Taking a long road trip with an infant takes some careful planning and organization, but it can be done and even be fun! If you're off on a vacation or simply taking a trip to grandma's house, prepare the baby and the car, and have a checklist of items you'll need to make the trip easy and pleasant for everyone — especially the youngest traveler.
Are you driving straight through to your destination, or will your schedule allow you to break up the drive with some stops along the way? Generally, the longer your baby is secured in her safety seat, the fussier she will eventually become. Allowing for a few stops is helpful. If your infant sleeps well in the car, try to plan your departure to coincide with nap or bedtime so the baby can sleep through a good part of the trip. If your baby does not sleep well in the car, leave as soon as the baby wakes up in the morning. Don't expect to stay on a rigid arrival schedule, since delays are the norm with a baby along. A diaper disaster that requires a complete change of clothing or inconsolable crying that requires a stop to soothe are just two possibilities you could encounter.
Keep car temps average so the baby doesn't get too warm or chilly.
Prepare the car to be an entertaining space for the baby. Distraction and toys work wonders in keeping an infant occupied and happy on a long ride. Stretch a ribbon and use safety pins or tape to hang a few lightweight toys from the ceiling of the car over the baby seat. Bring along small, soft toys for the baby to hold, chew on and play with, and change the toys for something different when you stop the car for a rest or diaper change. Look for a baby activity center that can be attached directly to the infant seat. Have music ready. A favorite tape helps keep the baby relaxed, and their regular sleep music often lulls them into a nap.
Other items needed for a safe, easier trip include a well-stocked diaper bag with an extra change of clothing, moist baby wipes, a bottle warmer, a first aid kit and any necessary medications and prescriptions, a baby blanket, and a car seat pillow or head support. Bring plenty of baby food, snacks and drinks for the baby, as well as snacks and drinks for the adults. A cooler keeps these handy and chilled. Consider getting car sun screens. These window shades help your baby nap by diffusing light and keeping direct sun off of the car seat.
Put safety first, and include a car emergency kit with jumper cables and a flashlight with fresh batteries. Your cell phone should be charged and ready, but don't ever dial or text while driving. Keep your baby in their safety seat whenever the car is moving. Feedings and diaper changes should be handled when the car is safely pulled over and stopped. And never, ever leave a baby alone in a car — not even for a minute.
Need more great ideas for spending quality time with your baby? Check out Baby's Day Out City Guide — you'll discover all the top baby-friendly destinations and how to enjoy them with your little one.
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