Man oh man, our little family (Lucy included) took a road trip to Sacramento last weekend and it was 6 hours each way.
Back in October we took a road trip with Charlotte for my friend’s wedding and that was a horrible experience. Charlotte cried bloody murder most of the way and had the most ridiculous blow out in her car seat. It was horrendous.
So last weekend when we went to sac for another wedding, I was suuuuper prepared. Here are some of my saving grace tips for a road trip with a baby/toddler!
1. One parent should sit in the back with the babe.
–normally we try not to sit in the back with Charlotte but driving for 3-6 hour stretches is too much and too long for C. we also can’t easily stop on the site or pull into a parking lot when we’re on a highway without a rest stop nearby. so to make our lives easier, we always have one parent in the back for damage control and entertainment.
2. Have a bag of toys at the ready.
–i had a tote bag of toys ready for C to play with. they were different kinds of toys so that each would hold her attention for a few minutes each (noise makers, crinkly toys, teethers, ones that light up, etc). as C would dump one toy, i would pull another one out and keep the dumped toy in the bag for later. once i ran through the 10-15 toys i had in the bag, i would start the lineup again. by the time i brought the new toys out, she had totally forgotten about it and played with it again. it seriously made SUCH a huge difference for us this time around. it also gave me the opportunity to zone out a little and have some down time while handing her toys and taking the discarded ones back.
3. Have a basket of snacks at the ready.
–sometimes when c is super cranky, a little cracker or puff will make her happy. i brought a few different kinds of snacks (different flavors and textures) to change things up if i needed to. i also don’t normally feed charlotte those baby food pouches (heard lots of mixed things about it), but the idea of trying to spoon feed her in the car and keep that all in a cooler was just not happening. the pouches don’t need to be refridgerated and i can feed her directly from the pouch. i bought a few organic happy baby veggie pouches and they were a huge hit all weekend! i bought three different flavors, had the spinach and kale puffs AND yogurt meltables (all from Happy Baby!). Ironically Lucy also goes NUTS for all the happy baby snacks/pouches so any spills or crumbs were taken care of immediately by our little fur vacuum. =P
4. Have some activities prepped that you know your babe will enjoy and will hold their attention for 5-10 min each.
–C loves songs, motions to songs, stretches, massages, playing with the wipes container, etc. I kept those in my back pocket when the toys and snacks weren’t working. It definitely bought us some time to find a rest stop so she could stretch her legs.
5. Plan the trip according to your baby’s nap/play schedule if possible.
–Sooo… this one was an experiment we tried that worked BEAUTIFULLY for us. on Saturday morning we left at 430am (when C would be sleeping). we dressed her in a onesie and socks and pants the night before so that when we woke her at 4 we could just carry her down to the car and tuck her in for the rest of her sleep. she slept in the car from 430am-7am when she would normally wake up. That meant that we were already halfway to Sacramento by the time she woke up. SUCCESSSSSS. No need to worry about entertaining her in the car for the first three hours. We planned 2 stops after C woke up so that she could run around, get her wiggles out and stretch her legs. Since we had lucy it was also perfect time for Lucy to take a walk and pee. Each stop was about 15-20 minutes on the way up and it really helped take the edge off of being in the car seat for so long.
dunno if your babes are like this but C HATES the car seat. >.< the last 30 minutes of the drive C had a meltdown and none of my normal tricks were working. that’s when i pulled out (tip #7) my cell phone and let her watch some porroro episodes on youtube. i don’t normally show her any shows or my phone, but we just had a tiny stretch left and the shows were just enough to calm C down until we arrived at our destination.
on the drive back down to LA from Sac, we planned that around C’s napping schedule as well. she was running around at the wedding with different kids and friends which exhausted her. she slept in the car seat for the first 2.5 hours and then i went through my routine of toys, snacks, toys, activities, snacks, break. We took a 30 minute break at a rest stop where both lucy and c could get their final wiggles out before the last trip home. we let c run around, touch everything, look at tons of strangers, wave her heart out at them, and let her bang on the table. That 30 minutes of high energy tired her out enough to nap for another 1.5 hours on our final stretch home. then the rest of the time i used my toys, snacks, activities, toys, etc routine.
6. Know your route, your time frame and emergency stops that can be made along the way.
–mike and i have traveled this route MANY times and knew the two major stops we wanted to take and had a few extra rest stops in mind in case there was an emergency. we knew where we would fill up on gas and what extra activity we could do with C & L while that was happening. being prepared with those really helped when we needed to have an extra pit stop for someone (mainly me… i had to pee so many times this trip!)
7. Worst case… have a phone or tablet with baby/toddler appropriate apps or videos.
–again, we don’t normally show C the phone but we know 1 chanel that we like and we show C those videos when desperate. the shows mesmerize her and keep her happy for a few minutes (and after). usually porroro sings songs and after we play a video i try to sing the song and do hand motions for a few minutes to hold her attention. if it looks like she’s having a meltdown then i’ll play another video and repeat. that way we’re not just showing her 30 minutes of straight videos.
sigh… ok so all of that kinda sounds exhausting but i swear it made such a huge difference in our roadtrip! we were super prepared, we knew what to expect and each time we were able to curb meltdowns and potential meltdowns. =)
anyway, these are great tips that worked for us so i’m just sharing and hoping they work for you to! if you have any other great tips please let me know!