Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with a Toddler

Don't Leave Home Without Reading These Tips.

Ready to travel with your toddler in tow? While car trips give families more leeway than air travel does -- you can stop when you feel like it and as much as you want -- being cooped up in a carseat all day can make for an unhappy toddler. Use these tips to ensure a smooth ride on your family's next road trip. 

Be Realistic About Travel Times.


When you're traveling with small children, the drive that used to take a mere five hours is likely going to longer -- potentially a lot longer. For shorter road trips (under four hours), plan for at least an extra hour. For longer road trips, assume that you'll be traveling for up to two hours longer. Also be realistic about multi-day journeys. Plan to travel about 60-100 miles less each day than you would sans toddlers. 

Stop Regularly.

It's no wonder the journey is going to take longer -- you're going to need to plan regular stops when traveling in the car with a toddler. Whether it's to accommodate a newly potty-trained child, to keep a child from getting ill or just to get the wiggles out, you'll probably want to plan to stop every two to three hours, depending on the length of your trip. 

Choose Stops Where Your Toddler Can Run Around.

Before you leave, map out your driving route and choose spots to stop where your toddler can get some energy out. Think McDonald's Play Places or other fast food restaurants that have kiddie areas, or pack a picnic lunch and stop at a park if the weather cooperates. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, not in a hurry, and traveling through larger cities, you could plan a side trip to a children's museum or other kid-friendly attraction. 

Plan for Naps in the Car.

The easiest way to kill a few hours in the car with a content toddler is to travel with a sleeping child. Many toddlers are willing and able to nap in the car and will happily do so (sometimes for longer than they will in their own crib). Do yourself a favor and leave an hour or so before naptime, depending on the length of your journey. 

Stick to Your Toddler's Schedule.

Keeping a toddler on a regular schedule can do wonders for your little one's disposition. If it's possible, stick to normal routines as much as possible. In addition to planning car time around naps, stop for normal meal times and exercise. 

Bring Extra Supplies.

It's better to be over-prepared when traveling with a toddler than under-prepared. Make sure you have plenty of diapers, changes of clothes (including shoes and socks), wipes and snacks than you think you'll need. 

Make Sure Supplies are Accessible.

There's nothing worse than needing a change of clothes after a toddler puking incident or diaper explosion during a car trip, only to discover that your extra supplies are buried deep in the trunk. Make sure extra clothing, diapers, wipes and anything else you think you might need in case of a toddler emergency is accessible. 

Pack Snacks and Drinks.

A hungry toddler is a cranky toddler. Keep little ones well-fed and hydrated during long car trips with simple snacks that aren't too messy. Think Cheerios, crackers, grapes and other finger foods. In addition, keep in mind if your toddler is prone to car sickness, you'll want to make sure any food you give her is bland. 

Plan Low-tech Activities.

Keep your toddler busy and distracted while he's strapped in the carseat with low-tech activities. Some easy options include coloring books, stickers, an Etch a Sketch, books and homemade busy bags.  

Keep High-tech Activities in Your Back Pocket.

If all else fails, there's always some screen time. Have the iPad or tablet on hand and stocked with a episodes of your toddler's favorite show or a movie as well as a few age-appropriate apps. 

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