Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Getting 'em used to road-trips

My husband and I had loved road-trips before we were blessed with baby girl, and her arrival wasn't going to stop us from driving. But then we had problems. Although she had been flying since birth and loving it, she wasn't loving her car-seat and wouldn't stand driving in the car for more than three minutes in her early days. By the time she was around eight or nine-month old, she started to not to mind driving. She wasn't thrilled, but she didn't protest. Now by the time she's two, she loves it. She loves cars. Here are some tips we could share:

Break the trip into smaller parts

If I remember well, our first road-trip outside of Croatia was a prolonged weekend trip to Gorizia in Italy. Baby girl just turned one, I remember I had just returned to work then. Gorizia is only around 300 km away from Zagreb, but we knew baby girl wasn't ready to drive four hours non-stop. We broke the trip to two sections, we started from Zagreb in the morning after breakfast and drove to Opatija, a Croatian sea-side town on the way to Italy. We had coffee and spent the whole afternoon bathing in the sea (it was end of June). We had lunch afterwards, and by the time we got back to the car to drive, baby girl fell asleep almost immediately. We drove all the way to Gorizia. On the returning trip, we did the same thing, but we stopped in Trieste instead of Opatija, had coffee, lunch and gelato, took a walk around the city to exhaust her, then drove back to Zagreb.
A little stop in Opatija on the way to Gorizia

Give each destination several days of stay

If you do multi-city trip, don't do it too intensive with a toddler. Before baby girl, we used to do extra intensive road-trip because of lack of vacation days. Once we did Zagreb-Graz-Salzburg-Verona-Venice-Ljubljana-Zagreb in like one weekend. Now we try to spend at least three days in each destination so baby girl could get used to the place, enjoy her stay and get some rest. Two family friends who both lived in different part of Austria invited us to visit them somewhere during last year. In October when baby girl was a year-old and a half, we decided to go. We combined the two visits and made a round, started from Zagreb to Heiligenkreuz im Lafnitztal in Burgenland (via Graz) where one family lived, then from there to Klagenfurt where the other family live, and back home via Ljubljana. We did the trip in a week, spending around three days in each friend's place. We got to sight see, we got to hang out with the hosts, and she got proper sleeps.

Time the trip well

If you don't feel like stopping all the time and prefer to drive all the way to your destination at once, then it's best to time your trip for the period when your child's usually asleep. Earlier this year we drove to Ston on PeljeĊĦac island in the south of Croatia for a weekend. It's around 600 km away from Zagreb and we decided to go at around midnight from home. I just moved baby girl from her crib to her car seat and she was asleep almost the entire time we were driving. My husband drove for the first four hours, then we switched and I drove for the rest of the trip. By the time she woke up at around 7 o'clock, we were very close to the destination. We stopped in Neum of Bosnia and Herzegovina to tank the car and have coffee. They had some play corner for children so we spent an hour to rest there, then drove for another half an hour and we were in Ston already.

Soaking the sun in Ston in the middle of Croatian winter

Make sure the car seat is comfortable

Of course I don't want you to try sit on it to find out, but see how your child seems to feel in it. We noticed that baby girl sweats a lot in her seat during summer months despite the AC in the car, so we got the summer cover for the seat (a layer of high absorbent terry). Remember to always get an original accessories for your seat because of security reason; we got the summer cover from Maxi Cosi for our Toby seat. Make sure that the head and neck rest are set correctly to your child's height so he could sleep comfortably. Choose a seat that could recline so he doesn't have to sleep upright. From what we experienced, the same type of car seat (we're on the 9-18 kg one now) gets better reclining position when installed on Isofix system rather than with usual seat belt installation.

Play his/her favorite songs

You'd probably go crazy if you have to listen to "the wheels on the bus go round round round" literally all day long. Thankfully, we don't have to. We've been going to music class with baby girl under the licensed program of Music Together, which includes great kids songs. They basically sounds "normal" like adult song, of all great genres (country, rock, Latin, blues..) with educative and playful lyrics in English, sung by both adults and kids, and based on different instrument depending on the cycle of the class (we've had triangle and fiddle/violin, and now going to tambourine). Baby girl loves her songs from these classes, not only she sings along, she moves to the tune. If your child is quite musical like ours, the right songs would keep them entertained for a very long time.

Give it a time, don't traumatize!

This is probably our best tip. If your child screams and wouldn't sit still in the seat, give him a break. If you ignore his screaming and keep driving, you'd probably just traumatize him. Then he'd hate road-trip (or cars generally) forever. Stop and rest when he cries, get him some stretching and play time, and some more time to get ready again for driving. Make them love cars by letting them play with car-toys and anything with wheels and steering wheel. Children love to imitate their parents, and they're watching you driving all the time. Eventually the phase will pass and they'll enjoy car rides. Just buckle up and bon voyage! :)

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