June has been on an impressive number of road trips in her short life. Over the last six months, she’s driven to Charleston (4.5 hours), Atlanta (6 hours), Hilton Head (5 hours), Cashiers (5 hours), White Sulphur Springs (4.5 hours), and Maine (14.5 hours!!). And that’s just the straight driving time — all of those trips were longer with stops! We’ve learned a few things along the way about taking a road trip with a three- to six-month-old, and I’d love to share our tips with you today…
1. Don’t take the scenic route. This one pains me, because seeking out interesting and beautiful routes is in my blood! (It’s one of my Dad’s favorite things.) But, our main strategy for a successful road trip at this age is to have June napping for as much of it as possible. If we time it right, she has been known to take a three and a half hour nap in the car! (Gold, people!!) Stopping or even changing the sound in the car by dramatically slowing our speed is something that will wake her up, so we stick to the most direct highway route for long, uninterrupted stretches of road.
2. Consolidate stops. We try to make sure that when we do stop, we take care of everything: feeding June, feeding ourselves, a stretch break, a bathroom break, and a gas fill-up. That way, we don’t have to risk waking her up an hour into a nap because our tank is running low.
3. Dress her lightly. June tends to get very sweaty in her car seat, even with the AC blasting, so I always make sure she’s wearing her lightest outfit – usually a thin bubble. This helps her stay cool and comfy!
4. Picnic for meals. We learned early on that expecting June to sit in our laps or in a high chair when we stopped for meals was not realistic – all she wanted to do was roll! (And I don’t blame her.) So, instead of eating in a restaurant, we always pack a picnic blanket, get food to go (usually from Chick-fil-a!), and eat outside. Even at side-of-the-highway fast food restaurants there’s almost always a little grass and a tree for shade. So far we’ve been lucky to avoid rain on our travel days, but in the case of rain or cold, I’d probably bring our blanket into the kids’ play area and let her roll around in there while we ate.
5. Ride in the back. When June is awake, we try to have one adult riding in the back with her, to help her stay busy and happy. We can read to her, hand her different toys, sing, make funny faces, etc. And on the subject of toys, we’ve found that while she’s still interested in her usual suspects on a road trip, she particularly seems to like “unusual” toys: popular items in the past have included an empty water bottle, her stroller fan (she loves to have it blow on her face!), and a board book (smacking the cover with her palm kept her occupied for a good 45 minutes on our last trip!).
6. Keep your schedule loose. The only time I was stressed on our drive to Maine was when I thought we were going to arrive in time for a cocktail party but the traffic was making that less and less likely. If at all possible, try not to have a time you NEED to arrive — that way, if you have to make extra stops because someone’s screaming or has a diaper issue or just CANNOT be in the car seat anymore, it’s no big deal. It’s just part of the adventure!
7. Plan a really good destination. This especially applies if you’re on a multi-day road trip. On our recent trip to Maine, we stayed with John’s sisters and brothers-in-law halfway through, and seeing them at the end of a long day of travel was the best! Then, on our way home, we stayed at an AMAZING waterfront Airbnb with a tree swing, soaker tub, and several small water craft :) We ate takeout pizza on the dock while the sun set the night we arrived, and took a family canoe trip in the morning before we got back on the road! We loved having something so fun to look forward to even though we were leaving our “real” vacation.
I know road trips with kids of any age can seem intimidating, so I hope these tips help! If you have tips that work for your littles (or even remember a good tip from when you were little!), I’d love to hear!!