The only thing more intimidating than taking a road trip with an infant is taking one with a toddler.
Fortunately, as is the case when road tripping with a baby, a little planning and creativity can help things go smoothly and enjoyably. Please note that this post contains some affiliate links. Click here to read about what this means.
Tips for taking a road trip with a toddler
Leave at the right time
If there is a particular time when you need to arrive at your destination, then you’ll want to carefully determine when to leave. The reality is that you will experience delays! Some of these will be unrelated to your toddler (e.g., traffic, weather), but many will be due to things like meals and diaper changes or potty breaks. I think it is best to add an hour or two onto the amount of time the trip should take in order to accommodate these delays.
Another factor to consider is how your toddler handles car rides. If he or she tends to be frustrated after being in the car seat for very long, then you might consider driving during the overnight hours so he or she can sleep through most of the trip.
Plan for using the potty or changing diapers
If your toddler is still in diapers, then you’ll want to prepare for the possibility of inconvenient diaper changes. It’s pretty likely that along your route you will encounter gas stations and restaurants that don’t provide changing tables. Click here to read about your options in these situations.
If your child is potty trained, then it might be best to take along a portable potty so he or she can quickly access a toilet when the need arises. This can help prevent delays caused by accidents.
Provide entertainment and snacks
Boredom is probably the greatest threat to your trip being pleasant, so it is essential that you have several small toys available to entertain your toddler. The key is selecting toys that don’t have a lot of parts to them (like blocks or puzzles), but will entertain your toddler for a good length of time. Here are some great options:
–Magna Doodles or similar magnetic drawing boards
-Buckle boards and plush toys
–Driving toys (so he or she can drive just like mommy and daddy!)
One controversial option is having a portable DVD player or a tablet on hand for your toddler to watch videos. I’m not a fan of allowing toddlers a lot of screen time, so I prefer to avoid this option if possible. However, if you are on a long road trip, then it’s definitely an option to consider. We did take a portable DVD player with us when we traveled for last Thanksgiving and it turned out to be just what we needed when nothing else would soothe our stir crazy toddler!
If your toddler is anything like mine, then he or she eats a lot of food throughout the day. Hungry toddlers are cranky toddlers, so you want to have plenty of snacks on hand in order to fill tummies when they become hungry. Snacks that are rich in protein (so they keep hunger at bay for longer) and snacks that aren’t messy tend to be best. Find ideas for healthy road trip snacks here. It’s also a good idea to provide your toddler with a cup that won’t spill so he or she can have water on hand to prevent dehydration. Our favorite cup of this type is the Miracle 360 Cup.
It may not expedite your trip, but everyone riding in the car will benefit from making frequent stops. This is especially true for toddlers who simply aren’t programmed to sit still for long periods of time! Plan to take a brief break at least every two hours. Encourage your toddler to walk, run, jump, and do the hokey pokey (or whatever gets him or her moving) while on your breaks!
Be ready in case you need to clean up messes
Whether it’s a spilled snack, a blown out diaper, or a bout of carsickness, you’ll likely need to do some cleaning up while on your trip. Be prepared with plenty of wipes, paper towels, a trash bag, and an easily accessible change of clothes for your toddler.
Think safety first
Before leaving on your trip, double check to make sure your toddler’s car seat is installed correctly. Though it can be tempting to turn young toddlers around to face forward so they can see around easily, keep in mind that experts recommend that toddlers remain rear-facing in their car seats at least until the age of two years. Never let your toddler out of his or her car seat in order to move around the car!
Consider installing window shades to protect your little one from the sun if you’ll be traveling during the day. It’s also a good idea to carry your pediatrician’s contact information and your toddler’s important medical information with you in case you need to stop along the way for medical care.
Whether you are traveling across the state or across the country, I hope these strategies benefit you as much as they do us when we hit the road.
Have you taken a road trip with a toddler? What things did you do to make the trip go smoothly?