Our “baby” turns 10 years old this weekend (WHAT?!? How did that happen?!?), so I haven’t actually traveled with a baby in almost a decade. To get good advice from someone who is there, I enlisted the help of my friend Amy. Amy and her husband John have three kids, ages 9, 8, and 7 months. She is smart, kind, funky (she just dyed her hair blue), and maybe a little bit crazy. Over Christmas they braved a cross-country drive with all 5 family members in one Prius. She’s pretty much my hero. She blogs over at Pieces of Amy, so you should absolutely check her out over there, too. And now, without further ado, Amy Shaffner….
“In my day we didn’t have all those car seat contraptions and you all survived just fine…” says every grandparent everywhere…..
Well, you may be right, but we know better now. Our children are safer, the mortality rate for car wrecks is down, and we know just what we’re doing, thank you very much. Plus, it’s been drilled into our heads so well that the kids need to be strapped into a car seat and that if we didn’t comply we would feel imminent death coming for us all.
Is this sometimes a drawback? Well, yes. Take the long car trip for instance…..
We recently took our 6-month-old son, Walt, on a 12-hour journey to Tennessee for a Smoky Mountain Christmas. The idea was very romantic, but the reality was a lesson in patience and much prayer (PLEASE GOD JUST LET HIM FALL ASLEEP!). It was hard, but worth it in the end for our extended family to get to spend time with him for his first Christmas. Here are a few things we did to ensure that our car trip was not a complete disaster.
- Over prepare. – Even if it makes you feel OCD and crazy, make lots of lists. What do you use on a daily basis? What makes him settle down when he’s fussy? How many diapers are normal for a day? (hint: pack more than that) How many outfits are normal for a day? (hint: pack more than that) Lists are the key to happiness.
- Pack a giant baby bag for the car. – This may not be your normal bag, you can stow that one away in your suitcase for when you get where you’re going. You’re going to need more room to make sure you have enough supplies for a car ride. Keep it easily accessible to you. To you, not to your other children that may be in the back next to the baby. I learned this the hard way, it created way too many arguments.
- And while we’re on the subject – just bite the bullet and sit in the back with the baby. – You’ll probably end up there anyway and it will make the ride more relaxing for everyone. Twelve hours in the back seat of a Prius was not an ideal day for me, but Walt was much calmer and I liked my other children better when we arrived because I wasn’t constantly saying “Jack, put his paci in!” or “Sadie, entertain him! Where’s his giraffe?”
- Have food readily available. – Whether you bottle or breastfeed, have bottles ready if at all possible. For breast feeders, pump before and store them in a warming container. For bottle feeders, keep bottles with water ready for the powder (either one of those nifty containers, or just use a Ziploc). It’s such a bad feeling when they are suddenly hungry but you have to wait for a place to pull over to feed him. Be prepared!
- Pad the butt. – You know how your butt gets really sore after riding for hours? His will too. Try to make the car seat as comfy as possible while maintaining the safety. For us, that meant stealing the star shaped padding from his bouncy seat and rock and play (Do you know what I’m talking about? The extra thingy on the seat that you can take out and wash?) and putting them on the bottom of his car seat. This not only made his booty more comfy, but it was very helpful when he had a complete poonami (that’s what we call a blow out) and got it all over himself and his seat. Because we had the extra padding he didn’t get it on the actual seat and we could just remove a layer.
- Stop frequently. – We stopped every two hours just to get him out and change him/let him feel free for a bit. Yes, it will make your trip a lot longer. But it also will make the trip much more pleasant! It’s good for your older kids to have lots of breaks too!
- Stop at places you KNOW have change tables. – We learned this one the hard way. You would expect rest areas to have change tables, but we stopped at two that did not. After that we made sure we stopped at Starbucks or McDonald’s because it was guaranteed that there would be a place other than the trunk of our car to change him. But beware, I’m not sure if it was just our experience, but it seems like change tables are much higher now than they were with my first kids. I constantly felt like I was changing him chest high!
- Let go of the “no tv before <insert age>” rule in the car. – Did you know Baby Einstein videos were on YouTube? I didn’t, but we learned quickly, when all our other resources were exhausted, all that helped was a bright screen with puppets and Mozart.
These are just a few tricks to help keep your sanity on long car rides with your little one. I would have to say, last but not least, relax and have fun! If you go in with the attitude that it may be a little hard but worth it, then it’s going to be one of your fondest memories with your baby.