This past weekend, we went on our first long road trip with our 7-month-old. I was dreading the trip, and assumed it was going to be the worst 8 hours of my life. After doing loads of research and asking other parents for advice, we were able to make the drive there and back with only two small meltdowns. Here is what I learned from our trip so you can apply to any future road trips with kids.
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Before you leave
Check the car seat.
Now is a great time to double check that the car seat is installed correctly and the straps are properly adjusted.You can even take it into a car seat technician to check the installation and how your child is fitting into the seat. It can be hard to remember to adjust the straps since our kids grow a little at a time instead of jumping from one setting to another overnight. Long road trips are a great reminder to make sure everyone is safe and secure.
Install or check the installation on car accessories.
If you have any shades on the windows, just make sure they are secure. Hopefully they are lightweight or even a film material. Most car seat technicians recommend getting objects that you would be okay with hitting your child in an accident.
Now is also a great time to check or install a mirror for rear facing children. It can be hard to see what is going on without one of these rear facing mirrors. It can be nice to check to see if your child is sleeping, playing, if they spit out their pacifier, or even check on them if they are getting fussy. We have the Shynerk Baby Car Mirror off of Amazon and love it! It is very large for easy viewing, has two sets of straps that keep it secure, and it’s easy to adjust.
Plan your trip
Trips with a baby will take significantly longer. Multiply the drive time by about 1.5 to get an accurate travel time. Between the extra stops and unexpected blowouts, the drive will almost certainly be longer than you are expecting.
Determine where to stop. Look up parks, local attractions, or areas where the kids can get out and run around before you hit the road. If you have the baby, these are also perfect locations to stop and enjoy the scenery while you breastfeed or let the little one stretch their legs.
Prep the car
Preventing Leaks or Spills
You can use puppy pads or these awesome waterproof liners in the car seat to help contain any spills, leaks, or blowouts. I would also put baby in an overnight diaper or size up if they tend to leak out. Finally, throw some waterproof bibs in the seatback pocket for an extra layer of protection.
For both you and the kids. Make sure to pack things like waters or drinks along with a mixture of fun food (sweets) and healthy food. For Baby, we brought along a couple munchkin mesh feeders and a few squeeze pouches [I linked to them on Amazon if you want to check them out]. My son loves to gnaw on some watermelon in the mesh feeders, and it keeps him entertained for hours (hence the waterproof bibs I talked about earlier).
My mother-in-law was telling me that they used to have bins specifically for long car rides, which is such a great idea! They had special toys that ONLY came out on road trips, which made them feel like new and fun to play with every time. There was a bin for each kid and was filled with car-appropriate games.
Electronics can be a touchy subject, and depend on your views and age of your children. If you don’t let your kids use electronics, that’s great and you can just skip this packing list. If you do, you might want to consider bringing iPads or tablets of some sort and a dvd player. Having electronics can really help entertain the kids on long car rides, and I always loved watching Disney movies on road trips as a kid. Amazon makes a really great kid-friendly tablet and they have some awesome sales during black friday or on prime day.
For our 7 month-old, we packed:
- CD with songs – or you can just download songs on your phone before-hand.
- Stuffed animals – we packed our Wubbanub (my full review here) because it is a great pacifier and it doubles as a fun toy for Baby to play with. He is also able to put the pacifier in his mouth on his own, whereas a smaller pacifier is harder for him to maneuver.
- Crinkle paper – this is not only great to play with, but you can also put a piece down by baby’s feet for them to kick and explore with their toes!
- Baby wipes – pack an extra pack or two in the car for easy access. These are great for sticky hands, runny noses, and cleaning up messes as you go.
- Arm and hammer bags for blowouts/diapers
- Grocery bags are great for garbage
- Ziplock bags for toys like teethers, pacis, etc that you want to stay clean
- Another Ziplock for those toys that are now dirty
Be sure to leave out all the essentials for easy access during the trip. You won’t want to go digging through the suitcase on the side of the road for some extra diapers or baby’s favorite toy.
I decided to pump and bottle feed to prevent us from having to pull over every 2 hours. This was a great way to save time and my son fell asleep after almost every bottle. Some babies have to be burped after each feeding, but this was way faster to just pull over on the side of the road for 5 minutes to burp compared to having to stop for a full 30+ minutes each time. My son only had to burp once or twice the whole way, and we just knew to watch for his cues.
- Pump Parts
- Freemies are great!
- Flanges, bottles, pumping bra
- I keep my pump parts in a ziplock bag with a few paper towels so it all stays contained and the cooler doesn’t get gross.
- For pump parts and any extra milk – good for 8 hours at room temperature but I prefer to be on the safe side, and cars can heat up quickly during rest breaks.
- Ice Packs
- For cooler and to put next to baby in case the car gets too hot during stops.
- Bottles for feedings
- Calculate how many you need then pack one extra (Normally feeds every 2 hours, 6 hour trip, so I need 3 bottles – I packed 4).
- Bottles for extra milk
- Pacifier Wipes or Medela wipes to wipe down your pump parts as needed
- Bottle Brush and Dish Soap
- You will need to wash all the pump parts when you get to your destination and have them ready for the drive back. Our hotel didn’t have dish soap so we had to buy it.
Tips for the ride
Take turns driving.
While one person is driving, have the other sit in back with the baby. The person in the back can help take care of the baby and prevent additional stops. While sitting in the back, I would prep bottles and feed, play games, and help clean spit up or boogers. The person in the back can also take naps while the baby is napping, so they are ready and refreshed when it’s their turn to drive.
Drive at Night
If you know that your baby sleeps for a good portion of the night, it might be the best time to travel. You can also plan the majority of trips around long daytime naps, if those exist in your house. Go through the same routine as you would any other night, but instead of putting baby in the crib, just put them in their car seat and go.
Dress in layers
You won’t want to stop and change outfits if the car gets too hot or too cold. We dressed our baby in a basic onesie and layered him with blankets when the car was chilly. We had a super light swaddle, a heavier swaddle, and a full on blanket nearby to make sure he was comfortable at all times and never had to be unbuckled.
Dealing with Boredom
“Are we there yet?”
If you have older kids, this question can start to get annoying (especially when asked every other minute). Here is a great way to limit this question, while also teaching some money management.
Step 1: give you children a roll of quarters at the beginning of the trip. This is their money and they get to keep it to spend on anything they want.
Step 2: They are allowed to ask “how much longer” ONE time per hour. Or you can just decide to announce it every hour, on the hour. For every additional time they ask this question or similar, they need to pay you a quarter.
This should drastically limit the amount of times the question is asked. You can also inform them of how much time is left. For example:
Kid: “How much longer?”
You: “You asked that at 10:25. It is now 11:05. You can ask again in 20 minutes, or you can pay me a quarter and I’ll tell you.”
A lot of parents have tested this theory, and it seems to work well. If you have another way that works for your family, I would love to hear about it in the comments!
These are two of our favorite games to play in the car (other than “I spy”). Not only are these great with kids, but the adults enjoy them as well.
Everyone starts with the letter A and tries to find words that begin with A or license plates that contain ‘A’ anywhere in them. You have to call it out eg: “License plate – A” or “Arco gas station sign” and point so the rest of the group can see it as well. Only one person can call out that specific letter. However, if there are two of the same signs or two different ‘A’ words on the same sign, multiple people can count it. The first person to get ‘Z’ wins.
The Name Game:
There are a couple of different versions to this game.
Basic: Start with one passenger of the vehicle and make your way around to each person. Decide on a category [animals, states, countries, types of food, etc.] and start with the letter A. The first person would say apple, then the next person banana, the third person carrots, and so on. You go around in a circle until you get to Z.
Sometimes, with kids, you could be waiting a long time while they try to think of a word. You can always put a time limit on each round to help speed it up.
Advanced: Instead of going alphabetically, you have to choose the next word based on the last letter of the previous word.
For example, using animals:
Player 1: Dog [G]
Player 2: Gorilla [A]
Player 3: Ant [T]
Player 4: Turtle [E]
If you can’t think of an animal, you are eliminated. The last player in the game wins and gets to pick the next category.
If you have any tips or general advice for me or other parents, please leave a comment below!
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