Taking a road trip with an infant or a toddler can be a little terrifying at first, especially for first-time parents. I remember our first road trip with our then two-month-old. We were a little wary of taking a 5-hour road trip with her and, to our surprise, she slept the entire time! Of course, road tripping with an infant can be easier in many ways.
This article contains tips for road trips with toddlers.
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Traveling with a toddler versus an infant is a completely different ballgame. First of all, toddler wake windows are much longer and they are unlikely to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time unless you’re driving at night.
Second, it can be difficult to keep them busy while strapped in a car seat for a long time. Toddlers require more stimulation and a variety of activities to keep them entertained.
We live in New Mexico, which is overall pretty amazing. As the 5th geographically largest state (Source), it does require some driving to get to points of interest within the state.
My little family takes a lot of road trips to camp, visit family, and travel out of state (mostly to Colorado). Although we’ve had our moments with our toddler, I would like to say that she’s pretty used to road tripping now.
So, here are my favorite tips for road trips with toddlers.
1. Pack a cooler with snacks
Packing great toddler snacks is key for a successful road trip. We have a pretty neat Yeti soft cooler that fits comfortably on the floor behind the driver’s seat. I usually pack that with ice, drinks, and snacks.
I tend to pack easy to hold items that will not make a giant mess in the car. Some of our favorites are apples, grapes, bananas, baby carrots, cheese sticks, pretzels, Cheez-Its, and fruit snacks.
Sometimes I’ll bring a little snack container, but sandwich bags also work pretty well. My daughter also uses the cup holders on her car seat to store extra snacks.
If you are about to take a road trip, packing healthy snacks is one of the best tips for road trips with toddlers.
2. Bring along appropriate toys
We usually pack a separate backpack just for our toddler’s toys and keep it on the seat right next to her. She’s still too young to rotate her own toys, so I’ll reach back and pull out a new toy for her whenever she’s getting bored.
Small, busy toys are key for road trips with toddlers. I can’t say enough about busy sensory pillows. We’ve had the same sensory pillow since my toddler was about a year old. She still loves playing with it and learning to master the various skills on the pillow. This is the toy we take everywhere.
Other than the sensory pillow, we usually pack a water coloring book, her favorite plush doll, a few books, Magnacubix, and any other items we find appropriate for our destination.
3. Plan your trip during nap time
If we’re taking a long day trip, we usually plan it so that our daughter takes her regular nap during the drive. She usually sleeps pretty well in the car, so we definitely don’t want her to miss out on nap time.
This also gives you time to relax a little and maybe read a book. Depending on my toddler’s temperament for the day, she can be fairly independent at entertaining herself or very needy. If your toddler is upset in the car seat, nap time is a welcome relief for everyone.
4. Pre-download toddler shows
We totally learned about this tip the hard way. If you’re on a long road trip, don’t expect that you will have good phone service the entire time. So, if you don’t download your toddler’s shows or movies ahead of time, then you might be in for a rude awakening.
Screentime is usually my last resort for road trip entertainment. I’ll try to rotate through toys for as long as I can before I even mention screentime. Inevitably, after a couple of hours, my toddler will be asking to watch Cocomelon.
Although screentime can be a lifesaver, we try not to rely on it exclusively.
5. Plan some stops
Planning out some pit stops should be part of your road trip, especially with a toddler. We took a trip to Moab recently and decided to take some random stops here and there.
- Additional reading: Exciting family-friendly activities in Moab with toddlers
My toddler was able to stretch her legs and run around a little bit. We used the bathroom and changed our toddler’s diaper. Planning stops along the way is very necessary and refreshing.
Helpful tips for road trips with toddlers
Planning a trip with a toddler doesn’t have to be daunting or intimidating. The biggest thing is finding new and exciting ways to entertain them while in a car seat.
Just remember to pack snacks, bring compact busy toys, pre-download your toddler’s shows, and plan some stops along the way.
I hope you enjoyed these tips for road trips with toddlers!