Doing anything with your little ones in tow can add an extra layer of responsibility, and sometimes stress — especially when it comes to car rides.
Did I forget something? Am I on time? Do I have the correct address? Is there traffic? Are the kids buckled and secure? Oh crap, the snacks. I definitely packed snacks, right?
As moms, it’s our job to ensure the safety and comfort of our kids during any trip, whether that’s cross-town or cross-country. While this feels like a huge responsibility (because it is) it’s also something so many of us experience on a daily basis, so we deserve to have all car rides be stress-free and — dare I say it — even relaxing.
Speaking as a mom who’s experienced that whole “hustle out the door and get where you’re going ASAP” lifestyle, I thought through a few of my most common car-ride stressors and pulled together a guide for making every car trip as safe and smooth as possible. Here are my top tips for parents looking to conquer any outing with confidence.
Check Your Child’s Travel Systems
It’s easy to fall into comfortable routines after a while. You pack your stuff, grab the kids, put them in their car seats or boosters, make sure they’re secure, and go on your merry way. Right? Well, mostly, but the tricky thing about kids is they are constantly growing and as their bodies gain inches and pounds, their safety needs change, too.
It might feel that in the blink of an eye, your rear-facing baby is ready to be turned forward-facing. Or your kindergartner still in a five-point harness might be begging to know when they can get a “big kid seat.” To ensure your kids are as safe as can be, make sure you do regular check-ins on the specific limits and recommendations of your child’s car seat or booster seat and make adjustments — or replace equipment — as needed.
Motherhood quickly humbled me into being a “take all the help I can get” type of person. If there’s a way to streamline things or make them safer and more enjoyable, I’m always the first to sign up, which is how the new available Lincoln BlueCruise hands-free highway driving system wound up on my radar as a must-have car feature.
Recently named the Top-Rated assisted-driving system by Consumer Reports, Lincoln BlueCruise adds a hands-free highway driving option to select Lincoln models, meaning that as long as you’re keeping your eyes on the road, the car’s technology lets the driver take their hands off the steering wheel while on certain roadways, while the system accelerates, brakes, and steers the vehicle in the lane. A driver-facing camera ensures the driver is paying attention to the roadway while the BlueCruise system actively provides the support you need.
You hear that? It’s the sound of traffic jams no longer being a day-ruiner.
Eliminate Distractions & Check In With Yourself
I can only speak for myself, but something about having kids has made me way more distracted. My ability to multitask has only improved as my mind is always one step ahead, thinking about the next activity, meal, playdate, or school assignment. Plus, I’m tired. A lot.
When you put all these together, it can make for a less-than-ideal driving situation, which is why I try to eliminate as many distractions as I can while I’m in the car. I put my phone in “drive” mode and keep it out of reach. I resist the temptation to put on any podcasts or e-books that might cause my mind to wander, and I feel zero shame about always having an iced coffee in my cup holder.
And of course, if I’m ever too exhausted or frazzled, I know not get behind the wheel until I’m caught up on sleep or have given myself a chance to reset. I remind myself that nothing is as important as arriving safe and sound.
Last But Certainly Not Least: Pack Snacks
While not the most important when it comes to safety but definitely #1 when it comes to having content kids in the car, I will literally never (NEVER!) leave home without a wholesale amount of snacks in various forms. Hangry toddler kicking your backseat? A snack-sized bag of popcorn goes a long way. ‘Tudy teen just barely keeping it together? Here, take it out on these fruit snacks. Battery die on the big kid’s tablet? Hand over the pretzel chips and no one gets hurt.
After all, this article is about safety and keeping things going smoothly, and any been-there, done-that mama will always tell you that the key to navigating the tantrums and short-tempers of tiny humans is snacks, snacks, and more snacks.