Off to Grandma’s house on a road trip we go! And you’ll be in the car for five whole hours – how can you make the trip enjoyable with a baby along?
There’s no question, a marathon road trip with a baby on board takes a good amount of planning and organisation. But it can be done and yes, it can even be fun!
Planning the trip
In the hustle that precedes a trip, it can be easy to let things happen, instead of make things happen. Be proactive in making your trip decisions. Contemplating these questions, and coming up with the right answers, can help make your trip more successful:
Does your baby sleep well in the car? If yes, plan your travel time to coincide with a nap or bedtime so your baby can sleep through part of the journey. If not, plan to leave immediately after a nap or upon waking in the morning. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your baby will behave differently than usual in the car just because it’s a special occasion.
Is it necessary to make the trip all at once, or can you break it up with stops along the way? The longer your baby is strapped in the car seat, the more likely he’ll become fussy. Planning a few breaks can keep everyone in a better frame of mind.
When estimating an arrival time, have you factored in plenty of extra time for unplanned surprises? A poo explosion that requires a complete change of clothes or a baby whose inconsolable crying requires an unexpected 20-minute stop are just two of the things that can easily happen.
Do you have everything you need to make the Road Trip pleasant?
- Window shades to protect your baby from the sun and create a darker, nap-inducing atmosphere.
- A cooler for cold drinks; a bottle warmer if needed.
- Plenty of toys that are new or forgotten favorites saved just for the trip.
- Baby-friendly music CD.
- A rear-view baby mirror to keep on eye on baby (unless a second person will be sitting with your little one)
- Books to read to your baby.
Preparing the car for a Road Trip
Take plenty of time to get the car ready for your trip. If two adults are traveling, consider yourself lucky and arrange for one person to sit in the backseat next to the baby. If you are traveling alone with your little one, you’ll need to be more creative in setting up the car, and you’ll need to plan for more frequent stops along the way.
Here are a few tips for making the car a traveling entertainment center for your baby:
- Attach a car seat toy mobile that has bright colours and hanging toys that will keep babies amused in the seat that they can reach. Bring along an assortment of new toys that can be exchanged when you stop the car for a rest. Just be sure to use small toys and keep them out of the driver’s line of view.
- Attach a mirror on the back of the seat that your baby will be facing.
- If no one will be sitting next to your baby and your child is old enough to reach for toys, shop around for a baby activity center that attaches directly to the car seat that you can fill with various age appropriate toys.
- One of the best activities for long car rides is book reading. If you plan on sitting next to baby this is a great way to interact and keep baby amused. Check your library’s early reading section; it typically features a large collection of baby-pleasing titles in paperback that are easier to tote along than board books.
- Bring along an assortment of snacks and drinks for your older baby who’s regularly eating solids, and remember to bring food for yourself, too. Even if you plan to stop for meals, you may decide to drive on through if your baby is sleeping or content saving the stops for fussy times.
- Bring books on CD or quiet music for the adults for times when your baby is sleeping. The voice on CD may help keep your baby relaxed, and it will be something you can enjoy.
- If you’ll be traveling in the dark, bring along a battery-operated nightlight or flashlight.
Car travel checklist
- Well-stocked nappy bag
- Baby’s blanket
- Car seat pillow or head support
- Window shades (sun screens)
- Change of clothes for your baby
- Box of toys and books
- Music or books on Cd’s
- Baby food, snacks, and drinks for your baby
- Sippy cups
- Snacks and drinks for the adults
- Wet washcloths in bags, or baby wipes
- Empty plastic bags for accidents or rubbish
- Bottle warmer
- Baby’s regular sleep music or white noise (if needed, bring extra batteries)
- First aid kit/prescriptions/medications
- Baby carrier/sling/stroller
During the journey
If you’ve carefully planned your trip and prepared your vehicle, you’ve already started out on the right foot. Now keep these things in mind as you make your way down the road:
- Be flexible. When traveling with a baby, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted. Try to stay relaxed, accept changes, and go with the flow.
- Stop when you need to. Trying to push “just a little farther” with a crying baby in the car can be dangerous, as you’re distracted and nervous. Take the time to stop and calm your baby.
- Put safety first. Make sure that you keep your baby in his car seat. Many nursing mothers breastfeed their babies during trips. This can be dangerous in a moving car, even if you are both securely belted: You can’t foresee an accident, and your body could slam forcefully into your baby. Instead, pull over and nurse your baby while he’s still in his car seat. That way, when he falls asleep, you won’t wake him up moving him back into his seat.
- Remember: Never, ever leave your baby alone in the car not even for a minute.