Three months ago, we packed up the car with toys, baby clothes and Christmas gifts, and we hit the road. Our destination was 577 kilometres from Toronto and the northern community of Larder Lake where our son, Tyler’s grandparents live. At the time, he was four months old and slept like, well, a baby. These days, he’s a lot more alert and aware of what’s happening, and he’s awake for longer stretches—so travel is a whole new ballgame.
Here are five things I’ve learned from road tripping with my little guy.
1. Safety first
Travelling long distances can be a pain for adults, let alone babies who must be strapped into a car seat for all that time. I brush up on my car seat trivia courtesy of Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation every time we hit the road. Rules can change, and I want to make sure my baby’s car seat meets all the safety requirements, including age and weight regulations. Our little man recently outgrew his infant car seat, so we bought a seat that accommodates a child up to 65 pounds just in time for our latest road trip. The bonus? Not only is the seat safer, but our little boy is also more comfortable. A happy baby makes a happy mom, indeed!
Read more: New car seat guidelines: The 65-pound rule>
2. Pack the car wisely
You’ll need specific items for the drive, for stopovers and for when you arrive at your destination. We pack the exersaucer, baby’s overnight bag and our suitcase in the back of the trunk, since these items aren’t going to see the light of day until we arrive at Point B. Stopover items, like electronics and the diaper bag, can go in the front of the trunk for easy access. And of course, fresh food and toys for entertainment go right inside the car, in Mom or Dad’s reach. Tyler was awake for a third of the trip; having some toys, books and a snack made the journey that much more enjoyable for everyone.
3. Make sure your gas tank is full and windshield fluid is topped up before you leave
You want to limit the amount of time you spend in the car both on the road and when you’re stopped. Parking the car while you grab a bite or gas can spell disaster if your mini passenger senses there’s no vibration—and he will. Without fail, Tyler wakes up every time the engine is turned off. Not good!
4. Consider road conditions
If you’re travelling by car, this is very important—especially when you’re carrying some precious cargo. (I hate to admit it, but when I was single, I’d take chances I wouldn’t dream about taking now that I’m a mom.) If you get caught in some bad weather, consider stopping. On our long trip home, we got caught in a storm. We spent the first half of the evening at a Tim Horton’s and, when we realized the storm wasn’t going to let up, checked into a hotel for the night. An unhappy baby during a snow storm can be a big distraction when you need your full attention on the road. The risk simply isn’t worth it.
5. Pack in some patience
The point of taking a road trip is to have some fun, chill time with your fam. But for some babies, extended hours in a car seat can be an extremely stressful ordeal. This doesn’t mean you have to turn into a family of hermits, of course; but, it does mean you need to take frequent breaks along the way, maybe a longer trip with an overnight stop. I mapped out a couple of potential stopover spots before our trip in case we needed them. Saves you time and gives baby some respite that much sooner.
Have you ventured out on road trips with your baby? What did you learn?