If you’re planning a long car journey with your baby you may well be asking yourself the questions I was before our first trip – how is my child going to cope with the long journey? How will I keep him/her amused? Is he/she going to cry the whole way? Are we mad?!
Our first long car journey with our baby lasted around 7 hours (we’d scheduled 5). He cried for the first 2 hours and we arrived at our destination a bit shell shocked. This car trip was a particularly unpleasant experience because it was a public holiday and we hit really heavy traffic straight away. Euan was bored and lonely in the back and since the car wasn’t moving he didn’t want to fall asleep. The journey from our home in Edinburgh to a friend’s house in the north of Scotland had been a trial run for the 2000 mile road trip of Europe we were leaving for a few weeks later and I was worried we’d made a huge mistake. However, my husband and I learned a lot on that first journey which helped to make our European trip a great success. We planned the driving around our baby and he was as good as gold. It was an amazing holiday and I would do it again in a minute.
Here are my top 10 tips for a long car journey with your baby. Hopefully they’ll help make your journey a success.
1. Plan your itinerary around your child’s nap times. On our European trip we usually set off straight after breakfast, just in time for Euan’s morning nap. He’d sleep for the first hour (or so) of the journey and when he woke we’d stop for a break.
2. Avoid rush hour. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in a car which isn’t moving. We chose our route to avoid congested roads and only came across one traffic jam on our road trip. Instead of sitting in it we stopped at the motorway service station for a relaxing cup of coffee.
3. Plan your trip so that you don’t drive more than around 3 hours a day. We found this to be manageable, any more and you’re in danger of not enjoying the journey.
4. Take plenty of breaks. Your baby will appreciate the change of scene and enjoy having a cuddle or play with Mummy and Daddy.
5. Take a variety of toys with you and don’t give them to your baby all at once. It’s a good idea to take his/her favourite toys and a couple of new ones.
6. Brush up on your nursery rhymes! Your baby will be entertained and soothed by you singing to him/her. You can get CDs/MP3s of nursery rhymes which your baby will love.
7. Keep the back seat free of clutter so that you can sit beside your baby and entertain or soothe him if he’s fractious. Just seeing your face will keep him calm. Having an organised car will also make it easy to find things when you need them. Using a roof box will help with this. See my related article http://www.lovebabylovetravel.com/packing-for-a-road-trip/ for ideas.
8. You can buy a special mirror which attaches to the headrest of the back seat so that you can see your baby from the front. Euan learned that he could look in the mirror and see Mummy and Daddy and it meant that I could chat to him by turning around from the front passenger seat.
9. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks in the car for Baby and you.
10. Have your overnight stops planned in advance and make sure your hotels are family friendly. For help choosing your accommodation see my related post http://www.lovebabylovetravel.com/finding-family-friendly-accommodation/
Driving gave us the freedom to explore five different countries – Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Please feel free to write about your own experiences or ask questions below.