Essential Toddler Road Trip Tips
Road trip season is fast approaching, and if you’re a parent that can only mean one thing: it’s time to get serious about entertaining your toddler in the car. Here are indispensable toddler road trip tips….
If you’re imagining a road trip marked by spontaneous detours and epic adventures, you probably don’t have kids. If you’re a parent who struggles to get to Target without listening to your kids screaming from the backseat, a family road trip might sound like one of Dante’s levels of hell. But with some careful planning and a sense of humor, even parents of toddlers can enjoy summer road trips!
Bring snacks. Endless snacks.
Imagine that you’ll be driving for two days. Consider how much food your toddler eats in two days and double it. Then double that. A successful road trip requires a seemingly endless number of snacks to ply your toddler into silence. After all, a full mouth is usually not a screaming mouth, and that’s a win on a road trip!
The key to snack success is to pack interesting snacks. If you’re usually super healthy, road trips are the perfect time to sneak in a few usually off-limit treats. No one wants a sugar-high toddler in the car, but forbidden fruit really is the sweetest. Trust me.
Have a plan (but be willing to abandon it!)
Before kids, it was spontaneous and fun to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and find places to stay along the way. After kids, that’s a recipe for disaster. The last thing anyone wants is to be caught without a hotel when the kids are screaming, it’s almost midnight, and everyone is exhausted! Plot out your route and make hotel reservations ahead of time so lodging won’t be a hassle.
At the same time, be willing to abandon your best-laid plans when they just aren’t working. If you’re running hours behind and the kids are melting down, know when to cry uncle and stop for the night. After all, road trips are supposed to be fun!
Make your car fun.
There’s nothing inherently fun about sitting in the car for hours, particularly for an energetic toddler. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fill your car with fun things to entertain them. Lap desks are an inexpensive way to make it easier for toddlers to color or play with toys in the car, and buying a few new toys (even from the dollar store!) can really help keep kids occupied.
Take lots of breaks.
Let’s be real: toddlers are never going to ride happily in the car for hours. Thankfully, there are fast food restaurants with play areas located all along the highway, and they make a perfect pit stop along the way. Let your toddler play while you stretch your legs every few hours and everyone will be happier!
Embrace all the screens
I know, I know. You’re a conscientious parent who’s concerned about your kids’ screen time. You want to play car games and have family singalongs just like you remember from your own childhood. What you probably don’t remember is just how much you whined and complained in between all of that fun.
Road trips are made for excessive screen time. Keep your sanity intact by loading up whatever screen you can find with kid-friendly movies and games, and let your kids have at it. Just don’t forget your car chargers (and extra long charging cords)!
Lower your expectations.
Sure, we all want family road trips to be perfect memories, but the reality is usually a lot less perfect. Toddlers will scream, parents will get frustrated, and everyone will get really, really sick of watching the cows and cars go by.
Go into your family road trip with realistic expectations and don’t sweat the small stuff. Time will soften the memories, and some day all of you will laugh about that time you got a flat tire and your toddler cried the entire time. I promise.