Car Trip With Baby

Successful Car Trip (suk-ses’ful kar trip) – A trip by automobile in which all passengers arrive at a given destination (though not necessarily the originally intended destination) alive and in one piece.  Now that we’ve established the definition of “success” as it relates to taking a car trip with a baby, we can discuss some ideas that will make the experience truly enjoyable for both parent and child.

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Set Realistic Expectations

If you are accustomed to arriving at grandma’s house in nine hours flat with nary a break for potty or food, you’ll have to accept the fact that traveling with a baby has nothing in common with the Indy 500. You should expect to stop every hour and a half to two hours, unless the fates decide to bless you with a sleeping child. If you are so favored by the powers that be, neither empty gas tank nor full bladder, ravaging hunger nor even Starbucks shall tempt you to disturb the slumber of your precious cherub. It is law. Truly. I’m not even kidding.

Safety First

I KNOW I don’t need to do the car seat lecture. Any parent with the sense to use the internet to research tips for traveling with a baby wouldn’t need to be told that car seats are mandatory. Laws become a little looser when it comes to nursing. Until early 2009, Michigan allowed a child to be out of their car seat while nursing. Michigan recently closed this loophole, but several other states allow mothers to be unbuckled while breast feeding an infant in a car seat.

In light of the gymnastics required to pull off this maneuver (not to mention the entertainment for passing truckers), an extended car trip might be the time to consider offering a bottle or pacifier.  If your baby is at the stage where nipple confusion is of great concern, you’ll need to plan frequent stops and be prepared to endure baby’s restlessness.

Motion Sickness

We were destined to have three children who howled the moment their little bottoms touched the car seat. To this day, I am convinced that sitting in a rear-facing seat brought on bouts of motion sickness. Though there are not many remedies for very young children, several natural motion sickness cures are safe and effective for older babies. These include:

Entertaining a Pre-Verbal Child

It’s helpful to have a game plan when it comes to keeping your baby entertained.  Despite the armload of dollars you’ve dropped on sophisticated items to keep your baby intellectually engaged, you are your baby’s best toy.  There are a number of games you can play to both entertain and feed your baby’s hungry mind. Use your creativity to expand upon these ideas.

  • Be your baby’s personal narrator, explaining the world as it unfolds around him.
  • Consonant / vowel combinations: Starting at the beginning of the alphabet, combine each consonant with each vowel sound. i.e. baa, bay, beh, bee, bih, bye, bah, bow, buh, boo.  In spite of the fact that you sound like a simpleton, this exercise calms babies while introducing them to the basic phonetic components of language.
  • Animal noises – For those who require an example: “What does a dog say? Woof, woof”.  The musically inclined might opt for a rousing chorus of  “Old McDonald”.
  • Nursery rhymes and songs: Amazon and iTunes have a full range of children’s selections in virtually  every musical genre.  My all-time favorite is “Dr. Jean and Friends”, however my middle child was partial to techno music.  To each his own!
  • Put on a finger puppet show.
  • String Cheerios, knotting the ends of the string.  Tie one side to the handle above the door and let baby work to get the Cheerios off.  This game is a little messy, so you might want a rechargeable handheld vacuum on hand.  Make sure the string isn’t long enough for baby to get it around her neck.
  • Blow bubbles for baby (if you’re not driving, of course!)
  • Give baby a new board book – our favorites are the Black on White books by Tana Hoban and anything written by Eric Carle.
  • Babies are quickly bored with their toys.  If you can rotate through a nice selection of Whoozits, keys, mirrors, empty water bottles, teething rings, wrist rattles, and anything that makes noise, you will always have something in the arsenal to keep baby busy.

Car travel is one of those things that gets better with time.  If your lot in life includes a fussy little traveler, rest assured that like all things baby, this too shall pass.


  1. Dave Bricker says:

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing this site.
    Raffie is a great distracter for us and the kids. Robin has several different CDs. Travelling when the kids are sleepy is always recommended if they don’t travel well. Now days folks seem to have DVD players with lots of movie options. A parent riding in the back with the kids is always cool too. Healthy snacks make it more fun sometimes too. Playing imagination games helps like for when they are thirsty: “if we had a fountain in the back seat what flavor would you drink and how big a glass would you use?”

    • I love these additional tips. Raffie & Dr. Jean are both great audio CD’s to entertain the kids. I also love the imagination games when kids are hungry or thirsty. Brilliant idea to have them create a fountain or magic box to bring them what they are craving. Fun suggestions!

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