Raise your hand if you agree: Being confined in the tight quarters of a vehicle with your young children for a large length of time can easily be one of the most stressful things ever! Maybe it’s just the ages of our two, but it’s always a gamble as to whether they will fall asleep, cry, or be the happiest kiddos ever. (Spoiler alert, it’s normal not the latter.)
Although we’ve never been in the car for longer than 8 hours or so with Watson and Rosie, we’ve definitely had our fair share of smaller road trips. We seem to always be traveling here or there to see friends or family. Some rides in the car have been better than others and we’ve taken note of the lessons we’ve learned along the way. So today I’m here to share my top 10 best practices for what has helped us have enjoyable trips with our babes!
1. Have the car filled up with gas ahead of time.
The worst thing is when you start a trip, the kids fall asleep, and then you need to stop and get gas 30 minutes later. Stopping always wakes up Watson and Rosie! So, anything you can do ahead of time to avoid unnecessary stops… do it! This means, have the car filled up with gas before your trip and make sure you’re up to date on any needed car maintenance, like oil changes or tire rotations.
2. Don’t try to cram too much mileage into one day.
If it’s a super long trip, it’s probably best to break it up into a couple of days. We’ve learned that shorter trips by car are always more pleasant for everyone, even if that means it takes longer.
3. Make sure the diaper bag is well stocked, organized, and has extra changes of clothes!
There’s nothing worse than having a blowout or a spill and needing a new outfit, only to realize it’s buried under three heavy bags! Go ahead and put a change of clothes in your diaper bag along with plenty of diapers, first aid supplies, wipes, etc.
4. If you can, leave one seat in the back empty.
You’ll want it for diaper changes (so you don’t have to go into a dirty gas station restroom) and also so that you can hop in the backseat if you’re the passenger. Your kids will love having you back there to sing songs, read stories, and even just to hold their hands.
5. Use a quality carseat.
Rosie turned one year old right around the time of long trip we were taking by car, so we felt it was a great time to transition her out of her infant carrier car seat. We wanted to ensure she’d be safe and comfortable during the whole ride. The Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat was our choice—it’s suited for infants and growing toddlers in the rear-facing position up to 40 lbs, then transitions smoothly to a forward-facing seat for older children up to 65 lbs! The entire NextFit line of convertible car seats has recently been restyled to offer models at a variety of price points to fit every budget.
The NextFit Zip is incredibly stylish and sleek, but the most important thing to us is that it’s a top-rated carseat and has amazing safety features. My first thoughts about it were that it seems to have more head protection on the sides than other car seats I researched, then I found out that the car seat has something called DuoGuard side-impact protection, a steel-reinforced frame and EPS energy-absorbing foam to protect your child if an accident were to occur.
It is also super easy to install, thanks to simple features like the SuperCinch one-pull harness tightener and LockSure belt-locking system, which helps achieve a tight fit with LATCH or the vehicle seat belt.
One other thing I love about this car seat is that the cover literally just zips off for easy cleaning in the washing machine.It also has a removable cup holder, which is wider and easier to use on the new model, that you can detach and put in the dishwasher, or stow away when not in use. (If you already have a toddler or older child, then you know how dirty those cupholders get and how nice it is to be able to wash them easily!)
The Chicco NextFit Zip is available on ChiccoUSA.com and in stores for $299.99.
6. Bring a few new inexpensive toys.
I like to go to the dollar store or the dollar spot at Target and buy about 5 to 10 little toys to introduce sparingly throughout the trip. Depending on how long the car ride is, I may pull out a new toy every 30 minutes or maybe every hour. Most of the toys will be probably be tossed after the trip (I mean, the quality isn’t great at the dollar store!), but that’s fine since they were super cheap to begin with! It’s just so exciting for them to hold something brand new they’ve never seen before and gives them something to look forward to during the trip.
7. Have tons of snacks handy.
Repeat after me, bring all the snacks. For meals, we really do like to get out of the car and use this as our bathroom break stop as well. It’s a great chance to stretch everyone’s legs… and eating actual meals in the car with young children is so hard anyway!
8. If possible, travel when the kids should be sleeping.
It makes me feel so anxious and guilty to have Watson and Rosie in a car seat for a long trip! It’s not always doable, but we often try to leave for our trip at a time when they should be sleeping—maybe that’s departing at 7:30pm (bedtime) or leaving super early in the morning. Mainly, we just try to reduce the amount of hours they’re awake in the car seat as much as possible. Don’t drive at night if you’re used to going to bed early, but we are night owls, so this works really well for us.
9. Bring an empty bag or a bucket.
You’ll love having it for trash and for an emergency sick bag.
10. Be comfortable!
For a long trip, we usually always put Watson and Rosie in their jammies. I’ve found the trip is so much more pleasant when I’m dressed comfy, too. Turning around to pick up a thrown pacifier or a dropped toy constantly is much easier in stretchy pants!
Thank you to Chicco for partnering on this post.