Have you ever been in a car with a screaming baby? If you have, you probably shudder at the thought of taking a road trip as the parent of a newborn. Some babies calm down in a moving car and the motion actually helps them sleep. That’s great for a quick drive around the block. When you are talking about an hour or more on the road? Nope! It’s not a good prognosis. But you should not let that cute little bundle keep you from taking a safe vacation in the form of a road trip. Road trips make for great low-risk travel itineraries and in some ways make traveling with babies even easier than flying or taking other forms of transportation. So, if you want to get out there again and introduce your baby to the world of travel, follow this brief survival guide for how to take a road trip with your baby.
Take a Test Drive
For the safety of your baby, newborns should not be in a car seat any longer than two hours over a 24-hour period of time. As they get a little bit older, you can increase the frequency of getting in the car, but you still need to stop after a couple of hours. This is because extended time in a car seat can impact your child’s developing spine. Prior to taking a road trip with your baby, go for a road test to see how she handles being in the car for an extended period of time.
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Fit your child snuggly in the car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure the straps leave room to breathe. Bring along food, toys, diapers, and clothes changes for any sort of interruption. Take the car to a freeway and drive for about 45 minutes before turning back. Take a few test rides like this a few times before your road trip with your baby.
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Map Your Route and Check Road Conditions
Let the fact that this is a road trip with baby inform the way you plan your route. You need to keep in mind your precious cargo as you decide where you will drive, your stops, and the frequency of those stops. Pay more careful attention to weather and road conditions, too. Make sure you have safety and emergency procedures in place that have the baby’s protection in mind. Consider a Navigation system that can provide alternate routes in high traffic situations. Staying still for too long is not good for keeping your baby calm and sleepy.
Be Spontaneous (Kind of)
When you travel without children, especially a baby, you can improvise a lot. Doing this road trip with a baby means you need to tighten down a bit more on your travel plans. You need to have a very scheduled trip that leaves little room for unexpected surprises. On the other hand, surprises are bound to happen, especially during a road trip. So, take that adventurous spirit and use it to your advantage when the unexpected occurs. You will need to think on your feet to make the best of moments when the baby demands to take the lead.
Slow it Down
As I mentioned before, slowing down is a necessity when taking a road trip with a baby. Not only for the child’s safety, but your mental health demands it. Keep your driving to short intervals. Make plenty of stops and don’t rush things. Avoid trying to make time and attempting to meet a deadline. You don’t need to push more stressors on yourself than necessary. A baby is enough. Just remain calm and concentrate on everybody having a good time. Be proactive about diaper changes and feedings to minimize fussiness. If you have another passenger, try taking turns entertaining the baby while he/she’s awake so things can stay upbeat and happy as much as possible.
Bring the Right Equipment
Make sure you bring along any age-appropriate toys you can comfortably travel with and include a travel diaper change pad and diaper pail, too. Bring more than enough diapers and wipes to see you through. Bring plenty of easy clothes to change. Your baby won’t see any fashion runways during this trip. You should also consider a travel bassinette, and/or Pack N Play depending on the age of your baby. For feedings, if your baby eats solids, bring travel containers they can eat out of.
Another helpful soothing technique is to have the right kind of music for your trip. Soothing lullabies and baroque music are popular choices. I have the Disney Lullaby playlist favorited on Spotify for easy access.