As much as I love traveling, I hate going on long road trips with toddlers and trying to keep them happy. It’s just not easy. They are so active at this age and want to be out running around. Who can blame them? I want to be out running around.
We’ve gone on four long road trips with toddlers and countless short ones over the past year or so. From 4 to 36 hours, they have all been memorable. I’ve learned a lot from our time on the road and I’m here to share.
What NOT to Do
My best piece of advice is a simple one: DO NOT GIVE A TODDLER SILLY PUTTY! Duh right? Well I learned this lesson the hard way. The very hard way. Somewhere I was informed that silly putty was not sticky. I just pictured Fern sitting there quietly rolling the silly putty around in her hands, or patting it, or maybe just looking at it. I glanced back and saw every mother’s worst nightmare. Road trips with toddlers is not a time to try something out. Ok, on to the good stuff …
Packing List for Road Trips With Toddlers
- Diapers (keep them easily accessible for stops)
- Wipes (bring more than you think you need)
- Butt cream
- Paper towels
- Trash bags (we just take Target or Walmart bags)
- Extra ziplock bags
- Blanket/confort item
- Leak proof sippy cup (a must for road trips with toddlers)
- Snacks (think non-sticky and as crumb-free as possible)
- Books (board books only so they can’t rip them)
- Stickers/something to putsy (we pick up the huge stickers in the $1 section at Target)
- “Throw away” toys (stash your Chick-fil-A toys for a time such as this)
- Crayons and paper (we save ours from restaurants)
- Toys (we hide several in the weeks leading up to the trip so they are new to her all over again)
Tips for Successful Road Trips With Toddlers
- Travel at night. We’ve done this several times and it’s been amazing. We leave around 5:00 P.M. right after I teach my last piano lesson. This gives Fern a chance to be excited, look out the window, eat dinner, look at all of her toys, eat a snack, and be ready to sleep by 8:30 P.M.
- Be well prepared. We took off one time with everything just thrown into the car. We thought we were saving time, but after we stopped for the fourth time to get something for fern we realized we hadn’t saved any time at all. Spend a few extra minutes to organize your car and put things where you (not the toddler! haha) can reach them easily.
- Get your errands done ahead of time. Once we start, we don’t stop. Well that’s not totally true, but we do try not too. Stopping disrupts a toddler. They may want to get out, or worse, they may be woken up if they were sleeping.
- Have trash bags. We take a Target or Walmart bag and keep it right under Fern’s seat. She’s able to produce an amazing amount of garbage (sorry earth!), but we’re ready for her. We just throw the bag out at any stops we make.
- Travel comfy. We are often heading to see family or friends so we want Fern to look cute. Instead of making her sit in a cute outfit for hours (and maybe get it dirty) we put her in something comfy and pull over to change right before we arrive.
- Give yourself time. Don’t plan an activity that is time sensitive right when you get to your destination. You have a kid. You will be slower. It’s best not to get behind AND be stressed. Perhaps you know you’ll have an event that day that you can’t control (wedding, graduation, etc.). Plan to arrive a few hours early. If all goes well, then you have extra time with family or time to see the town. If you run into a snag then you don’t need to flip out because you have a time buffer.
- Get PBS kids. If all else fails, pull up PBS kids on your phone. As much as I hate screens for kids, I have used it several times to buy us a few minutes. We’ve been driving around lost and just needing peace in the backseat so we’ll let her watch something for a short time.
- Leave the seat next to your toddler open. If you fill it with stuff, they will reach it. Sometimes I put a bin in that seat, but just outside of her reach. Once I made the mistake of leaving an open create next to her. She just loved pulling all of our camping kitchen stuff out. If the seat is open you will also be able to move back there more freely if you are needed.
Hope this helps you parents out there who are planning road trips with toddlers. What do YOU do to help your little people(s) on the road? Maybe I missed the one ultimate tip and you know what it is! Please share. You’ll be saving many a parent many a headache.
Children are a precious gift and so is time. I can’t think of a more wonderful way of spending time with your children then traveling. They learn about the world and their place in it. They also learn about God’s beauty through his glorious creation.