Recently we took a road trip from Utah County to Orange County, California for spring break. I was a little nervous to make the trip with our almost-one-year-old daughter, but planned ahead to make our trip a little easier.
Our little girl is a very wiggly baby and often times loses her patience in her car seat during a 15 minute car ride. However, we made it the whole way only stopping for gas and also lunch in Vegas for 1/2 an hour at a Subway. She never cried, never threw a fit. She didn't even get wiggly until the last 2 minutes of our ride. Here are some things I kept in mind while preparing...
1. We left at 5 AM. Lily slept until 7:30, so by the time she woke up 2 1/2 hours were behind us (as well as some icy roads and a snow storm.) She took her morning and afternoon naps in the car for about an hour each, so she really was only awake for a little more than half of the trip.
2. Since I am only bottle feeding now, I put water in 6 of her bottles and just brought the whole jug of formula. This was very convenient that I didn't have to stop to get water at a gas station every time she needed a bottle.
3. Every time we stopped for gas we got Lily out of the car and let her walk around and threw her up in the air and stuff to help get her wiggles out.
Step 1: Finger Puppets
I went to IKEA and bought finger puppets for just $5 per package of 10.
Step 2: Toys
I got a bunch of random toys from the birthday section at Walmart and from the dollar store. I tried to buy things she had never seen or played with before to keep her attention. She hadn't ever played with maracas, a slinky, a noise-maker stick, or rubbery bunnies so I thought I'd give them a try. They were all just $1 each. I also got this jack-in-the-box on clearance for $2 or $3 at Walmart. I know a lot of kids are scared of these toys, but Lily LOVES it. This toy alone entertained her for at least an hour and a half in the car. Not to mention when we got to our condo it entertained my husband and 3 brothers for almost as long as they timed themselves to see who could make it through the song the fastest.
Step 3: Books and Puzzle
She loves dogs and cats so I bought her board books about them for just $1 each. I also got a great puzzle. I know she is too little to do puzzles by herself, but she LOVED taking the pieces out and playing with them. Then she would give them back to me to put back in so she could take them out again. I also LOVE buying toys that she'll "grow into" that will benefit us for more than the 3-6 months she is in her current stage.
Step 4: Presents
After I had purchased all of the toys I wrapped them all and put them in a bin with her other toys we were taking and added some books. She could play with her other toys and books whenever she wanted, but I planned on letting her open 1 present every 2 hours to keep her entertained and change things up a bit. I also planned 1 extra present for the way there, and 1 for the way back, in case we had a "major meltdown" that we needed something quickly for.
The wrapped presents worked great! So great in fact that we only needed 3 of them on the way there instead of the 6 I planned for. Between naps, and the jack-in-the-box entertaining her so much, she never got bored! My favorite part about wrapping the presents is that it took her a long time to unwrap each one. Often times she took 20 minutes or so just unwrapping it because she was so interested in playing with the wrapping paper before she played with the toy. I did bring a garbage bag for the car, anticipating a lot of trash from this activity.
Step 5: Portable DVD Player
We brought a portable DVD player as well. Lily is too little to watch DVDs or TV for long and be entertained, but I did make a 30 minute slide show to music with pictures of our family last Christmas that she will watch over and over if I let her. Often, when she is sick or too tired, this slide show is the only thing that will make her stop crying.
Lily only watched the family slide show once through because she was so entertained with everything else. Still, it was nice to have so I could have a little break and time to myself.
Step 6: Snacks
I packed a box of snacks just for Lily - with toddler snacks, a water bottle, and an emergency stash of smarties and dum-dums.
I also packed snacks for the adults in the car. I packed them in a shallow box so they were all accessible from the top. We had an SUV with the back seats down, so I put the food on top of the two biggest bags right behind the seat I was sitting in. I put the tub of toys and presents right by it, so everything was accessible within arms reach.
Step 7: Magnets
I brought magnets I made and a magnet board to go with them. This was an awesome car toy!