All three of our children have all traveled from a young age. We have taken more than a dozen flights, moved six times, and have lived overseas twice in the past decade. Although traveling is a mandatory part of being a military family, we love it. In fact, the mandatory moves have taught us many tips and tricks when it comes to traveling for fun. All three of our children have taken long trips from birth, so at this point, to survive a road trip with a toddler seems easy to me.
This past Christmas, we took a 16-hour road trip to visit our family. It was our 20-month-old’s first long car trip, and to be honest, I was hesitant to take him on such a long ride because he hates being strapped down in his car seat. Up until this point in his life, he has done all of his long travel by airplane. Although I had my doubts, I talked myself into taking the trip anyway. Like any other road trip, I planned for a few days, and we hit the road. To my surprise, he did exceptionally well on the trip.
If you have been hesitant to travel with your toddler, don’t be! With a little love and preparation, you can easily survive a road trip with your toddler. Many parents dread the thought of traveling with children (especially toddlers and babies) because they can be unpredictable. One moment the kid is OK, and the next moment they aren’t. As a seasoned traveler of three kids all under the age of ten, I would offer one piece of advice to any hesitant parent: prepare. Your travel success is based on how well you prepare for your trip.
To survive a road trip with a toddler you have to do one thing: prepare.
Before planning a road trip with your toddler, first, consider how well he or she does in the car. Does your toddler hate riding in the car? Does he or she start crying as soon as you put them in the car seat? This will give you a good idea of how a road trip with your toddler may go. If your toddler doesn’t do well in the car for longer than 10 minutes, you may want to reconsider a long road trip. Taking a road trip with a cranky toddler is possible to pull off, but it’s going to take a lot of effort from you and the other car riders to keep your toddler calm and relaxed during your road trip.
Taking a road trip with a toddler can go well as long as you and the other road-trippers practice patience with your little one. Your toddler doesn’t know how to fully express himself or herself, so always remember to play it cool. Help them to remain calm and at ease, while making it fun and exciting along the way. If you have a tablet, play kid’s music, movies, and shows and to keep your toddler preoccupied until he or she falls asleep.
Whether you are traveling 30 miles or 300 miles from home, road tripping with a toddler doesn’t have to be hard. The thought of it can be intimidating, but remember, the success of your trip is dependant on your preparation before the trip. Here are my Top 10 tips to successfully travel with a toddler.
10 Tips to Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler
1. Create a “cleanup kit” for accidents.
While we travel, I keep my kit in the passenger seat. Any other time, the clean up kit remains in the trunk. In your clean up kit, have plastic trash bags (for soiled clothes, dirty diapers, and in case anyone gets car sick) disinfecting wipes, disinfecting spray, and paper towels. You will want these things to be easily accessible at all times for the duration of the trip.
2. Organize your road trip snacks for easy access.
There is nothing worse than a screaming toddler whose Mom isn’t moving fast enough. When a toddler wants their snacks or sippy cup, they want it now! Pack all of your toddler’s favorite snacks, and have them ready and available to give at a moment’s notice. I kept all the snacks, sippy cups, and juice boxes in the front passenger seat for easy access.
3. Strategically plan your stops.
Determine how long your child can ride in the car before needing a break. During our 16-hour road trip, I stopped every 4 hours so the kids could stretch and use the restroom. On average, you should plan to stop every 1 to 3 hours during the day and every 3 to 6 hours at night to change diapers, stretch legs, eat and change clothes as needed. If you can, take long breaks before getting back into the car if your child seems antsy. Try to choose rest stops with playgrounds so your kid(s) can run around and get fresh air.
4. Have your things separated and organized neatly into separate bags for quick stops.
If possible, pack your road trip items separately from your other vacation items. For example, if you have a suitcase filled with your clothes to wear once you reach your destination, have a separate bag for your toddler’s diapers and changes of clothes. That way, if you need to give your toddler a diaper or outfit change during the road trip, you won’t have to dig through your other travel items to find what you need.
5. Pack multiple changes of clothes.
Toddlers are messy, so it’s always a good idea to travel with multiple outfits in case you need to do a quick change. For our 16-hour road trip, I packed 4 additional outfits for the road trip alone. We ended up needing to use 3 of them. I also packed one change of clothes for me and each of my two older children as well (sometimes toddlers can get others messy too!).
6. Have small toys they can hold in their hand.
My toddler loves Hot Wheels Cars, so I always carry a few with me at all times. Stores like Target, Walmart, and the Dollar Store have small $1 and $2 plastic toys that are perfect for road trips (I like to buy the cheap toys so they can easily be replaced if lost). Buy a few, and surprise your child with a new one every hour during the road trip.
7. Have their favorite blanket ready for when they fall asleep. Does your child have a blanket they sleep with every day? We brought the blanket from my toddler’s playpen. Since you will be in the car for a while, you want them to be as comfortable as possible.
8. Keep him or her distracted. Their attention span is short, so while they are awake trying to keep them engaged in other activities If you can, have someone sit in the back seat and play with and talk to him or her. Play music, offer toys, and books to keep them occupied. Embrace electronic distractions when needed, but don’t rely only on devices.
9. Remain calm and patient.
As a parent, you are in control of how all of this plays out. If you get visibly upset, things can go downhill fast. Use patience when it comes to your toddler, and always try to keep your cool. Taking a road trip is no easy task – not for you or your little one. Keep that in mind. Give your toddler – and yourself – some grace along the way.
10. Treat your little one!
Your road trip should be a fun experience, so make it a good one! Treat your little one whenever you have the chance. Buy the ice cream cone. Give him or her extra cuddles and kisses while you are away from home. Make good memories and have fun. Seeing a smile on their face will make it all worth it.❤