Do you have a baby or young child who struggles with travelling in the car? You are not alone. Both my children absolutely hated their car seat and travelling in the car. Over the years there have been a few things I’ve tried and has proven to work, so hopefully my 12 tips to help your baby stop crying in the car and begin to enjoy their car travel experience.
So why is it that whenever you have a screaming child in the car you get every single red light to your destination? Anxiety levels quickly escalate and through desperation we find ourselves madly doing anything to comfort our crying baby, which can reduce our ability to drive safely. Let me share some great tips with you.
12 tips to help your baby stop crying in the car
1. Choose your car seat wisely from the very beginning
There are a few important things you want to consider before even putting your child in any car seat. Safety of your precious baby is absolutely number 1. The car seat we have professionally installed for Boo (aged 1 year) is Europe’s most popular and trusted car seat, the Maxi Cosi Euro NXT. It has amazing safety features that you’ll want to rely on when you are travelling in the car with children, such as the GCELL technology, which is a tough shell material that lines the whole outside of the car seat and acts as a crumple zone and helps to reduce the impact during a crash.
If your child likes to escape their carseat and get out from their seat belt then consider getting yourself a ‘Houdini Stop’ strap. They are brilliant and will ensure your child remains in their carseat with their seatbelt ON!
2. Plan your trip
Regardless of how long you expect your baby to be in the car with you, always plan ahead. Taking a few extra minutes to plan and gather safe travel bits and pieces can make all the difference between a trip being enjoyable or something that leaves you and your child both in tears.
3. Getting comfortable
You want your child to be as comfortable as possible during travel. Ensure your child has adequate airflow and isn’t too hot or too cold.
4. Pick your timing
If possible, it’s a great idea to try and travel in the car with your baby during their nap time. It will allow you to be able to concentrate on the road and have them well rested when it comes to arriving at your destination.
5. Rotate car toys
All children love toys. It’s a great idea to have a small collection of safe toys that your child can entertain themselves with independently. We keep all our toys in a draw string cotton bag as it keeps the car tidy-ish.
Children love to look at themselves in the mirror so offer them a safe hand held plastic mirror to play with. You can also attach this to the back of the front seat headrest so it’s available to them easily.
7. Swinging toys
Consider hanging a safe string of toys from the exit handle. Young babies love to see toys move in interesting ways and will delight in swiping and trying to catch the toys as you drive around corners.
8. Photo books
When children are confined to a car seat they can feel distressed because they can’t be close to you like they can when they are out of the car. My clever sister in law had these adorable photo books made, which include photos of my children and family at special events. They are durable and will capture your child’s interest. You can order these online or at your nearest photo store.
9. Music or ‘white noise’
It might take a little experimenting, but your child might also enjoy listening to some fun children’s music or the repetitive sound of white noise. There are many CDs that you can purchase and have ready to play whenever you need.
10. Food and Water
If you’re not worried about crumbs, you can pack some safe food snacks that your baby can enjoy in the car whilst travelling. Of course it’s always a great idea to be sure your baby is well hydrated with fresh water too.
11. Car environment
Sometimes opening a car window slightly and allowing some fresh air to circulate can make a big difference to how your child is feeling in the car.
Children feel comfort in what is familiar so it’s a great idea to give your child an opportunity to play and explore their new car seat before having it professionally installed. This allows them to learn how it feels and see it as something positive and safe.
Dani Whiting says
My most memorable car seat experience, was when I was approx 3yo and we hit a kangaroo whilst on our way to visit family in the country (a 4hr drive). I can remember being stuck in my uncomfortable/hot car seat and left alone while everyone got out of the car to see the kangaroo. If only my parents knew some of the great ideas from this blog about car travel, I may have been distracted and not distressed about being stuck in my uncomfortable car seat!!
My husband and I are planning to start a family in the very near future and I would love to have a Maxi Cosi NXT car seat for my children. Having a Maxi Cosi will put my mind at ease knowing that they are comfortable on long drives to the country to see family. And I would also be reassured to know they will have the very best safety features if they are ever involved in an accident.
Whoah that certainly sounds memorable. Thanks for your entry Dani. 🙂
Kate - The Craft Train says
What great tips and I love the photo books! I was very fortunate that my babies (now about to grow out of their car seats for good) fell asleep as soon as the car engine started humming. I found that having some kids music like the Wiggles or similar on hand helpful for those times when we had longer journeys (but they still slept for most of those!)
We love the photo books so much Kate. They are the most looked at and enjoyed books I think. LOL
Thank you for your entry. 🙂
Great tips Kate! My eldest was a shocker as a baby in the car. She was always a ‘sensory’ baby and needed to be constantly touched. If we were going somewhere as a family, I rode in the back so I could rest my arm in the car seat, as it was the only thing that would settle her. But it was a nightmare if I had to take her anywhere on my own, unless I drove one-handed with the other hand reaching back to touch her – which is not very safe! I ended up, for all our sakes, choosing to drive less and walk more. Perhaps if I’d known some of your tips, I might have had more luck!
Oh I have been there and certainly done that Danya. I’m sure driving less and walking more made you fit!
Thanks for your entry. 🙂
My dad came with me to have my first car seat fitted. He was so excited and asked more questions than I did. He did tell the installer “when we brought her home it was in a basket on the back seat – she survived”! He checks it every time Boy Wonder is in it. If I won I’d give this one to them so they can go for drives with Boy Wonder.
Awww that sounds like a lovely idea Anita. Thanks for your entry! 🙂
Screaming every time she was put in the car seat capsule, even for a second, we couldn’t work out why our newborn daughter hated the car so much, didn’t all babies love the car? One day a few weeks later i went to put her in and the head support cushion had flopped forward revealing a pacifier wedged underneath that had obviously been uncomfortable and explained everything. Needless to say pacifiers are one always clipped on if used in the car
Oh dear. Babies can be so hard to decode aren’t they Tina. If only they could tell us what’s wrong so we could fix it. Thanks for your entry. 🙂
Hi for us it was a car trip from home to Melbourne to visit family. We had our six month old in his car seat in the back. We were making different sounds like blowing raspberries at him from the front and it was the first time he started doing it back to us. The trip was lovely as we begin “talking ” with him via raspberries blowing for the trip there and back. It was the best trip ever. A maxi cosi woild be great for our 14 week old little girl.
Sounds very memorable Julie. Gorgeous.
Thanks for your entry. 🙂
Stacey Moore says
Well I’m from Putney Kentucky so I really hate I don’t get a chance to win this awesome car seat but I will share my story and say that the photo album idea sounds great! But one day my daughter, 6 month old grand-daughter, 2 dogs and I was trying to make our way to the Vet. As soon as we put the baby in the car seat she started to cry.. REALLY LOUD! We thought she would stop when the car started moving but she cried even harder, so we turned on some music and she cried so hard that she was losing her breath! So here we are.. At a red light.. One REALLY mad baby, two really scared dogs, with the music thumping and me and my daughter in the front seat trying our best to put ourselves in our happy place.. Needless to say,, she cried the whole way there AND BACK!! Hands down the worst car ride in our life’s !!!
Oh what a story Stacey. Makes me anxious reading about it. Red lights are like torture at those times.
So sorry you can’t enter this competition but I absolutely LOVE that you took the time to share your story.
Best wishes to you and your family, dogs included. 😉
Teresa Clark says
Most memorable (or most I will never forget) car seat moment would be driving my twin niece and nephew (3yo) and their little brother 10 months on the freeway, when one of the twins pops her head over my seat in front of my face and says “ta da” (I have internal freak out and heart stopping moment) she says hahaha “I can get the thing off” (meaning the belt) whilst I’m trying to manoeuvre the car of the freeway in peak hour traffic heading towards Sydney, she “freed” her twin and they were both in the process of trying to “free” the baby, all whilst I’m freaking out and shouting at them to just sit on their bottoms till i can stop the car. was not funny, and by gosh was i tempted to zip tie their seat belts together after that!! I thank god every day that my son has so far not given me any heart stopping moments in the car! he’s 4, and bubba due any day now 🙂
Oh Teresa, I could only just imagine how frightening that would have been. One of those moments you look back and can giggle at but not so funny at the time. Thanks for your entry. 🙂
Lynne E Schreibman says
you have me hysterical laughing, great writing! so sorry though and happy fpr you its over.
My daughter screams when we put her in the car seat. I hope these idea’s wrk for her. Thanks so much.
Oh Cheyenne, I hope my tips help you too. I’d be interested to know if you find some success using this tips.
Thank you kindly for your entry.
Samantha Weir says
Love these tips! My little guy hates the ride to daycare in the morning so definitely looking forward to trying these. Thanks:)
Sorry to hear you experience the car seat blues Samantha. I hope my tips help in some way.
Thank you kindly for your entry. 🙂
Most memorable moments driving with my son: every time we drive around together! Each experience is unique and special. 🙂
Oh that’s beautiful Molly. Thank you kindly for your entry. 🙂
Sara @ Happiness is here says
Oh gosh my babies never liked the car either. It was so stressful! I remember the first time my eldest fell asleep in the car at around 8 months, it was like some kind of miracle LOL
Oh Sara, it’s amazing that something like that is etched in your memory. Children crying in the car is very stressful.
Thank you for your entry. 🙂
My sister driving us to the doctor’s and my nephew strapped in the car seat with a fever was crying in pain. He was uneasy and then vomited. I had the inevitable task of cleaning it up.
Oh dear Cleo that sounds like a horrible experience for you all.
Thanks for your entry.
tracy wedding says
i love that my grand kids wont go in my car unless they are strapped into their seats they have been trained well
Good one Tracy. 🙂
Great article. Grandma (me) needs the car seat and all of the ideas I can get.
Thank you Laura. 🙂
We took our daughter on her first holiday to Port Douglas and tried to make it easy on ourselves and hired a 4 wheel drive with brand new car seat for the length of our stay. As soon as we got off the plane the heat hit us but we jumped in the car and gave our daughter a custard to keep her content. Well…custard and heat mixed with bending roads after a plane trip was not a good mix at all! She vomited ALL over the car seat!!! ? I spent most of the holiday washing and drying the car seat – but needless to say we still had an amazing first holiday together. We have now just had our second child and can’t wait to take him on his first holiday – no custard allowed ?
Sounds like a hard lesson Sarah. Hahaha
Thanks for entering! 🙂
My favourite car seat memory was from a road trip my mum and I made with my 4 month old to visit my brother in central Queensland. My daughter loved the trip for the first several hours but became increasingly restless in the last half of the trip. My Mum moved to the back seat and sang to her and talked to her for the rest of the way there. They cried and laughed together and it was the start of a beautiful bond they now share 5 years later.
That’s just gorgeous Kate. Thanks for sharing and entering the giveaway.
Katie Nilsson says
Great tips for traveling with young ones Kate x. My most memorable car experience is bringing my first born baby home to our home town from the hospital 2.5 hrs away. I sat in the back with him most of the way. A special trip I will never forget as it was the start of our parenting journey
What a beautiful memory that you’ll no doubt keep forever Katie. I’m overjoyed for you and your family.
Thanks for your entry. 🙂
Chev Sabangan says
One of my most memorable car seat experiences was when we drove from Melbourne to Sydney with our then 18 month old daughter. We planned everything from leaving really early in the morning when it was still dark (I loved doing this when I was a kid, it always made the trip feel like such an adventure) to having new toys wrapped up waiting to be opened when my little one would start to get antsy in her seat. We had lots of snacks packed too as well as lots of kids music to play. My little one did so well considering how long we were in the car, but my favourite part out of it all was singing nursery rhymes with her. She loved “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed” and the way my hubby and I would sing it really loudly together. The best part was seeing her serious face while she waved her finger around during the part where the Dr says “no more monkeys jumping on the bed!” It was a long drive but a very memorable one at that. I can’t wait for our next family road trip 🙂
How adorable. Sounds like a very memorable car ride. Lovely Chev. Thanks for your entry. 🙂
anita mclennan says
My most memorable car seat experiences are firstly when my then 8 month old son undone his harness during peak hour traffic (5pm on a Friday)! stress levels were high! Thankfully I pulled over into a nearby service station to redo it up. From then on we ditched that seat and I’ve learnt never to skimp on quality to save a few dollars. My equally memorable moment was my second son telling me he loves me for the first time while I was driving (and singing the Wiggles out loud). I hope to make some more memorable carseat moments (with a new Maxi Cosi Euro NXT :P) with my baby girl due in August.
Sounds like you’ve had some very memorable moments Anita.
Thank you kindly for your entry. 🙂
Natalie Skarschewski says
My most memorable car seat experience was driving home from the hospital with our first child. It’s pretty amazing to go to hospital as two people and come back as three! I was filled with joy and an almost overwhelming need to protect him. I remember wishing I hadn’t accepted the ten year old car seat that someone handed down to us and had instead bought one with high calibre safety features, like the Maxi Cosi Euro nxt. So I made the best of it and climbed in the back seat to be next to him and pretended the other drivers could hear me telling them to be careful driving!
Oh that first car ride is such a memorable one for any parent.
Thank you for your entry Natalie. 🙂
Oh man I remember how much my middle child HATED the car when he was a baby! I remember driving around with one hand twisted behind my back holding the dummy in his mouth! It was horrible!!
Oh yes, we have used that hand twisted movement too. We do anything when we have little ones crying in the car.
Thanks for your entry Kate. 🙂
On a roadtrip with a friend to Sydney IKEA for the day, bub got very upset (it was a three hour drive), so I got in the back and breastfed bub while he was still in his chair! I wouldn’t have thought it possible until it had to be done!
Oh Kelly that made me laugh because I completely understand that desperation.
Thanks for your entry. 🙂
Trish W says
Taking my niece to the shops for the first time, and she managed to open my car door (just unlatching the handle thankfully)! It was a terrifying experience and I was extremely shaken by it (I certainly learnt about child-safety locks, and she was completely unaffected of course!) 😛
I will certainly be using some of your helpful tips when my first bub arrives in 2 months time! 🙂
Eep! I can imagine that would have been a bit of a scary experience Trish.
Thank you kindly for your entry. 🙂
For me, the most memorable car trip, for all the wrong reasons, was two weeks ago. My son fell ill and I needed to get medical advice. Living on the coast this means travelling to the nearest hospital.
After loading the kids into the car, picking up the partner who had exceeded the legal limit to drive dropped him and the baby home, it was time to begin the 30 mins drive.
With a screaming child I cautiously drove the car past paddocks, farms, and the local racecourse, narrowly avoiding wildlife as we went. Three quarters of the way into the trip I hear the dreaded sound of vomit spewing all over the back seat. Pulling over I open the door to find what looks like white soup everywhere. I made every attempt to clean our car seat before giving up and throwing a beach towel over it.
After 6 hours at the hospital, it’s fair to say neither of us wanted to get back in the car little-lone deal with that sight.
Oh Kate, that breaks my heart reading that. I can only imagine what it was like. 🙁
Thank for entering the competition.
Peggy Kalis says
Oh Dear Laughing Kids Learn!
I love all your projects! The creativity is amazing. I’m a nana and I want to be able to take the little guys out, however, I have no car seat! This would allow me to do more things with my grandsons. I’m always looking for science projects, craft things as I’ve made a personal pack that buying “things” just clutters the house and the real way to build a lasting relationship with my grandsons is to create with them.
Keep up the great work…I love your website as well.
Peggy Kalis says
I’m a fairly new grandma and I don’t have a car seat. I watch my daughter-in-law buckle and belt and strap and pull with the car seat that she now has and it just seems so uncomfortable for the little guys.
I’d love the opportunity to introduce her to a new, easy and, what appears to be, totally comfortable experience for my grandsons and what a better way than to “WIN” one! Thank you for the opportunity.
And, I’d like to keep it so I can be more independent things with my grandsons!
Wonderful. Thank you so kindly for your entry Peggy. 🙂
Although this didn’t happen to me, it happened to a good friend of mine, I feel it just sums up what parenting is like as it always makes me think ‘Of course that would happen’. It also makes me giggle….
My girlfriend was driving her 3 month old baby in the car and when she stopped and went to get her baby out, she thought her baby had somehow managed to find chocolate in the car and cover himself in it. It was only on inspection that she realised it was not chocolate, but baby poo that had exploded out the top of the nappy with bub nestled into his car seat. He had then stuck his hands in it and managed to smear it all over his face, hair and car seat. She was absolutely mortified and as is often the case in situations like this, had no spare clothes on nappies on her. Ah, the joys of parenting…. 🙂
I thankfully have never had an experience like that and my most memorable car story probably involves many hours driving around with a reflux baby screaming as I try to get him to sleep.
Love your website, Kate!
Oh the horror! I’ve been caught wondering about the strangely appearing ‘chocolate’, but certainly not to that extent. Oh gee, I guess it’s something she can look back on and laugh at. Probably wasn’t so funny at the time though. Eep! LOL
Thanks for your entry Verity. 🙂
When road-tripping with a baby it is important to plan ahead in terms of feeding and bladder size – but what you will often forget is to also make similar allowances for the adults in the car. Over Easter we visited friends in Sydney – who had kindly had a rental car seat fitted (an older model maxi-cosi) to keep out 4 month old daughter safe. The car set was brand new, still with the tags hanging off it and it was our aim to return in in the same condition and claim back our security deposit.
After a couple of nights relaxing down at the beach, we set off back to Sydney – four adults and a baby crammed into a hatchback ready for a three hour drive. We have about a three hour window between feeds and that is the length of our drive – so no stops, no bathroom breaks and we are golden.
The baby was all secure in her hire seat and did not grumble the whole way. Her auntie Katie on the other hand… With only 30min left in the drive she declares “I can’t make it. If I don’t pee soon, I’ll burst!”
And so we stop, waking the baby who demands to be fed, which means a half hour hanging out in the petrol station car park breathing fumes because the bathrooms were too vile to consider. Of course about 100 metres after pulling out of the petrol station an ominous rumbling emanates from the car seat.
Being such a well fitted car seat, the baby was wedged in tight – along with the contents of a suddenly full nappy…
Five minutes later we’re standing in a McDonalds car park, the pristine car seat, the baby and me all covered in yellow goo. A truckload of baby wipes and half an hour later we finally make it home. Thankfully the maxi-cosi seats are so easy to take apart and clean, the hire company was none the wiser. But just in case, next time we road trip with these friends we might pop in a pack of Depends alongside the Huggies. ?
I seriously just snorted with laughter. Now that sounds like a very memorable car trip. Hahahaha
Thanks for your entry Fleur. 🙂
Ashlea Earl says
Because of my son discomfort in Car, I now sometimes had to cancel my trips. Though I have tried all tips given above, but may be I had to try it other way.
My concern is now about the safety of baby in car seat.
Can anyone suggest some tips regarding that?
Oh Ashlea. I’m so sorry that your son is finding the car such a horrible experience. I have certainly been there and canceled trips out too. I’m amazed that none of the tips that I gave above have worked! Did you try the photo book because I have found that to be the most successful. Regardless, I am sure he will learn to enjoy the car more as he grows older. It’s so hard at the moment and I wish you the best of luck.
Nisreen R says
my 2 years old daughter is freaking me out with the screaming and crying and hitting her head on the side of the door and front and back. she can take off the car seat belt easily and she stands up while i am driving . it’s very scary when she does that . i tried many things like giving her a treat when she’s good. It works for a while and not anymore and i tried kids you tube for her to watch and to be busy while i am driving . None of this works anymore . so now i am having my dad drive me around like picking up my son from school and doctor appointments etc…
Nisreen. Thank you so very much for your comment. I have sent you a personal email, which I hope can help you.
Natasha Goldberg says
Moat of the time my 2 years old son crying in the car in different reason. That time i was trying to stop hem and apply different way. I now sometimes had to cancel my trips. Your tips are looking useful hope so it will work for me. I will apply it with my baby. Thanks for the sharing such a useful article.
Thank you Natasha. It can be so difficult. I hope my tips help you.
First be prepared and make sure that you pack all the essential such as; extra diapers, toys and baby food. Secondly schedule your trips around baby’s nap time. In case you are travelling long distance, take a travel stroller with you tn ensure a safe and happy journey with your little one.
My first daughter slept like a dream in the car! Happy little camper! My second daughter hates it!!! She doesn’t cry when she gets in, seems comfy and content but the second the engine starts if we don’t move straight away she cracks it! She even knows when the car slows down! She’s only 9 weeks old and can’t play with any toys yet, although I have put in the mirror which has done diddly squat. I fear this is going to be a very looooong journey 🙁
Oh Danielle, it’s so hard, especially when you actually need to get out of the house for your own sanity or to get things done. I really hope some of my tips help. Please know you are not alone and it certainly gets a lot easier as they get older. My older daughter is an absolute dream now.
In our family, we like to travel a lot and we spend many hours in the car with the kids. For babies that are alittle older we actually found a great solution that improved the whole experience of the trip. We bought a Kids Travel Tray … a life saver 🙂