Times are weird right now. Personally, we’re not ready to fly anywhere quite yet because of our baby, but we do miss traveling so much. I think I’m even willing to drive 22 hours just to get down to some family in Florida. However, then we have to follow state regulations with COVID testing and self-quarantining when we return..eek. In the meantime, we have some closer road trips planned and will be spending just a few hours in the car. So here’s how to survive a road trip with a baby.
They say timing is everything. It is, it really is. Especially when you have kids, timing out the day as best you can makes such a big difference. The best time to leave on a road trip is shortly after a feeding. This way, baby is not going to be hungry for a while. You can play with them in the car seat hopefully for a good hour depending on how old your baby is, then it’s that lovely car ride motion that lulls them off to nap or a decent sleep if you’ve left in the evening! We took a 7 hour drive from Massachusetts to Virginia when our son was 4 months old, only stopping once for 30 minutes. It was perfect. We left at about 4pm, after he had just nursed. He was awake for a good hour, napped for 2 hours and then we pit-stopped for gas and breastfeeding! Back on the road, the little guy stayed awake til 9pm and then slept until we got to our destination at 11pm.
Sure you could easily play the iPad or DVD player the whole way there, but I try to use that as my last resort. If you are driving with another adult, definitely have one of you sit in the back with baby. For obvious reasons, this will help a ton. The entertainer can keep your little one busy for much longer. Pack toys, books, random safe objects that grab your baby’s attention. Pick books with “touch and feel” or toys with sound or light to spice things up. Sometimes I will buy a special “never been seen” toy for the trip just so it’s something new and exciting that will hold their attention longer. But really just any toy that hasn’t been over used at home will do. Even a mirror for baby to look into keeps them occupied for some time. Bring a small ball along to place by baby’s feet, its so fun for them to kick around into the back seat. Then there’s our secret weapon…bubbles! We had a blast blowing bubbles for baby and you can even roll the window down for a wild effect. If you’re driving solo, many of these options won’t be feasible. Have a playlist ready with your baby’s favorite songs and plan to make a few more stops. But, you can do it!
3. Be Prepared
Be prepared to stop every few hours…for when the baby needs to feed, and possibly an extra stop if baby needs to be changed, but hopefully those can be done at the same stop! Fuel up on gas when you’re stopping to feed baby so you can make the best of your little pit stop. Pack the vehicle in a way that you won’t have to pull over unnecessarily. Have the diaper bag, snacks, toys and wet ones close by. Pack one diaper for every hour you’ll be driving. It’s good to have plenty on hand because you know this will be the day that baby pees and poops through everything! So that being said, pack extra clothes that are easily accessible! Have any sleep items your baby needs nearby as well. Maybe a sound machine, pacifier, or lovey, whatever makes falling asleep and staying asleep easier. Have your own snacks, drinks, or even meals within arm’s reach so you won’t have to stop. Don’t forget your phone charger of course! If you’re on an extra long road trip, consider mapping out a few parks and maybe stop at one. This will allow baby (and yourselves) to stretch out comfortably. Going into all of this, prepare to lower your travel expectations… this could be a bumpy road.
Lastly, remember how important car seat safety is. Double check that baby’s car seat is secure and follows proper guidelines before leaving. Don’t rush or put anyone in danger, it’s not worth it. You’ll get there eventually.