Planning a Road Trip with a Baby :: How NOT to go Crazy

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Wait… Why would you do that?

I am no stranger to road trips. I come from a long line of “why fly when you can drive?”… so driving long distances in the car is nothing new to me. Road trips are a great time to be alone with your thoughts, listen to a really good audiobook, or jam out to some awesome music! I’m originally from Indiana and when I moved to South Carolina I drove home to visit all the time. When I say all the time, I mean that at first I was going home monthly, sometimes twice a month. I’ve been known to rock a nine hour drive for a three day vacation.
 
As time went on, my trips home lessended. I set down roots in South Carolina and the lives of those back home moved on. I graduated college, got a job, and got married. Orchestrating vacations became harder and harder. Now I usually only get to go home once a year or so. I’m a pro at road trips – by myself – and I pride myself on my ability to take a nine hour drive with only one stop! But road tripping with an 8 month old is a whole new experience for me. So in an effort to help out my fellow mamas, here’s what I learned on my first family road trip.
 

10 Ways to Make a Road Trip a Little Easier…

1. Make a packing list the week before your trip.

Then start packing a little at a time a few days before so you’re not super overwhelmed the day before. I started with Milo’s stuff three days before we left and then packed mine the day or two before. Try to stick to your list so you don’t overpack! (I did NOT take my own advice here)

How NOT to pack for a 2 week trip!

2. Plan your stops!

You know you will need gas and bathroom breaks. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead of time where/when you will stop … whether it’s a quick break at a rest stop or you need to gas up and grab something to eat. Aim for one and done stops … gas, food, potty breaks.

3. Don’t over do it in the days leading up to your trip.

This is just a theory, but it worked for us. We had a very calm week leading up to our trip. My line of thinking was he wouldn’t feel like he was “stuck” in the car and missing out on so much because we spent the last few days only hanging around the house. 

4. Snacks!

Even if babe doesn’t get super hungry, sometimes you can distract a crying baby just long enough with some baby puffs. *Pro tip: Bring snacks along in individual zip lock baggies or containers to prevent overeating and meltdowns. If my guy can still see the container of puffs he’s going to want to eat them all! 

5. Bring along a surprise (or two).

We bought a fancy new toy JUST in case Milo lost his cool. We ended up needing it a few hours into the trip and it totally distracted him for a solid hour. Sure, it’s bribery, but it works.

Yay for new toys!

5. Have a day bag within reach. 

Include your snacks, extra clothing, toys, diapers and wipes … anything else you might need while traveling so you don’t have to dig through luggage.

7. If possible… be prepared to have to sit in the back with your little one if they get bored or lonely.

I ended up sitting in the back the whole way. Not ideal, but Milo wasn’t having it any other way. Luckily I was able to nap, which made the drive a little faster.

8. Start early!

Ever notice how babies tend to be in a better mood the first part of the day? We had plans to leave by 6 a.m., but didn’t end up leaving until 8. I wish we had left sooner. I think if we had, Milo might have napped a little better and perhaps not totally lost his cool the last 45 minutes of our drive (see tip #10 for more on that).

9. Get comfy.

I broke rule 1 when it comes to long car rides and did not dress for comfort. Jeans? What the heck was I thinking? Not only was it difficult for me to get comfy because my jeans were digging into my fat rolls (speaking truths here), but I was also a little too warm the whole time. Next time … leggings or yoga pants only!

The face of someone who regrets wearing jeans.

10. No matter how well you plan or prepare, something will inevitably go wrong.

Milo lost it the last 45 minutes of the drive. Like, red face, screaming, crying, had to pull over and get him out of the car lost it. It’s okay mama! You’ve got this!

Seriously, the last hour is gonna be hard. You probably already know this, but baby’s have some kind of freaky 6th sense that tells them when you’re almost to your destination so they can go ahead and freak out. It’s uncanny and Milo is a pro at this. So, needless to say we weren’t totally surprised when he started screaming his face off, but the more you anticipate it the better prepared you’ll be when it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be that much more relieved!

All in all, road tripping with an 8 month old wasn’t horrible. Different, but not the utter disaster I thought might be coming my way. I feel like I could totally do it again … in like a year or so, no rush!

What tips do you all have? What did I miss?

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Carey Shofner
Originally from Indiana, Carey moved to South Carolina in 2009. She and her husband, Brett, met during college at USC and now reside in Forest Acres. She is an elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom to their wonderful baby boy. After struggling with infertility for years, their son, Milo, joined their family in November of 2017 through the beautiful gift of adoption. Carey enjoys writing and crafting in her spare time and even has a small Etsy shop and personal blog, both named Simply Shofner. Coffee and cats are her love language and she's passionate about adoption, education and social justice issues. She would describe herself as your totally basic, semi-crunchy, hot mess mom who loves strolling the aisles of Target and play dates at Starbucks.

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