Surviving a Road Trip with a Toddler

Road trips can be a blast. It’s the perfect way to set out on a family vacation, see the countryside, and spend quality time together. However, if you’re taking a toddler with you, surviving for even an hour in the car can be a chore.

Consider this your survival guide for road tripping with a toddler. These tips and tricks will give your toddler something to do and help you keep your sanity on what would otherwise be a very long, arduous drive.

Stop. Often.
Yes, it will make your trip even longer, but trust me on this one. The more frequently you stop to stretch your legs, do a little sightseeing, and get out of the car for a bit, the easier the trip will be.

I’ve taken trips across the country with my kids, driving straight through for 15 hours or more, only stopping for gas, food, and the bathroom. If you stop, even for 10 minutes, everyone will feel refreshed enough to make it another three hours down the road.

Plus, part of the journey is seeing things along the way.

Eat Local
The other part of the journey is experiencing the culture, especially when it’s different than your own. If you’re hungry, grab a bite from a local restaurant to go and park at the playground. Or the beach. Or somewhere you don’t get to see at home.

One of our favorite things to do on vacation is to avoid restaurants we can eat at home. What’s the fun in that? We want to shop local, eat local, and experience local. That’s why we’re here. Otherwise, we would have just stayed at home.

Mix it up. It will keep your toddler entertained.

Time it Right
Use your toddler’s sleep schedule to your advantage. If you have a five-hour drive or less, chances are you could eat lunch and then head out right before naptime, and your toddler will sleep the first leg of the trip. Easy peasy.

If your drive is longer, plan your stops according to when you think your toddler will sleep in the car. There’s nothing worse than interrupting a nap because you need more gas.

Another tip to help your child sleep in the car is to invest in some window shades to block the sun. They might make the whole drive a bit more comfortable, too.

Pack Snacks
Let go of your clean car. You’re road tripping with a toddler. Maybe that should have been tip #1. Regardless, you’re going to want to have lots of snacks handy. In the cup holders, inside the door pockets, in the console. Literally anywhere.

When your child gets bored, or fussy, or hungry, toss them a snack. I’m not advocating for skipping lunch, but you’re going to need more snacks than you think. It will keep them busy, and a little food on their stomach can do wonders for warding off car sickness.

Pack Toys
Same as the snacks. Make sure you have plenty of toys. Switch them out at every stop to keep your toddler on their toes. I would advise against bringing art supplies, though. You’ll thank me later.

If you let your child play with electronics, you can tuck those away for an emergency meltdown, too.

Stay Safe
Choose your car seat wisely, and pack plenty of supplies in case of an emergency. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there, because as you already know, anything with a toddler takes longer.

Once you begin traveling with your toddler, you’ll learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Everyone has a different travel style, but these are the things I do to make traveling with my kids much more enjoyable.

Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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One Response to “Surviving a Road Trip with a Toddler”

  1. David Holzman says:

    I was a toddler on Seattle-LA, and LA-Seattle (I was ~3 at the time). And I was 4 for Seattle-Menlo Park CA at the beginning the summer, and Menlo Park to Cambridge MA at the end of the summer. By that time I was taking a big interest in the scenery. Driving a distance was an adventure.

    We lived in Paris the year I was 12, and my sister went from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2. My parents bought her toys to bribe her through museums. At one point, driving through Austria on a two month 3000 mile tour of Europe, she suddenly piped up, “I want more toys! I want more toys!”

    But I don’t remember her being trouble. That was partly because she had two much older brothers to help keep her amused.