Let’s face it… after you have a kid vacations are just not the same. For the better or for the worse taking a kid on vacation changes the entire trip from the get go.
The car ride to a destination and the actual vacation with a young child can be a relaxing, refreshing experience or it can be an aggravating, stressful blur. The best way to ensure a smooth, enjoyable car ride and vacation is to be prepared, cross your fingers, and hope for a pleasant child that will chill and let you enjoy yourself.
We recently made the 5-hour drive to Switzerland for a quick vacation. It was a last-minute trip with one night to pack everything we would need for a three-day stay and a combined ten hours of driving with a 14-month-old and a dog. I didn’t have my usual 3 to 4 days to start preparing everything so I was more stressed than usual. This isn’t our first rodeo though and with some experience I have learned some of the best ways to have the most enjoyable, relaxing trip you can have with a young child.
Tips For Taking a Car Trip and Vacation With a Small Child
Try to start getting ready a couple of days before the trip with lists…then use the lists.
Using lists helps to ensure nothing will be forgotten. (An added plus to having a list is getting to check stuff off the list.) What toys or stuffed animal does your baby need? What food and snacks will she need? Bottle cleaner… dish soap….. Put it all on the list and it hopefully won’t be forgotten.
Organize the car so anything you need is easy to access.
Food pouches, snacks, and baby toys should be easily reached. Having them behind the driver’s seat makes it easy for the passenger to reach without having to unbuckle the seatbelt and hear that annoying f-ing beeping sound that can really drive someone crazy. The beeping on top of struggling to get a food pouch from a weird part of the car, personally, makes me snap and that is unenjoyable for everyone.
Pack a small cooler with milk of choice.
Since I’m not a fan of breastfeeding and think breastfeeding a kid over the age of one is just freaking weird my 14-month-old is drinking organic cow milk. I’ve done a lot of research on the milk I feed my daughter and ensure that the cow or cows it comes from haven’t been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. I like to pack my own milk to be safe. I’m also not risking a change in milk upsetting her stomach causing her not to sleep and causing me to be tired, grumpy and an all around bitch.
Bring a Pack n’ Play and if there isn’t room for a Pack n’ Play bring a sheet and blankets.
Hotels often charge for the use of their Pack n’ Play, so save some money and bring one from home. I’m super uncomfortable with the thought of how many toddlers and babies have pissed or thrown up on the hotel’s Pack n’ Play and how well it got disinfected. Can’t bring your own? Sheets from home are easy to pack, take up a small amount of room, and are clean…usually.
Bring a small fan or sound machine.
One of the worst parts about vacationing with a toddler is having to be super quite at bedtime. Unless you get two hotel rooms you’re gonna be stuck with a sleeping baby and having to tiptoe around the room at 8pm. Any background noise, like a fan or sound machine, might help her sleep and you to be able to watch some TV or do other fun adult activities… quietly.
I’m not one of those ‘no screen time’ moms, but even if you are for the sake of your trip bring an iPad with kid games and shows. Throw Baby Einstein (or another educational show) on, give your kid a Ritz Cracker and maybe you’ll have enough time to enjoy a long lunch and a few glasses of wine. It’s vacation… you NEED it.
The one positive to a car trip is that you aren’t charged for how many bags you have. One bag or five bags it doesn’t make a difference. When you are going to a country like Switzerland where everything is WAY overpriced it’s nice to not have to go buy diapers that cost 2-3 times more than they do in Germany or America.
Also, weather is pretty unpredictable so pack for the cold, pack for the warm, make sure you won’t be stuck unprepared for what nature can throw at you. Pack anything you might need… bags are free!
In the end, don’t over stress about all the shit you need to pack and what might be forgotten, most places you visit have a place to buy what you need.
It’s vacation. Have some wine and chill as much as your crazy baby will let you.