Road Tripping with Toddlers: 4 Ideas

Tips for roadtrips with kids

My family lives on the other side of the pond (not the big one) and we drive around to visit a few times a year. We are fortunate that they come this way to visit us fairly often, as road trips with babies and toddlers aren’t the most fun things ever. We’ve made the journey a few times now, and always adjusting things as Josephine gets older, but I’ve found a few things that make road trips a little bit more fun easier with little ones

1. Leave a little bit before nap time, but with at least an hour between arrival and bedtime. Depending on how many naps your kiddo is taking (and other time constraints you may have) this may be more challenging. However, it is ideal to have awake time broken up by a nap in the middle, while still allowing you time to get settled into your new environment. Our perfect scenario with Josephine napping once around 1pm is this: eat lunch at home, leave around noon, about one hour of (hopefully content) awake time until she falls asleep, drive, drive, drive while she naps, more awake time and maybe stop for snack and bathroom break, arrive late afternoon/early evening so she can get settled and we can set up pack and play, etc.

2. Try some audio books and music! We checked out several books on CD (I know I am old school–you might have newer technology in your vehicle) from the library–bonus was that they had the picture books to go along with them. Josephine was a little young to really get into this, although she still requests Brown Bear, Brown Bear every time we get into the car. I think she’ll probably even more into audio books in a couple months, and this is something that is great for a long age range; I still have fond memories of listening to Indian in the Cupboard as a tween (and to be really old school I think that was on a tape!). Music is also great, especially if your kids are into any particular songs; Josephine really love “hands clap” by Fitz and the Tantrums right now–I think we only listened to it 17 times this past trip.

3. Don’t eat snacks in the car. I know this might seem a big counterintuitive, but I think it makes sense in the long run. We don’t eat in the car when not on road trips, so Josephine doesn’t know that this is a possibility yet, but it’s a practice I’m trying to maintain. On road trips it works to have a set time or times to stop for snacks and meals. There will always be ample need to go to the bathroom, get gas, stretch legs, etc, so these can easily be set as snacking time. This way you avoid (or lessen) the consistent begging for snacks in the car, the multitudinous crumbs and sticky handprints, and lack of hunger at meal times.

4. Pack a bag with toys and books that your little one loves and/or hasn’t seen for a while. I keep Josephine’s toys on rotation, so before a trip I’ll take some out of our bins to bring along. I’ll also select several of her recent favorite books and toys to pack. I keep her bag of tricks up by me and as she needs a new one I pass it back to her. When we stop I repack all the ones that have found their way to the floor and start again.

No solution is perfect, and sometimes there are lots of tears, and sometimes she naps at all the wrong times, but somehow we always make it through! What are your best road trip tips for little kids?