Babies can make great traveling companions. Up until they are about a year old, babies require at least 14 hours of sleep a day. That gives you plenty of time to drive while they sleep.
When our daughter Avery was 2 months old, we took her on her first long road trip, a nine hour drive across Texas. We were worried about how our sweet newborn would handle such a long drive. Turns out she did great! Since then, we’ve taken her on several more road trips, all of which have been fairly easy.
So how do you achieve road trip success with a baby?
TRAVEL DURING SLEEPING HOURS – That might mean driving at night, or at the very least leaving home right before nap time. Avery tends to nap longer in the car, so leaving home right at nap time typically buys us a good 3 hours of peace and serenity.
BABY EINSTEIN VIDEOS – when Avery gets fussy during a car ride, either my husband or I will get into the backseat to entertain her. We’ve found downloadable baby videos seem to keep her attention and calm her down. She typically doesn’t watch TV at home, but we allow it on road trips. Plus, we choose videos that are educational. If you are traveling in an area where the cell reception is spotty, it may be in your best interest to download a few videos for the road.
PLAN FOR FREQUENT STOPS – Babies have to breastfeed or take a bottle about every two hours when they are awake, so plan to stop every few hours for diaper changes and baby’s meal time. If my GPS tells me the trip will take 6 hours, I typically factor in an extra couple of hours to account for stops. We always plan to stop somewhere for a meal during the drive and we stay awhile, so our little one isn’t strapped into a car seat for 6-8 hours straight.
FEEDING POUCHES – once your child starts solids, these pouches can be great for road trips or air travel. They are a bit more expensive than the jars or plastic containers, but they are organic, come in lots of interesting flavors and varieties, and are much easier to deal with while on the road. You can find them at basically any grocery store or online. We love these three brands: Ella’s Kitchen, Happy Baby, and Plum Organics. I found a great deal on Plum Organics on Amazon. It saves me roughly 50 cents a pouch! (FYI, if traveling by air, the TSA liquids rule of 3 ounce of less doesn’t apply to baby food.) Also, don’t forget snacks! Puffs and Cheerios obviously work great.
RIDE IN BACK WITH BABY – How would you like to ride backwards, staring at the seat for 6 hours a straight? No fun, right. As long as you aren’t road tripping alone with your baby, it will definitely make things easier if someone climbs in the backseat to play the role of entertainer. When Avery wakes up from her (hopefully) extra long nap, I will usually climb in the back and read her books, play with her, or feed her a food pouch while my husband drives. That will usually buy us a couple more hours to get to our destination.
INVEST IN A MIRROR – Babies and toddlers are required to ride rear facing in the U.S. until the age of 2. So if you plan on traveling a long distance with your infant or toddler, an inexpensive baby mirror that straps to the backseat will definitely help ease your mind during the drive. You’ll be able to keep your eye on your baby from the front seat, and your baby will have the added enjoyment of looking at herself in the mirror. (Babies are little narcissists. They love mirrors!)
One last piece of advice. Please do not, under any circumstance, take your baby out of the car seat while the car is in motion. It’s tempting, I know, but isn’t worth the risk. It’s not only extremely dangerous, but it’s also illegal. And before any road trip, or better yet, before your little one is born, take your car seat to a fire station or any other location where there are licensed car seat technicians who can make sure it is properly installed. Chances are, it is not.