My memories of car trips with one baby are distant but they are vivid just the same. When my eldest was a baby he nursed every two hours like clockwork, quite literally. I know it was like clockwork because I wore a special watch that counted down between feedings and I could always hear the tone of his cries change as we neared the two-hour mark.
My best tips for traveling by car with a baby are lessons learned the hard way.
One summer day, we drove from Boston to Cape Cod to visit my husband’s grandparents. I planned ahead that we’d need to stop more frequently. We’d drive about ninety minutes then seek out a shady parking space at a rest stop so I could pee, wash up, and nurse in the back seat (sometimes with donuts, thanks East Coast!). After 25 minutes, we’d change my infant son’s diaper and install him back in the car seat for another several miles.
As long as my expectations were set for stopping all the freaking time, life was good.
Unfortunately, the return trip from the Cape was not so smooth. We got a little cocky and paid the price. You know how adults can just drive a long way without stopping? Sometimes we’re hungry or have to pee but we just keep on truckin’? Not so with babies. We mistook my son’s sleeping through a feeding as good luck and pressed on until we were in gnarly urban traffic. Oh, the screams! Oh, the maternal anxiety!
Take it from me and follow these tips to make your next road trip as smooth as possible.
- Stop early. Stop often. Stretch your legs, empty your bladder, change the baby. Do it before you NEED to.
- Hydrate. Especially if you’re nursing, you’ll need to drink a decent amount of water. Otherwise, the drink-pee-drive cycle forces you to follow rule number one.
- Pack healthy snacks. Save the donuts and French fries for a treat and make sure that you are toting a mini cooler with the necessities. Carrots and hummus for the parents and some age-appropriate baby snacks for junior.
- Seek shade. There are snazzy car sun shades and tinted windows that will help keep the munchkin from taking on too much sun. Too much sun = cranky baby.
- Know your baby. My third baby LOVES listening to Death Cab for Cutie. When he’s upset in the car, his favorite tunes will soothe him. My second baby was happy as long as I was sitting in the backseat with my hand on his chest.
I’m wishing you a summer full of happy travels. And, remember, if it goes the other way, you are building your own pool of parenting memories!