Think about what a long road trip is like for your infant. He’s strapped into a rear-facing car seat, staring at the boring back seat of your car. And since the whole point of a car seat is to hold a baby securely in case of an accident, he can’t move around much, either. No wonder he’s cranky!
Here are some things I’ve learned to make the experience a little more pleasant.
1. Schedule as much driving as you can during baby’s usual nap times. Riding in a car helps many babies sleep, and the more they can nap through a long trip, the easier the trip will be for everyone.
2. Bring toys that are made to attach to the car seat. These helped me entertain my baby during the ride.
3. Think extras. That means bring extra bottles, extra snacks, extra toys, extra diapers, extra clothes… basically extra everything! I learned the hard way that you can never tell when a one-hour trip will turn into a two or three-hour ordeal because of bad traffic.
4. Stop frequently. When my baby was awake, she needed to get out of the car and move. Don’t make the mistake I did of unstrapping her from the car seat and then strapping her into her carrier. Instead, pack a play mat and find a safe place to let your baby crawl, stretch and play.
5. If you’re not the driver, sit in the back seat. It made all the difference for us when my daughter could look at my face while I was talking, singing, playing games, and reading books to her. No one knows better than you how to entertain your child, so your close presence can go a long way toward keeping baby calm and happy, even when there are still many miles of road left to cover.
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.