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How to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

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How to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

My daughter was two months old when my wife and I embarked on a drive from Maine to southern New Jersey to attend my sister-in-law’s beach wedding. That’s over one thousand miles of driving in one long weekend.

It was the first trip of any distance we’d taken as new parents, and we were appropriately terrified about, well, everything.

The cool thing was that not only did we survive, but the trip brought us a lot closer as a family. After we made it back home safely, my wife and I both felt like we could tackle pretty much anything and everything that parenting threw at us.

That feeling lasted about a week, but it was a cool feeling.

Here are a few things that worked (and didn’t work) on that trip, which I hope translate into useful tips that help you out if you are planning to take a road trip with your baby.

Timing Is Everything

Avoid Traffic When Travelling With a Baby

    At two months old, our daughter was starting to sleep for longer stretches in the evening, so we decided to travel at night on the ride down. We departed after dinner and bath time—right around the time when we’d normally be settling her in for the night, and this worked perfectly.

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    Not only did we enjoy 2- and 3-hour stretches during which she slept comfortably and quietly in her car seat with a full belly, but we were also able to travel past Boston and New York City without hitting any traffic, reducing our time on the road.

    Our daughter had basically the same amount of sleep she usually got in an evening, so when we arrived in New Jersey we were tired, but she was well rested and happy, which made the weekend great.

    The ride home was a different story—my pending work schedule forced us to depart first thing, the day after the ceremony. That 9-hour drive turned into a 14-hour marathon that had us leaving dirty diapers and little pieces of our sanity at every rest stop between Cape May and Portland, Maine.

    My advice is to get your rest, drink plenty of caffeine, and then drive through the night if you can. This way you can avoid traffic and make the drive stress-free for you and your baby.

    Be Intentional: Plan How You’ll Pack

    Plan How You Will Pack For Your Trip

      Life with a newborn can feel like one never-ending loop where you’re doing laundry, rocking a tiny version of yourself as you pace up and down your hallways, and trying to unscrew the cap on the orange juice with one hand.

      It’s easy in this dream-state to tell yourself that the sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll get there, and to simply throw everything into the back of your car when you’re prepping for a road trip with a baby.

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      Don’t do it.

      Take some time and carefully plan where you’ll put everything. Make sure you have a nursing pillow and blanket or nursing cover handy for your partner (who can sleep on these while the baby is sleeping to stay rested), pack some snacks that offer a good mix of the nutrition you need to stay alert and energized, bring plenty of water, and create a changing station inside the car.

      We found that it worked really well for my wife to ride in the backseat with our daughter, and I packed our duffel bags on the passenger-side floor in the front seat. This allowed me to lay a quilt down on the seat next to me and over the duffel bags, and I used this for a changing station. I had Purell sanitizer and baby lotion in the cup holder, diapers tucked in between the seat and center console, and the wipes were wedged in safely near the glove compartment.

      When our daughter awoke, I pulled over and my wife passed her up to me. I could change her comfortably without opening the car to the sound of 18-wheelers roaring past, and then I’d pass our daughter back to my wife so she could nurse and get settled for the next leg of the trip.

      It worked like a charm—our daughter stayed warm and comfortable, she was in dry diapers every time we departed a pit stop, and she was never blasted awake by opening and closing the car doors next to the highway.

      Be Honest with Yourself about What You Need

      Packing for a Road Trip With a Baby

        You’re going to over-pack.

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        Even if you say to yourself right now that you aren’t going to over-pack, you’re wrong.

        I’m here to tell you that it’s going to happen.

        But I’m also here to encourage you to try to be less psychotic about bringing every baby-soothing item you own, especially if you’re traveling to visit family.

        What I’ve learned during my short time as a parent is that your family is awesome, they love your daughter, and they will (without fail) have 10,000 bags of baby clothes and over-the-top gifts you never would have purchased waiting for you, every time you arrive.

        If you pack too much of your own stuff, you won’t have room for everything they give you when it’s time to go home, and the truth is that even if you aren’t going to visit family, you’ll only use about half of what you’re planning to bring anyway (and packing extra just means extra trips to and from the car).

        So take inventory, check yourself, and leave that seventeenth colorful toy with the bell inside it in the nursery.

        Keep a Sense of Humor: You’re in This Together

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        Keep a Sense of Humor When Taking a Road Trip with a Baby

          If there’s one last thing I’ve learned during my short time as a parent, it’s that it’s not an easy job. The responsibility I feel all day, every day, is overwhelming, and it is often difficult for me to keep my stress level low.

          Add travel to the mix, and it’s easy for things to go sideways.

          But one thing that has made it easy for me to become a half-decent parent is the fact that I have a fantastic wife.

          She is great to share a laugh with when our little one rips a toot during a romantic moment, and when I get terrified that we’re doing something to permanently screw up this little angel we created, she’s there to calm me down and back me up.

          On our first family road trip, I learned quickly that you don’t have to be a perfect parent, but you should try to be a perfect team. The ride you’re on is supposed to be bumpy, but it’s an amazing one if you make an effort to go with the flow, support one another, and keep a sense of humor.

          Featured photo credit: Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures via pixabay.com

          More by this author

          Joe Hessert

          Writer, Digital Marketing Professional

          How to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby How to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

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          Last Updated on October 7, 2021

          Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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          Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

          In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

          Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

          There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

          Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

          Let’s get started, shall we?

          Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

          Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

          1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

          When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

          Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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          “Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

          2. Teaches the Value of Family

          Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

          According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

          3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

          Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

          “Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

          For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

          4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

          How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

          “If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

          5. Creates a Safe Environment

          If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

          Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

          6. Reduces Stress

          This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

          According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

          So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

          How to Make Family Time Happen

          Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

          1. Family Dinners

          This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

          Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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          “Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

          According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

          As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

          2.  Regular Movie Nights

          This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

          Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

          3. Game Night

          This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

          In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

          So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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          4. Sharing a Hobby

          If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

          Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

          Final Thoughts

          Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

          Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

          The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

          Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

          Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
          [2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
          [3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
          [4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
          [5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
          [6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
          [7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
          [8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
          [9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
          [10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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