We’re completing the last leg of a week-long family road trip to visit our family for Thanksgiving, and celebrate my grandmother’s 95th birthday! In my family, driving to Georgia is a rite of passage. We used to load up the car and drive down on a moment’s notice. I have countless memories of stretching out across the backseat of my mom’s minivan, reading by day and staring at the stars at night.
Traveling with a toddler can be tricky, though. I don’t remember being in car seats myself, but Phoenix definitely hates them. The mood of the trip takes a definite shift when your child is screaming from Virginia to South Carolina.
Here’s some things that worked for us on this road trip:
1. Drive when baby is sleeping. Sounds like a no brainer, but it really helped. Instead of trying to drive while she slept at night (which sounded good in theory but ended up being awful) we woke up early, ate breakfast, and then started driving shortly before her first nap. That ensured a happy baby, alert parents, and a good stretch of peaceful time. When she would wake up, we drove until she began to fuss and then stopped for food, bathroom and gas all at once.
2. Get an en-route babysitter. The four adults in the car would take shifts sitting next to the baby. When she was particularly fussy and I was at my wits’ end, it helped to have grandma and grandpa take on talking to her, feeding her puffs, and holding up a phone with talking animal flash cards for ninety minutes straight. During that time I could nap, read or check social media.
3. Stay flexible. We left lots of extra time for mishaps and adventures, and boy, did they happen. When you are traveling with kids, Starbucks addicts and postpartum women estimate a reasonable number of bathroom breaks and then double it. People are going to want to get out and stretch. And people are going to get sleepy. Save your hotel rewards points for when you’re too tired to keep going. We scored an awesome hotel with free hot breakfast and Wi-fi for $50.
One last thing: our baby is particularly fussy in the car. Most of the time it’s manageable—sometimes, though, she’s inconsolable. Trust your instincts and don’t dismiss anything out of the ordinary. I realized on the second day of our trip that what I thought was a heat rash was actually roseola. Keep your doctor’s number and a baby first aid kit handy.
Have fun, travel safely, and let me know what you do to survive road trips in the comments!