Road trips are a Quirk family tradition. We’ve been through Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, back and forth to NYC, up into Canada, the Icelandic countryside and to the outer banks of North Carolina and back. We really like driving! And by we, I mean Adam drives and I navigate old school style with a road atlas. We used to cover up to 10 hours a day (depending on the trip) but with a little guy in tow, we’ve revised our roadie. Here are my top ten tips for making the most of long drives with smallish children (as a reference, Felix is 10 months old!)
1. Start with a Clean Car Sure, it sounds obvious, but my fellow parents know how puffs and crackers and this and that can end up squished into every crack of the back seat. Before we left for our trip, I did a full at home detailing job. Wipe up that dash, vacuum, and toss those old coffee cups and empty bottles (and receipts and and and). Another thing I do before we leave are pack some plastic grocery bags (folded neatly because I’m like that!) into each door. You never know when someone is going to get carsick (true story!) or just want to use it for dirty diapers.
2. Fuel Up on Thursday Morning Gas prices tend to jump a bit on weekends or before holidays, so get your gas a day or two before you leave. This also allows you get in a good stretch of driving before needing to stop. Which leads me to…
3. Honor the Nap If it all possible, we’ve found it’s best to leave right at nap time, stop when baby wakes up and do a diaper change, nursing session and coffee pit stop for mama and papa. Thankfully Felix naps best in his car seat or stroller, so this is a saving grace for us! When we get back on the road, one parent moves to the back seat and plays with baby for a while (usually me) untll we get to another stopping point or near the next nap time. The worst thing you can do (in my opinion) is skip naps before you leave in hopes your baby will take an extra long second nap. Sleep begets sleep in the Quirk house! We’ve made this mistake before and Felix wailed all the way from Indy to Fort Wayne (or about two hours) and it was all. mommy’s. fault!
4. Pace the Toys Like most children, Felix has his favorite toys. Instead of giving him access to all of them at the same time, I give him one at a time until he tires of it and wants to move on. I also rotate in snacks and books to switch things up a bit. Some lull him to sleep and others make him concentrate. Babies can get bored too, so it’s also fun to throw in something he hasn’t played with in a while for variety. When all else fails, the kid always goes nuts for a half full water bottle or trail map too!
5. Wipes! Lots and lots of WIPES! I like to have at least two packages of wipes in the car, so they’re reachable at any moment (usually in the middle of the floor in the backseat and another pack in the trunk). Not only are they good for baby messes, but mommy messes (spilled coffee!) or good for cleaning hands/faces. We’ve used Seventh Generation wipes since Felix was born and our latest stash was a gift from them as they’re a new What I Wore sponsor! Thanks guys!
6. Combine Important Items into Kits I used this concept on a flight back in March and it works well for the car too. I take gallon sized plastic zip bags and put in everything I might need. For example, I’ll do a diaper change bag (a couple of disposable dipes* + wipes) in one, an outfit change in another, snacks in a third and small toys in another. So instead of riffling around in a bottomless pit of a diaper bag, I just have a few possible things to reach for!
**On our latest trip we opted to go with disposable diapers in lieu or cloth because we didn’t know what the washer/dryer situation would be like in someone else’s place and I didn’t want to be toting around a bag of dirty diapers back and forth to Michigan! I’ve since used them on another weekend trip, including overnight! I love them even more. Again, thanks to Seventh Generation for providing a pack of them for us to try out. I like them a lot (no leaks!) and will definitely purchase them again for myself. They don’t have the smell of traditional disposables (which I loath) and are also free of any dyes, inks, petrolum based lotions.
4. Road Snacks! Adam and I eat pretty healthy at home, including our snacks, but when road trips happen, we like to treat ourselves to a bunch of goodies at the gas station. Twizzlers, Combos and Big Red are my favorites! I also got some new snacks for Felix along with a new container of puffs (Puffs! What would we do without ‘em!?) I also give him freeze dried apple slices that he can slobber on for longer stretches.
8. Make a Playlist (or pick a good digital channel) In my day, we actually called these Mix Tapes, even though they were really just burned CDs. Now we have the ability to play music through our cell phones, so I just pick a channel on Spotify and we go with it! In the summer I like 90s Hits or John Mellencamp!
10. HAVE FUN! Babies and Kids (and dead car batteries) require flexibility. Like parenthood in general, a sense of humor and a lighthearted spirit make for the most memorable experiences. Sometimes you’ve just gotta sing louder than the baby can scream (granted he’s not in danger or anything serious) or accept that your 3 hour drive became a 10 hour journey.
Thanks again to our sponsor Seventh Generation, a brand we’ve used in our household for years. Seventh Generation lives its commitment to “caring today for seven generations of tomorrows,” with plant-based products formulated to provide mindful solutions for the air, surfaces, fabrics, pets and people within your home – and for the community and environment outside of it.