Monday, November 06, 2006

A Road Trip with a Baby

Many years ago we had to move from coast to coast when our middle daughter was only nine months old. She had just begun to crawl, so the last thing she wanted to do was to sit in a car seat for ten hours each day while we made our way from California to Rhode Island. We knew the trip would be hellishly long if we did not make some alterations in our plans, so rather than doing a marathon trip with long days, we actually lengthened our trip and drove for shorter days and made more stops. We also came up with several ideas that made the trip much more bearable. If you ever have to take a really long road trip with a baby, or even if you are only going to be gone for one day, consider the following ideas to make your trip easier on you - and on the baby.

1. Bring Everything in Double. This means, bring twice as many changes of clothes, twice as many diapers and wipes, and twice as many blankets, toys, teething rings, bottles, jars of food, and anything else you can think of. When trying to do things like changing a diaper or eating in the car, something can go wrong, and with a baby, something always goes wrong. Even if you have things in the car you do not end up using, you will be glad later that you brought it, just in case.

2. Consider New Toys. Someone suggested that for our long trip, we buy new toys for our daughter so she could have something different to do each day. The idea was to introduce one or two new toys on each day of the journey, so it would take her mind off her boredom of the car seat, and keep her quiet when she was fussy. We did not spend a lot of money on this idea; we bought cheap toys at the local dollar store, but they were age appropriate for her and she was delighted. We strategically planned the giving of the toys, as well. Since she had no concept of time, the directive to give her a new toy each day was our own; yet, if one of the new toys had not lost its appeal, we might wait an extra day before pulling out another one. Plus, we always waited for an opportune moment before presenting the toy. Usually, if she was starting to get tired and we still had a way to go before stopping, it was a good time to pull out the new toy for that day.

3. Make Frequent Stops. If you are like us, you want to just get on your way and get to your destination; but with a baby in the car, sometimes plans have to be changed. We decided to stop approximately every two hours to give everyone a break. We were careful to do it only when our daughter was awake (we were not going to waste precious nap times by stopping) and we always made sure she got exercise and moved about. Sometimes the only places to do this were rest stops or fast food restaurants. Sometimes we set up our playpen at a picnic area and allowed our daughter to crawl around and stand in it. At other times, there was no room for this, so we even let her crawl on the floor in a restaurant or store. Rather than letting the idea of germs get to us, we just watched to make sure she did not put anything in her mouth, and we washed her hands as soon as we picked her up off the floor.

4. Be Flexible. Flexibility is the most important thing you can bring on a car trip with a baby. One night along the way, our daughter became ill just after dinner and she vomited all over the back seat of the car. We had to stop and find a hotel then and there and clean her up as quickly as possible. It changed our plans, but that is what babies do, is it not?

Traveling with a baby can be tiring, but also fun. We have wonderful memories of our trip across country and although our daughter, now a teenager, has no memories of that time, her father and I smile at the memories.

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