8 Tips for Road Trips with Toddler in Tow


Whether you’re getting brave and want to try a road trip with your little one in tow, or you just want to beat the summer heat by heading somewhere cooler for a few days; below are top tips for keeping your sanity intact while traveling with a toddler.

This is how we roll:

  1. Run them ragged and hydrate well before you leave. This is where summer heat works to your advantage. Bonus points for taking them swimming for a few hours. Drinking lots of water well before setting off on your trip will ensure you aren’t drinking too much on the road and stopping at every gas station bathroom (yuck).
  2. Stay on schedule as much as possible.
    breakfast, √. nap time, √. lunchtime, √. nap time, √.
    Switch things up too much before you leave and coupled with your stress to pack, line up petsitter, mail pickup, etc, and your little one will pick up your energy and morph into the Tasmanian Devil. Funny how that works. Not fun trying to clam that beast…
  3. BRING IT! The entertainment that is. Our bug loves books, so on our road trip I brought six of her favorite books, a movie that she loves which I downloaded to a tablet, and one talking toy that has volume control. Bug doesn’t really get to watch TV, so the movie was a real treat. If your house has TV on often, you may want to limit Movie/TV time during the week leading up to your trip, then give them the special treat of watching a show on the road.
  4. No-Sugar, Easy-to-Eat Snacks. On our short list? Avocado (peel a bit and scoop with a spoon), cheese sticks and water. Add nuts or trail mix to help the driver and co-pilot stay awake on the road. We limit Bug’s water intake while driving (see tip #1).
  5. Plan to leave 30 min to 1 hour prior to bedtime. Yes, night driving. You may be a bit tired when you arrive, but better tired than, exhausted AND frazzled from crying baby for several hours straight.
  6. Be prepared to stop a few more times that you would normally. You wouldn’t want to ride for several hours sitting in your own pee, you can’t really blame baby for not wanting to either.
  7. Tell your little one about the adventure you are embarking on, how you are going to get there, and the fun that awaits them. Toddlers often understand more than we think they can.
  8. Don’t forget a camera and the favorite blanket. For summertime we like the light muslin style blankets.

General Safety Tips for Roadtripping:

  • Get directions, write them down on a piece of paper. Map it on your GPS or phone too, but have the paper in the glovebox for reference in case tech fails or you are out of cell range.
  • Grab a few gallons of water and stick them in the trunk/truck bed, just for emergency.
  • While you’re at it, check the tire pressure of all four tires and your spare. Check to make sure your jack and basic tools for a tire change are still in the trunk or under the truck bed.
  • Pack a few favorite toys for the car ride, but keep it safe with nothing to heavy or hard (think: if you happen to get in a wreck, that object becomes a projectile and could knock out your little one). And equally important, make sure it isn’t a toy that plays a song/sound that is annoying. The last thing you want is to hurl the kid’s toy out the window at 70 MPH and take out someone’s windshield. A favorite movie on a tablet can be a helpful diversion. Make sure you’ve downloaded the movie, in case you aren’t in cell range for streaming video service.
  • And of course, always keep your little one buckled in when you are on the road. If they are screaming and uncomfortable, it may be time to stop somewhere safe and let them out for a few minutes.

Let’s just be honest, most Dads don’t like to have control of the open road usurped by a mama. They’d prefer to press on, driving on two hours of sleep and downing four cans of Monster before they turn over the wheel, and even then only begrudgingly. My Hunny has the uncanny ability to be a backseat driver in his sleep. Yes he sleep talks at the slightest road noise (like running over the road dots when passing a car), telling me he is ready to take over driving duties again, LOL, as if I’d give them up now! And IF you are one of those lucky ladies out there who’s husband doesn’t mind co-piloting the trip, please take advantage of this luxury and road trip the heck out of the summer for all of us.

Passenger (aka Mama) Responsibilities:

  • Set course, verify directions, general navigation duties, convince driver to stop so you can ask for directions when lost.
  • Distribute snacks, drinks, moderate water intake of little ones
    Entertain toddlers by book, song, story, hand motion games, peek-a-boo or other methods, prior to breaking out the big guns (electronic entertainment)
  • Convince driver to pull over when little one really begins to fuss, so you can change diapers and let them stretch
  • Maintain positive mood by all methods possible, including playing music suitable for keeping driver awake and not completely annoyed, yet lulling little ones to sleep. Queue Jack Johnson, Beck, Mazzy Star (dating myself here), Beetles, Willie Nelson
  • Convince driver to pull over so you can breastfeed/feed little one so they fall asleep easier around bedtime
  • Crack open bottle of wine/beer upon arrival at destination, as soon as little one is asleep in travel crib.

Driver (aka Dad) Responsibilities:

  • Stay awake
  • Drive Safe
  • Laugh at Mama while she risks life and limb climbing back and forth from front to back seat to provide entertainment for offspring or retrieve lost sippy cup, toy or book.
  • Sigh loudly when Mama insists on pulling over AGAIN to change little one’s wet diaper.
Dani Jean

The author Dani Jean

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