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A Road Trip Survival Guide for New Parents: What Nobody Tells You

“Are you sure about this, Mom?”

You’re getting the hang of this parenting thing and feeling brave enough to embark on your first road trip with the little one this holiday season. How to plan? What to pack? Where to buy aspirin in bulk? As a mom who has made the five-hour trek to Las Vegas from Los Angeles with young children – twice – I am here to impart some tips you aren’t likely to find in any travel guides.

The Real Travel Time

Take whatever Yahoo! Maps estimates for the trip duration and add two hours for diaper blowouts, meltdowns (yours and the baby’s) and emergency pacifier retrieval missions – plus another two hours just for getting out the door of your house.

The Division of Responsibilities

The parent who is more limber (i.e., the yoga enthusiast) should ride in the passenger seat, so s/he can more easily climb into the backseat to rescue thrown toys, snacks, bottles, what-have-you.

Meanwhile, the parent with laser-like focus should drive, because it can be challenging to concentrate on the road when someone in the backseat is throwing plastic keys at your head.

The Sleeping Rule

If your child – hallelujah! – falls asleep during the ride, do not stop the car, even if your stomach is growling, your gas needle is hovering on empty and your right leg went numb ten rest stops ago. Do not convince yourself you can make a “quiet pit stop” without disturbing the baby. No parent has ever attempted this and lived to tell a successful tale.

The Return Trip

After (barely) surviving the drive to your destination, complete with forgotten favorite toys, epic spit-up incidents and nursing time in the nastiest gas station restroom ever, just remember: you’ll probably be even more weary and unprepared on the ride home! But you survived once; you can do it again.

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