How to travel with toddlers on a road trip . . . tips to make it more enjoyable for everyone!
I am so excited for spring & summer to be here! It seems like these last days of dreary winter can drag on and on. I love the sun and all the fun that comes with the outdoor days. For a lot of people, summer means the chance for vacation or visiting family . . . and if you have little ones, the travel to get to those fun places can be the hard part.
My husband and I travel full-time as missionaries . . . full-time meaning that we haven’t been home in several weeks and will only be there a few days every few months this year. So, that means LOTS of time and thousand of miles in the car. My babies are 7 months and 25 months right now, and it does take some effort to keep everyone happy on long road trips. Car rides can get very tedious, and through our travels, we have compiled a few tips that I hope will be a help for traveling with toddlers!
This is definitely one of the most successful tips that I have! 😀 With long car rides, toddlers are going to get bored. Fun, healthy snacks can really help make the time go by more quickly. Here are some of our favorites:
- Pouches – If your toddler will eat baby food pouches, this is probably the least messy snack that you can give them. They are packed with nutrition as well, so baby food pouches are a very healthy option. My daughter’s favorite are these ones.
*life changing tip* – These Choo Me food pouch tops keep your toddlers from squeezing the pouch and making a mess with it. The universal size fits on all pouches, and allows your child to feed themselves without you having to fear that they are going to squeeze it everywhere! LOVE THESE!
2. Cold Drinks and Fresh Foods – Be sure to have what your toddler normally drinks. If they are used to having milk at a certain time, be sure to provide that for consistency. You can always stop at a gas station or McDonalds to get cold milk, but it is SO much cheaper to pack it. But coolers and ice can be messy, and who needs to add more of that to a road trip! Solution – we use an iceless cooler, and it has been such a help. It plugs into the cigarette lighter, and we can safely store cups of milk, cheese sticks, cut up fruits and vegetables, and lunchmeat.
3. Dried fruit, crackers, veggie straws – these are all favorites of ours. We find many nutritious crackers at Aldi like sweet potato crisps or chickpea crackers, and most kids like them just as much as any other cracker. Just know that your child will probably want more snacks than normal since they are stuck in their car seat, so just keep the snacks nutritious and let them snack!
Another tip that will make a huge difference is allowing your child to get out and stretch their legs. It doesn’t have to be anywhere exciting . . . as long as they can just get out and walk or run in some fresh air for even just 5-10 minutes, it will make a big positive impact on their attitude. I know that sometimes when children have to get BACK in their seat after getting out, they will get upset. But once they catch on to the fact that every couple hours you will let them stretch their legs, that usually helps with that issue.
What about the winter when it’s cold? With our babies, we would stop, and hold them in the front seats for a few minutes. Give them some one-on-one play time. Read them a book. Sing with them. Show them that you still really do care about them and aren’t just putting them in the carseat for pure torture haha. Another option is to walk around Walmart for a few minutes. When our daughter was still young enough that she couldn’t hold a baby food pouch by herself, we found that pushing her in a cart while feeding her a pouch was a great pit stop for all of us. We could accomplish getting her fed, while at the same time everyone got 10 minutes of exercise.
Pack a small bin of car toys. I would make these “special toys” that are specifically for the trip. Once again, it doesn’t have to be anything expensive. One of my daughter’s favorite car toys is a $1 doll from Dollar Tree. Choose toys that don’t have “pieces” that will get lost everywhere. Of course, never give a toddler anything that could be a choking hazard while they are unattended. Look for toys that are easy for them to hold on to, otherwise they will drop them and constantly be asking you to pick them up – which can make a road trip annoying.
Busy Boards are one of my favorite car toys for toddlers! They have so many activities to do – without any small pieces to get lost.
There are several things you will want to keep on hand when you are traveling with a baby or toddler. If something unexpected happens, like a diaper blowout, or a spill, being prepared with the clean up items relieves sooo much stress. Knowing that you have everything you need within reach will make everyone happier and in better spirits!
We use this car organizer that hangs on the back of a seat. It has several pockets to organize everything and make things easy to grab.
We use ours to store:
- Plastic baggies for dirty diapers
- Extra outfit
- Diaper rash cream
- Baby food pouches and snacks
Do your toddlers love music? Some fun CDs or songs on your phone can really brighten up the trip! My daughter’s favorite is the Wee Sing Bible Songs CD.
She also loves the Patch the Pirate kids adventure story CDs or mp3s. They are made for older kids (4-12 yrs), but she LOVES all the silly sound effects and fun voices!
Last but not least, having an iPad with some downloaded educational shows on it can really help the time go by for your little ones. Some of my daughter’s favorites are the Leapfrog Learning DVDs.
These will teach little ones their letters, numbers, and more. Many parents report that after watching the Letter Factory show a few times, their child had learned their letters. It definitely won’t hurt to help start introducing them to letters and their sounds!