Get your motor running. Head out on the highway…with a baby? Sure! With a little preparation, your kid can be ready to hit the road and go exploring right alongside you. Read on for 10 ways to make your road trip go smoothly with baby on board.

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photo: rhonda_jenkins via pixabay

1. Time your travel to baby’s schedule.
Scheduling drive time for when your baby is most likely to snooze means you don’t have to spend the entire trip entertaining a strapped-in, bored, wide-awake kid. If your child goes back to sleep easily after being woken up, consider starting before dawn. Or, if your babe sleeps better after they’ve had a chance to run around, start your trip right before naptime.

2. Pack swaddling blankets.
These handy blankets take up little room and offer shade over a car seat to encourage napping, pinch-hit as a changing pad and provide a clean spot to lay on over a hotel comforter or carpet. They’re play mats, nap time comfort and mess cleaners, too, so pack a couple.

3. Keep the car smelling lemony fresh.
Forget the pine air freshener and pack some lemon slices in a baggie instead. The smell of lemon wards off motion sickness and will keep the car from smelling like spit-up and stale snacks. Plus, they freshen up beverages and lighten up heavy roadside food.

photo: Owen and Aki via flickr

4. Toys. Many, many, toys.
One advantage of car travel versus plane? Extra space for baby faves like egg shakers, crinnkly toys, and Indestructibles books — these thin wonders stand up to chewing, drooling and ripping and can be cleaned in the dishwasher when you’re back home. Have a baby who likes to throw things? Strap clip-on toys, like these colorful links, to the car seat so they always have something nearby to entertain them. Pack the toys in a bin or bag you keep on the seat near your baby for easy access.

5. Bring plenty of snacks.
A hungry baby is an unhappy baby, and the same goes for drivers. Keep a cooler full of healthy fuel, including extra breast milk or formula. For kids eating finger foods, pre-fill snack containers with bite-size treats so you can dole them out easily when the munchies strike.

6. Install a car-seat mirror.
Placing a mirror to face the car seat is not only handy for drivers; your little one will love “oohing” and cooing at that cute baby they see. Add some good tunes and you can watch your baby kicking those adorable feet for miles.

photo: Raissa Viza via Flickr

7. Pack light but smart.
A few pieces of carefully chosen baby gear are all you need. Younger babies can be entertained in a bouncy seat at the hotel while you take a shower. And keep your favorite carrier easily accessible so you’re ready to hop out, explore, and reconnect with your little one mid-trip.

8. Make a mess clean-up kit.
When you travel with babies, there will be a mess. Pack a container with clean-up essentials like extra wipes, Ziploc bags for dirty diapers, facial tissues, garbage bags, spare outfits, extra diapers, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. For the diapers, calculate how many you think you’ll need, and then throw in ten more.

9. Breathe.
Some babies hate the car or have a bad day, no matter how well you prepare for the trip. If pulling over to soothe your little one isn’t an option, grit your teeth, drive through a few tears (theirs and maybe yours) and know that, eventually, they’ll calm down.

photo: Donnie Ray Jones via flickr

10. Factor in time for family fun.
Break up naps and long stretches with stops at clean rest areas, parks and noteworthy sites. The Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder app helps you track down kid-friendly stops along your drive. Remember, while the drive may take twice as long as it did pre-baby, that’s twice as much time for adventures.

Have you road-tripped with a baby? Share your tips in the comments.

— Oz Spies