Driving is not a big deal for me. I feel like I spent a good portion of my childhood in the backseat of cars or vans, with family piled in around me.
Sometimes we went places, sometimes we went no places. We drove across Canada and back through the northern states, we drove down the eastern seaboard for a quick Disney trip, we spent our summers camping and driving to Ontario to visit family, but my Dad was also always game to just “go on a drive” to nowhere in particular, especially during the autumn season. As children, we’d be admonished for keeping our heads in books while the world was passing us by outside our window.
Many people who grew up up in the Canadian Maritimes share these same memories with me. There’s something about towns and communities being separated by large expanse of wooded highways that encourages road trips. It is how we connected and stayed in touch. I even spent a year of my life going to high school a two hour drive away from where my family lived. I commuted “home” each weekend. I remember those drives fondly, sometimes with my Dad, sometimes with friends.
My husband grew up in Toronto. (Well, not *in* Toronto. But for those of us on the East Coast of Canada, we figure that if you can see the CN Tower from somewhere in your community, you’re close enough to be considered being “from Toronto”.) He could go on a long drive and just make it to downtown at the end of the trip. He probably went into Toronto downtown less often than I traveled the two hours to see family and friends. I’ve come to learn that car trips evoke different feelings in us.
When the need arose to drive to our nearest province, my home-province, to attend a family wedding but my husband couldn’t come due to a work commitment, I didn’t put up a huge fuss. While it meant that I would be driving there and back in the same day with a preschooler, a toddler, and a pregnant belly, I also hoped I could fill the trip with some positivity so that I could begin to instill the same positive road trip memories in my kids that I hold so dear.
So a week ago Saturday morning I packed a backpack for the kids, made sure the fancy wedding clothes were hanging up on one of those car hanger hooks, and we buckled up into our respective seats – the kids wrapped in their favourite blankets. We were off.
Plan to Stop Often
I made sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to do the driving portion of our trip. We arrived a few minutes late to the last wedding we drove to, and there is nothing more mortifying than arriving after the bride, especially when kids make sure your entrance is noticed. With a pregnant bladder, a 4-year-old’s bladder, a toddler who would likely need plenty of attention, and lunch to fit in, I made time for plenty of stops. Sometimes expecting to stop often can make those stops seem less obtrusive. We made our first stop about 45 minutes away from home, because I needed a coffee, the boys needed a snack, and the youngest needed a hug. He finds comfort in the arms of others, so being confined to a car seat meant I was asked often to pull over for hugs.
Look at how huggable he is! This is the one photo I took on the road trip because I didn’t have a phone charger with me and was trying to save my battery. But if this is the one photo I was going to get, I’m glad it was this one. So happy!
Cameron loves playing with his Nintendo DS but we set some pretty strict time limits on his playing time. Time limits go out the window when we’re doing long road trips though. My four-year-old was pretty much a dream the whole trip because he played his DS for the whole drive. During previous road trips, we downloaded movies onto a tablet, secured the tablet to the back of the headrest in front of our kid, and played movies for the whole trip. If screen time and technology will help entertain a young child on a long road trip, then use it!
I always make sure I pack sippy cups and water bottles for the road. While it is important to have some water for those thirsty moments between stops, having kid-friendly cups also make it possible to have quick, drive-thru meals. A sippy comes in handy when a kid needs a drink, but you can’t get something that is spill-proof at a convenience store.
When travelling with babies, it is also important to consider how they will be fed. Breastfed babies need to eat quite often, and so planning for that can help ensure a smooth road trip. We drove 20 hours to Toronto when Cameron was three months old. I kept a small cooler with me in the front seat and I spent most of that trip pumping milk and then reaching behind me to feed my baby that milk with a bottle. Gavin, who never took a bottle, required plenty of stops on any road trips we went on when he was an infant for some good old fashioned breastfeeding.
Distracted driving is always dangerous, and driving with kids is a great way to get distracted. I know how edgy both my husband and I can get when a child won’t stop crying in the backseat. It is a quick way to get blood boiling and a lead foot on the gas pedal. Sometimes understanding that children will be needy and emotional can help get through moments of whining and tears between stops. I’ve been Gavin’s Mom for two and a half years, so I’ve come to learn that he gets very fussy right before falling asleep if he is anywhere other than in a bed. I knew that he would likely whine and cry and fuss at me for 10-20 minutes before eventually falling asleep in his carseat during our road trip. Understanding how my little boy usually behaves meant that I could listen to the crying patiently. And keeping my cool also helped me keep my focus on the road.
I will probably only know if I have created positive road-trip memories with my kids once they are adults and taking their own kids on road trips, but I hope that by planning, preparing, and encouraging positive car trips, I am setting the foundation for a long life of exploring the world within driving distance.
Disney Baby wants to help road trips be fun and safe for everyone! I’m a Disney Baby Mom and as such, I was sent a sweet little product bundle this month. I also have one to give away! The prize pack includes a SoftPal Night Light and some items that will help make your road trips easier: a NUK bottle set, a Learner Cup, and a Pacifier. To win, simply fill out the giveaway app below. Giveaway is open to residents of Canada. I’ll choose a winner on October 14th.
I am a Disney Baby Mom which means I am sent blogging topics and great Disney products for baby.