Travelling with a baby for the first time?

Are you planning on travelling to visit friends or family, and you now have a baby or small child, what can you do to make the experience more bearable for everyone in the car?

If you have gained yourself a baby in the last few weeks or months then it may well be that this Spring/Summer sees you considering the challenges of driving a longer distance with a young child for the first time, so what can you do to help make your little one enjoy the journey, and for anyone else sharing the car to arrive at the other end without feeling the need to be immediately committed to an asylum?

One of the first things to think about is the route, because this can make a great deal of difference. If you normally drive along 'A' roads and 'B' roads to avoid the motorway because they're prettier and more interesting, you might want to rethink that strategy. Because your baby will be very low down they won't be able to enjoy the scenery, and so the quickest, simplest route is usually best. Motorways have service stations at regular intervals, which is always handy for any toilet breaks or refuelling stops.

Obviously Fridays tend to be busier on the roads, especially before a holiday, but often Thursdays can be pretty deadly, with a lot of people thinking they can beat the traffic by going a day early.

I usually plan to go two days early, which often works. As far as the time of day is concerned, I would generally discourage doing the one thing a great many people feel is the 'obvious solution', and drive at night.

Yes, it means the roads are practically empty, and yes it means your baby is more likely to be asleep but there are two problems. First of all, unless you work night shifts your body clock won't be used to you concentrating for hours at a time when you should normally be resting, and so there is a much greater chance of an accident. You'll also find that if you drive at night, your baby will wake up the next morning with piles of energy, right when you feel like a sack of potatoes that's been left out in the sun.

If you can take along some CDs of children's music, theme songs and nursery rhymes then this will often be a good way of entertaining them, and having plenty of toys close to hand is helpful.

If you're driving by yourself then you may be tempted to hurl a whole mountain of toys in the back with them, but there is always the danger that they'll become frustrated with the heap of toys and just want to have a bit of space.

Of course, if you can have another adult with you that is certainly preferable, and it's even better if you can take turns driving while the other one entertains and looks after your baby.

Make sure you take plenty of water and food, so you don't have to browse the service station shops for overpriced stuff that may not be terribly well received. Get your baby a bottle and fill it up with water to make sure they are always hydrated.

Always allow yourself time to stop, get out of the car and allow your little one to look about them. Staring at a car ceiling for hours is boring don't forget! They may also get a bit hot and uncomfortable being strapped into the car seat for ages, so letting them get out, and giving them a nappy change even if they don't need it will help them feel fresh and comfortable.

If you are wondering whether it's a good idea or not travelling in a car on a long journey with a baby, I would say that as long as you feel confident with doing the journey, go for it.

If your child becomes used to travelling from a young age then they're more likely to develop into good travellers as they get bigger, not that your efforts will in any way reduce the regularity with which the bored strain will hammer its way to you from the back seat, "are we there yet?"

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