Attempting to do a road trip with a toddler can be nerve-wracking. I remember the first time we made the decision to make a trip longer than just a couple of hours in our car. I wondered if we were crazy to even attempt it and a million questions ran through my brain. What if our daughter cried the whole time? What if she wouldn’t sleep? What if she made a mess in the car?
Well, I’m here to tell you that our road trip went great! At least, our daughter was great during the road trip because our ride home took almost 3 times as long to get home due to traffic (it was our road trip to Rexburg, Idaho to see the Total Eclipse of the sun).
After that road trip experience, we knew that we could basically do any road trip with our daughter and made the decision to drive the 12 hours to Anaheim to go to Disneyland for my 30th birthday.
While our daughter did a great job on the unexpected lengthened road trip home from Rexburg, I didn’t want to tempt fate. While we brought things for my daughter to do on the trip to Rexburg, I definitely didn’t have as much as I wished we’d had. So for the trip to Disneyland, I made sure to grab the things I wished I’d had.
Thankfully that did the trick and our road trip to Anaheim was a success!
Since I had such success with our long road trips with a toddler, I wanted to share with you my top tips for having a successful road trip with a toddler.
1. Frequent Stops
This might go without saying but making frequent stops really helps! You might think it’s good to just drive through as quickly as you can but remember that kids attention span isn’t as great as ours. Plus, it can be helpful to let them out to run around and stretch their legs because being cooped up in the car for so long can be really hard on their little bodies (and yours).
Another reason to make frequent stops is if you need to change a diaper or if your kid is potty training (or trained).
If you can find a rest stop to make stops at, they’re a great place for stretching your legs and using the restroom. Some of them even have information about the local area and state that you can learn about!
When we were on our way home from Rexburg, there was a great rest stop that basically everyone else was stopped at with grassy areas and some hiking trails too. Our daughter loved running up and down the hills with the other kids that were stopped there too while other family members waited in the long lines for the bathrooms.
Another great rest stop was when we were on our way back from Anaheim. It had cool animal tracks in the cement and information boards to learn about the desert area surrounding us.
One thing you need to make sure you do when planning your trip though is to plan ahead that you’ll have frequent stops. This way you’ll make it to your destination in time.
Snacks. Snacks. And more Snacks. Seriously: Snacks. Now don’t just get snacks for your kids, but get some for yourself too! You really can’t have too many snacks when you’re in the car for that long.
But more importantly than snacks, make sure you pack a lot of water too! Water bottles are fairly cheap for a pack and easy to grab. Plus, if your toddler spills water, it’s not as messy as a sugary drink.
3. Concentrative Activities
We want time to pass quickly for our toddlers because the days seem particularly long for them and being stuck in a car is boring when they’d rather be outside playing.
It’s great to bring along activities that you know will keep their attention for long periods of time.
One of our favorite activities to pack along are coloring books! But my favorites are the Imagine Ink coloring books. They have only one marker that they need to worry about using and they’ll be delighted as the color shows up on the page!
No joke, when we were on our road trip to Disneyland, our daughter would be so quiet coloring that we had to keep looking back at her to see if she was sleeping. She sat for hours coloring in those things. Heck, I remember my parents getting similar coloring books for myself when I was a kid to keep me occupied on trips.
My daughter also likes to pack some of her Duplo Legos in a bag. She loves building towers and since they’re big, they don’t get easily lost in the car.
It’s definitely cliche, but tablets are great for doing a road trip with a toddler. You can download different games and even download movies onto it for your kid to watch.
My favorite tablet for kids, and the one we have for our daughter is the Fire Kids Edition. It comes with a foam case so if your kid drops it or *ahem* throws it, it doesn’t get hurt. Or at least the damage is minimal, our daughter has thrown hers a lot and nothing has happened to it!
Even if your a parent who likes to minimize your kids’ screen time, often times it’s best to make an exception on a long road trip in the car if it’ll keep your kid (and yourself) sane.
What better time to get to know your kid more? We like to think we know our kids best but how often does your kid say something and you think “where did you come up with that?” Toddler minds are fascinating in the way they think and problem solve, so a long car ride is great for picking their brains.
And if your kid doesn’t want to talk, but is willing to listen, you can tell them a story. Tell them about the day they were born or what life was like when you were a kid. You can even describe the scenery around you or where you are going. Your kid will love getting to hear your voice and interact with you.
While things won’t always go perfectly on your road trip, making sure to take breaks and keep your toddler occupied will help make things go more smoothly as well as put your mind at ease when doing a road trip with a toddler. And once your mind is at ease, the options of where you can take a road trip are endless!
Do you have a tip I missed that’s helped you when doing a road trip with a toddler? Let me know in the comments!