If the days of hopping in a car for an impromptu road trip are currently in your rearview mirror, chances are you are toting around a tiny traveler or two. A family vacation can involve months, weeks and days of preparing, packing and stressing. The sheer horror of breaking down without a single diaper or drop of water in the middle of nowhere can keep any parent awake at night. Taking a road trip with a baby may be hard, but I feel taking a toddler on a road trip is slightly more difficult. Gone are the multiple naps, they are full of pent up energy and they love to exercise their newfound sense of independence. Cue toddler meltdown. Spring Break and summer vacation are right around the corner. So whether you are driving to Florida or California here are few useful tips for hitting the road with a toddler.
If you open your car door and an entire Target snack aisle falls out, it is time to get organized. Chaos in the car sneaks up on you. It starts with a few harmless wrappers on the floor, a book or two left on the seat that slowly transforms into a toy tornado and the need for a hazmat suit. I know because I was there. Then we discovered the Backseat Butler by J.L.Childress.
Friends, this item needs to be on every baby registry and every car transporting a child. This organizer not only contains the toys, books, and snacks but is has cupholders! I have deemed that we only keep toys in the car that will fit in the organizer. There are side pockets that are great for crayons and wipes. In addition to an easily accessible front zipper pocket that is perfect for those items, you need in a pinch.
Having an organized car while traveling will make your trip go a whole lot smoother. I even recommend setting up a mini diaper caddy for quick and easy changing on the go. Pack a handful of plastic bags that can be used for garbage bags, tie up dirty diapers or put dirty clothes in.
Chick-Fil-A’s Are Life
Love them or hate them, Chick-fil-A is my go-to fast food stop when traveling with a toddler. Not only do they have an indoor play area aimed for the younger kids, they are one of the few places that you can get grilled chicken nuggets and fresh fruit. From having disposable mats, a changing table in the bathroom, and having a great children’s menu it is easy to see why parents love this place. Now go and map out every Chick-Fil-A from home to your destination because this is where you will want to take your breaks. Unless you are traveling on a Sunday, then you are on your own!
Be Prepared For The Unexpected
Life loves to throw curveballs at our well thought out and detailed plans. You need to pack for the unexpected because the last thing you will want is to be broken down in frigid temperatures with no blanket or way to heat your child. Here are a few scenarios you will want to ensure you have packed for:
- If your little one has a complete blow out in their car seat do you have what you need to clean it? Do you have an extra set of clothes readily available for your child?
- Your little one starts to run a fever and isn’t feeling well. Always have medicine in a place that you as the parent can access it quickly. That way if illness hits you have everything you need at your fingertips. Don’t waste time driving around aimlessly looking for a local drugstore. We also recommend mapping out children’s hospitals along your route in case of an emergency.
- The air conditioner goes out on your drive through Death Valley.
- Hit road construction or traffic that has everyone at a standstill for hours. Do you have enough snacks to keep hunger at bay?
- Your car breaks down at night on the highway or on a backroad that is less traveled. Do you have a flashlight?
- Bring a road atlas as back up insurance in case your GPS goes out. Getting lost with a child in the car should not be a thing.
- Make sure the car road trip ready. Plenty of gas, oil changed, the air in the tires, spare tire ready to go. Little things to give you peace of mind while you are on the road.
Pack as if all of these unfortunate events might happen. We all have misfortune at times, but if you are prepared it will make it a lot less painful on everyone.
Have Plenty of Entertainment
One of the biggest struggles of traveling with a toddler is keeping them entertained. Being your children’s personal clown for hours is downright exhausting. I have a few commandments for toys when road tripping.
- You should bring two new toys that have never been seen before.
- Be sure to bring your child’s favorite portable toy. You know they will bring the entire dollhouse or if the entire train table if you let them.
- Don’t forget to pack any lovies or blankies. Those items are mandatory and need to be checked each time before leaving ANYWHERE!
- You should bring toys that will entertain for more than five minutes. We love Melissa and Doug Water Wow Books, sticker books and dollar store coloring books.
- Books, Books, and more books. We love the indestructible books mainly because they are paper thin, don’t rip and can be put in the washing machine. I always love getting a few new books for our trips. We like to hit up our local library the day before we leave!
- Every parent has a different view and option of screen time. Having a favorite movie or show download and ready in the event of an epic toddler meltdown is always something we have in our arsenal.
- Ensure you have a car seat mirror if your child is still rear-facing.
- Plenty of music! We have tons of children’s CDs and streaming options going constantly in our car! Sing-a-longs make for great memories and help pass the time!
Traveling At Night
Traveling at night can be a great option depending on the child. However, there are a few things to consider.
- Are you too tired of your lack of sleep to travel at night? Don’t forget, your toddler will be awake and ready to go just like any normal day once you arrive. Most likely they will be up even earlier than normal! If you are going to need ten venti quad shot macchiatos to get through breakfast you might want to skip the night drive.
- Is your child on a strict sleep schedule and throwing them off will make for a hellish few days?
- Will your little one be scared sitting in the dark? If so you may want to consider bringing a flashlight.
Snacks and Hydration
Snacks are one of the most vital things to have during a road trip. Even as an adult I need plenty of things to nosh on and a drink readily available the entire trip. Children are no different if anything they eat twice as many snacks as we do! Prevent hanger from attacking and put together a road trip snack basket to put hanger in its place. Here is a list of our favorite travel snacks that you need to add to your cart this minute.
Don’t forget to pack a few bottles of water in addition to any caffeinated beverage you may be drinking. Keeping hydrated during traveling will help prevent headaches, ward off illness and keep you feeling well.
Plan Pit Stops
The energy that toddlers have can almost be superhuman at times. Be sure to check for fun and entertaining stops during your journey. Whether it is getting out to stretch your legs at a playground or spending a few hours at a local children’s museum, do something to get their little legs moving.
We wish you safe travels and fewer toddler meltdowns during your trip! Please share any other great tips for traveling with a toddler in our comments! We are always looking for fresh new ideas!
Traveling with a little infant? Check out our road trip tips for baby!