Our family vacation is coming to its end. Four weeks together traveling and renovating the house. At the same time it feels like we have spent the whole summer together and that time flew faster than ever.
This summer we made two trips by car. First we visited the grandparent, 500 kilometers one way. Then we went to Estonia which meant first a two hour trip by a ferry (we drove our car to the ferry) and then driving for another two hours.
With our first born son we made the long drive to the grandparents when he was 2 months old. We got only one advice: drive as long as the baby sleeps. As a first time parent I had read that it’s not good for the baby to spend many hours in the car safety seat. It would be bad for his back so we had thought that we should have a stop after about two hours and take him out from it. Then drive for another two hours and have another long break. I’m glad we didn’t. Drive as long as the baby sleeps was a great piece of advice. He fell asleep right after we started the engine and slept for about 2 to 3 hours. Then we stopped and after a good break we drove another 2 to three hours and we were there. It didn’t take much longer than our trips before kids. And since that was a very rare occasion, nothing happened to his back.
This summer we have three kids. Twins are about 6 months and the toddler is 3 years old. Since the other baby suffers from stomach problems and cries a lot anyways, we had done some back up plans before the first long drive in case he would start to cry at some point. We had called a family member half way and asked if we could spend a night there if needed. We had checked the train stations and time tables to see if it was possible to continue by train (where I could hold the baby) in case the car seat was too uncomfortable for him. And we had the mindset of spending all day to this trip.
The first half of the trip went well. Drive as long as the baby sleeps was our motto and so we drove. As fast as possible, as far as possible. Half way the babies woke up. We stopped, fed them, changed diapers and ate our self. It was a good stop. We decided to continue our trip but after about 20-30 minutes the crying started. We were middle of nowhere. We stopped by the road side to calm the baby. We realized that we hadn’t hold him in the upright position after eating long enough so he had gotten stomach problems. We held him, carried him around, watched the cars that were bypassing. After some time we decided to continue. Maybe 2 or 3 time we stopped by the road to calm him before arriving to the next town.
We had bypassed the family member where we could have spent the night at and there was no train station nearby. After arriving to the town we parked our car and decided to spend as long as we needed to normalize the situation with the baby. We spent there little over 2 hours. We ate dinner at a restaurant while holding the baby. When he got tired we packed everyone back to car and drove to our destination. The trip took us nearly one full day.
What I learnt from that trip is
- Know your kids. My baby needs to be hold up for about an hour after eating. Rushing with this one backfired big time. Most kids don’t need this and in that case..
- Drive as long as the baby sleeps.
- In case you are not sure make many backup plans (can we spend a night somewhere if needed? Are there nice hotels, amusement/water parks, family members on our route? What sights or cities there are on our route where it would be nice to stop for a couple of hours if needed?).
- Be ready to make a plan on the go. The odds are, you are going to be in middle of nowhere when all hell breaks loose.
- Try to make the new plan sound like fun for the other kids. “Let’s have dinner in a restaurant/Let’s have a picnic! We have never stopped in this city before! That amusement park/zoo sounds like fun, let’s go there!”
When we were coming back I tried to book train tickets but since it’s the summer holiday season all the seats where you can take a pram nearby were taken. Our plan b was to book a hotel night somewhere on our route so we booked a night at a spa hotel. It was fun for the older boy who loves water parks and hotel breakfasts and the trip was less stressful to us.
Our next trip was easier. We knew what our baby needed. We were better prepared. The maximum drive was two hours. At the ferry he didn’t need to be on his car seat. We held him up as much as he needed, we had some medicine in case he needed it. We were well prepared.
I have heard many parents, especially twin parents, say that they are scared to go because so many things can go wrong. I would like encourage them to prepare yourself well, be ready to be spontaneous if needed but don’t be afraid to go. It’ll be worth it and it’ll go well!
Have you done long car trips with kids? How did it go? Do you have any tips?
Have a nice week end!