Road Tripping with a Toddler: Tips for an Enjoyable Ride

The only thing more intimidating than taking a road trip with an infant is taking one with a toddler.

Car travel with a toddler poses some challenges, but you can still have a fantastic road trip. It just takes some creativity and planning!

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.

Take breaks

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?

Shared at the following link parties:

Monday’s Musings, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tuesday Talk, Coffee and Conversation, Shine Blog Hop, and The Art of Home-Making.

Comments

  1. Great ideas! When our oldest were toddlers, we took a long road trip. We bought them some cheap toys and wrapped them like gifts. Then every so many hours into the trip, they’d get a new toy to play with. Looking back, I think I could have done this using toys we already owned rather than spending more money, but I’d be sure to use toys that are ok if they get lost along the way!

    • Shannon says:

      That is a wonderful idea, Jamie. Yes, you probably could have used toys you already had! Also, good suggestion that they be toys that are okay to lose along the way.

  2. Such a good list. One thing that I always try to remind my husband is that with a toddler, a schedule can easily go out the window. Expect more stops. Expect more needs. Expect it to take twice as long. And that way, it’s fun to make those random “get out and stop” moments to either take the potty break or enjoy the scenic overlook. In other words, plan to make the trip a little longer. 🙂

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Ann,
      Trips do take longer…everything takes longer with a toddler! Being prepared for this makes it easier to handle when the plan gets interrupted.

  3. And I think road trips with my 7 year old are tricky – toddlers are much more complicated! Great tips. Our favorite trick was to travel with the kids would be sleeping anyway!

    • Shannon says:

      I think this works best for many families, Emma. I don’t like driving or traveling at night, so we skip this option. However, it would definitely be easier in many respects.

  4. Great ideas. I agree that travel can be fun with toddlers (at least most of the time) if you prepare well. We bring a lot of small, quiet activities to do. Stickers are awesome, as are window clings (the kind you can buy in the dollar spot at Target). We also let our little boys do a car/truck scavenger hunt and he thought that was pretty great.

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Meg,
      Stickers and window clings are great ideas! They are very entertaining and affordable.

  5. You always have such good tips, Shannon, and this one is no exception. We’re in the midst of potty training our little girl, and we have a long trip planned for this weekend, so your words came in just the nick of time. Thank you for sharing this with us on #shinebloghop!

  6. So true about the snacks! That always helps! New snacks that he hasn’t eaten before are even better. As for toys- when we were flying I didn’t even bother with bringing a ton of his own toys. I just let the random things he found keep him entertained (he was about 14 months at the time). The pamphlet, the safety guide, the seatbelt, empty plastic cups. All these plane items seemed to capture his attention better than the toys I brought along!

    • Shannon says:

      Great tips, Tina. New things (whether toys or snacks) are always great for holding their attention longer! Random items like empty cups and pamphlets are great for young toddlers. 🙂

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