7 family road trip hacks to avoid the highway to hell

Kinderling News & Features

Got a long car trip in your future?  It doesn't have to be a nightmare, even with a baby and toddler in tow. The secret to success is simply to set some time for planning. 

"Sit down the day before you leave and plan your trip in detail," says Kinderling Mothercraft nurse, Chris Minogue. "You need to work out where you can make a stop along the way. You may have to go off the highway and find a café that you'll feel comfortable feeding in."

Remember: Factor in extra time, a four-hour trip can take you five to six hours with a young baby, after you account for the stops. 

1. Is the baby comfortable? Do you have window shades to stop the UV light coming through? A baby can get sunburnt if there is no protection on the back windows.

2. If you are using a feeding pillow at home to breastfeed, you may need to practise feeding your baby without one. After they've fed, give them some stretch time. You can even lay them on the back seat for at least 15-20 minutes before getting everyone back in the car to keep driving.  

4. Do the bulk of the travel within sleep frames. As a general rule try and leave one hour before sleep time, then stop for a break and some lunch before putting everyone back in the car and doing the rest of the trip. 

5. Driving with a toddler? It's a good idea to leave in the evening. Give them dinner, a bath and dress them in their PJs and then drive for two hours. Another option is to leave in the late afternoon, and do an hour's drive before stopping somewhere for dinner where they can stretch their legs, then wash their face and hands and dress them in PJs before getting back in the car. 

Remember: Toddlers won't tolerate much more than one hour in the car without a break. 

6. Go screen-free on long trips and take toys instead. "Personally I don’t love devices in cars," says Chris. "That's because you end up with more behaviour. You either need to stop and change the disc or pass the iPad back and forth. It's far better to engage your toddler. Play games, like 'Can you see a train?' or 'Can you spot the ambulance?'."

7. Move the toddler's car seat to the middle, instead of the side. They can see more of the road and they're more accessible to the parent. 

8. Take a snack but don't try feeding full meals to toddlers, and especially not babies, in the car. "At this age they are at risk of choking on food," says Chris. 

9. If you are doing a very long drive (more than six hours) decide at what point you are going to break that trip. "You can’t do it all in a row with young children," says Chris. "You can get away for about five hours but that’s about the limit.  Map your route to make it as interesting as possible for stops and stays, depending on your baby’s age. "