If there is anything that gives me anxiety, it is traveling in the car with babies...they can be like little bombs, just waiting to go off at any minute! You pray they sleep, but know it's inevitable that they'll eventually wake up, and, what's a girl to do when she's driving or stuck in the front seat?!
Tip #1 - PLAN YOUR TRIP AROUND NAPS IF POSSIBLE
I know this may or may not be possible depending on the length of your trip, your baby's schedule, or for your timetable, however, longer car rides can be much more pleasant when the baby is asleep. If your little one is younger and follows "awake windows" (Don't know what I'm referring to? Click here.) try to leave around when they're ready for their next sleep. If they're a little older and on a set schedule, plan to leave at nap time! Complete your nap routine, and then place baby in their carseat to fall asleep as you start your travels.
Tip #2 - USE A PORTABLE WHITE NOISE MACHINE
White noise is a game changer when it comes to sleep, in general. If your child uses it at night, make sure you also have a sound machine that you can use in the car too. White noise can drown out other noises and help your little one stay sleeping. I love the Yogasleep Hushh or Rohm.
Tip #3 - USE THE PACIFIER
If your baby takes it, I definitely recommend using the pacifier for a car ride. The act of suckling releases the hormone cholecystokinin, which relaxes your baby and may make them sleepy. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to keep your baby awake when they're feeding?! That is the reason why. Encourage and practice independent use of the pacifier with your little one when they start reaching and grabbing for things, usually between 5-7 months. This will help them be able to find it and place it back in their own mouth when they're in the carseat. As with anything, practice makes perfect.
Tip #4 - BRING A BIN OF TOYS
As long as you aren't the driver, keep a bin of toys within your reach. Give one to your baby once they start to fuss to occupy them. It will inevitably end up on the floor of the vehicle and they will likely fuss again. Hand them the next toy. Novelty is a beautiful thing and a parenting hack I use every. single. day. Make sure to bring enough toys to last until your next stop, then refill it up again and start over!
Tip #5 - PLAN FOR EXTRA STOPS
If you plan for it, you are less likely to get frustrated when you need to stop. Babies will need feedings and diaper changes. They also need to move. I recommend keeping a blanket in the car so you can lay it out and let them kick, crawl, or roll around for a few minutes. Snacks are key at this time too, since you shouldn't ever give your little one food in the carseat. You can't respond quickly or always know if/when they are choking on something - just save snacks for a stop or for when your little one isn't so little.
Tip #6 - BRING AIR PODS/EAR BUDS/HEADPHONES
It's inevitable that there will come a time when the other tricks don't work and you are unable to stop. Your baby will cry and there is nothing you can do about it. This is when I recommend listening to some music to keep you calm until you're able to stop and tend to your little one.
There you have it - my best tips for car travel. Keep in mind that some of these tips will help in other travel situations too.