When people hear that we trekked more than halfway across the country from our rural New York town with a five month old, they look at us like we’ve lost our minds or they assume that the trip was a nightmare. It was actually a really nice trip. (Other than the hail and wind during a tornado warning in Oklahoma. I’ll admit that was a little frightening.)
During that trip, we traveled almost 4,000 miles and our daughter went to many places for the first time, including the major cities of Charleston, Nashville, and Dallas. Not only did she visit major cities, but she also went to beautifully quaint small towns. She stood in a 360 aquarium where sharks swam overhead and stingrays floated beneath her feet. She touched a starfish and saw armadillos on the side of the road. She even rode through the gorgeous mountain roads of West Virginia. Her first time to these places was my and my husband’s first time, as well.
She was only five months old when my husband, my mother-in-law, my daughter and I drove to Oklahoma in a rented minivan for my brother-in-law’s graduation from basic training. My mother-in-law is a fantastic and determined driver. She often drove through the night or took a quick power nap and was ready to hit the road again.
I sat in the back with our daughter for the whole ride, while my husband sat as a co-pilot in the passenger’s seat. Everyone had a job. My mother-in-law was the pilot, my husband helped with navigation, and I helped to keep our daughter content. When outside of the car, my husband and I took turns with diapers and we all took turns with the stroller or bottle feedings.
I breastfeed, so that made it a lot easier, too. We would have to stop every so often for bathroom breaks or food and the timing was usually perfect for a diaper change and a feeding. Since I was exclusively breastfeeding at that time, I didn’t have to worry about making or heating bottles. The milk was always the right temperature and always ready to serve.
I never quite got the hang of using a hand pump. (It might be missing a gasket or something because the suction isn’t strong enough.) On the other hand, I adore my electric pump. My husband is brilliant and thought to pick up an outlet that plugs into the cigarette lighter while we were at a Love’s Travel Stop. It was a life saver! I packed our bottle brush, Dapple soap, extra bottles, ice pack, and cooler bag. I would make bottles for when we were going to be out doing touristy things for the day. I’m still a bit shy about breastfeeding in public but during our trip, I became very accustomed to breastfeeding in the car.
It also helped to have lots of toys for our daughter to play with while she sat in her car seat. She had the bucket car seat, so I attached a hanging toy around the handle. Perhaps her favorite driving toy was the Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano. It kept her occupied and satisfied for much of the trip. She loved kicking her feet and listening to her music play. We all knew the songs by the end of the trip but it was well worth it.
We stayed in a bunch of hotels and motels. We went to restaurants, an aquarium, the graduation, malls, Antique Archaeology, state parks, an old asylum, an old plantation, and many other exciting places. We were able to find a lot of fun places along the way by using apps on our phones. Before we even left, my mother-in-law and I set up our trip itinerary on an app called Roadtrippers. We were able to use the app to find stops that looked interesting along our route. That’s how we found many of the places that we ended up visiting.
We also used ratings on sites like Expedia to find clean hotels along the way. Since we weren’t familiar with the areas that we were passing through, reading reviews on these travel sites helped us to avoid places that weren’t clean or had issues with bedbugs in the past.
Thanks to strategically timed stops, the support of my husband and mother-in-law, our specialized “jobs,” breastfeeding, a plug-in outlet, our Roadtrippers app, reviews from other travelers, some toys, and my breast pump, our road trip was a ton of fun. My now one-year-old daughter has a collection of snow globes from West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. (She’s also been to New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). We can’t wait to add more snow globes to her collection. Hopefully traveling with a toddler will be just as easy.