My husband and I love to travel, and since our families live far away, we travel with our one year old often. With two parents, our road trips are usually easy. Hubby does the driving and I can attend to Buddy when he needs a new toy or a paci. However for this trip, Hubby had to fly back to work early, leaving me alone to drive with Buddy for more than 7 hours. I was worried about how to manage Buddy while driving, but fortunately I came up with some ideas to help things go smoothly. I hope these tips help any other parents who find themselves in a similar situation.
Tip #1 – Accept that the trip will take longer with one parent compared to two and plan extra time. When we drove together to Cleveland, we only needed to stop once and it took us about 6 hours. I knew that I would have to stop more often to take care of Buddy since I wouldn’t be able to do it while driving. I also knew the stops would be longer. Usually Hubby gets food and gas while I feed and change the baby. But on my own, I wouldn’t be able to multitask. I knew the drive would be longer, and I made sure to allow plenty of time to make it home before dinner.
Tip #2 – Put gas in the car on the day before the trip. I wanted to make sure I could do anything I possibly could to make the trip shorter.
Tip #3 – Leave when the baby is full and tired. I planned to leave just before nap time, so that I knew I would have a long period of time with Buddy sleeping. I also made sure to feed him right before leaving so that I would only have to feed him once on the road.
Tip #4 – Bring snacks and drinks. Buddy’s nap went way past my lunchtime, but I had no intention of waking him up so I could eat. Fortunately, I had snacks and drinks to keep me full and happy until Buddy was awake and ready to eat.
Tip #5 – Put the pacifier on a clip. I’m not sure why I’ve never done this on a road trip before. On the drive over, I had to hand back several pacifiers because the paci would fall out when Buddy slept, and often it fell out of his reach. We have pacifier clips that keep the paci within his reach, and it was easy for him to find and replace it. I will definitely make sure to do this on all future road trips, because Buddy was happy to be able to get his paci or spit it out whenever he wanted.
Tip #6 – Put a variety of toys where your child can reach them. This was the part of the trip that most worried me. Buddy loves to play with toys and can get fussy if he’s stuck in the car for a long time without some entertainment. I had to get creative, but I was able to tie a shoebox onto the side of Buddy’s carseat with twine, and I provided additional support with the lid of the box. I also used our two toy tethers to ensure that at least a couple toys would remain within reach. Buddy loved being able to choose his own toys and not have to rely on me to figure out what he wanted.
Tip #7 – Bring a baby carrier or a stroller to help with stops. Our drive was mainly on a toll road, so we didn’t have drive-thru food as an option. I had planned to bring our Ergo to hold Buddy while I was in the bathroom and getting food, but I forgot it. However, the stroller worked perfectly. The handicapped bathroom had plenty of room for the stroller, and the stroller made a perfect highchair for Buddy to eat while I ate my food. It was much easier to carry my food and drink with Buddy in the stroller instead of squirming in my arms.
Tip #8 – Have a plan for melt downs. I knew at some point on the trip that Buddy would get fussy and would need some soothing. I made a playlist of his favorite songs and saved it for when he was upset. Sure enough, about 5 hours into our trip, Buddy dropped his favorite toy and was really upset. The songs helped calm him down for awhile, but then a poopy diaper put him over the edge. At that point, no amount of “Wheels on the Bus” was going to help, so I pulled over at the next stop. (Unfortunately we were on a toll road and it was another 20 minutes before I could stop.) I had been waiting to get more gas until later in the trip, so I was able to soothe my little boy and get gas at the same time.
Our road trip was over 7 and a half hours, and with my planning, Buddy was happy, entertained, or asleep for more than 7 hours. I would consider that to be a success, and I plan to use these tips again on our next trip.
If you have any other road trip tips, please share in the comments. Buddy and I will be on the road again in a few weeks, and I’d love to have some new ideas for a smooth trip.