Or your three month old that is! Back in June when Emeline was a mere 3 months old we drove from England to Norway, the five of us. Yes, me, Alvin, Emeline and our two cats. I want to share how it went and give you some helpful hints in case you are ever brave enough to do this or just plain have to do it. We liked it so much we did it twice, just kidding, but we did do it twice.
May your road trips always go smoothly.
Before You Leave
1. Plan Your Route
Preview your route before you go, scope it out on google maps to see what lies ahead. Once you have done that, you can find out how long it actually takes to drive where you are going and then add AT LEAST one extra day for every two days. Driving from England to Norway takes about 22 hours non-stop, we decided to use 3 days, but even now I think 4 would have been better. It should have been 7 hours driving each day and we spent 10-12. This was due to many factors getting lost, traffic and Emeline breaks (as we called them). We were also not road tripping for leisure, which changes the whole ballgame. If you are road tripping for leisure you can pretty much take your time.
2. Mentally Prepare
Taking a road trip with a baby is not the worst thing you will ever do, but it might feel like it at times. Keep an open mind and be ready for anything from stopping every ten minutes to traffic issues; you might even find yourself spending hours at a sketchy rest-stop trying to soothe baby to sleep.
3. Pack Strategically
When road tripping with a baby you will need some space in your car for nappy changing and feeding. This is not to be overlooked because you won’t always be able to stop somewhere with baby changing facilities or a place for you to feed them. Try not to over pack and try to keep the main body of the car free of lose items that could hurt someone if an accident happened. If you do need to bring a suitcase/nappy bag into the car secure it by buckling it in and make sure it is 100% closed.
Keep food, water, some toys/books and baby changing items in the main part of the car. Make sure you keep your stopover items and essentials at the front of the trunk! We have an overnight duffle bag right on top, so when we arrive at the hotel it is grab and go.
To keep your belongings safe while on the road try to keep the main body of the cat empty when parking at your hotel. It may seem like a hassle, but having lots of bags visible makes your car a good target for breaking into. You must have something good in there! When parking your car choose a spot where you can back in against something like a bush or wall. No one would go through all of that trouble to see what is in the trunk.
5. TRIPLE CHECK YOUR CAR SEAT!
This is the most important. Make sure the car seat is correct for the vehicle you are driving, make sure it is installed correctly, make sure baby is the appropriate height/weight for the seat and make sure you have secured baby in correctly. There is ZERO shame in asking a friend or many friends to see if you have done things correctly. The Car Seat Lady is amazing and if you are reading this and have babies and do NOT know who she is get on Facebook and LIKE HER or find her online and bookmark her page. Many cities or districts have a certified car seat specialist who can check your car seat for free and if not they might be able to point you in the right direction. Finally, NEVER EVER RUSH when putting baby in the car seat.
6. Book Accommodation or Don’t
Chances are you will be overnighting during your journey and you can either book hotels or not book hotels. We booked our hotels, but they all had 24 hour check-in and free cancellation. I recommend booking hotels with these two features if you choose to book. Not booking hotels can be advantageous, for example, if you have had a really good day on the road and don’t feel like stopping or you are still 3 hours away from where you wanted to be and it is already late. Someone is bound to have a room available wherever you stop; you’ll just have to spend some time finding one. I don’t recommend this in the high season.
On The Road
1.Keep an Eye Out
And by that I mean be on the lookout for rest stops, gas stations and any place SAFE that you might need to stop ALWAYS. Emeline would go from the happiest to the unhappiest baby in a matter of seconds. We always found a safe place to pull over, even if that meant she had to cry a little bit longer than we all wanted. We never pulled over on the side of the road because we were on highways and we didn’t feel that feeding a baby in the backseat on the side of a highway where someone could hit us at a minimum of 60 mph was safe.
2. Let Baby Lead and Stop When You Need to!
Depending on the age of your child, things might be a bit more harmonious for everyone if you pull over when baby needs to pull over and stay as long as you need to in once there. Trying to push on with a crying baby isn’t a good idea. We used to try to rush with settling Emeline. We would pull over and rock her to get her to stop crying, check her nappy and make sure she had some food and start off again only to have to pull over 10-15 minutes later. Once we realized she needed more time out of the car seat we would give her ample stretching time and time to comfort nurse if she needed it. If you can, chose your rest stops appropriately. It is nice to let baby roll around on a blanket on the grass instead of trying to keep them quiet in a restaurant!
3. Expect (at least) One Meltdown
Emeline was only three months old when we did this. The first time she ever reached for a toy was half way into the second day (I’ll never forget it) and she was still fighting to get her hands to her mouth when she was tired or upset. Needless to say, there were a few times where Emeline got incredibly worked up (red face, screaming, couldn’t catch her breath). A few times we could NOT find anywhere to pull over and she had to cry for what felt like at least 20 minutes to me although I am sure it wasn’t that long. If this happens just try to talk, sing and soothe baby as best you can until you can pull over. Try to remain calm. If you aren’t calm it can negatively affect the driver.
4. Don’t Drive Tired!
NOTHING is more important than your and your passengers’ lives. Driving tired can be the same as driving drunk. If you are too tired stop driving and get some sleep! Stay and extra day in a hotel and forget about the money you will lose if you have to cancel any bookings. I assure you the 100-500 dollars you will lose is much less than you could lose. The same applies for people who have trouble driving at night.
I have seen a lot of people recommending to drive at night when your baby would be sleeping. I, personally, don’t recommend this because if you do this when are you going to sleep and what will you do if it back fires?! This may work for some people, but it DOESN’T work for me. I would be too tired and would be putting lives at risk if I did.
5. Buy a Road Atlas
Keep this in your car always. My father taught me that and it is the best advice. You never know when your GPS will lose reception or your phone will die.
6. Sit with Baby
If possible, have one adult, sit in the back with baby. This made our trip so much better. Daddy could focus on driving and I could focus on keeping baby happy.
7. Keep Your Car Happy
Make sure your car is ready to go with all fluids having been topped up and if you are planning on putting some serious distance on your car you might want to get a full service completed at least a week before going.
8. Refreshments and Entertainment
Make sure you have snacks and drinks for yourself! If you are using formula you can keep a thermos with warm water in the car or if you are using expressed milk you can run the frozen milk under a hot tap at a rest stop.
You can bring along a selection of toys, books, kids music CDs and snacks for baby and also we found books on tape or talk radio helped sooth Emeline to sleep. Make sure your toys are soft and can’t become weapons if an accident occurs and avoid feeding baby while the car is moving.
9. Check the Weather
Try to avoid traveling in really bad weather conditions. If it seems to be raining so hard you can’t see, maybe it is time for a rest. Your cargo is precious and taking an early night at a hotel will probably be better than trying to drive through a passing storm.
10. Don’t Forget the Trip Home!
You will need to prepare for the trip home just like you did the trip out. Start a few days in advance and think is there anything you didn’t do on the trip out that would make the trip home easier?
Overall, I would say our trip back was easier than our trip out. I think this was because it was our first ever road trip, but also because Emeline was slightly older on the way home. When it comes time for your to road trip try to relax, stay calm and take it all as it comes.