Is two weeks too young for a road trip to Death Valley?
February 22, 2016 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Teeny Everyday was born ten days ago, and mom and baby are doing very well. To celebrate paternity leave ending, Mom had the bright (or maybe not so bright) idea of a road trip to her favorite national park, Death Valley. However, I've only been there once, and am somewhat hazy on the details of how we got to certain places of interest, like Zabriskie Point. Is this trip unrealistic with a newborn?

Death Valley is my favorite national park, but I've only been there once, and hubby has never been. We heard the wildflowers blooming there right now are beautiful, but are not sure if a three-day, two-night trip would be feasible with a newborn.

1. For those more familiar with Death Valley than I am, is this doable with a newborn? We don't want to do any hiking or climbing, but walkable areas would be great (somewhat like Grand Canyon but it doesn't have to be paved roads).

2. We'd be staying in Beatty, and traveling from San Diego Saturday through Monday. We'd like to hit Mesquite Flats, Badwater and Zabriskie Point at least. Would this be reasonable given this timeframe? My mom is traveling with us, so if we wanted to do a short hike to the dunes we'd be able to leave the baby with her (but not more than that).

3. Assuming Death Valley is out of the question, are there any other road trips that would be fun with a newborn? We've already done much of the northern coast, Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Yosemite.

As a new mom, I may be severely naive in thinking traveling with a baby is easy or that we'd manage okay. Please let me know things I should consider - I'm fairly confident we have the feeding/ sleeping/ diaper side of things covered, but... I am a total newbie to mommyhood, all things considered.

Thank you much, MeFites!
posted by Everydayville to Travel & Transportation (33 answers total)
We took baby catspajammies on a trip to the alps when he was 3 weeks old, we wanted to get out there and live life! We didn't do anything too strenuous... I was still recovering... but when baby was 4 weeks old he got really sick and spent a week in the hospital with an infected mass on his neck. They think he got a mosquito bite. I don't think that the trip made him sick, I think he possibly got bitten on one of our walks near home- but both my husband and I agree that we were too ambitious and next time we are going to force ourselves to rest and relax and only do small things the first month. That being said, the 3 day trip itself was easy enough except that we were tired and I was recovering.
posted by catspajammies at 11:56 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would personally advise against it- while it's wonderful that things are going so well, babies change a lot and change quite quickly in the early couple of months. If it was me I'd just play it conservative for a little while longer. There are also quite a few vaccinations that occur early on that you may want to manage first. You also may not get long between feeds?

We went on a trip at around 3 months and it was a great time.
posted by jojobobo at 12:13 AM on February 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to add that we didn't realize the baby was so sick.... You just don't know them that well yet because they haven't found a "normal"... That's another reason you might not venture too far afield...
posted by catspajammies at 12:53 AM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: In much of the world, there's a 40 day resting period for new moms and babies, so two weeks strikes me as a bit young for such a trip. If you visit now, the temps are not too extreme; however, babies (and newborns especially) have a difficult time thermoregulating and DV might not be the best place for a newborn in that respect. You'd also have to consider extra hydration needs for mom if breastfeeding. As noted by jojobobo, newborns are changing, growing, and developing rapidly for the first few weeks and months, and while it may seem things are under control now, that could change tomorrow or next week. (It could also remain just the same!) My personal preference would also be to remain closer to services if needed. While most babies are healthy and it's good for them to be out in the world, two weeks is quite young, and as noted by catspajammies, one small insult can turn into a serious sickness. They have very little innate immunity at this age and can get very sick, very quickly.

Ultimately, of course, it's up to you and your pediatrician, whom I'd check with for an official and professional opinion. S/he knows you and your baby better than any of us!
posted by stillmoving at 1:49 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Only you can judge your baby and your energy levels and recovery status. I will say, my main regret about my first six weeks with my newborn was that I didn't feel like I took enough time to heal, rest, and recover because I was trying to do so much and get out a lot.
posted by olinerd at 1:52 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Congrats! And no judgment from me whatever you decide; you know yourselves best. But here's an article on the concept of "lying in."
posted by salvia at 1:55 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

My husband and I were pretty darn adventurous with our newborn, and we still didn't do an overnight trip with him until he was about six weeks old. 10 days old sounds pushing it for all of the good reasons cited above. I would pass if I were you.
posted by whitewall at 2:03 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Came back to mention that there's also a lot that can happen for mom in the first six weeks postpartum (risks of pain, vaginal bleeding, mastitis, DVT, mood changes, etc.) that might also be easier to handle if you're closer to home.

Finally: Congrats!
posted by stillmoving at 2:49 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Congratulations!

How much good, uninterrupted sleep are all of you getting? The first few weeks of our kid's life, I was too sleep-deprived to think clearly, and something like a road trip would have taxed my postpartum brain too much. We probably would have made some serious error like forgetting to stop for gas or driving fifty miles in the wrong direction. Sleep deprivation can make you stupid before you know it.

I think the fact that you're even considering a trip is a sign that you've got a pretty chill newborn, which is awesome! However, it's still a good idea to stay home for the first couple months; newborns and their preferences can turn on a dime.

(If you feel like planning ahead, 4-7 months is often a good age for babies to travel. They're into more of a groove by then and it's still pretty easy to calm them down when they're upset.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:44 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I say this as a parent of three who took my kids all over the place when they were little, but not as little as yours.

It is certainly doable but it may not be much fun. Or restful. Or pleasant.

So for the love of all that is good and holy, stay home and get some rest. SLEEP, I tell you, SLEEP. And when you're not sleeping, plan an awesome trip you can take when mom is at least 6 weeks postpartum.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:15 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

My mom and I drove cross country with my 3 year old and 10 day old. We were being transported from our state to hers so she could help take care of us for a few weeks while my husband was on the worst timed work trip of the century.

We made it, and lived to tell the tale, but: a few hours into the trip, baby's eye started pouring out green goo (blocked tear duct) and that was ultimately fine but stressful with a day and a half of driving still ahead. Also frightening was that despite our best efforts baby and I both got dehydrated and her fontanelle was a bit sunken by the time we stopped for the night. Once we arrived at my childhood home and got everyone properly rested and hydrated and had warm compresses for her eye, it was a nice few weeks, and we NEEDED to be there to be taken care of (my mom couldn't stay at our place for that long for $reasons). But I don't think I'd do it for fun.
posted by telepanda at 4:30 AM on February 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

A road trip sounds exhausting with a newborn. You won't be getting much uninterrupted sleep, and you'll need to stop often as it's not good for babies to be in car seats for more than a couple of hours at a time l (bad for their spine I think? It's why flat - bed pushchair things are preferable).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:34 AM on February 23, 2016

No!!!!!! I went on a road trip a few weeks after my little guy was born. Granted, it was to get to the fanciest of children's hospitals but we sat in the car for the better part of a day each way. Postpartum moms should not sit in a car for extended periods of time. It caused me extreme pelvic pain that required months of physical therapy. During this time standing sometimes caused shooting pain. And sitting and laying down were intermittently very painful as well. That whole area is unstable and muscles are easy weak and can cause things weird. I may have had some recovery issues anyway but car trip led to the horrible searing pain.

Also baby is not meant to be in a car seat for extended periods of time. Nursing should take like five hours a day at this point and that is basically impossible to safely and comfortably accommodate on a roadtrip. My LO caught bronchiolitis on our trip through the world (of its own may required extended hospital stay), which triggered a heart condition and a week long stay in the hospital once we got home. We did take him to restaurants all along the way, so it may not have been the children's hospital (we didn't see many other young children there). Newborns are very very fragile and any diseases they catch are a huge deal. There's a reason doctor's advised newborns weren't to leave home or have visitors 30 years ago. Anyway, I would stay towards home. Go to a restaurant and a walk around the block. IMHO this is the worst idea I've ever seen posted on metafilter (although I totally get why it may appear just fine at first glance).
posted by Kalmya at 4:36 AM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm absolutely 100% against the idea. I don't want to link the story here because it's too horrifying, but I read a haunting tale (from MetaFilter) about a family vacation to Death Valley that went wrong a few years ago. The details would be needlessly disturbing, and it's been haunting me ever since. I don't know if I can ever go to Death Valley myself after reading it because it made me so sad (disclaimer: I read the story as a new mom, at which point any story of anything bad happening to a child upset me more than I could have ever imagined possible before). Basically the family got a little lost and turned down the wrong road, car broke down, they were in a remote place where few people would come by, temperature extremes typical of Death Valley.... bad outcome. This was with older kids, infants do not handle temperature extremes well. Cars can get extremely hot within minutes.

That's completely aside from the fact that at that age I didn't want to take my child out of the house at all because if they spike a temp for any reason they need a full sepsis workup including a spinal tap. (disclaimer I am a doctor and therefore very sensitive to such things). Bottom line I would definitely be OK with taking an infant on a road trip in a place where you could easily stop frequently and easily pick up supplies and the conditions were likely to be nice and enjoyable. Death Valley sounds like the opposite of that. Even if it isn't actually as deadly dangerous as I now believe it to be, it certainly doesn't sound comfortable or fun.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:02 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Newborn behavior will change (sometimes drastically) during those first weeks. If baby is fine now, for the love of god, stay home and SLEEP! Sleep will likely get much worse (much, much worse) over the next few weeks. You need to prepare for that! Also, even if you feel fine, I would be seriously worried about postpartum issues coming up under stress. Your body is healing a plate-sized, hemmorraging wound in your uterus -> not the right time for a roadtrip. Baby should also not be in a car seat for longer periods because of SIDS risk, especially at the newborn stage. In conclusion: don't.
posted by The Toad at 5:03 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Newborn immune systems are not terribly developed. Traveling with a baby that young is taking needless risks aside from mom needing more rest than might seem apparent. I love Death Valley but would absolutely not do this - it's taking needless risks with both mother and baby.
posted by leslies at 5:12 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also if something breaks or goes missing or didn't get packed and that was the only thing that was keeping the baby happy (typical things like this in my experience are things like nipple shield for breastfeeding, a needed piece to put a bottle together, a pacifier, diapers - yes, in a sleep deprived state you can easily forget to pack enough diapers or far underestimate what is needed for a time period) - then you have to find a store that sells that thing, and the time until you get there is misery. My impression is that in Death Valley, that time of misery could be very very long.

Also if mom is breastfeeding, as noted above, mastitis, nipple thrush, and clogged ducts are just a few of the wonderful things that can happen and make mom miserable until SHE gets what she needs for them. Around 2 weeks for me was the point where both babies started using me as a pacifier and trying to nurse for at least 4-6 hours daily (straight!), and then thrush set in and the result was pain that made me literally scream bloody murder every time they latched. I can't imagine not being at home where I could get lanolin, compound my own nipple ointment, wash and boil all my pump parts and shields to get rid of the thrush, put chilled pads on the traumatized nipples, etc. Breastfeeding is extremely hard for a lot of people and being able to reach a lactation consultant and/or breastfeeding support group can be important.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:16 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have relatives who live in a desert area, so they were in their air-conditioned home. Baby got dehydrated though she seemed to be nursing fine. New parents did not recognize early symptoms. Baby ended up being hospitalized for a week. Everything turned out fine, but I would not risk this.
posted by FencingGal at 5:24 AM on February 23, 2016

I don't want to link the story here because it's too horrifying, but I read a haunting tale (from MetaFilter) about a family vacation to Death Valley that went wrong a few years ago.

I immediately thought of that same story and was shocked that anyone would consider a casually planned vacation to Death Valley with such a small child, but then I realized that not everyone read that story and even people that read it probably weren't as deeply shaken as I (and apparently treehorn+bunny) was. Take a break, do some research, and if you must, do your well-planned trip with a one year old next year when the flowers are blooming.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:26 AM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hey, I agree with all the comments about not traveling with such a super young baby but...

I don't want to link the story here because it's too horrifying, but I read a haunting tale (from MetaFilter) about a family vacation to Death Valley that went wrong a few years ago.

I immediately thought of that same story and was shocked that anyone would consider a casually planned vacation to Death Valley with such a small child, but then I realized that not everyone read that story and even people that read it probably weren't as deeply shaken as I (and apparently treehorn+bunny) was. Take a break, do some research, and if you must, do your well-planned trip with a one year old next year when the flowers are blooming.

I read that story. It is very sad. I also vacation with my young kids in Death Valley every year, during the winter season. It's absolutely possible to have a very safe, and in my opinion very family friendly trip, there. You stay on paved roads, you keep your car filled up and water/snacks on hand just in case. There are a ton of highly accessible attractions and things to see and do that do not involved going into the backcountry or taking unadvised shortcuts. It sounds like both the poster and his wife have been there before and I would assume know where they are going and what it is like. I don't think it helps people find answers to catastrophize.

OP, if you do go once you get out of the newborn phase, we went for the first time with a kid about 10 months old. Fun fact: there is a playground at the Ranch, you have to walk back through past the pool and the grass area. We stayed at the Inn, and they have a couple of suite options so you can have a bit of separation from the baby (they are pricier, though). We never bring a stroller as there aren't a lot of paths that would really do well with one, so bring a backpack or other carrier. The drive in is a long one, which is one reason I wouldn't be up for doing it with a kid who needs to eat every 2-3 hours. Try to time it so you arrive before sundown, as it's easier on the last lag in - even if it means leaving super early in the morning.

TLDR; Death Valley is one of our favorite parks, too - just wait a few months longer and then start bringing the kids.
posted by handful of rain at 5:44 AM on February 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

We had car problems in Death Valley and it took most of a day for a tow truck to get out there. It's really remote, although fortunately has OK cell service (but imagine if something happened and you were in a spot that didn't). I'd go most places but probably not there.
posted by miyabo at 5:52 AM on February 23, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you for all the comments thus far - I'm very glad I asked the question.
Just to be clear, we had a well visit with his pediatrician today who gave us the green light for the trip. However, my gut did have some serious hesitations with regard to exposure, which is why I decided to come to the green with this.
Also, I understand that DV is subject to extreme temperatures, but is a lot more pleasant and cooler this time of year... a month or so from now I'd never have considered it. My baby is the most precious, important thing in my life as of ten days ago, and I never in a million years would want to come close to endangering him.
posted by Everydayville at 6:01 AM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nthing that access to medical care is a big deal with a new baby. Your threshold to taking mom or baby to the ER when you're three hours from it is way higher than when you're sitting at home. It's hard to know when your newborn needs to go to the doctor, and your answer is way less likely to be this afternoon when you're miserable in the car.
posted by Kalmya at 6:24 AM on February 23, 2016

When I was recovering from childbirth, our midwives stressed that breastfed infants are fairly hearty, but that the major risk to being up and about was to the mom, who is at major risk for infection and healing problems so long as she's bleeding. I found my bleeding prolonged and increased whenever I'd carry my baby through our very small apartment. Mom should be relaxing. Really.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:31 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would not want to be riding in a car on a road trip with a driver who is affected by the sleeplessness of living with a newborn.
posted by Liesl at 6:49 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

My suggestion is to start with an overnight trip, relatively close to home, when baby is about 4 months old. Baby is still very portable at this time, but has passed the magic window of requiring a spinal tap for any sign of fever. Your body will be in much better shape. If you're within a couple of hours of home, it's easy to bail and head home if you need to. Once you've got that success under your belt, you can work on venturing farther afield.

There IS life after baby, even though the first couple of months (ok years) are rough - we had an amazing, wonderful road trip vacation last year with our then- 4 and 1 year olds and we all had a great time. You aren't giving into life becoming just a tedious joyless slog by not taking your newborn to Death Valley.
posted by telepanda at 7:09 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

After having two babies, I wouldn't do it. Not because of the babies - babies are delightfully portable and it sounds like you would take all necessary precautions to protect baby - it's mom who needs more time. Look, I get it, I really really get it because when my eldest was born I had cabin fever and I thought I was doing ok and took her out in the ergo and thought it was great. I wasn't, it wasn't. Commenters above mention the bleeding and so forth, but there is a tremendous amount of unseen damage to the pelvis during childbirth. I wish I had taken things a lot more easy those first couple of postpartum months. I underestimated how much rest I needed at the beginning, and my pelvis has paid the price.
posted by stowaway at 7:55 AM on February 23, 2016

However, my gut did have some serious hesitations with regard to exposure, which is why I decided to come to the green with this.

Bravo and mark this day. You listen to those guts, mom and dad. It will serve you well, from, "Should I call the pediatrician even though I feel silly?" to "Something about that kid Shauna creeps me out," to "Hell yeah we're having ice cream and waffles for dinner then dancing to some Motown," to "If piano practice stresses you out THAT much, you can drop it, kiddo."
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:14 AM on February 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I was more worried about the mom than the baby. I ended up in the hospital three weeks post partum after my second with late on set post-partum preeclampsia (who knew??). I get that you feel fine and are possibly stir crazy, but...... give yourself a break. Your body just grew and spit out a human. It needs to rest.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:58 AM on February 23, 2016

Don't do it. Consider that you will effectively be driving drunk with sleep deprivation. If anything goes wrong, you will make worse decisions than normal due to foggy heads. At 3 months when mom and infant are reasonably stable it will be a much more enjoyable trip and safer. You really don't want to go into an strange ER with an unvaccinated infant.
posted by benzenedream at 10:21 AM on February 23, 2016

If a baby under a month old (I think? may be six weeks?) develops a fever over 100, they need to do a spinal tap to ensure it's not sepsis. I would not take my two-week-old anywhere she/he could be exposed to random bugs that could cause a fever.

I basically had an enforced lying-in (I was barely able to leave my home for about a month) and definitely do not regret it.
posted by john_snow at 11:31 AM on February 23, 2016

Yes, that's true about the spinal tap- poor baby cats pajammies had 2! The first one didn't take :-( and I know you had the docs appointment and he was fine, but here you get a visits from a midwife 3 times a week and our baby just got suddenly sick at 10pm and was in the hospital on iv antibiotics at 2pm the next day. Things go badly when they can't drink milk.

Also, I had a ton of energy after giving birth, for a week and a half I was fantastic, but it must have been adrenaline because I crashed and was exhausted for a while after.

But most of all, congrats on your wonderful easy baby! It's normal to want to go out and enjoy life as your little family.
posted by catspajammies at 12:08 PM on February 23, 2016

FWIW, we took my son to Australia from the US for 4 weeks when he was 1 month old (I like to kid him about how at one point he'd spent half his life there) including a week of tent camping in Tasmania and another week near Cairns. The fact that my wife was breastfeeding certainly made things easier overall. You need to gauge your own level of adventurousness, but it's definitely not unrealistic. Temps in DV are quite moderate right now, and there'd be plenty of traffic on the roads you'd be traveling in case of something like a breakdown.
posted by doctord at 6:35 PM on February 23, 2016

« Older Feed me the nightmare fuel   |   Why don't psychiatrists ask about abuse? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.