traveling with children

Traveling with a 10 month old: I have a plan

baby in car seat

This time last year, my husband and I were making the final preparations for the arrival of our sweet girl, meaning holiday traveling was non-existent. Getting his very pregnant wife through a 30 minute drive to his parents' house for Thanksgiving was a piece of cake and since our little one's due date was the day after Christmas, the family came to us. This year we are coming face-to-face with the terrors of holiday traveling while adding a 10 month old into the mix.  Let's just say its impending arrival has this mama shaking in her house slippers. Did I mention the majority of our family lives a minimum of 7 hours away. Exciting, right!?

Don't get me wrong, we've made big (and successful) trips since our daughter was born with little to no problems. Vacations to the beach, visiting the grandparents, visiting the GREAT grandparents, the usual, all happened with little, to no, fuss. I even managed to get my daughter and two very smelly, very hyperactive Boston Terriers from Georgia to Virginia BY MYSELF without losing my sanity...AND we are a cloth diapering/exclusively-nursing family so add another two hurdles to our highway marathons and you could say we are pretty experienced travelers. But there is something about the added stress of traveling during the holidays that has me a bit nervous. Especially because the little girl that used to love car rides and would basically sleep for an entire trip is much more active and not a huge fan of the confined space her car seat provides. Did I also mention my 10 month old has already started walking. Yes, sitting still is no longer a part of her vocabulary. PLUS, since my husband and I have the biggest vehicle, we'll be hauling more than just ourselves, but his parents and brother as well, and although we may want to, we can't forget about the dogs. So when I say space will be more than limited, it's quite the understatement. But I have a plan, sectioned off into 5 main steps I'm taking to make our 7-hour journey a little less daunting.

  1. Ditch the cloth. GASP, shame on me. My husband and I initially decided to cloth diaper as a way to save money. End of story. As most cloth diapering moms can attest, once we started using them we started to see the appeal of how environmentally friendly they are and how much healthier they seem for our little one. So needless to say this part of the plan was originally met with substantial reluctance from yours truly, but given the fact that our vacation will be spent in an old farmhouse filled to the brim with people and a washing machine about as old as the land it sits on, it's just the easier choice. I'm sure many die-hard cloth diaperers would call me out saying that, "you don't decide to cloth diaper because it's an 'easy' option", so I'll rephrase and say it's the most efficient choice for our given circumstances. Not to mention the amount of space those suckers take up. Instead of the human-sized duffle bag filled with covers, liners, detergent, and wet/dry bags, we'll be able to save space with a pack of diapers.
  2. Snacks, snacks, snacks. Thankfully one of the perks of having a squirmy 10 month old is that she loves finger food. Gerber puffs and Cheerios are like catnip and it never seems to matter if she's actually hungry, she just loves feeding herself. I'm making sure I am locked and loaded with plenty of soft or easily mushed snacks for the ride. I've also recently discovered the brilliant invention that is the puree pouch. Why didn't I think of these things?  My daughter loves them out of the car, and she'll love that she gets them in the car.
  3. Set Pandora to 'Kid Mode'. My husband comes from a family of artists. Music, theater, dance, and even clowning has been a part of his life since before he actually had a life. So when it comes to normal vacations, we always have some kind of entertainment flowing through the speakers. Generally it's a combination of our favorite tunes and stand-up comedy acts but now that one of our primary concerns will be to keep Miss Priss satisfied for a 7 hour stretch, the entertainment is getting an upgrade. I'm talking Sesame Street, Raffi, Yo Gabba Gabba, and all the other kid-mesmerizing groups out there. We are fully prepared to transform our Ford Flex into a lean mean sing-a-long machine.
  4. Reading material. I am so thrilled that my daughter loves books as much as I do. She'll normally go for a book over one of her toys and she gets so proud of herself as she flips the pages. This is traveling gold, folks. I plan on filling the space we saved with opting for disposable diapers with tons and tons of books. Ok, not tons, but plenty. All of her old favorites, the ones that make noise (Lord, help us) and even a few new books she hasn't seen to spark her interest if and when she gets tired of the old stuff.
  5. Warm and snugglies. My daughter is one big snuggler, so if she can't snuggle with us while she's in her carseat, I'm going to need something to help fill the void. My secret weapon to keeping my little one calm in the car: all matter of warm and snuggly things. Her favorite stuffed animals are a given, since she'll need those to help feel comfortable in a different crib. But I'm bringing out the big artillery with our warmest quilts and blankets. I find these to be essential, especially for winter travel. I always ditch the bigger coats once she gets in the car seat, to make sure the belts are as close to her body as possible, keeping her safe. Thick, warm blankets are the perfect way to keep her warm down in the seat without risking safety. They're also a great way to provide comfort and attempt to simulate the warmth of my husband and my bodies during snuggle time.

So there you have it moms and pops, my 'sure-fire' plan to a successful holiday travel experience. Here's hoping they work and our family can get there and back with our sanity intact. At least most of it.

Share your own sanity-maintaining tips for vacation travel in the comments below. What has worked for you? What was a dismal failure?

Oh what joy it is to ride in a screaming baby mobile!