Are you going on a road trip with a baby? Here are the strategies to keep your trek from becoming a wreck.
(Am I Carrie Bradshaw now? Making these little rhymes…)
Wolf has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the car. One day, he is fine and the next, it seems that putting him into his car seat has the same pain as if we dipped him in lava. One day, he coos back there and looks at his toys and all is fine. The next, I am singing “Five Baby Ducks” (or any one of the irritatingly catchy Wiggles songs I’ve memorized) until I am hoarse.
So when we decided to go to New York and drive there (approximately an 8 hour drive), I was convinced that we wouldn’t have sweet little Bruce Banner back there. We’d have the Hulk in all his fury and what should be a relaxing time would in fact be the worst thing ever.*
*Correction: having recently re-watched Burlesque on Netflix, I can say that THAT is the worst thing ever. Who did Stanley Tucci lose a bet to to have to appear in that one?
Anyway, now that it is all said and done, it actually wasn’t that bad!!! (The road trip that is…Burlesque is still awful.)
So here’s how we did it…
Set the Tone
Honestly, babies are a lot like dogs – you have to keep them from chewing things they shouldn’t, you’re worried about “accidents” and they respond best to sharp, basic commands. I actually use the same tone of voice to tell “no” to both the dog and the baby and now neither of them seems to know who’s in trouble.
Cesar Milan has a whole shtick about calm, assertive energy. If you aren’t all wound up, the dog will feed off your energy and not be wound up either. That also seems to apply to babies. When we are rushing around and sniping at each other and then chuck him in the car and get driving, those are terrible car rides. He notices all the negativity flying around and feels compelled to add to it.
So even if you’re totally faking it, be cool. Your kid will notice. And it can feel rough, especially when you’re tired and you can’t drink coffee because then you will have to pee more but man, it’d be great to have a coffee. Just take a deep breath and be cool.
To minimize the moments that you’re faking it…
Plan, Plan, Plan
Remember when you used to chuck a pair of jeans and a couple of t-shirts into a backpack and that was “trip planning”. Yeah, that part of your life is over. Not only because babies require 75,000 things to function each and every day but because if you forget one of those things, it will feel like the apocalypse . You will find that all of a sudden every store is sold out of diaper rash cream or whatever it is you forgot.
Make a list. Like a very, very detailed list. Like literally every. single. thing. that you need to bring and sit there and literally cross it off one by one. (Stay tuned – I am working on a printable for packing for a baby that will help you not forget anything!)
Also, plan for the best exit. Pack as much into the car the night before. Plan how you’re going to pack the car and how everything will fit. Trust me – when you’re getting up super early, you will loathe Past-You for making you play Tetris at 3:00 a.m.
Which leads to my next point…
Does it suck getting up at 3:00 a.m.? Big time. That’s the middle of the night. That’s sleep time and dammit if you didn’t sleep train your kid so you didn’t have to wake up at 3:00 a.m.!
However, you’re going to have to bite the bullet on this one. Why?
- No traffic.
- Your baby will sleep through a good chunk of your road trip.
- If you are border crossing like we were – less lineups that early.
So get to bed early and suck it up. Your best bet is to leave super early.
If not, you know when your baby naps so try and plan to drive then.
Prepared for what? EVERYTHING! Have an emergency pack of cry-busters at arm’s length, ready to bust out as soon as that lip starts quivering. We found it helpful to have our diaper bag right there, full of toys and pacifiers and all the other things that make our little man smile. In fact, that might be the best time to bust out a new toy.
We also found that for feeding him on stops, this was not the time to be making homemade baby food. That’s what jars and pouches are for. We didn’t have to worry about refrigerating. Same with formula – for all my bottle feeders, the ready to use stuff is your friend in this scenario.
Also, depending on where you are, if you’re going to little mom and pop types of restaurants, there may not be a change table. If you’re changing a baby on the back seat of a car, then you’re going to want an organized diaper bag.
Finally – and this may be controversial – now that Netflix has the option to download episodes to watch offline, maybe download a few episodes of a baby-friendly show. Maybe the rest of your road trip gang does not want to listen to The Wiggles, but it’s much better than listening to crying. (Obviously, I’m not suggesting 9 hours of Netflix…calm down, imaginary judgmental mom reader that I just made up.)
Try to Stay on Schedule
This one’s a toughie. Vacation time = no schedule. That’s kind of the point. But babies like familiarity and vacations offer none. There’s new things to see and hear and smell and it’s a lot. So to the extent that you can, try and keep your feeding and nap schedules the same.
This is going to take some assertiveness if you’re travelling with others – both in the planning stages and during the trip. You’re going to have to be the one to say, “You know what guys, it’s 12:00 and that is Wolfie’s lunch time. Let’s find a place to stop”. Maybe it’s not convenient and maybe they will want you to push it a little harder, but you know the big picture and frankly, they signed up for a road trip with a baby. They should know that everything will revolve around that.
Don’t try to push it with a crying baby. The driver will be distracted and that is prime time for an accident – so don’t do it.
This is family time – something we all get so little of so relax. Even the worst road trip is being spent with the best people in your life.
Comment below if you have any other tips on how to have a successful road trip with a baby.