I don't know about you, but between being cooped up by COVID and our Fort St. John winter, I am ready for road trip season here in the Peace.
Like many families that took the pandemic plunge into parenthood, my partner and I have a tiny nine-month-old addition to our trips this year. When it comes to rides in our car, "though she be little, she is fierce" is an understatement for our baby. So, like any new mama, I've been consulting the tsunami of internet tidbits about the best tips to prepping road trips with baby.
To spare you spiralling into the rabbit hole of endless information out there, I've consolidated a quick list that will get you road trip ready this summer.
Get a playlist lined up
A few days before you take off, figure out what you want to listen to on the drive. Dig out those CDs, download some music to your phone, or build some Spotify playlists. I always like to have an audiobook ready to go too. Driving with baby adds enough distractions and choosing your music doesn’t need to be another one.
Make a playlist for baby too! Singing along to children's songs can be a great distraction. Can't stand The Wiggles? Check out Rockabye Baby! Music that turns classic rock favourites into lullabies.
Prep a bag of car toys
When plans A through C start to fail on the drive, go to Plan D – distractions!
We keep a pile of soft toys in the car to toss into baby's lap when she starts to get fussy. Grab one of those reusable grocery bags and turn it into the car toy bag. A good rule of thumb is to keep the toys soft and self-sufficient. You want things baby can play with on her own and won't hurt if they bop her in the face if you're swerving to avoid that moose.
A few favourites in our bag include DK Touch and Feel Books (I've found then at Coles and Winners in Totem Mall and on Amazon) and Bright Starts Grab and Go Soft Blocks (I've found these at Walmart).
Ride bobsled style
When baby is awake, ride bobsled style when you can, with one partner sitting in the backseat with baby. Take turns driving too!
Bring easy snacks
Nobody is happy when they're hungry, but on the long stretches of highway around B.C., there isn't always easy place to stop for a snack. Be ready with lots of travel-friendly snacks ready to go.
A few favourites for our nine-month-old in our car are baby food pouches (they are tasty, easy to pack, and easy to clean up) and MumMum Rice crackers (they are a good "hold you over for 30 more minutes until we stop for lunch" snack).
Whatever you do pack, especially if you plan on baby eating in her car seat, make sure you avoid snacks baby can choke on (it's hard to get her out of the car seat quickly) and make sure you are sitting with her and supervising while she eats).
For bottles and breastfeeding, having pre-pumped milk can avoid additional stops on route.
Pick up a car mirror
One of the most useful things I have in the car is having a shatterproof car mirror strapped to the headrest of the back seat baby is sitting in. Not only is it an easy distraction for baby on the drive, it also allows you to see baby's face by looking in the rear-view mirror instead of turning to look backwards.
Slap on a sunshade
While we love our sunny Peace summers, your baby may not. Sun in the eyes can make for a cranky baby. Keep long stretches comfortable by putting a sunshade up on the back windows. Mesh ones and cling ones are the safest, as they still allow you to shoulder check.
Plan your stops and take lots of breaks
The days of driving 14 hours to get to Vancouver in a day are probably behind you. Plan to pace your trip with a stop every two hours or so. Your life probably already revolves around baby's nap schedule, and this means the road trip will too.
Try and stop for a refresh whenever baby is up from her naps and continue to drive when she is sleeping. Because this can be unpredictable, having a good idea of rest stops, gas stations, and towns along your route can make your drive a little easier.
Stock the supplies
Make sure you have all the essentials packed in the diaper bag and extras for life's surprises. There are lots of packing lists out there, but a few things to remember are diapers (10 is usually a safe number and you can buy more when you arrive at your destination), wet wipes, an extra change of clothes (or two!), a soother, large Ziplock bag for dirty diapers, hand sanitizer, infant Tylenol, sunscreen, and a hat for baby.
Have pets? Make sure they're secure
The last thing you need is your dog jumping on the baby mid-trip when they see a dog in a neighbouring car (is that just my dogs?). One thing I always make sure I have in the car are leashes that clip into the car seatbelt buckle. That way you know that even if your fur babies get excited, they won't bother your human one.
Be flexible and know when to quit
The best laid plans of mice and men (and moms!) can often go awry – be flexible, be patient, and be ready to quit and find a hotel if needed be. You will get there when you get there.
A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John.