Road Trip Survival Tips for Traveling With a Toddler
We recently took a road trip to New Orleans from South Carolina to visit some family.
I was really nervous about this road trip because as far as road trips go my son has always been a hit or miss type of baby.
We have gone on short car trips (3 hours or less) where he is unhappy and cries for at least half of the trip. On a recent trip into North Carolina I spent the last 30 minutes singing the ABC’s in different ways to keep him happy. Every time I stopped he would start fussing again!
Sometimes, he is content the whole way there!
So my first piece of advice to you would be:
Prepare and plan ahead
Don’t just ‘wing it’ if you are about to go on a long road trip. Heck, it’s smart to plan ahead for even the shortest of trips! I started planning and gathering supplies a couple of months ago when we decided to go. My cousin was going to be visiting my aunt with her new baby and I wanted to meet him! She lives in Colorado and chances are we won’t be out there anytime soon. Plus, my husband really wanted to explore New Orleans and find out what all the hype was about.
Whenever we were out shopping I would look for things that I thought would hold my son’s attention without being TOO messy.
I wanted to get stuff that he hadn’t played with before so that it would be fun and exciting for him too.
I collected snacks and drinks for all of us. We borrowed an ‘ipad holder’ so he could watch movies on our kindle. There was a lot of time spent on Pinterest getting ideas from other moms who had been brave enough to try a similar road trip.
Be ready for something to go wrong. Take a deep breath and get through it if it happens.
No matter how much you do prepare for the road trip, often times things don’t go perfectly like you planned for. Don’t let this mess up your whole road trip. Try to think of it as something that gave your trip character…maybe even something you will laugh about later!
We got our ‘uh oh’ out of the way only two hours into our road trip.
I’d packed our stuff into the van the night before, everything was ready to go. The dogs were at their ‘camp’, lists were checked off, clothes were set out for the morning. We were all set!
At 4:15am we got up, packed the cooler and the ice, loaded the baby into the car and hit the road. 5 minutes down the road we thought, ‘let’s make sure we have our wallets! Wouldn’t that be awful’! So we checked and yes, wallets were both there.
Right after we crossed into Georgia (around 6am) one of us randomly thought it would be terrible if the debit card wasn’t IN the wallet.
So just for fun I checked. NOPE. It was NOT in there! We frantically checked all over the car and it was gone. My husband got gas last night and we both forgot to put the card back in his wallet. It was in the pocket of his jeans back at home.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream and hit things.
But at the same time we were both relieved that something made us check right then and not when we needed to stop for gas.
Unfortunately the second we pulled in the driveway at home, Leopold woke up. So much for getting a head start so he would sleep! There went four hours of our trip. I felt sick to my stomach about it until we passed the point where we originally turned around in Georgia. After that it didn’t seem so bad anymore.
Here are a few of the things that kept Leopold occupied, even if it was just for 5 minutes!
Kindle loaded up with movies I downloaded from Netflix
This boy loves computer animated films! He was hooked on ‘Animals United’ and ‘Ribbit’. Leopold surprised us by being really interested in the movies I put on for him. He would even talk to the characters or react out loud to things that happened, which is relatively new for him!
I made him ‘threading’ toys out of cardboard and ribbons. I think this is still a little advanced for him but I made three and cut them into shapes he knows and painted them bright colors. He liked messing with the ribbon and naming the shapes and colors!
I wrapped a few of the things I brought for him in wrapping paper. That way not only was it a fun new toy, but unwrapping would be half the fun! Well, my kid just got frustrated with the wrapping paper. But once it was off he enjoyed ripping it into tiny pieces. It wasn’t a total fail!
Dollar store flash cards
Leopold has always loved flashcards. He likes collecting them in his hands and then mixing them up like a crazy person. I found some new ones at the dollar store and when I introduced them in the car I would hand him one at a time and we would talk about what was on the card. After we got through the box he enjoyed looking through the pile in his lap and then throwing them around the car. This activity actually lasted for a while!
Crayola double sided washable board
I loved this because he could color on one side and ‘finger paint’ on the other. We also used it later for a different activity.
Books and more books
I brought as many books as I could without taking up too much space. Leopold loves to look at books so I used them as ‘filler’ between activities and movies. He loves his Disney babies books (they used to be mine)! We have a lot that are paperback and super thin (but very durable) so I was able to bring a lot.
Color wonder sets
This would probably last longer for an older child but I was trying everything I could! I love these since the markers only work on the paper that comes with the set. I got this small pack and he used it for a while!
Pom Poms in a coffee can
This one kept Leopold occupied for quite a while. Leopold loves putting things in containers so I knew this activity would be a hit. I held out a handful at a time and let him put them in the coffee container. Then when it was full we would start over again. This one is better as a supervised activity so your toddler doesn’t try to eat the pom poms! My kid doesn’t put stuff in his mouth all that often but he did try to taste these a time or two.
Dollar store slinky
No doubt this slinky is going to get ruined, but these things are always so fun! It will probably buy you a few minutes.
Homemade or store bought abacus
Leopold loves his IKEA abacus so I thought to make him a travel sized one out of painted cardboard and colorful beads. He enjoyed working with them for a while!
Stalk the target dollar section for a couple of months!
We got him this felt activity book for his Easter basket and he enjoyed playing with the different shaped and sticking them on the backdrops.
I grabbed these window clings from target’s dollar section as well and they were a HIT. I think he played with these longer than just about any other activity. The feeling of them is different than just about anything he has ever played with and he loved sticking them to his crayola coloring board and then eventually stretching them until they ripped apart.
Some favorite toys from home
I brought some of his favorite little dinosaurs and he played with them for a while. He loves making them kiss and talk to each other. I set him up with his pillow as a space to play on.
In case he was fussy but didn’t want to play or watch a movie. Bubbles are always a nice distraction.
A Wallet filled with old cards
Exactly how it sounds. He enjoyed practicing opening and closing the velcro and then pulling all the cards out and looking at them before throwing them on the floor.
A couple of new toys
I got him two toys from Once Upon a Child that have batteries. He really doesn’t have any battery operated toys at home so I thought they would be fun and interesting for him. They didn’t last too long but they did occupy him for a few minutes at a time. I got this alphabet dog and this remote.
Very important. Leopold runs on snacks a lot of the time so I got some of his favorites to eat during snack times. If he started to get extra fussy and nothing else was working I would give him a more special snack, like fruit snacks or goldfish.
Go ahead and plan an extra couple of hours just for making pit stops. Our travel time was 10 hours on the GPS but in reality it took us an entire day to get from point A to point B. I loved the road trip though. I got quality time with my husband and Leopold surprised us both by hardly fussing at all and just being a champion the whole time. It only makes me more excited to travel with him some more!
We stopped at a few rest areas to change diapers, eat lunch, and play on playgrounds. We found some pretty cool spots doing this! I tried to find places ahead of time but it ended up working better just stopping when we needed to.
I hope some of these ideas help you on your next road trip with your little one! Are you going somewhere soon? Let me know in the comments!