Juggling diaper changes, naps, bathtime, and the occasional tantrum is tricky enough when you're at home. Managing it all while in transit can be, shall we say, a learning experience. As Jennifer Trevitt, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biopsychology at California State University at Fullerton and mother of 2-year-old triplets, advises, "You only learn how to travel well with kids by traveling with kids. Be brave and start early!" To get you going, we've gathered 17 tips for making your next vacation a bon voyage.
1. Embrace tv. Even if you're tube-averse at home, a long car trip is a good time to invoke the special-occasion clause. Kristin South, a mother of three boys in Orem, Utah, whose kids rarely watch TV, has soothed her backseat crowd with a portable DVD player on countless trips around the country: "You can help a cranky infant settle in with some Baby Einstein, or a toddler cool his heels with Elmo." Portable players with car-stereo power adaptors and headrest mounting straps can be found on Amazon for as little as $100.
2. Entertain their brain. Even if you have a DVD player, you'll also want to stock up on children's music and books on tape/CD. Bring several old favorites as well as new titles from the library.
3. Keep a "carry-on" up front. So you've packed half the contents of your home "just in case." Remember that the more you've got, the less accessible it will be while you're in the car. That's why keeping a fully stocked bag by your feet is essential. What you'll need: changes of clothes for you and the baby, diapers, wipes, bottles, and snacks, snacks, snacks.
4. Make (very) frequent stops. With a baby on board, you'll have to pull over often for feedings and diaper changes, so build in plenty of extra time and don't expect to follow a strict timetable. Road trips with toddlers require pit stops to get their ya-yas out (see also ants in pants, screaming meemies). Kristin South recalls a ten-day trip with her family over a route she'd covered in 48 hours back in college -- and claims the long way was better: "Because my sons needed to run around, we wound up in a wonderful state park in South Dakota, where wild burros stuck their heads into our car and ate carrots out of our hands!"
5. Join AAA.
Daphne Uviller is the coeditor of Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo.