This past weekend, our family went up to San Jose, California for a wedding. We had some major discussions on our mode of travel. Our initial plan was to fly up with the miles we racked up and needed to use. Then Papa M decided he would drive and fly Emmett and me up so that we’d have a car for our time there. Last minute, we changed our plans again and decided to save the miles for a future trip, nix the flight, and drive up as a family.
Then we made the executive decision to make this 8 hour trek through the night during Emmett’s bedtime.
Why? Mostly because Emmett has never like car rides. Before he was born, we would always hear how parents had to drive their babies around to get them to fall asleep. Not our little Chiquito. In the beginning, nothing but a healthy combination of CIO, clocking in some major hours bouncing together on the exercise ball, and shush-shush’ing would work in aiding our little guy to sleep.
The people around us who heard we were making a red-eye road trip called us crazy and brave, but honestly, this seemed the most logical solution for us! Emmett has always hated being strapped down (in a car seat, swing, or bouncer, et cetera…) since he was a newborn. As he’s gotten older, he’s gotten much better, lasting longer in the car, and occasionally even falling asleep, but we had no desire to test him to his limits on a trip like this one! We also couldn’t see ourselves stopping every few hours to feed him and change him, making an already long trip even longer.
At 11:56pm on Thursday evening – five hours in with three left to go – I started making note of all the things I learned about trying something like this with a baby in tow. There were definitely some challenges to doing it this way (like, breaking out in a cold sweat whenever we heard Emmett stirring in his sleep), but all in all, we were surprised how well it went… and dare I say, we might even try it again?
Here is our survival guide for a night road trip:
- Inverter – To charge cell phones and mp3 players. Driving through the night with nothing to look at, I virtually hung out with all my pals on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and more non-stop.
- Headphones – The little bud kinds that you can stick in just one ear. This way, we could listen to music or even watch a movie without disturbing Rip Van Winkle in the backseat.
- Big sheets or a thick blanket – Driving through the night is not as dark a ride as you would think. Street lights, big rigs, and car headlights kept flickering in and out. Emmett’s still cruising in a Graco Snugride, and the sun shade on that seat served as an excellent canopy frame. We draped a blanket over the car seat, and he was none the wiser. (If you do this, make sure to leave a breathing hole to let air ventilate).
- Snacks and food – We made the mistake of not doing this and ended up going to McDonalds (our road trip guilty pleasure junk food energizer of choice). The crinkling of the bags had us freezing every couple of seconds. Snacks like beef jerky, cheese & crackers, grapes, watermelon and such are good. Nothing that crunches or crinkles too loudly.
- Pillow and blanket – Tag-teaming was essential for us. One person rested, the other person drove, switching off every so often, and so on. Our car has a nice feature where the passenger seat completely reclines (without the head rest), creating a nice bed.
- Comfy clothes – We arrived at our friends’ place at 3am. We went straight to bed.
- Baby blanket – To tuck in baby because we had the A/C on for most of the car ride to keep the cabin chilly so we wouldn’t fall asleep.
- iPhone - Really. My phone served as our flashlight, book, tv, email, social networking, camera, and more.
- Small ice chest & bottle of milk – Just to be on the safe side, we had a bottle of milk ready for Emmett in case this turned out to be a seriously bad idea and our LO started having a meltdown (which didn’t happen).
- Take your car key off your key ring so that there’s no jingle-jangling when you get in and out of the car.
- Fasten seat belts before starting the car. No beep-beeping.
- Pack baby bedtime stuff on top of your suitcase and keep it accessible so when you arrive to your destination, set-up is a snap and he can resume sleeping per usual.
- Load iPod with movies, music, books or whatever else you need to keep entertained. We were able to have hushed conversations, but just so you have something else to do.
- As much as you can help it, don’t use drive-thrus.
- Stop at only well-lit, major pit stops and rest areas.
- Between you and your partner, take the car that drowns out external noise the best.