- Family and Parenting
Traveling with Baby & Traveling with a Toddler in a Car Tips
Car travel with an infant, baby or toddler is difficult but manageable with the right tricks
Travel will change significantly after having a baby and not in a good way. Road trips will no longer be fun, relaxing and quiet. You will no longer be able to drive for extended periods of time without making frequent stops. Book on tapes geared towards adults will no longer be appropriate. Peace and quiet will be a thing of the past. Traveling smart can make all the difference in the world when babies and toddlers are involved. I've compiled my best tips (and there are quite a few) for staying sane while partaking in baby travel.
Toddler & Baby Car Travel Experience
Have you ever taken a road trip with an infant or young child?
Bring a portable potty for your toddler
If your toddler is at a stage where they're potty training it's essential that you have a portable potty. You don't always know how long it will be to the next stop and young children and toddlers are unable to hold it for long. If you have a portable potty you can simply pull to the side of the road.
What I absolutely love about this portable potty is that it works in two ways. The first is a portable potty and it has bags that you attach to the base. This way the waste can be thrown out and you don't have to deal with messy clean up. The second is it can be used as a portable potty seat. This keeps your child clean at dirty rest stops and also makes the seat the right size so your child isn't falling in. My daughter loves this seat and always requests it. It folds down small so it's easy to bring with on travels or day-to-day errands.
Scented Bags for Accidents and Dirty Diapers for Travel with a Baby - Must have when traveling in the car with babies
I don't know what it is about my kids but when they were infants it seemed they'd always have an explosive, get everywhere poop whenever we were on a road trip. I'm not someone who likes to throw away baby clothes because they're dirtied. So to my husband's great distress I would always insist on bringing the poopy clothes with us. One of the worst experiences but now the funniest was not on a road trip but just a trip across town. We went to a car dealership where we planned on trading in our vehicle and purchasing a new one. As if on cue right before we pulled in my daughter had one of these famous episodes. We cleaned her up, put her in her spare outfit and left the dirty one in the bag of the SUV. We forgot all about it until we took the car salesman out to inspect the value of our trade in. The dirty clothes had been baking in the hot Arizona sun. Needless to say I'm pretty sure the resulting smell took several thousand dollars off the price he was willing to offer us for our trade in...
In addition to clothes there may come times when you have to change a diaper on the side of the road and have no where to throw it. Having a bag that is scented and can be tied tight can help greatly reduce smells. I would highly recommend bringing some scented bags in the car whether you're driving cross country or just to the grocery store. You can also put a kitchen trash bag scented in Febreze in your car in case of emergency. I personally like these Knot It bags because you can tear off the amount you need and not waste a lot of bag.
Use a baby mirror in your car during road trips with baby
A baby mirror is great not only for the longer road trips for also for day-to-day driving. It's highly recommended for safety reasons that baby's car seat is installed rear-facing until baby reaches the age of 2. In this set-up it's not possible to see baby unless you have a mirror. There are a number of reasons why it helps to see your baby. Are they out of their snack or bottle? Did they fall asleep? Are they choking on something? Why are they crying? A mirror can decrease the need for stopping as often if you can see what's going on.
This mirror in particular is nice because of how it fits on a car. It attaches to any middle head rest; I've had other mirrors that would work in one of my vehicles and not the other. So far I haven't seen a car this hasn't worked in. Plus it rotates 360 degrees so you can get the perfect angle to view your baby which is another problem I've had with other mirrors. It also gives a clear, non-distorted view.
Block the sun with a baby sun shade
Traveling with a baby is extra difficult if the sun is in your baby's eyes. They will typically let you know of the problem by screaming at the top of their lungs... The sun also has a pesky way of waking a sleeping baby and any parent knows that is something to be avoided at all costs. Having a good sun screen eliminates these scenarios and will enable you to drive in peace for longer.
This particular sunshade is nice because it comes in a pack of two so you can cover both sides of the car. It has SPF 30 protection and blocks UV rays, glare and also heat. They're easy to hang, adjust and store.
Plan extra time for stops and breaks for baby on your road trip
Even though I just gave several tips on how to reduce frequent stops on the road, my next tip is to take breaks often. Obviously don't wake baby up and if baby is happy don't rock the apple cart. Try to coordinate stops for gas or food with your baby's needs. I know from experience once baby starts to get cranky it's only going to get worse. If you stop right away, attend to babies needs, give them some love and a little stretch they'll often return to their car seat a happy baby. If you push it however, it can be harder to appease baby later.
If you're on a schedule as far as when you need to arrive at your destination, make sure to plan lots of extra time for stopping along the way. A six hour drive could become eight with stops. If you don't budget that time to keep baby happy then the last several hours of your trip you could be to the tune of screaming.
What to pack when driving with a baby or toddler
These items can make a road trip much more manageable
Snacks, snacks and more snacks
Juice, formula, water or breast pumping supplies depending our your child's stage
Toys, books and anything to keep him or her entertained
Baby's favorite stuffed animal or blankie or other item to help encourage sleep
A blanket or two
A change of clothes or two
Extra diapers and wipes or portable potty seat
Scented bags for soiled items
Extra pacifiers if your baby uses one
Sun screen (leave in car)
Baby mirror (leave in car)
Help facilitate easy snacking for your child while traveling in the car
If your child has a full tummy their much more likely to stay content for longer. Having snacks that are easy to access can help prevent frequent stopping.
Bring a portable booster seat when traveling in a car with a baby
While traveling by car with a baby it's a good idea to pack a portable booster seat. Some restaurants and fast food joints don't have high chairs available or if they do they might be dirty and covered in germs. Bringing your own booster seat ensures that baby will always have a safe, clean place to eat their meals. It can even come in handy at your destination if you need to eat any meals in your hotel room or at a relative's house who does not own an extra high chair.
Keep your baby or toddler entertained while on the road
If you travel with an arsenal of toys, books and activities to entertain your baby or young child the trip will be a much happier experience for everyone involved. Hours spent in a car can be boring even for adults, so it's little wonder that small children will get restless quickly. Help make the time in the car fun with items that your child doesn't normally play with so it's fresh and fun. Your child might even come to look forward to long drives if there's a particular treat that they only get to play with while traveling.
Entertain your baby in the car
These toys hook onto the car seat so that baby has easy access to something fun to keep them entertained.
Chicco Fun Travel Car Safari Toy
This toy has many fun components sure to entertain and attaches to the seat in front of it for a forward facing car seat. If backward facing then it can rest on your child's lap. Appropriate for babies 12 months and older
Lamaze Play & Grow Rusty the Robot Take Along Toy
Designed for babies' birth through 24 months, this toy encourages creativity and stimulates curiosity. This hangs from the car seat so baby won't lose it in the car.
Entertain your toddler in the car
Toddlers are typically a little easier in the car than babies as long as they're kept well entertained with plenty of snacks and water.
Portable DVD Player
A portable DVD player is a great way for the hours to pass quickly for a toddler. Pop in their favorite movie or television show and they'll be happy for hours. This DVD player is nice because it has a convenient swivel screen and an affordable price.