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Must-Haves for Baby Road Trips

For the past two months, my husband has been working in Palm Springs, which is two hours away from Los Angeles, where I am still living with the kids. This scenario has nothing to do with the state of our marriage—we’re still in it to win it. This is just what we have to do for the time being to allow the hubster to take advantage of a great work opportunity.

Yeah, it’s a less than perfect scenario, but we’re doing what we can to make it work and keep us all happy. They say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” They also say, “You’ve been gone for days, your ass better change every diaper while you’re home!“ Both sentiments are right. And it’s all good.

We try to see each other at least once a week which involves lots of driving—mostly on my husband’s part. But over the past few months, I have racked up my fair share of miles, too. Though it is only a two hour drive, I have discovered that one must be prepared for anything. Especially when traveling with a baby. Presenting my list of must-haves for road trips with a baby.

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1. Music

Many babies hate being in the car, but most babies love music. Whether it is Top 40s on the radio or an obnoxious children’s CD, playing a familiar tune usually calms a baby down. At least for a little while. My baby prefers Beyonce or anything with a dope beat (her words, not mine).

2. Lots of Plush, Non-Choking-Hazard Toys

OK. So the music only works for part of the time. And it may very well only work in conjunction with other things. Well a good other “thing” to try is to offer baby another diversion tactic—a new toy. And by “offering,” I mean sporadically dropping toys into baby’s lap. I’ve found that if I keep a handful of stuffed animal and other plush toys in the passenger seat next to mine, I can gently toss it behind me and into the car seat without distracting me from driving and without hurting, and only slightly startling, my baby.

3. A Car Seat Mirror

The first couple of times I traveled back and forth with my baby, I didn’t have a rear-facing car seat mirror. Talk about stressful! I’d be deep in thought about something like tacos, and it would dawn on me that baby Stella wasn’t crying anymore. Oh no. Is she choking on the car seat belt? Is there a stuffed giraffe pushed up into her face preventing her from breathing? I DON’T KNOW! I CAN’T SEE HER! All I could do is reach back and put my hand by her nostrils to make sure I could feel a puff of warm air coming out of her nose or, even worse, reach my arm back and take a photo in the general direction with my phone. A car seat mirror really puts the mind and stupid behavior at ease.

I wish I could tell you where to draw the line with the water, but I realize that every bladder and control of such is different.

4. A Triple-A Membership

On my last drive to visit my husband, I got a flat tire on the freeway. That sucked! Thankfully, I had just renewed my Triple-A Membership. Though I had to wait for 50 minutes for them to arrive, they put the spare on in less than 10 minutes and even gave me a bottle of water. Sorting out a new tire afterward was a pain in the ass. But, if it weren’t for Triple-A Roadside Assistance, I would have been left to change the tire myself on the side of a busy road with my baby daughter in the car. Or, I would have accepted the offer of help from one of the nice men who stopped by in his suspicious van.

5. Water, But Not Too Much

You don’t know how long that drive will take, ultimately. For driving stamina and general health, stay hydrated! But, not too hydrated. I mean, it also blows to have to make too many pit stops at less than sanitary gas stations, and have to drag your baby in there with you. I wish I could tell you where to draw the line with the water, but I realize that every bladder and control of such is different.

6. Chewing Gum

Again, driving is monotonous, and can take much longer than expected. Chewing gum gives you something to do and is much less fattening than popping Skittles or Junior Mints out of boredom (but I do that, too).

7. Navigation Device

You never know if you’ll end up with a flat tire (see #4), sent on a detour from road construction, or missing an exit. If your car does not have a navigation system built-in, make sure you have either a good Garmin or other navigation device, or a reliable navigation app on your smartphone. Or, GASP! CRINGE! SHRIEK! A map.

8. Start Off With a Full Tank of Gas

You may sit in hours of traffic or you may have misjudged the distance. There may be stretches of road where there is not a gas station for miles. And with a baby on board, you just don’t want to risk running out of gas somewhere along the way. But if you happen to, again, refer back to #4.

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9. A Separate Overnight Bag

If you are driving to a destination where you intend to be for some days, I suggest packing an overnight bag with just the essentials. Sometimes you don’t cover the miles you were certain you would or you just get tired of being in the car and need to rest. Pack a change of clothes, toiletries, formula, food, etc. in a separate bag so that you don’t have to lug back and forth, dip into, and tear up the mammoth suitcase you meticulously packed for your days at the final destination.

10. A Flexible, Positive Attitude!

Because your baby cannot relied on to have the same.

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