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Driving With Infants

Dear John:

Somehow, the fact that my brother is about to take his family
vacation via MINIVAN escaped me until just yesterday. I thought
you’d be spending a couple hours in-flight, then having a
good time visiting our cheesehead family.

I now know this is not the case, and thought I might pass on some
wisdom to you about traveling with infants. Yes, I know
you’ve done a few hours already, and yes, I know I’ve
never done a cross-country trip myself. But you see, there’s
a reason for that.


However, I’m guessing it’s too late to talk you out of
it, so here are some suggestions. I am, after all, your sister, and
nothing if not opinionated.

First, figure out how long it’s
going to take you to get there. Here’s how you do that: get
out a piece of paper and pen. Write down how long the drive took
you last time. Then write an “x” next to that number.
Then write a “3” next to that letter. This is your new
driving time.

Seriously, take lots of stops. It’s not worth it.
That’s why it’s called a vacation.

Now, you’re renting a mini-van. Good call, since a modest
sedan will be mighty uncomfortable after a few days (see
above’s calculation) of driving with two adults, a
10-month-old, and a Labrador. So thumbs up on that one. Try not to
pack it too full – you’ll need the space for the dog to
go stir-crazy and run around shedding on everything.

What to bring? Let’s start with music. Make sure your
IPOD’s up-to-date with all Dean’s favorite songs; Daddy
singing “Baby Beluga” is NOT THE SAME as Raffi singing
it. Trust me. And for God’s sake, make sure you’ve got
your lullabye playlist on there. You’ll need it at 10 p.m.
when you’re driving around trying to find a hotel en route
that takes Labradors.

Toys – this one’s tough. When we took a long car trip
with Maddie around that age, we found it helpful to have a
“purse” filled with small things for her to pack and
unpack: small stuffed animals, an old cell phone, a finger puppet,
that sort of thing. Different textures, and preferably things you
can put on “shows” with. Perhaps you can pack a mini
man-bag for Dean instead of the purse.

Other than toys, make sure you’ve got whatever
lovey/blanket/stuffed animal he sleeps with. In the car, not in the
suitcase. Having the nap blanket etc. on hand made coaxing Maddie
into a nap much easier.

If you’ve got time, buy one of those href="http://clickserve.cc-dt.com/link/click?lid=41000000017109337">
head rests
that fit onto the car seat. They totally work
and will keep the lil guy from getting a crick in the neck. Target
should have something.

Put an old towel within reach for any “emergency”,
especially if you don’t have a spare car seat cover.
They’re handy for covering the kid when he starts projectile
vomiting in his seat. Not that it’s ever happened to me.

I think you’ve got a mirror to help you see Dean’s
face, but if not pick one up.

Stash something in the car for some “freedom time” at
rest stops, and to use on vacation. The href="http://clickserve.cc-dt.com/link/click?lid=41000000017109329">
foam alphabet blocks
we line our house with are perfect
for this – bring about six or eight – or throw a vinyl
tablecloth (with a nonskid back) in the car. When you stop for a
meal or doggy break, you can throw this down on the ground and let
him scooch around happily. Trust me.

If Dean melts down and a stop isn’t imminent (not that your
angel will cry), try rubbing his feet and legs. Not lightly,
either; really give him a massage. This always works on Maddie when
she’s glued to her seat and freaking out – say, about
30,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

Traveling is not the time to feel bad about using commercial baby
food. It’s fine. He’ll live.

Traveling is the time to bring lots of hand sanitizer, wipes, etc.

Bring extra of things that are hard to find – bibs, baby
spoons, bottles, etc. – but don’t overload on
easy-to-find items like diapers. You can always buy another pack,
if the 84-count you brought for four days isn’t enough.

Bring something new for Dean, even if it’s just a book or
small finger puppet. He’ll thank you for it.

Bring something new for Mommy and Daddy, like an unopened bottle of
scotch. You’ll thank me for it.

Good luck, Griswold.


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