For parents of young children, the prospect of being stick in a car with babies and toddlers can be enough to take the wind out of any travel plans. But don’t let the idea of travelling with toddlers or babies stop you from holidaying happily; if you take the following steps to ensure you’re prepared for every eventuality, road trips can be exactly the type of family experience that (golden!) memories are made of.
A bit of forward planning is a necessary when it comes to travelling with a baby or toddler. Plan to:
Travel at night, if you can - replicating your children’s natural sleeping patterns will defend against tiredness induced tantrums. (If you do choose to travel in the dark, though, make sure to keep the designated driver alert and awake).
Avoid hitting the road at peak travel time; that means both the time of year, and the time of day.
Set out a picturesque route with plenty of pit-stops. This is a great way to make your road trip more than just a dreary drive, and maps or apps can show you the various lookouts and green spaces that mark your chosen stretch of road.
Kitting out the car:
Taking a “safety first” attitude should be your first priority when considering vacations with toddlers or a vacation with a baby. Ensuring that your kids’ booster seats are strapped in and secure (and the right size for your baby/toddler) is the most important box to tick on your car-ride checklist.
Consider investing in some window-shades to keep the glare out of your kids’ eyes and to create an in-car environment that is more amenable to sleep.
A first-aid kit is a must where small children are involved and you’re far away from a home-base.
Packing, packing, packing:
It’s always a good idea to do your packing well before you set off on your journey. Don’t forget these essentials:
Anything and everything your baby or toddler would need on an average day at home, pack into a carry-bag for the car. This means vitals like (but certainly not limited to) expressed milk, favourite toys, plastic bags, and plenty of nappies. Pack clothes appropriate for the place you’re heading to – merino children’s clothing such as knits for colder climates, and light layers for the beach.
Entertainment for the car: loading up your device with kiddie-friendly audiobooks, podcasts, and videos ensures a day full of virtual distraction for your tiny tots. Make sure to include some podcasts that interest you, too, if you’re lucky enough to have your kid(s) doze off during the journey.
In the same vein, don’t forget your adult necessities – check twice that you’ve got your wallet and keys handy, and pack your phone (and charger) in case of emergencies.
Keeping a conscious eye on your kids will allow you to perceive any signs of grizzliness before a bad mood matures into a full-blown tantrum. Giving your baby/toddler a small snack or toy to placate them will help nip tantrums in the bud.
If you have them, older children are a godsend. Getting your bigger kids to play with the younger ones is great entertainment for babies and toddlers and allows the adult(s) a much-needed chance to conserve some energy too.
Sticking to a regular eating/drinking/breastfeeding schedule wards against irritability for all road-tripping parties. Stopping every few hours for a healthy meal or snack also keeps kids’ digestion normal (which means reduced possibility of car-sickness).
And if all else fails - whip out your camera and document the experience! Even if your road trip doesn’t go perfectly, chances are you’ll look back on the journey with fondness when your kids are older.