I don’t know how you feel, but for me a car trip can be as stressful as a flight. When I am in the car, bébé’s cry quickly becomes unbearable. I can feel my whole body tightening up. Unlike in a plane, I can’t pick my daughter up to comfort her. I feel totally powerless, and thus frustrated. I did not stop driving though, in fact, I am coming back from a road trip in Guatemala and it went much better than expected. I realized that bébé CAN DO IT. Here are some golden rules I came across.
Time your departure
Driving during bébé’s nap time is the most obvious solution to ensuring a peaceful trip. But let’s face it, a bébé is probably not going to nap during the whole drive, and sometimes it’s just not possible to organize the day around bébé’s naps. So here are some little tricks that might help:
Make sure that bébé gets some exercise before being strapped into the car seat. Leaving right when bébé wakes up is not ideal, as he’ll be more likely to want to burn some energy. Try to avoid traffic, as bébé gets upset more easily when he doesn’t have the comforting sway of a moving car.
If you’re in a new place, ask locals as they usually know what times you should avoid not to be stuck in traffic jam. And if you think that’s not going to be enough, there’s always the option of a night drive.
It might sound extreme, but the direction you’re traveling in can also affect what time you choose to make your trip. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That means that if you have a rear facing car seat and are making a long trip east, your little one will be facing west and in the late afternoon could have the sun right in his face for hours, which as we all know can be very irritating. If it can’t be avoided, it can help to get some car sun shades that you can reposition as needed, such as these ones.
Break Up Your Trip
Including some stop time during your trip is very important. It might mean leaving a little earlier than planned, or doing an overnight drive instead of a one day drive, but it will be totally worth it. My experience tells me that 2 Hours is the maximum bébé can be awake and somewhat happy in his car seat.
If you don’t really find any rest area where you can let bébé run around, think about a McDonalds, as most of them have an indoor playground and they are common on the road.
Consider ALL of the below
Up to 7 months old and after 2 years old, car trips get a little easier. In between, it can get a bit tricky, as bébé is eager to practice his brand new walking skills, yet they are too small to watch a cartoon during the trip.
That’s a tricky one. On the one hand, passengers in the back seats come in handy when you get tired of clapping, singing and making faces with a half twisted body… On the other hand, bébé’s neighbors might disturb him when trying to fall asleep. You’ll be a better judge than me on that one to plan your travel with passengers or not.
Naps & length of the trip.
The more naps bébé does per day, the longer you’ll be able to drive. Here is why: 1h Nap = 2h of easy drive ( 1h bébé is sleeping + 30 min before/after either eating or easy to entertain.) So technically if bébé is napping 3 times per day then you could get up to 6 hours of very easy driving (assuming bébé naps 1 hour).
Keep bébé busy
Give toys one at a time, not all at once, as this will make your limited toy supply last longer. A successful one is the Mozart Musical Cube, but it might drive you a little crazy as the sound is pretty loud. Another good one is the Taf Toy Toe Time. If you are looking for quiet, go for this very convenient take along shape sorter or any of the Touch And Feel books, easy for bébé to go through on his own thanks to the thick pages, and easy for you to carry.
Turn on the music! Like us, bébé can be distracted by music and might even try some dance moves while stuck in the car seat. A priceless moment for you.
Have Snacks. A trick that works pretty much all the time. Yogurt melts are great for the car, as they won’t make a mess. These little bite-size frozen yogurt drops won’t crumble or get bébé all dirty. Plus he can’t resist them and they are a pretty healthy snack.
There are not a ton. The #1 that works for me is a gentle rub on bébé’s face to calm his nerves. If your little one takes the pacifier or has a lovey it can of course help too, so don’t forget to pack them.