Children & Adolescents Clinic

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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Traveling with a Baby: Car Travel

State law requires that you ALWAYS use a car seat when you take your baby or child under 4 years of age in the car. When your baby learns from the beginning that car travel is always in the car seat, there won't be much protest. If you are not consistent, you can expect continual problems.

If you are planning a long car trip (over an hour), here are some ways to keep your baby interested and occupied:

  • Using ribbons or yarn (no longer than 12 inches), hang toys from the clothes hooks in the back seat.
  • Tape some pictures facing your baby so he has something interesting to look at.
  • Tie some toys on elastic or short string and pin or tie them to the car seat. Your baby can enjoy the toys without requiring retrieval every 5 minutes.


  • Take a break at least every 1 and 1/2 hours unless the baby is sleeping--then stop as soon as he wakes up.
  • Cover the car seat with a beach towel or a purchased seat cover to prevent the metal parts of the car seat from getting hot in the sun and burning your baby. A cover is also much more comfortable in winter than cold, brittle plastic.
  • Babies don't like the sun in their face any more than we do. Use either a wide brimmed hat or block the sun with cardboard taped to the car seat and/or window. (Make sure you can still see out of the car!)
  • Keep a wet washcloth or towelettes in the car for sticky, sweaty baby hands and faces.
  • Bring snack foods for your baby. Bagels are good for babies who are teething because they don't make many crumbs.
  • Bring snack foods for yourself and for older children in case your baby decides to sleep through scheduled dinner stops and you decide to make time rather than stop and wake the baby up.
  • Always keep cold water in a Thermos and bring disposable plastic cups.

Written by Kate Capage.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems