LAST Christmas my wife and I drove with our four-monthold son from Vancouver to several points across the Prairies, subjecting him to long days strapped in the car seat, constantly changing routines and the possibility of sliding off a mountain cliff and plummeting to an early death alongside his dumbass parents in the name of family visiting.
I came away from the trip thinking three things:
1. Valemount, B.C., is the redneck snowmobiler capital of the world. It's like a NASCAR infield on ice. Redneck is not quite right though - can we call them whitenecks? Whatever they're called, never miss a chance to share a continental breakfast with them at the Valemount Super 8 to hear the authentic chainsaw rasp of voices carved by years of cigarettes, exhaust fumes and shouts of "Git 'er done!"
2. Babies are great travelers until the sun goes down. For most of our holiday my baby was a champion traveller. Often he'd nod off to sleep soon after departure (cars really are God's gift to parents - they're like a triple shot of Nyquil). When he wasn't sleeping he would giggle and play with Mama in the back or just watch out the back window as the mountain scenery rolled by.
The problems only came at the very end of long trips. As our trips rolled on, the sun set and our final destinations neared, our baby eventually would lose it. It happened around the town of Brooks, Alta. on one long trip to Medicine Hat and around Chilliwack on another long haul to Vancouver. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Brooks and Chilliwack both sometimes smell like the inside of a cow.
3. I'm not going to subject my child to 3,500 kilometres of icy-death highway again - at least until he's old enough to sign a waiver.
If you're still bent on hitting the road with your new baby make sure you take frequent breaks and keep your travel days relatively short. If a trip used to take you one long day, allow for two or three with your new baby. Here are some other car travel tips from www.justthefactsbaby.com:
- Try to make sure your baby is healthy. A sick baby will likely be an unhappy traveller.
- Bring the car seat in the house and let your baby sit and play in it. Once your child becomes more familiar with the seat, she may be happier to sit there in the car.
- Keep a box of soft, safe car toys for use only in the car. Avoid hard toys as they could cause injury in a quick stop.
- Tape or hang toys, a mobile, a mirror or poster in your baby's field of vision. Make sure the objects are secure so they won't come loose while you're driving.
- Experiment with different types of music in the car. Some babies love songs made especially for kids while others dig the Beatles. If all else fails, try singing yourself.
- Try nature sounds or white nose.
- Practise with short, pleasant trips when your baby is in a good mood. A few good experiences may help your baby set a positive pattern.
- Place a sunshade in the window if direct sunlight is hitting your baby.
- Try opening a window. Fresh air and a nice breeze can be soothing.
One final note: You're probably not going to want to open a window for too long while driving through Winnipeg in December. In fact, don't go anywhere that requires you to plug your car in to keep it warm enough to start.
Vancouver's nice - make your family come here for the holiday.