Abby Kalter is a baby gear expert, child passenger safety technician (CPST), mom to 4 year old Miles, and the founder of Prepping for Peanut. Abby loves helping expectant families save time and headache by cutting through the marketing noise to find the baby products and resources that are right for their lifestyle.
If you’re hitting the road this holiday season for the first time with your baby or toddler, the last thing you want to think twice about is car seat safety! It can feel overwhelming to pack, plan out your stops, and schedule feedings – I’ve been there! As a baby planner and mother myself, I’ve tested products and strategized many trips with baby. Personally, I’ve taken more 5+ hour drives with my son than I’d care to recount.
Traveling of any kind with kiddos can be extra challenging, but with practice and some gear you’ll be a pro in no time!
Here are 5 tips to get you started…
1.) Harness properly
This one might seem like DUH! But harness misuse is very common and there is no better time to get yourself up to speed on child passenger safety! Harnessing your child can feel intimidating and parents often don’t want them “too tight” but keep in mind, it’s a safety harness and meant to be snug and secure. Make sure all slack is removed from the webbing (even around the legs) the chest clip is at armpit level, and the harness and crotch buckle are positioned correctly.
2.) Check your seat install
Before hitting the road, give your car seat manual a once over and check that your seat is secure. It shouldn’t move side to side more than an inch when jiggled at the belt path. If you’re still not feeling confident, a quick visit to safekids.org can find you a Child Passenger safety technician in your area who can check it for you! Prepping for Peanut can also help with a virtual consult HERE.
3.) Budget EXTRA time
Even more EXTRA than you would think! The recommendation for anyone driving long distances is to stop and stretch your legs every 2 hrs and this same rule applies to babies (even sleeping ones), according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. Being stuck in the bucket seat position isn’t great for your little one, so get them out for a feeding, snack, diaper change, and general wellbeing at least every 2 hrs.
4.) Always secure items
This one was new to me when I became a parent, because I was so used to just packing the car to the brim and hitting the road, but alas, I learned that anything not secured in the trunk or to the vehicle is a projectile. That means, in the event of a crash, the items in your car can actually harm the passengers. To mitigate this risk, keep all luggage and baby gear in the trunk and aim for any other items to be soft or tied down – this applies to toys! A car or trunk organizing caddy can help keep things tied down and secure while also staying organized when you need that sippy cup handy.
5.) Dress baby appropriately
As temps drop, it can be really tempting to bundle baby, but this is a car seat no, no! To achieve that snug harnessing mentioned above, you don’t want any bulk between baby and the harness or baby and the seat. Instead, opt for a standard blanket after harnessing or a car seat safe cover that doesn’t come between the baby’s back and the seat or the harness like the 7AM Enfant Nido or the Stroll and Go Cover by Skip Hop
No matter where the drive takes you and how many tears are shed along the way (parents included), traveling with baby can be extremely fulfilling! I’ve personally, almost always, found that the destination is worth the schlep – you’ve got this!