house we go! And you’ll be in the car for five whole hours ¾
how can you make the trip enjoyable with a baby along?
Learn about it
question: Marathon car trips with a baby on board take a good amount of
planning and organization. But it can be done ¾
and yes, it can even be fun!
Planning the trip
In the hustle that
precedes a trip, it can be easy to let
things happen, instead of make
things happen. Be proactive in making your trip decisions. Contemplating these
questions, and coming up with the right answers, can help make your trip more
Does your baby
sleep well in the car? If yes, plan your travel time to coincide with a nap
or bedtime so your baby can sleep through part of the journey. If not, plan
to leave immediately after a nap or upon waking in the morning. Don’t fool
yourself into thinking your baby will behave differently than usual in the
car just because it’s a special occasion.
Is it necessary
to make the trip all at once, or can you break it up with stops along the
way? The longer your baby is strapped in the carseat, the more likely he’ll
become fussy. Planning a few breaks can keep everyone in a better frame of
an arrival time, have you factored in plenty of extra time for unplanned
surprises? A diaper explosion that requires a complete change of clothes or
a baby whose inconsolable crying requires an unexpected 20-minute stop are
just two of the things that can easily happen.
Do you have
everything you need to make the trip pleasant? Items like:
-Window shades to
protect your baby from the sun and create a darker, nap-inducing atmosphere.
-A cooler for cold drinks; a bottle warmer if needed.
-Plenty of toys that are new or forgotten favorites saved just for the trip.
-Baby-friendly music on tape or CD.
-A rear-view baby mirror to keep on eye on baby (unless a second person will
be sitting with your little one)
-Books to read to your baby.
Preparing the car
Take plenty of
time to get the car ready for your trip. If two adults are traveling, consider
yourself lucky and arrange for one person to sit in the backseat next to the
baby. If you are traveling alone with your little one, you’ll need to be more
creative in setting up the car, and you’ll need to plan for more frequent
stops along the way.
Here are a few
tips for making the car a traveling entertainment center for your baby:
Use ribbon or
yarn and safety pins or tape to hang an array of lightweight toys from the
ceiling of the car to hang over your baby. An alternative is to string a
line from one side of the car to the other with an array of toys attached by
ribbons. Bring along an assortment of new toys that can be exchanged when
you stop the car for a rest. Just be sure to use small toys and keep them
out of the driver’s line of view.
colored pictures of toys on the back of the seat that your baby will be
If no one will
be sitting next to your baby and your child is old enough to reach for toys,
set up an upside-down box next to the car seat with a shallow box or a tray
with ledges on top of it. Fill this with toys that your baby can reach for
by himself. You might also shop around for a baby activity center that
attaches directly to the carseat.
If you plan to
have someone sitting next to baby, then provide that person with a gigantic
box of toys with which to entertain the little one ¾
distraction works wonders to keep a baby happy in the car. One of the best
activities for long car rides is book reading. Check your library’s early
reading section; it typically features a large collection of baby-pleasing
titles in paperback that are easier to tote along than board books.
Bring along an
assortment of snacks and drinks for your older baby who’s regularly eating
solids, and remember to bring food for yourself, too. Even if you plan to
stop for meals, you may decide to drive on through if your baby is sleeping
or content ¾
saving the stops for fussy times.
Bring books on
tape or quiet music for the adults for times when your baby is sleeping. The
voice on tape may help keep your baby relaxed, and it will be something you
If you’ll be
traveling in the dark, bring along a battery-operated nightlight or
Car travel checklist
qCarseat pillow or
qWindow shades (sun
qChange of clothes
for your baby
qEnormous box of
toys and books
qMusic or books on
tape or CDs
qBaby food, snacks,
and drinks for your baby
qSnacks and drinks
for the adults
qWet washcloths in
bags, or moist towelettes
qEmpty plastic bags
for leftovers and trash
sleep music or white noise (if needed, bring extra batteries)
insurance information/emergency phone numbers
qCamera and film
During the journey
carefully planned your trip and prepared your vehicle, you’ve already started
out on the right foot. Now keep these things in mind as you make your way down
When traveling with a baby, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted. Try
to stay relaxed, accept changes, and go with the flow.
Stop when you
need to. Trying to push “just a little farther” with a crying baby in the
car can be dangerous, as you’re distracted and nervous. Take the time to
stop and calm your baby.
first. Make sure that you keep your baby in his carseat. Many nursing
mothers breastfeed their babies during trips. This can be dangerous in a
moving car, even if you are both securely belted: You can’t foresee an
accident, and your body could slam forcefully into your baby. Instead, pull
over and nurse your baby while he’s still in his carseat. That way, when he
falls asleep, you won’t wake him up moving him back into his seat.
Remember: Never, ever leave your baby alone in the
not even for a minute.
On the way home
You may be so
relieved that you lived through your trip that you sort of forget the other
trip ahead of you: the trip home. You’ll need to organize the trip home as
well as you did the trip out. A few days in advance, make certain that all
your supplies are refilled and ready to go. Think about the best time to
leave, and plan accordingly. In addition, think about what you learned on the
trip to your destination that might make the trip home even easier. Is there
something you wish you would have had but didn’t? Something you felt you could
have done differently? Did you find yourself saying, “I wish we would have…”?
Now’s the time to make any adjustments to your original travel plan so that
your trip back home is pleasant and relaxed.
article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)