My family lives three and a half hours away and my husband’s family lives four and a half hours away. As you can imagine, we’ve had to travel quite a few times since we became parents.
I know the mere thought of being in a car that long with a baby and toddler scares a lot of people, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be bad. We do it without any electronic entertainment like iPads or portable DVD players (we’d have to own some to use some). We don’t plan on getting any of these gadgets anytime soon, either.
The only thing you have to know is that there will probably be a little bit of crying, at least with a baby. I don’t let my baby cry-it-out when it comes to sleeping, but during a long car trip like that, there is almost always a 20 to 30 minute period where the baby is really unhappy. I try my best to soothe him from my front seat and try to get Boo to make him laugh.
He just turned 9 months, so it’s a tricky age for car travel. When we travelled at Christmas time, he was small enough to sleep most of the way. We’d stop once for lunch, breastfeeding and diaper changes, then after a few minutes of fussing the baby would fall back asleep. Now that he has two naps a day, there is always that small window where he is not tired, but bored. At this age, I can’t explain it to him, so that’s why it’s tricky. However, it gets better with every trip. For instance, our Easter trip was a bit more difficult than this trip. If I remember correctly, trips got much better after the 1-year mark with our daughter and by 15 months, she was happy to read books and play on her own. Now she has a small bag of toys and books, and she’s perfectly content. We barely here a peep out of her now.
Here are some tips:
1. Make sure to leave close to nap or bedtime.
On Friday night, we left at 7:30 p.m. Loup babbled a bit in the back seat and was out by 8:15. Boo was a bit too excited to sleep at first, but she eventually fell asleep.
On our way back, we left before their afternoon nap. Both kids woke up just before we arrived at the rest stop. Baby was okay for a while, until he got bored. I tried my best to keep him busy with a sippy cup of water and some toys. I have noticed with both kids, though, at around 8-11 months, they’re almost always more content if I don’t pay attention to them. Loup would get more upset when I tried to stroke his hands or his hair. After a while, he calmed down and Boo was able to get him to laugh for the last little while.
2. Prepare a special bag of toys.
I always get a bag out for Boo a few days ahead of time and tell her it’s her travel bag for the car. She chooses some toys and books carefully. Not that she’s almost three, she only has a travel tray, her favourite doll with some diapers and clothes. For the baby, anything he can bite is good.
3. Pack some snacks.
We always bring a small lunchbox with some snacks such as cereal and a banana. Boo also has a bottle of water if she’s thirsty. She picked it out herself at the store.
4. Know where to stop.
Our favourite rest stop has washrooms, a restaurant, picnic tables and an outdoor playground. When the weather is nice, we have Boo go down the slide a few times and run around the playground. It takes just an extra few minutes, but it is definitely worth it. During the summer months, we bring our lunch and eat outside. After lunch, we make Boo run from one spot to another.
So far, our trips have been pretty good. The real test will be our trip to Cape Cod this summer. We’ve never gone that far with the little ones yet! What are your tips for travel with young kids?