Have you ever seen Riding in Cars with Boys? Me neither, (I prefer Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer, personally) but I’m all too familiar with the lesser-known Horror-Comedy-Drama, Riding in Cars with Babies. Every major holiday of our marriage has been spent traveling to visit one set of in-laws or the other. The closest set lives about 4 hours away with no traffic. We have a small sedan, which means a car seat pushes the passenger seat too far forward for a human with legs to sit comfortably. Any road trip with all three of us looks like an awkward Uber ride but no one is getting paid.
It’s been trial and error, but here are my top 5 tips for getting through a long car ride with a baby:
1. Have snacks/bottles.
I exclusively nursed my son for the first six months, and when you are stuck in traffic, unable to pull over and nurse, you might find yourself leaning over the car seat and giving your fellow road trippers quite a show. After that experience we got batteries for my pump so I could pump in the car and give a bottle of fresh milk. The car kept moving and the baby was happy and full! This also applies for babies and toddlers who are on solids. I find the squeeze pouch purees are great for this, and mostly mess free!
2. Toys or books...or an empty water bottle
Depending on your baby’s age, a toy or book can keep their attention for a small chunk of time. We found the longest stretch of peace we got out of one object was an empty plastic water bottle. The crinkle sounds mesmerized him, and let’s face it, babies know when something is not designed as a baby toy, and somehow that makes it even better.
3. Time your trip with nap time
If you are one of those awesome parents who has your kid on a nap schedule (we finally figured that out after his first birthday), try timing your trips around naptime. My son takes one afternoon nap, so if we can help it, we start long road trips about an hour before his regularly scheduled nap. Naps in car seats usually last a little longer than his crib naps because the moving car keeps lulls him to sleep. Once he finally wakes up, it’s a good time for all of us, adults included, to take an activity break at a restaurant or rest area.
4. Sun shade
For a while I thought those little sun shades that attached to windows for babies were extravagant...I mean can’t they just close their eyes and deal with it? Apparently not my children. My son hates when the sun is in his eyes, and his eyelids don’t make a difference. A sun shade makes a huge difference if you are driving during sunrise or sunset hours.
This might be hotly debated depending on your tolerance level for certain types of music, but if you find something both you and baby like, it might relax you both! You can’t really go wrong with classical music. Other songs we like in the car include Crazy Love by Van Morrison and The Chain by Ingrid Michaelson.
Stay tuned for the sequel, Babies on a Plane, with much less profanity than the better-known Snakes on a Plane.