers at the campground, and we have more time to enjoy ourselves. It’s been one of the bigger changes that I thought we would find frustrating, but has actually turned out better for all of us. 

Slowing down our pace has forced us to become more patient and adaptable. For example, on a trip last weekend it took us 15 minutes to walk just three blocks through Telluride, Colorado. Ellie would walk, stop, and smell the flowers, then try to eat the flowers, chase a dog, knock over a bicycle, and run into the street. It’s all part of life with a toddler.

Choosing the Right Baby Gear

As anyone with a baby knows, they love to throw things. This means that the floor is a minefield of toys and clothes throughout the day, and it makes easily-stowable baby gear a godsend. 

In addition to the pack-and-play (which folds up small enough to fit into our closet), we also have a foldable high chair. It looks like a collapsible lawn chair with a snap-on tray, and the fabric can be tossed in the washer for easy cleaning.

The only thing we use that doesn’t easily store away is our bathtub, but you can buy inflatable tubs at any Walmart. We keep ours in Ellie’s “suite.” 

baby being fed on floor of rv
Photo: Alyssa Padgett

Why We Won’t Stop RVing with Kids

If you’re asking yourself if it’s possible to RV and road trip with a baby, the short answer is yes. It may feel overwhelming at first, and you’ll need to figure out everything from what extra gear you need to how often to stop for meals, naps, and diaper changes. But watching Ellie flourish and learn as we RV across the country, I know that traveling with her is worth all the meltdowns and explosive diapers.

For new parents thinking about taking an RV road trip with a baby, give yourself the grace to know that your travel experience is going to be different. It takes longer, it’s much louder, and there are way more messes. But it is absolutely worth it. 

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Alyssa Padgett

Alyssa and her husband Heath visited all 50 states during their first year of marriage and haven’t stopped traveling since. She is an entrepreneur, producer, and best-selling author of the book A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV.