So I told my boys I was going to write an article about how to travel across the country with a small child and they just laughed at me. I guess I didn’t do as well as I thought I did on our recent trip. Hey, we all survived, isn’t that enough?
We just came back from a three-week trip out west to visit family. Usually I enjoy the forty-two hour trip. That is, if my husband doesn’t decide to skip the hotel for the night and just keeps driving on and on and on. Do you know how good a hotel looks after thirty-two hours non-stop in a car? But all-night drives aside, car trips are a great chance to spend time together as a family, see spectacular scenery (especially once we get out west), and listen to great audio books.
On this trip we were able to marvel over God’s faithfulness in The Hiding Place; we laughed loudly while listening to the adventures of Tom and his brother in The Return of the Great Brain (*see caution below); and we held our breath as Timothy and Philip learned to survive in The Cay. (This book made it onto our favorite book list.)
Our enthusiasm for long car trips was somehow dampened by having in our company our ten-and-a-half month old daughter. Now usually Kaitlyn Joy lives up to her name and is really a pure joy to have around, but you have to admit this age is hard for traveling. They aren’t content to sit still like a younger non-mobile child might be, and yet they can’t read books, enjoy audio, or participate in a conversation like an older child can.
Before we left, I brainstormed for ideas of how to entertain her. I packed some toys she had never seen before. I packed snacks that I thought might keep her occupied. Things like raisins, veggie stick chips, apple sauce and yogurt. And I found these great, squeezable, practically spill-proof, organic, sugar-free fruit and veggie pouches (that got pretty long) that are meant to be sucked right from the package.
Baby girl really loved these when I gave her one before we started off, but on the trip they may, or may not, have kept her entertained longer than the straw she got a hold of.
Of course, the new toys weren’t interesting for her very long, but when all else fails you can always play peek-a-boo with the car seat’s sun visor.
And then there’s the stickers-on-the-forehead game.
I didn’t realize how sleepy she looked when I took these pictures and, sure enough, she fell asleep shortly after. But that didn’t last long, because with six other people in the car, before long someone needed a rest stop, and usually they would not take no for an answer no matter how hard I extolled the value of peace and quiet.
Anyway we somehow survived the trip out and back. Hear are some tips I learned.
- Pack plenty of snacks. The squeezable food pouches that I mentioned (or something similar) work great and aren’t very messy. Kaitlyn loved string cheese, too, if someone fed her one tiny string at a time.
- Pack some new toys and books, but don’t be surprised if the potato chip package is more interesting to your little one. Kaitlyn discovered on this trip how fun it is too tear a napkin into itty-bitty pieces and since then she’s been trying to tear everything into two. We happened to have a bunch of bubbles in the car from a wedding we had attended recently and those proved to be a big hit with Kaitlyn, too.
- Pack plenty of baby wipes and plastic bags for garbage or dirty clothes.
- Stop frequently (but, please, not when baby is sleeping) and take every opportunity to let your little one out for a stretch. Even a short break from the car seat seemed to do a lot for Kaitlyn. Stopping and eating in a restaurant instead of using the drive-through helped, too.
- If you have other children, have them take turns entertaining the baby. A child this young doesn’t understand why she has to sit still so long, so do your best to keep it interesting for her. Looking at a picture book with Kaitlyn often helped quiet her down when she was getting really grumpy.
- Don’t forget that patience and a sense of humor go a long way.
- Travel during the night. I know I said that I don’t like traveling during the night, but it’s hard to beat driving while the baby sleeps.
- Did I mention traveling during the night?
We may be crazy but we’re planning on heading out again in a few months. Kaitlyn will be one by then and I hope she will have reached that developmental milestone that allows young children to sit in car seats for long periods of time without complaining. But just in case she hasn’t, I’m already making a list of things to bring along.
This fun book is on my wish list. There are raised buttons on every page that make a fun popping sound when your child presses them. Maybe I’ll give it to Kaitlyn for her birthday.
And although we’re not fond of video, especially for little ones, I’m considering these videos a friend recommended. These DVDs have songs for kids sung by kids doing actions or playing together. Kaitlyn loves it when we sing so I think she’d like these.
What have you found that keeps baby happy on a long road trip?
*While the Return of the Great Brain was laugh-out-loud funny, the father in there is portrayed as something of an idiot and the grown-ups promote lying if they feel like it will help out in a sticky situation.