We are planning a long car ride for the Christmas holiday. We will be leaving Thursday at noon to drive to my parents' house in Georgia. The trip without the baby takes about 12 hours, but with the baby, we are sure to add on some time.
My husband and I got accustomed to quick road trips in college, when we could make a few sandwiches and grab some chips and drinks. We would head out and not stop until we got there. Now, though, it is a different story, and we have to plan ahead to make sure the trip goes as smoothly as possible. Here are the tips we have learned about car rides with the little one.
First, we try to plan the trip around our son's eating schedule. Since we have to drive through the gridlock that is Atlanta, we absolutely do not want to have to stop to get back on the Interstate. It is best, then, that you work to have your baby eat when you will not be traveling through heavy-traffic areas. The best way to work the feeding is to try to feed your infant right before you leave, even if that means interrupting a nap or changing the daily schedule. If you have an older baby who eats solids, then you should give him or her a jar of food before you leave. Plan the drinking of milk and juice periodically throughout the trip so that your baby will be satiated but not stuffed the whole trip. Do not stress if baby does not get hungry on the trip because he will not be using up any calories on the trip.
The second key is to make sure that baby will be entertained. Some parents find that if they sit in the back seat with the car seat, the baby will be more content. Other parents find that plan a little inconvenient as it means that there is no one in the passenger seat, which is especially important on long trips. A compromise is to sit in the back with baby if you have to for an hour or so. One way to avoid needing to sit in the back with your baby is to make sure that he or she will have toys available. While you cannot take the entire toy chest with you on the trip, you should take enough toys and books so that you can keep baby busy. You will just need to plan ahead. Do not give the baby all of the toys at once. Dole them out as baby gets bored.
Plan to stop frequently. Some people stop every hour; we do not. It seems to prolong the trip too much if you are stopping all the time. Baby will want to stretch his or her legs, however, so you should plan for a few trips. Every time you stop to get gas or eat, be sure to take baby out of the car seat, even if it is only for a couple of minutes. She or he will be a happier passenger without stiff little legs.
You also need to plan ahead on what you take in the car. You will need a trash bag for any diapers that do not find a trash can and for empty jars of food. Clean up after baby as you go, and there will be less to do when you get there. If you use formula, put the powder into the number of bottles you will need and then bring along a bottle of water. That way, you can make the formula when you need it, but you will avoid the problem of throwing out milk. You also do not want to give your baby water from random stops as it could upset his or her sensitive tummy. Bring more wipes and diapers than you think you will need so that you do not need to make pit stops for these items.
Remember that you will have a great time once you arrive at your destination, so do not fret about the trip down. Try to plan as much as you can in advance but know that children mean unexpected stops. As long as you can deal with them, the trip will go smoothly.
By Julia Mercer