I like to think that I’m a pretty adventurous parent. I took my newborn to the drive-in movies. I took my infant for a fun day volunteering at a celebrity golf tournament. I took my young toddler to the Children’s Discovery Museum. And to be completely honest, parenting itself is a heck of an adventure.
When my husband had to travel to Los Angeles for work, we thought it was the perfect chance to plan our son’s first trip to Disneyland. All I had to do was drive the six hours to Anaheim and survive one overnight with the little guy to meet my husband. No big deal, right?
Here are a few things I learned from my solo road trip with my one-year-old co-pilot.
Plan a lot of stops
When I was preparing for the trip, I looked up our route. The fastest route took us on a major Interstate highway with few rest stops and even less scenery. Six hours in the car with an antsy and bored child? No thanks.
We found a route that included more chances to stop—at least one every hour. I looked for playgrounds, open space, and opportunities for him to get plenty of fresh air. We didn’t always need to stop but having playgrounds and green space available was key to both of us keeping our sanity.
It also helped me keep my cool when we did need to stop. We weren’t on any sort of schedule so we were never “behind.” If we needed to take a break, that was cool. If not, that was cool, too.
Every time you do stop, make sure to go by the restroom. The last thing you want is to need a bathroom break right as your little one falls asleep. Trust me on this one.
A six-hour trip became a ten-hour trip. And that was okay with me.
Explore new things
One of the greatest joys of being a parent is the chance to watch your child discover new things in the world. Seeing their eyes light up at the sight of a new place or activity makes all of the sleepless nights and toddler tantrums worth it.
I’ve experienced this joy many times in our hometown but this was something new. It was just me and him, taking on the world.
When I saw new things with my toddler, I had the chance to join him in his wonder and amazement. We saw the crashing waves of a quiet new beach. We jumped on the hotel bed together. I got to experience new things and share them with my little guy, something I will forever be thankful for.
Keep them entertained
I loaded up the car with all of the baby gear: car seat, stroller, portable crib, and tons of diapers. I may have overpacked but there was one key item that saved us on the road trip.
One of the most essential items I packed was a bag full of toys next to me in the passenger seat. A ten-hour trip is tough for anyone, babies included. They get bored just like anyone. When boredom struck, I reached into my bag of tricks and passed him a new toy. Every time we stopped, I collected the toys that he had thrown around the backseat, packed them in my bag, and started the process over. It kept both of us happy for the whole road trip.
Enjoy the ride
There will be challenging moments with tears and crankiness. And not just from your baby. Embrace them as part of the parenting ride. It’s okay to want the rough spots to be over but try to remember that they come with the great parts, too.
Sing songs, act silly, smile and laugh.
Explore a new road. See the world for the amazing place that it is.
Most of all, just go. Make a memory with your little one that you can both cherish for the rest of your lives.