Oh, the bliss of a new baby: watching in wonder as they sleep peacefully, inhaling their sweet scent, stroking the soft, peachy down on their heads. And then there's the reality: their endless screaming as you put them in a child-safety seat, spitting up on the impossible-to-clean car-seat harness webbing, and — the piece de resistance — the diaper blowout when traveling at 75 mph on the highway.
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With a vast reserve of parenting experience on our Editorial staff — eight moms, including our staff Expert Moms, and seven dads, with a total of 33 kids and two more on the way (that we currently know of) — our team is experienced in the ways of traveling with babies in the car.
Here are our tips to help make your journey in the car with a baby just a little easier, not to mention less messy:
Buy stock in Ziploc: Many of our staff parents mentioned one must-have multitasking workhouse: gallon-sized zipper-top plastic bags. They work as an emergency trash bin, storage container for snacks and — most usefully — to store anything and everything in the car or on your baby that has been puked, peed or pooped upon. If you're a parent of the eco-conscious variety, one of our staff dads noted that plastic grocery bags will also do the trick, plus they have the added benefit of a handle that can be looped through a car's front door pull, keeping them in easy reach.
Change of clothes/diapers: Once you've cleaned up the mess from any of the above-mentioned scenarios, there's a good chance your baby will need something clean and dry to put on. One of our staff dads mentioned the need for families with kids younger than 5 or so to always keep another gallon-sized plastic bag with a change of clothes in the car.
"We use those gallon Ziploc bags and write the kid's name on it," he said. "This was once for our daycare, but we just transferred it to the car. You never know when a blowout is going to be major. Or puke. Or … geez just about anything."
Is anyone else noticing a theme here?
Cleanup supplies: A microfiber towel or even a roll of paper towels will come in handy to wipe up most car surfaces when your little one makes a mess. Cloth seats can be harder to clean than leather, but baby wipes work wonders on most car surfaces. I like to keep Giovanni Sanitizing Towelettes in the car. These wipes come in individually wrapped packages and stay moist forever. They're organic, antibacterial and gentle, so they work well when wiping down kids or car surfaces after an infectious sneezefest on the road.
Make use of your car's electrical outlets: We recently had a friend join us on vacation. Because she was nursing, she needed to pump when she got off the plane. While the airport offered the use of a mother's nursing room, there was no electrical outlet to plug in a breast pump, nor was there one inside the women's restroom. Our friend ended up draped in a blanket for some privacy while she hunkered down by an electrical outlet in the airport's main terminal. If your car has an electrical outlet in it, use it! Breast pumps, bottle warmers and more are all suited to the comfort and privacy of your car.
Pack your patience: One of our moms with three youngsters recommends patience and age-appropriate expectations when traveling in the car with kids.
"Whether it's a morning full of errands or a long road trip, I know when my little ones have had enough," she said. "I try to always add in a trip to the park or a good rest-and-feeding stop to let them stretch their legs and have a snack."
Do you have any additional tips for car travel with a baby? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Cars.com photos by BreAnn Ahara, Kristin Varela and Sara Lacey