Travelling By Car with Babies
“Do you think we’ve made the right decision?”
This was the question, my wife Kathy confronted me with as we were sitting in our living room, sharing a bottle of scotch. Our two-year-old son, Jason had been handed the duty of putting his younger sister Jennifer, to sleep and with the quiet that had settled over the house, he was doing a stellar job! The debate that was raging between my wife and me was about going on a long road trip from our home in Michigan, to meet up with friends who had planned to converge at Colorado for a week of unbroken fun.
Car travel with a Baby
Many of them were old college mates, common to both me and my wife, who was my high school sweetheart, and we knew that we HAD to make this trip, or risk being out of the social loop for a long time. And God knows we needed a break. Kathy was a full hands-on mom, who had put her career as a successful business analyst on hold to raise our two children, and I was a more than busy businessman with a range of interests not excluding the stock market, where I had recently made a pile of money by speculating on a risky venture that was a sellout success. Flush with funds, we could afford to take a couple of weeks out of our schedules to catch up with old friends.
My wife was worried that taking the kids along on a very long road trip was just a bad idea, but I was not comfortable leaving them in the care of a nanny, though we could well afford the best of care. I wanted the kids along, to show them off to my friends, who were proud parents themselves and also so that we could keep a close eye on them at all times. Despite her dire warnings that this was just another bad idea, the road trip was a successful one with a minimum amount of fuss and bother, and I have to thank my wife for that.
Here are some things that will be of help to anyone who wants to undertake this arduous venture.
Planning the trip
In all the hustle and bustle that precedes a road trip, it can be easy to let things happen, instead of making them happen. You have to envision many contingencies and prepare for them, even if they do not actually happen. It’s like going into a bush war with nuclear gear on! If your kid sleeps well in a moving vehicle, you could plan to move when it is his /her sleeping time. Another thing to keep in mind is that your baby is not going to behave any differently because it is a car trip, they just won’t. Make a checklist of things that will be of use during the trip.
- Window shades will induce a darker environment and induce your baby to sleep better.
- A cooler will be handy for cooled drinks, throw in a bottle warmer for the milk bottle.
- A lot of new toys to elicit maximum interest, a mix of old, favorite ones too.
- You won’t like this one; baby friendly music to play at all hours of the day if required.
- A rear view baby mirror if you do not have the luxury of having your spouse travelling with you.
- Books that you can read to the baby.
Getting the car ready
You should take your time getting the car ready and if you are travelling alone, the car has to be made baby friendly in a big way so that there is a minimal fuss. Here are a few things that you could try to make the car more enjoyable for the baby.
- Safety pins, yarn or ribbon is handy to hang a lot of light, baby toys from the car’s ceiling and this will provide a welcome distraction for the baby. He doesn’t want to stare at miles and miles of concrete roads, he’s got better things to do.
- Also, have a good number of new toys that you can change at intervals when the car stops for a rest. Babies quickly lose interest in toys that they do not like, and you have to factor that in your calculations.
- If the child/baby is old enough to sit and reach out for toys, keep a cardboard box of these new toys next to him, making sure that they are not so large as to obstruct the rearview mirror. Another option is to have a baby activity center that attaches to the seat. Now this will get his attention.
- A great activity during long road trips is reading. If you have the luxury of another adult in the car, make sure that they read out to the baby from an assortment of books, including the baby’s favorite ones.
- For the older baby, like in our case, have a good assortment of healthy snacks and drinks that will keep them engrossed. Pit stops for meals can be quite unplanned, and if you find yourself in a situation where your baby is fast asleep, you would be sorely tempted to drive through and force the pace, before the baby wakes up.
- Have a battery operated flashlight to use in the car for the evenings and nights.
During the journey
- You as a parent, have to remain flexible and stay relaxed. Go along with the flow of things and do not regiment the day.
- You have to stop many times; sometimes for a diaper change or when the baby is crying uncontrollably. There will be times when you have to stop to have your own meals, and during this time, ensure that the baby is never in the car, alone at any point in time.
- Safety always comes first. Many mothers think that it is okay to breastfeed the baby while the car is moving. In reality, this can have its own share of mishaps, which include injuries in the case of the car braking suddenly and the mother’s body slamming against the baby’s.
- It is a great help if your partner or spouse is a good driver. That way, you will not have to stop that often to recharge your batteries, and the two of you can take turns behind the wheel and also share the baby duties.
- If the baby or the child is having trouble falling asleep in the moving car, due to motion sickness or because of claustrophobia, a camper attached to the rear of the car can allay your fears, as you take a couple of hours to rest and stretch out your limbs, while the baby is fast asleep in the camper tent.
After the journey
I bet that you will be so awash with relief that you made the long journey without any major hiccups that you will forget about an equally important thing. You have to return home! This will entail the same amount of organization and discipline on your part and you have to resist the temptation of rushing through things in a bid to reach home early so that you can rest before the busy week starts.
Always remember that this is a special occasion and you will not be in this situation forever, so take your time to go over things carefully and prepare accordingly. Make sure that you get a good night’s sleep before the return journey and it is a good idea to retire early and start off during the early morning when the sun has not fully risen, and the day is not that warm.
I am not saying that travelling with babies is a clinch, it is definitely difficult. But if you anticipate the contingencies and have prepared for them, the journey will be much less demanding and you will be in a jubilant mood once you touch base.