Welcome to Part 2 of my first mini-series! Last week I talked about how to not only survive short trips with a baby, but enjoy them. This week, I am going to talk to you about taking baby on long car trips and how to comfortably bring baby along. I am defining a long car trip as a trip between 5 and 10 hours. Anything more than that and we would probably make hotel stop.
In March, we traveled about 7 hours to Phoenix, AZ for my dad’s wedding. We did a pretty good job preparing for this ahead of time. We decided to bring both of our dogs along for the ride and we were fortunate to get a last-minute offer to stay closer to where the wedding was taking place, instead of in Flagstaff, where we would have gotten a cheaper hotel room ($80 instead of $220).
The key here is to remember that if you have an infant under 6 months, chances are she is going to sleep most of the trip, so you don’t necessarily have to worry about keeping her entertained. If you have a toddler, this is a totally different story (one in which I haven’t yet come across, but I will soon).
Here are my tips for long car rides with baby:
- Leave early, or late: Amelia is definitely a car sleeper and we didn’t want to mess up her sleep schedule by driving all day and then have her up all night. We decided to leave at 3 a.m. on the day of the wedding which would put us in town around 10 a.m. with about an hour of extra time. Leaving this early meant that Amelia could sleep the whole way and not mess up her schedule. We could have also left right as she was going to bed, but my husband wanted to get a few hours of sleep in.
- Clean up: There is something about having a clean car before we leave that can really improve my mood during trips. There is always stuff on the floor in the back seat, so I like to make sure I get rid of it before we leave. This way, I am comfortable when I feed my daughter in the back seat and don’t have to worry about stepping on stuff. I also make sure that we have a bag for trash and an extra trash bag in the glove box.
- Take a long break: We decided to stop at the 4-hour mark to give Amelia a nice, long stretch. We stopped at a little gas station, I changed and fed Amelia, and we walked the dogs. While one of us went to the bathroom, the other watched Amelia as she stretched out and kicked her little legs in the back seat. She was young enough that I knew she did not need to be awake very long, but we wanted to make the most of that time. After about 30 to 45 minutes, we packed everything (and everyone) up and hit the road again.
- Pack extras: Like I said in my previous post, blow outs can happen any time. We were lucky that we didn’t have any major accidents in the car, but if we heard “that” sound, we would have pulled over to change her because nobody wants to sit in a stinky! We expected to be in Phoenix for a day and a half, but I didn’t pack lite when it came to her. I packed 2 sleepers, 2 outfits, her dress for the wedding and a spare dress (just in case). I wasn’t super worried about bringing too many extra diapers and wipes because we could have picked those up anywhere.
- Find Attractions: Another fun part of our trip (which is more for us than it was for Amelia) was that we were able to stop for a little at the Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, it was like 5 am and sunrise was at 6 am. The dam and the bridge had a lot of lights, so you could see everything lit up, but, unfortunately, we could not get out of the car and walk over the dam (which was a total bummer).
- Grab Snacks: Long car trips can and will impede on meal times. It is a good idea to pack along snacks to hold you over or even pack your meal from home and keep them in a cooler in the trunk. We made a quick pit stop in Las Vegas for breakfast and grabbed some convenience store sandwiches and coffee, lots of coffee. If you have a toddler, it is a good idea to have some healthy snacks on board for when they wake up.
- Stay Calm: There will be times when baby will start screaming because she doesn’t want to be in the car seat any longer (14 hours in 2 days is a lot!). Try to stay calm and think about why baby is crying: is she hungry, is she sitting in a stinky diaper, does she just need to stretch out? We drove home a little later in the day than we wanted too, so we had more crying fits on the way home which resulted in more stops. Amelia did good over all, but by the last few hours, she was sick of the car seat. When we go on our next trip, I will likely get a mirror, like this one, so that when she does start crying, I can see if it is something we don’t need to pull over for (binkie, anyone?).