Whether you've booked a well-deserved staycation, are visiting family who live a few hours away, or enjoyed road trips before your baby was born and want to take them along on your next adventure, you'll want to plan long car journeys with your little one carefully. This will help to take a lot of the stress out of the experience and should also mean that you have all of the essentials on hand to keep your baby happy and comfortable along the way.
You need to put plenty of thought into everything, from what you're going to pack, to how you're going to time your journey. Here, we're going to share our top tips that will hopefully help everything to go smoothly.
Get your car ready
If you haven't taken your baby on many car journeys so far, you mightn't have made all of the adjustments that can help to make a road trip much more comfortable and enjoyable for them. If possible, we would recommend making these a couple of weeks before you set off so you can test everything on a few shorter journeys, and you'll be able to make any necessary tweaks ahead of time.
Of course, the first thing you'll want to do is fit your baby's car seat if you haven't already. Start by checking any car seat you plan to use fits neatly with the shape of your car's interior. In some cases, you might have to remove a head restraint to ensure this is the case. It's vital that you install a baby's car seat in the back of your car, and never fit one in front of an active airbag. You should be able to find any other information you need in the instructions that come with your car seat, so make sure you read them carefully.
Adding window shades is also a good idea, as it will help to keep the glare out of your baby's eyes and prevent them from getting sunburnt during the day. It will help to prevent them from being disturbed by streetlights if your trip will involve some driving at night, too.
Time your journey right and plan your stops
Babies like routine, and you can use this to your advantage when planning a long car journey. Try to travel while your little one is likely to be sleeping. This might mean setting off around the time you usually put them down for their afternoon nap, or you could even decide to drive through the night if it's going to make life easier for you. This will also have the added benefit of giving you clearer roads, so they journey shouldn't take as long. Just make sure whoever's driving is well-rested before setting off!
It's also a good idea to pre-plan some of your stops along the way and scout out any other places you might decide to stop off at if your baby gets irritable or you need to schedule an emergency nappy change. Knowing when you're next going to get some fresh air can help to give you some peace of mind if you do run into any problems. We would recommend planning a stop every one to three hours during the day, and three to six hours at night. Although, if your little one under four weeks old, they shouldn't be left in a car seat for more than 30 minutes, so you'll need to keep this in mind if they're particularly young.
Make sure you have all of the essentials
As a new parent, you'll be used to packing your changing bag with military precision before leaving the house, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with this when preparing for your journey. But, we would also recommend making up a special road trip kit that includes everything you might need to grab at a moment's notice. In it, you should keep:
- A portable changing mat with a handful of nappies
- A packet of wipes
- Pre-portioned bottles of formula or breast milk in a cooler bag
- A handful of your little one's favourite toys
- A first aid kit with any medication your baby might need
- An extra blanket
- A baby mirror so you can see your little one from the front passenger seat
It's important that you pack the little things that are going to make the journey much easier for you, too. So, make sure you remember all of the in-car chargers, snacks, earphones, and music that will keep you happy and comfortable.
Work out how you’re going to keep your baby entertained
You'll want to keep your baby entertained throughout your car journey, otherwise you'll risk them throwing a tantrum that you can't simply fix by feeding or changing them. So, make sure you have plenty of tricks up your sleeve to keep them happy.
As we've mentioned, you'll want to pack a handful of their favourite toys. Ones that attach to their car seat can also be incredibly helpful, as they shouldn't get lost during the journey.
You won't want them to feel ignored or lonely, either. So, it's worth spending some time in the back of the car with them if possible. You'll get some time to yourself when they nap, but they'll be much more likely to stay calm and happy if they know you're close. You can also play some silly games like peekaboo to add some variety to the journey.
Take these tips on board and the first road trip will be much more likely to go smoothly. Of course, you can't plan for every eventuality with a baby but, if you do encounter any problems, our advice should help you to feel much more prepared to face them.