I recently gave some of my top tips for flying with a baby. Which, I’m sure is helpful for those of you who fly. However, not everyone can afford that luxury! We’ve done our fair share of driving with Jack during the first year of his life — here are some things that we found to be helpful!
1) Split trip into smaller sections
I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but when we went on our first big road trip with Jack, we decided to split it into two days. It turned out to be perfect, because five hours was about as much as Jack could stand being in his car seat! We found a great deal on a hotel from Priceline, were able to leave a little later in the day, right when Jack’s naptime was about to start, and we didn’t get in too late. We didn’t have to make a ton of stops — just once for Jack to nurse. And it was just overall, more pleasant.
2) Plan for Interruptions
The days of pushing through a 10 hour trip with only one stop for gas are over. Well, I guess you could technically still do that — but you’d end up with a very upset baby! Don’t leave on your trip at the very last second possible, especially if you are traveling to something that is time sensitive (like a wedding.) Just accept the fact that you might have to make a lot of stops. Baby might get upset and need some time out of the car seat, blow outs iinevitablywill happen.
3) Bottles for Less Stops
Obviously, if your baby is formula-fed, it makes it easier to not stop and feed on the go. However, that’s a bit trickier if you breastfeed, since you can’t really take your baby out of their car seat and nurse! If your breastfed baby will take a bottle, consider bringing along some milk to put in a bottle, or even a pump to make a bottle on the go. Even if you plan to stop and nurse, there is always the possibility that you might hit traffic, and your baby will want to eat. That’s exactly what happened to us. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bottle or a pump, and it was pretty miserable.
Have lots and lots of snacks if your child is eating solid food. We definitely bring lots of puffs on our road trips. I don’t normally advocate filling up on empty calories, but sometimes, when you are traveling…it’s the only thing you really can do!
5) Download apps or shows suitable for babies
If you have a tablet or smart phone that you don’t mind handing off to your baby, take some time to download some baby-friendly ones. We LOVE the Fisher Price apps that that are available for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (and they are free!) and Jack adores them. I also downloaded a bunch of free Sesame Street episodes awhile back that I plan to pull out when we drive to Colorado next month. If you want to protect your iPad or iPhone, be sure to grab one of these kid-proof cases (that even have some additional toys to entertain your child even more):
Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case For iPad, Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Apptivity Case, or Fisher-Price Apptivity Monkey Case
6) Toys and Mirror
You don’t need to bring along your entire toy room, but a few small, car friendly toys can help keep your baby entertained. There are even toys that are specially designed on car seats, that small infants will particularly enjoy. We purchased a mirror to put in front of Jack before one of our road trips, and I think he really liked it. I also loved it, because I could look back at Jack, see if he was asleep, or more easily find a pacifier he dropped. This is the mirror we have, and I found it to work well for us (and it is inexpensive!) There are some other fun mirrors though that have lights and fun colors, if you are looking for something that is functional and fun.
7) Make a Car Bag
Find a small basket or bag, and put some of the essentials in it, right next to you. You can put snacks, bottles, books, and toys in it. This way, you don’t have to clutter up your diaper bag, or just have random things strewn throughout the car. You could also put the snacks for you and anyone else in the car as well, just to keep everything organized. I’d also recommend having diapers and wipes easily accesible, so you can just grab them quickly. On the same note, be sure to bring a portable diaper changing pad. You never know where you might have to stop and change a diaper! And definitely put extra pacifiers in this bag. I can’t tell you how many times Jack has thrown his or spit it out, and I cannot find it anywhere while we are driving.
8) Sit in the Back
Okay, I know this isn’t always possible. When you only have one child, they usually have to sit in the back by themselves. But if you find your baby getting particularly antsy or sad, maybe sit back there for awhile. It will give them someone to interact with, and hopefully make the long trip more bearable (for everyone!) If you have more than once child, you’ve got this covered. Let them entertain each other!
7) Stop and Stretch
8) Timing is everything
If you can try and feed your babe right before you leave, that is best. And if you happen to be traveling with other nursing babies, if at all possible, get them on the same schedule! This past summer, we went to a family reunion in Southern Colorado, and we drove in a caravan with my sister, Diana. Her little girl is just a few weeks older than Jack, and their eating schedules were about an hour different. And believe me, these little ones were not about to let us switch up those schedules that day! So our trip took a lot longer than it normally would have. If you can also try and leave, right when your baby is about to nap, that is good as well. We’ve been blessed with a baby who loves his car seat (maybe a little too much…he still sleeps best in it!) and he usually falls asleep as soon as we get in the car — regardless of if it is naptime or not. So if your baby is the same way, and you don’t want to mess up their schedules, try and leave when they would normally nap.
What are some of your tricks for surviving a road trip with a baby?
Side note: I keep having people tell me that my son is not properly secured in his car seat. First off, if you know me, you know that car seat safety is VERY important to me. I know that the belt clips are supposed to be up by his arm pits. However, we had just buckled him in this picture and hadn’t yet adjusted them. You can even see that the door is open. I triple check that my son is properly secured in his car seat. I hate that I even have to write this, but when people call my parenting skills into question, I feel I should defend myself! Thanks!