In case you’re wondering where I’m writing to you from today, it’s not a Carrie Bradshaw type of situation. I am typing away in a back office at my place of work, topless, with my pump strapped to me, trying to extract enough milk so that my boobs don’t feel like they’ll turn into stone and fall off. Did you know pumping is the worst? I’m convinced that bad pumping experiences are why a lot of women ditch breastfeeding. And I don’t blame them.
We drove to New York City with a baby, and lived to tell the tale.
So sometime, like a month or two ago, I decided we needed to go see my grandmother. She is my last living grandparent, and though she was able to travel to make it for my wedding, she isn’t traveling much these days, and I thought it was important that Liam get a chance to hang out with a great. That doesn’t happen for everyone.
We tossed around the idea of flying, but to be completely honest, flying just isn’t fun anymore, and we needed, at the absolute least, a stroller and a pack n’ play for Liam to sleep in, and gate-checking these items, or renting them once we got there, was a little too much for me to handle. I just couldn’t.
So Austin rented a giant car. I’m used to a compact (my teeny Korean car, suitable for a small family of three who still parallel parks from time to time), so this car, a Nissan Pathfinder, was like the Titanic to me. We packed the car the night before, slept for a few hours, and executed our plan to be out of the house by 4am that Friday morning. Really, we pulled the classic Armour, and didn’t leave until 4:20ish, but still within a reasonable time frame. I fed and dressed the baby absolutely last before we left, loaded him up, and headed out of town.
Austin drove the first shift, and we didn’t have to stop for a few hours. Our first stop was at a truck stop McDonald’s, which allowed for us to hop out, feed and change the baby, let him crawl around in the third row (which we flattened), and finally, I pulled the jogging stroller out and walked a few laps while Austin cleaned out snack trash, bought more coffee, and set us up to drive for another few hours.
Liam minorly freaked out for a few minutes, and we found ourselves playing, then replaying the baby version of Nina Bonita (there is an entire Spotify album that’s really good, dedicated to this Venezuelan duo and their greatest hits), but he was pretty calm as we made our way to the bottom of the Brooklyn bridge where we were staying, and while Austin laid down for just a few minutes, we played. We finished night one with a short walk halfway across the bridge, and an early night to bed.
The next day, both of us donned workout clothes, and we walked into Manhattan with a few extra diapers, a change of clothes, and a plan to spend most of the day out. We walked to first find coffee, to Oculus, the WTC memorial, to a late lunch to meet a camp friend, and finally, we hopped on the subway to go back to Brooklyn to see my grandmother, who was delighted to see Liam. Liam had a rattle grasped firmly in his fat little hand, which he kept swinging.
“Gentle Liam, gentle!”
“It’s ok,” my grandmother said. “I’m a mother too.”
The visit was amazing, and we hopped back on the subway to head back to our corner of Brooklyn, where I prepped Liam for bed, and sent Austin on a quest to find us something to eat (in the hallway, since our room was small, and Liam was asleep). After a little bit of sleep, we prepared to head back, and the trip back felt much shorter than the trip there. Austin took the first bit of the drive, and again, we stopped and walked around some stops, and I took over for the last few hours of the drive, built in a few extra stops, and made it home with enough time to lay the baby down for a nap, and do a walk/run before it got dark.
So, all of that to say – if you’re thinking about traveling with a little one, here’s what I would suggest.
- Pack your food/snacks. Pack the baby’s food/snacks. The week before we left, I bought car snacks like waters, dried fruit, nuts, and protein bars to tide us over and keep us from having to do too much fast food. I packed some solids I’d made for the baby in a cooler bag, along with my hand pump in case I had to pump at all (I didn’t), and it made for a healthier, cheaper trip. On one of our stops, we opened the tailgate, and I was able to feed Liam on one of the stops.
- Leave disgustingly early. We woke up at like 3, got everything together, and took the baby with us last. I dream-fed him, put him in his car seat, and he was asleep by the time we were just south of Virginia. He slept from them until like 8 or so, which gave us a few solid hours or driving without really having to worry about a meltdown.
- Pack the stroller to walk on breaks. I guess this depends on if you have a baby that enjoys walking, but even for your own exercise and sanity, having the stroller so that you can do a few laps for 15 or 20 minutes while one of you throws out car trash and programs the XM is really worth it.
- Leave yourself plenty of time. A 9ish hour trip took about 11. And that’s a-ok, we made it so we didn’t have anywhere to be the evening we got there.
- Be prepped for meltdowns. Occasionally, your child may scream like a demon because he’s been strapped in a carseat for hours and he wants to crawl around like a normal baby. Keep. Your. Cool. Don’t freak out, don’t rip your hair out, and don’t yell at your driving partner. It ends.
Anyways, so we made it to NYC and back, and I’m excited, not only to our next trip home, but also for other trips. We’re planning another trip to Fripp, a few trips home, and one big trip to Florida to see family at the end of the summer, so this definitely gives me a little more confidence in this moment.