Tips for Road Trips with Baby

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Our drive from Wisconsin to Texas. Can you see a tiny baby back there?

So I have gone on a bunch of car trips with my baby. We drove from Wisconsin to Texas when she was 2 months old (4 days at 5 hours each) and we have had lots of shorter trips of an hour or three. If you’re anything like me, and I know you are, the sound of your baby screaming in the car while you’re stuck strapped into the front seat is like having your soul ripped from your body and nothing is good and everything is terrible and “How can I make it stop, right now?” is the only thing you can think. Right?

Here are my tips for taking a road trip with a baby:

  1. First of all, make sure all basic needs are met. I know this is obvious, but I have caught myself saying stupid things like, “Her diaper’s not THAT wet and we really need to gtfo.” Don’t do that. It’s not worth it. The only thing that gives me some peace of mind when I’m stuck up front with a screaming baby in the back is knowing that she’s got her basic needs met. Otherwise I obsess about what horrible condition I’ve left her in and I’m a terrible parent and everything is bad.
  2. Definitely look up the proper way to strap your kid into the seat before you go on a big trip. I know, you drive with your kid every day, but there are a TON of parents who strap their kids in wrong every day. Use this as an excuse for you and your driving partner (if applicable) to brush up on the rules. It’s more complicated than it looks. Basics for straps: chest buckle at armpits, 5 points (2 over shoulders, 2 at hips, 1 between legs), check the level and you SHOULD’T be able to pinch any fabric from the straps.
  3. Timing. Plan your trip at the optimal time for you and your baby if you have the option. Does your baby nap really well/horrible in the car? When s/he wakes up will you be in a good place to change diaper and feed if needed? Will the sun be in baby’s face the entire trip? Are you going to hit traffic right at the 2 hour mark (or whenever) when you know baby is going to need to get out?
  4. If you have the option, consider sitting in back with your baby while someone else drives. You can make eye-contact and play games. I know that seeing my baby helps me freak out less when she’s screaming, as long as I know she’s ok. I also happen to be well-endowed enough to nurse my kid from the seat next to her, and that has saved us so much time on our big trips!Ā See instructions for the Back Seat Dangler here!
  5. Find some fun kid music. I can’t stand a lot of kid songs, but I love the ones that are from grown-up singers but made especially for the kids. For example, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman have an album called “Not for Kids Only,” Ziggy Marley has “Family Time” and Keller Williams has one called “Kids” that is my favorite. Not sure if those are your bag of tea, but they help me on the trips. We all sing and it keeps things light. Sometimes I will sing to her when she’s crying at it makes me feel better, even if she is still fussy.
  6. Finally, if you’re traveling for several days, plan your stops ahead of time. You do not want to be stuck searching for a hotel when your baby has been suffering for hours and you so badly just want to get out of the car. If given the choice for extra days on the road with less hours in the car, or less days in the car and more hours of driving per day, choose wisely. We chose the former and I am very glad for it. We had to pay for an extra hotel room, and we “lost” a day, but it was worth it to have every day less stressful. You know your family, though.

Let me know if these are helpful or if you have any of your own tips. I find car travel to be the hardest way to travel with a baby. Sometimes even 45 minutes can be rough.

One thought on “Tips for Road Trips with Baby

  1. Oh my stars are long road trips with a bebe in tow hhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrdddddddd! We did this. Once in August (5 month old) for a funeral šŸ˜¦ and again in November (7 month old) for Thanksgiving šŸ™‚ to IOWA. See: 1,800 mile road trip. Also see: for the love of God why? Answer: Family. My late grandma passed and did not get to meet our lil guy but we’d be damned if we didn’t go and pay our respects. Okay well we wouldn’t be damned but you know, paying your respects and having closure absolutely is!

    The first trip was stupid hard. I was in the back with him the whole time, which is standard for us everywhere we go. I’m so thankful my husband is on board and supports this. In hindsight we could have had a better carseat šŸ˜¦ (mom and dad fail, maybe our unconditional love will make up for this??), more toy options, infants tylenol, less clothing on him so he was more comfortable (who knew carseats, even the ones that aren’t padded to the the nines so well insulated??) and I’ll say it.. something to watch or listen to that was familiar and brought comfort. I was against any tele time, which meant I had nothing to work with. We did not stop as often as we should have to give this kid a break. Dude parenting is tough! All these decisions to make! All very important too! I was thinking I understand that his little brain does not understand why he has to be strapped in for so long, this is cruel and unusual punishment maybe to him. Oye.. Vey… Somehow we did it. We all survived but with the amount of crying he did on the second days of each trip I really wonder if somehow he might be scarred because of it. I try not to give it too much thought and stick to the unconditional love bit. ā¤

    By the second trip we had an upgraded car seat, a few sing songs at the ready on youtube for our little guy to be distracted by AND I had bought like 10 new toys (truthfully our first car ride by the time the 2nd hour into the trip rolled around I was giving him empty water bottles to crinkle because our choices were very slim. First time mom here! *raises hand*) all with something worth looking at, or to rattle, something with lights, songs of their own, chew options, buttons to push, etc. and this time we did not push through like we did the first time. Our truck broke down at OK & again in Kansas City, putting us in a rental car all the way to Iowa. Making for a 3 day venture both ways instead of hte usual 2. Still breastfeeding too! šŸ˜€ Ahhh the open road and the adventures we have had! Memories Crunchy! Memories! They cannot be beat!

    As a side note, I completely agree – car rides, even short ones are tough!

    Here's to all your future road trips! May they be swift for all and if not, may your abbies sleep through it all… ā¤ Thank you for all your tips Crunchy! ā¤

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