We have traveled a lot with our daughter. In hindsight, it was probably way more than we ever should have. But the benefit is that we are now experts at baby travel, whether it be by land or by sea. So here are our four tips for traveling in a car with a baby:
Have an adult ride in the back
Seriously. You need someone to be the official retriever. The pacifier retriever. The toy retriever. You name it. And it will be a lot easier if that person is in the back. Otherwise, you will be stopping every five seconds.
One of my favorite moments was when my father-in-law came to visit us. He and my husband were going to drive to church together with our daughter, J. My father-in-law didn’t want to ride in the back. Well, guess what? They hadn’t even made it out of the driveway LITERALLY before he made Erik stop the car so he could sit in the back! Adult in the back seat? A non-negotiable when it comes to happy baby transportation.
Schedule, schedule, schedule
Before you leave, take a look at where you are going and how long it will take to get there. And then schedule your trip around your baby’s nap times. I find that traveling is infinitely easier if your baby is asleep for a lot of it.
This summer, Erik and I drove to Phoenix from Los Angeles. We deliberately left right at J’s nap time; we knew the motion of the car would lull her to sleep and help keep her that way. We thought she would be asleep for 1 1/2 hours, but she ended up being asleep for almost three! It was great! Then, compare that trip to when we accidentally got trapped in Nashville overnight. It was 10:00 pm, and we still hadn’t checked into our hotel room. Can you guess who was super cranky, and rightfully so?
But don’t just schedule around naps, create a schedule for play too. No baby wants to be buckled into a car seat for hours and hours. Pick out places ahead of time where you can stop and stretch and have your baby crawl around. That way, when you do get back on the road, you have a baby that is well-exercised and maybe even a little sleepy again?
Make sure that you have lots of snacks packed. And diapers and wipes and everything else you think you will need on our trip. And make sure that all of those things are within arm’s reach from the back seat.
But don’t just pack wisely for the baby. Mama, pack wisely for yourself too. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of snacks and water for you too. Plus a nursing cover-up. Because you might have to stop at a truck stop and nurse your baby at a picnic bench. Speaking from experience here!
Prepare to be the entertainment
If you are riding in the back, prepare to be the entertainment. Make sure that you have lots of toys and things to preoccupy your infant with. As you might know, my daughter could care less about real toys. She would much rather play with everyday items instead. Some favorites that we keep in our backseat include:
The cardboard roll from some paper towels- this makes a great monocular to peer through, horn to blow, and drum to hit things with
An empty plastic bottle- makes great crinkle sounds and also can be played like a jug
And an Indestructible book. If you don’t know about these, they are incredible! They provide hours of entertainment, and they really are indestructible. I commissioned my friend, Sonja, who is eight-years-old, to try to destroy one. She gave it everything she had and found it impossible.
You can also tell rhymes, count toes, make faces, play peekaboo, become the tickle monster, and all sorts of other things. Just please don’t hand your baby your iPhone to watch videos with. Okay?
Remember when I mentioned earlier about accidentally being trapped in Nashville? Well, that’s because even the best-laid plans still sometimes go awry. When that happens, remember to practice grace. Extend grace to your travel companions, to your baby, and to yourself. You’ll eventually get through it. It is just a few hours in the car.
Now I want to hear from you? How do you manage travel with children?
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