This is going to be a 3 part series. Road Trip, Air Travel and What to Pack. First up, by car.
So I mentioned in her 8 month update that Taylor has now been to 8 states in her short little life span, 5 of which have been via car. My job requires me to travel quite a bit and with my husband gone for training for a while, I was single parenting it. Which means I have done 10+ 5 hour road trips just me and Taylor. I’m not sure what qualifies you as an expert road traveler with an infant… but I feel like I’m there. So I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I picked up along the way that helped me survive.
- If it at all possible, travel during naptime. Some of our most successful trips have been while she is napping and I have a full tank of gas, so I just keep driving until she wakes up. Just make sure she/he is buckled in properly and they should be perfectly safe and comfortable sleeping in their car seat.
- Be strategic about your trip— I have been breastfeeding Taylor the whole time, which meant that somewhere along our 5 hour drive she would need to eat. I am lucky that I know the road pretty well, so I have several okay places to stop along the way to feed/change her, but if its a new journey for you, be sure to look at a map and know when and where the next decent size cities are so you can stop at some place with plenty of light/clean bathrooms/lots of parking. I say lots of parking because 9 times out of 10 I just parked in the far reaches of a walmart/target/grocery store parking lot where it was still well lit, but also not tons of people walking by and sat in my car to feed her. I always found it helpful to have an extra empty seat in the back seat next to her car seat so that I could just sit in the back, take her out of her car seat, feed her and put her back in.
- This sort of ties in with the previous one, but leave plenty of time to make your drive. When I was in college and my brothers and I would drive back to Texas it was basically a competition on who could make it in the least amount of time… and key to that success was short stops- gas, food, bathroom, go. Those days are ancient history. Sometimes an extra stop is exactly what you need to calm down an infant who is angry at spending ANOTHER SECOND IN THAT CAR SEAT.
- Pack Well. Provide plenty of toys for baby to be entertained. Taylor has a giraffe that dangles from the handle of her car seat, as well as a teething ring that can latch on there as well… but I also add in soft lovies, some plastic toys to chew on and a few more pacifiers than you will ever think you need. And I always leave at least one paci in the cupholder up by me that I can toss back into her seat while I’m cruising down the road. (perhaps not the safest thing I’ve ever done, but seriously a life saver when she is screaming her head off while I’m driving… and I only do it when there are no other cars around and I can do it without taking my eyes off the road). You should also be sure to pack at LEAST one extra outfit. I don’t know about your children, but my child has a sixth sense for when we are travelling and thinks that is the best time to have a HUGE poop. So bring plenty of wipes and an extra outfit or two… just in case. Oh and all of that? All of that is in addition to the things you’ll need for your destination.
- Have a diaper go bag. So Taylor has her normal diaper bag, with everything that I carry around with her on a normal basis, but I keep a diaper go bag in my car which is especially helpful on road trips. I have this one and love it. It has a pull out changing pad, a place for wipes (I replaced their red plastic carrier with some honest travel wipes and it works great) and about 5 diapers. This is fantastic for carrying in to change her diaper and then you can leave the whole diaper bag in the car but still have just what you need.
- Have a great playlist. I learned pretty quickly that my daughter LOVES classical music… I mean immediately stops crying and will just sit and listen to it for hours… so I have a few classical playlists that I have ready on hand to play whenever she gets grumpy. That has saved us on SEVERAL road trips!
- Know that it is okay to cry. I mean this mostly for the baby, but I have shed a few tears on occasion as well. My first trip up in the car with her? She cried for 30 minutes, so I pulled over at the first place I could, took her into McDonald’s and they didn’t have a changing table. (Now that I’ve been a parent for more than 2 seconds I know that they frequently put them in the handicap stall… but I didn’t know that at the time.) So I carried her back out in the pouring rain, changed her in my front seat… because it was the only one open… and BLOWOUT diaper, finally get it off of her and me and bang her head as I’m getting out of the car. My poor 3 month old little baby wailed her head off, but seemed no worse for the wear. So I get back in the car, and she promptly falls asleep… I on the other hand, called my mother sobbing. I tell you this story because 1. It won’t be a perfect trip, and 2. If you can’t find a decent place to stop? It won’t hurt them to cry a little longer. Sometimes no matter what I try, she just wants to be out of the car seat and nothing else will do. So in those instances… I just let her cry for a little while. Usually it doesn’t last too long until she wears herself out and falls back asleep.