I always envisioned parenthood involving plenty of travel adventures. However, now that I have a little one (LO) of my own, I realize just getting out the door can feel pretty intimidating. This summer we have taken three road trips with Eloise. It hasn’t always been easy but we have learned a lot in the process. Here are some of the tricks we have found most useful:
1. Unless you have one of those magical babies who will sleep anywhere, you have to build in nap time(s) for your LO. This changes the dynamic of travel. In my opinion, accommodations are key. You want to stay somewhere comfortable enough that you still enjoy being away from home while your LO sleeps. A view is a major plus.
On the flipside, you have to be strategic about actually getting out and seeing/doing things during your LO’s wakeful hours, otherwise the trip may feel like a waste. This may mean sacrificing a nap or two. Finding the right balance is key as too little sleep can make for terrible evenings but too much may mean you don’t get to enjoy your destination.
2. Bring a sound machine! White noise will help baby (and you) tune out unfamiliar noises and sleep better. A rested baby (and family) makes travel more enjoyable.
3. Pack more clothes for your baby than you think you will need. Blowouts don’t just happen at home. Two plastic bags, (one for soiled clothes, the other for trash), help too!
4. Be prepared for shifts in feeding (and sleeping!) patterns. If you are a breastfeeding mom, this may mean bringing a manual pump. Eloise is a distracted nurser and it takes time for her to focus. This means she sometimes skips feedings on the road, causing me a lot of physical discomfort. On the same token, a major traffic accident left us at a standstill for a couple hours on the way home from Mendocino. Expressed milk would have been wonderful when she started screaming. Instead I did the famous lean-over-the-carseat trick. Not fun, (except maybe for the bored passengers in nearby cars).
5. Carseat safety seems obvious but it is easy to make mistakes when harnessing LOs. In Eloise’s case, I had the straps too high above her shoulders, (straps should be positioned at or below shoulders). Little things like this make a huge difference. Check out this FB group for advice regarding seat safety. You can even post pictures of your LO and techs will tell you whether you’re using your seat correctly.
6. Long rides inevitably involve a meltdown or two, (unless of course you have one of those aforementioned magical babies). I discovered a good bag of tricks goes a long way. Light-up toys that make noise distract Eloise during a tantrum. Likewise, a selection of pacifiers helps to put her to sleep. We hit up the local grocery store before our first road trip this summer and bought a variety. I now won’t drive without a pacifier handy and prefer to keep a few different kinds as she alternates preferences. And, if all else fails, you can annoy other passengers by singing Christmas songs, or my absolute last resort, play cell phone videos. Eloise has a thing for watching her cute self. I’m sure she’s not the only vain baby out there.
7. Don’t bring your whole house. You won’t need it. The second trip we took this summer I brought way more baby gadgets than we needed. Clothes, diapers, medical supplies, carriers, and a small selection of toys is enough. Bigger items like activity gyms and rock ‘n plays did not prove necessary. To save space, babywearing can be a good alternative to a stroller.
8. Get gas and stock up on grown-up food before you depart, that way if baby is asleep you don’t have to risk waking the LO for a pitstop. The farther you can make it down the road before stopping, the better. It sucks to be cruising along peacefully and need something you could have prepared for ahead of time. Babies know (and don’t like!) when the car stops.
There you have it. I worked hard to learn these seemingly simple tricks. Traveling with baby has proven to be more work than expected, but definitely worth the memories. I would love to hear your tricks as we are bound to end up in the car again sometime soon (and I still have anxiety about being stuck on the road with a screaming babe). Also, for those of you who have flown with babies, please share what has worked, I need some major encouragement to take that leap!