In the last ten months we have taken a handful of road trips with Luna. She has driven from Nashville to Southeast Texas twice, across Tennessee a couple of times, to Hilton Head Island, Indiana and Atlanta. I’m thrilled to say we have survived every road trip with very few fits and in great time (and some with a dog!). Husband and I like to think of ourselves as expert travelers. I knew having a baby would change the way we travel, but definitely not keep us from doing it. Luna just made it slightly more challenging, and at ten months old I think we’ve got the “road trip with a baby” down pat.
1. Drive while baby sleeps. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Our route to Texas takes 11 hours. Prior to Luna we have always made the trip in 11 hours or less. The first time we attempted this road trip with Luna I knew I didn’t want to drive all day because a) I didn’t want Luna to be stuck in her carseat all day, b) I didn’t want to be stuck in the car all day, making multiple stops and wasting time. We decided to begin driving at 8pm, Luna’s bedtime. It worked like a charm. In fact, the most recent trip took us 11 hours there and 11 hours back. Bam!
2. Arrange Accordingly. When traveling with a baby you have to pack the car strategically. First of all, you are most likely bringing way more crap than you typically would, so you need to be sure it all fits. Also, you need to be sure you can reach the things you need and get to them quickly. The diaper bag, snack bag, drinks, phones, car chargers, purse and sunglasses are my most important items and are either in the front or right behind my seat.
3. Stock up. Pack lots of healthy snacks, water, caffeine, diapers, wipes, baby snacks (bottle, cheerios, sippy cup), good music, and entertaining baby toys. We have made the mistake of traveling without food and always end up eating too much fast food and junk. Driving all night/day makes you feel bad enough and when you throw sugary salty processed food into the mix it can make you feel 1000 times worse. Plus, when you have everything you need on hand you save money and the time it would take to stop. I usually get snacks that are easy to eat while driving…nuts, fruit leathers, apples, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, etc.
4. Sit with baby. If the baby wakes up, it may be a good idea for one of you to move to the backseat. Luna is often fussy when she wakes up and it helps if she can see someone’s face or have someone rub her belly and sing to her. Of course, the musical noisy toys help too!
5. Be smart. Do not drive sleepy. It is very tempting to try to push yourself to drive, drive, drive and get to your destination as quickly as possible, but it’s not worth your’s or your baby’s safety. Husband and I made it very clear to one another that we are in no hurry. We take turns driving while the other one sleeps and if we have to pull over and sleep or even get a hotel, then so be it. While we are on the subject of safety; make sure that your baby is buckled in correctly. You may want to brush up on the correct way to use your carseat.
6. Take advantage of pit stops. The times that Luna did wake up, we found a place to stop, but not just any place. If we were going to take the time to stop, feed and change Luna then I wanted to make the most of our time. If possible, find a place with clean restrooms, wi-fi, decent food options, a comfortable place to sit and room for baby to get out some energy. So far, I have had great experiences at Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A and McDonalds. They aren’t the healthiest options, but you’d be surprised by their cleanliness, customer service, and coffee options…especially at 4am.
7. Plan for things to not go as planned. If you have a baby you know that it is virtually impossible to plan ahead. We often have the best intentions; we make lists, pack more than we need, leave early and follow every single guideline, but Luna often has her own agenda. So, when your baby wakes up, throws up, has a diaper explosion or just needs to get out and wiggle, learn to go with the flow. I am a planner, so I know this can be hard to accomplish, but if you plan for things to go awry, it won’t be as disappointing when they do. Plus, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when everything goes smoothly!