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A long road trip with a baby, whether by choice or not, can seem stressful and daunting. I know. But you’ve got this! Honestly, it might not go on without a hitch, and I can attest to that. BUT, there are many ways to make it easier and less stressful.
You know your baby best, so these are some general ideas for making a long car ride easier for both baby and you (and anyone else in the car too).
This is by far the most important one. BE PREPARED!
Bring more diapers and wipes than you think you need. Trust me on this one. I also brought gallon and sandwich size baggies for diapers and dirty clothes.
Also, bring one extra change of clothes for your baby every two days on the road. (5-day road trip? Bring 8 outfits.) And bring an extra shirt for you that’s easy to get to. You never know what could happen.
This one SAVES LIVES, ok? We were gifted a toy bar from my mom that goes over the carseat, and it was such a great distraction!
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy new toys. If you want to, go for it! We did!
If not, you can set aside a few toys a week or so in advance to save for the road trip. When you bring them out, the goal is that they have a new interest in the toys. It should keep them occupied for a while!
Make a plan for stops
Even if you have a baby who loves their car seat (lucky you!), they will still need to get out every once in a while to eat, get their diaper changed, and stretch out.
If you know around how long your baby goes between feedings, you can plan ahead to make stops at gas stations or food places.
Stopping on the road with a baby can take a long time. It seems like there’s so much that needs to get done, and you just want to get back on the road asap.
Here are a few things to keep in mind that might need to get done.
Feed baby, get food and drinks for everyone else, get gas, burp baby, change baby, stretch out, use the bathroom, change clothes, and wash any bottles/pump parts you might have.
In order to save time, and make our stops as brief as possible, Chase would get gas and use the restroom while I nursed Kaladin. Then Chase would burp and change him while I used the restroom, we would play for a few minutes outside, and be back on the road again! The stops lasted anywhere from 30-45 minutes.
Bring something to do
Eventually, your baby will fall asleep on the drive. When they do, you’ll probably just want to doze off. But if you’re anything like me, and you can’t fall asleep in the car to save your life, bring something to do.
It could be a book, work, a downloaded show or movie… anything! If you’re the one driving, or even if you’re not, I highly reccomend Audible! There is something for everyone on the app.
We listened to book 2 of The Lord of the Rings during our 11 hour road trip, and book 3 on our other 11 hour drive. So good!!
I also used my free time to pump. I LOVE my Medela pump, and used it almost every day for a month while regulating my milk supply.
Prep before stopping
If you bottle-feed your baby, get it ready right BEFORE you stop. This will save so much time, I promise. We loved using the MAM bottles for formula feeding! We also ended up using the Medela bottles for pumped and expressed milk.
I would also reccomend getting a milk cooler, to store any extra milk/formula you may have pumped/mixed.
If you know you need to wash pump parts or change a diaper, make it all easily accessible to make the stop smoother and hassle-free (at least as much as it can be).
Don’t overdo the hours
It might seem like a great idea to race to the end with a baby. Fewer days driving means more days out of the car. Then you can get there and be done.
But, you’re still spending the same number of hours in the car, no matter how “short” the drive is in terms of days. Unless you have a VERY young baby who truly just eats, sleeps, and poops, your baby will need to take a break from the car. And you probably will too.
Give yourself wiggle room in terms of the driving length each day. Being able to start fresh the next day is so much easier than putting them back in their seat for the tenth time that day.
Another reason to give yourself wiggle room? Things happen on the road that you just can’t control. Accidents, backed up traffic, detours, car problems…
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With a baby, you add diaper blowouts, car sickness, urgent pee breaks, cluster feeding, and being DONE with the car seat.
Just know that things happen. Take a deep breath and know that you’ll make it there eventually. Try to be patient with yourself and with your baby.
Good luck on your road trip! You’ve GOT THIS!