Don’t let your little one win! Use these toddler road trip tips to take control of your next family trip.
If you plan to pack up the car anytime soon and you have a little one at home, you absolutely need these toddler road trip tips. It is not easy to travel with a baby, toddler, or preschooler across the city, so hitting the road for an extended trip may seem overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be!
Every year, millions of families with children under the age of five venture out on a family road trip. Whether it is a few hours down the highway to see Grandma or a multi-day cross-country jaunt, you don’t have to be afraid to take your little ones in the car.
With four children, we tend to drive most places we visit. It just makes sense economically for us. I also find it to be less stressful than getting on a plane. I like being on our own schedule and not dealing with the embarrassment that “accidents,” tantrums, and the obligatory whining of “are we there yet?” in front of an audience.
Over the years, I’ve learned what works with kids and how to make our family road trips fun for the whole family. Check out my toddler road trip tips and let me know if you have some you’d like to add in as well.
6 Toddler Road Trip Tips
Be ready for a snack attack.
You can never, ever have too much food when you are on a family road trip. Even if you just plan to be in the car for a couple hours, pack way more snacks than you think your little one will ever eat. Individual bags of chips and crackers work well. I’m also a big fan of GoGo Squeez because they aren’t messy and they are healthy and delicious. You can also put your child’s favorite cereal in a snack cup. We have used the “snack trap” cups for years to help minimize on the mess in the car. A hungry toddler is scary. Keep them fed!
Electronics are your friend.
I know this might be one of my most controversial toddler road trip tips, but I’m sticking with it. Children as young as one can occupy some of their time with electronics. From kid-friendly apps to books and videos, tablets can give you a break during the trip and may help settle a tired little one down for a nap. While my kids have limits on electronics at home, they know that in the car, they can get their fill. It makes the trip feel extra special.
Make sure you have batteries and chargers.
If you do decide to let your kids use electronics, make sure they will last. Many cars have household plug outlets now so make use of them. Even if you don’t let little ones use them for the entire trip, you can still charge them as you go. Having extra batteries for wireless headphones or educational toys is also necessary.
Enlist help from your older kids.
If you are so lucky to be traveling with more than one child, give the older ones some responsibility for entertaining the little ones. I find this knocks out two birds with one stone! Playing patty cake, having a tea party, or even just singing songs are all things my older ones loved to do with the younger ones. Giving older children responsibility (even if they are only four or five themselves) gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. And perhaps they can even earn a reward when you get to your destination!
Stop at restaurants with play areas.
With toddlers, the stops you make should include at least a few minutes of running around. They need to release their boundless energy. We tend to stop at fast food restaurants with play areas so the little ones can spend time climbing and jumping. Keep in mind that family road trips with small children are not necessarily about getting there as fast as possible. Relax a little and enjoy the ride!
Regulate bathroom stops.
One of the best toddler road trips tips I can give you is that your toddler should go to the bathroom every single time you stop. If they are sleeping, wake them up! If they say they don’t have to go, make them “try.” Our rule is that if one person has to go to the bathroom, everyone has to go to the bathroom.
Limiting liquids in the two or three hours preceding the trip as well as in the car also helps. I like to give my kids a juice box because it is enough to quench their thirst but not too much. I like the Juicy Juice Splashers because they have less sugar and still taste good. If you are in the midst of potty training, managing the bathroom stops may be difficult. You may want to pad the child’s seat with an incontinence pad and bring extra changes of clothes too.
These toddler road trip tips are all ones I used when I traveled with four kids ages 5 and under and I still use today with my 11 to 6-year-olds. I believe you don’t have to limit your travel or blow your budget on airfare just because you have small children in tow. Think of all the memories you will make during these years!