We are from Canada but have been living in the SF Bay Area for the last 3 years. We try to get home every summer and every Christmas. We didn’t make it last summer because I was too pregnant, but this year we headed home to celebrate DK’s first birthday with family and friends! And we drove. A 23 hour drive. With a baby. Yeah, I’m sure you’re not jealous.
But actually, it went remarkably well. We are super lucky to have a baby who is not afflicted with car sickness. If we did, we’d probably never leave home. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue, so we already had a head start on the long drive.
But it was still a long time for a little guy to be in the car. Here are some things that we did that I think made it doable.
1) Swimming, swimming, swimming every day
DK loves swimming. He will kick kick kick in the pool until he’s pruney and blue. The BEST thing we did (I’ll admit, by accident) was book hotels with pools. Before we left in the morning, we’d pack up the car and then we’d take him for a swim, which would exhaust him. We’d get him changed and then I’d nurse him and he’d be so drowsy that one minute into the car ride, he’d be asleep…for 3+ hours. It was a great way to get in a chunk of driving.
2) Not overdoing it
Before kids, my husband and I would do long road trips. Like long. My husband is a long-drive enthusiast, happily doing 16 hours at a time. I can go about 9 before I’m squirrelly. Thankfully, I planned this trip and I tried to make sure (through the help of Google maps) that we were only driving between 5 – 7 hours per day.
3) Packing strategically
We needed two suitcases to fit a week’s worth of clothes for three people…one for me (hey, I like light layers) and one shared between DK and my husband. This works for airplane travel…but it is not effective for car travel. You have to lug too many things in from the car to the hotel room. So I got smart and re-packed it all so that we could fit 4 days of road-trip clothes and essentials in one suitcase and the other suitcase for everything else.
4) There’s an app for that!
The PlayPlaces app maps according to your location where the nearest restaurants with PlayPlaces and rest stops with bathrooms are located. This app was a life saver on the long sparsely populated drive across northern Nevada and southern Idaho. We ate at McDonalds A LOT. But they have change tables, and a place for DK to crawl around, and McFlurries. Enough Said.
5) Toy bag
A few weeks before our trip I gathered a bunch of small toys and books and put them in a bag out of DK’s sight. I also bought a few small new toys to include for something new and novel. After a few weeks without those toys, everything was exciting again! I passed him one toy at a time and when he threw it away or stopped playing with it, he could then have another one. This worked well for most of the trip. The final 3 hours both directions he was definitely DONE with the car seat and the toys – but we got a 20 hour run with them…so I consider it a success!
6) The Honey Song
I don’t know what it is about this Youtube Video, but it’s like a psychedelic baby drug. DK loves it. We downloaded it for offline viewing and in the final 20 minutes of every day when he was just NOT COOL anymore, we’d watch it on repeat. Sometimes we also just played the soundtrack song for him on Google Play on repeat, and that would also work without the screen-time!
So many snacks. Just think of how many snacks are reasonable, and triple it.