Taking on a toddler on a road trip can be a daunting feat, but it is possible!
These tips for taking your little ones across the country or the state in a car will help you organize before during, and after the road trip to ensure that your toddler is happy, fed, and not completely losing their mind of toddler boredom in the backseat.
It’s a well-known fact that toddlers require a lot of attention and interaction.
Their attention spans aren’t what we could call long, and sometimes the best way of getting them tired out is letting them run around for a while and physically exhaust themselves.
It’s hard to do that when sitting in one place in a car for hours on end, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your road trip with your toddler.
Check out this advice!
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1. Make Sure That They’re in Comfy Clothes
First things first, when you’re getting your toddler dressed for your road trip, think of all of the eventualities and ensure that they’re wearing something that is going to be comfortable for a long car journey.
Avoid anything that can rub the wrong way, and pack extra layers in case they get too cold, too hot, whatever.
You want this to be as low stress as possible for them, and if going in their pajamas is going to encourage them to sleep and be comfortable, then pajamas it is!
2. Plan Fun Snacks for Along the Way
When you’re packing toddler snacks for the trip, try to spruce them up a bit and make them fun to make more of a project out of it instead of just their regular snacks.
Cut sandwiches into fun shapes, give them carrots with a dipping sauce, put cheerios in a different container like these fun bento snack boxes.
Obviously if you have a toddler, they’re prone to not liking whatever it is you are or aren’t doing on a whim, but make snack time in the car as fun as possible and give them some fun things to focus on.
You could even get them involved by making sandwich pieces that they have to put together on a plate to make shapes that they want.
One of the coolest tricks every is to use a flat organizer that is usually used for things like sewing threads and fill it up with snacks instead.
Tons of variety, it looks really colorful, and it’s fun for them.
3. Stop Every Hour or So in a Place They Can Run Around
Tiring your toddler out is definitely an essential part of every road trip, so plan to stop about every hour at a playground or park where you can all stretch your legs and they can run around a lot for a couple of minutes.
This is going to help them get out any pent up energy and breaking up the journey will help you by being able to look forward to the next stop.
If they’re asleep, push back the stop as long as possible instead of waking them up and enjoy the quiet time on the road while they’re snoozing!
4. Load Up the Tablet with TV Shows and Movies
When it comes to finding things to do on long car rides, there is 0 shame in giving them a tablet loaded up with their favorite movies and TV shows and a pair of headphones. 0.
Maybe in the olden days, parents didn’t have this luxury with their toddlers on a road trip, but we do now, so use it.
No matter how many snacks you can give them or games you can play, at some point you’ll run out and being able to turn on Peppa Pig can be a lifesaver for awhile while they decompress.
5. Bring Their Favorite Comfort Blanket or Toy
In addition to dressing them in comfortable clothes, bringing their favorite comfort toy or blanket is also important to make them feel relaxed throughout the car ride.
It can help them fall asleep if they’re snuggled up with their favorite blanket or toy.
Just make sure they don’t take it out of the car at stops along the way to lessen the chance of losing it out and about.
6. Teach Them Age-Appropriate Games like I Spy with Colors
While it depends on the interests of your toddler, there are plenty of ways you can play road trips games with them, one of the easiest being to see if they can play I Spy with the colors of cars driving past.
Ask them to tell you every time they see a yellow car or a red car or something a bit less common, and you might find it keeps them occupied for a little bit.
You can also pack them age appropriate road trip games and activities in a little bag (you can find inexpensive printables here) that they can pull out at any time.
7. Talk about the Road Trip a Lot in Advance to Prepare Them
Get your toddler involved in the road trip ahead of time, don’t just throw them in the car and take off.
Talk about where you’re going, how long it will take to get there, the fact that it’s a long time (they won’t have much perception of how long that is, but you can still talk about it).
Get them excited by helping to pack their bags and pick out clothes and toys for the journey.
This will help by making it feel like something they’re taking part in versus something that’s being done to them and this will come in handy when enthusiasm wanes about 2 hours in and you still have 8 hours left.
8. Put Together a Sleepy Time Playlist
Road trips can be fun and full of energy, but when you just want your little one to fall asleep, having a playlist ready full of tunes to lull them to sleep can be a great idea.
Create a relaxed environment in the car and some really soft music to play while no one talks and just listens.
That, combined with the movement of the car on the highway can help rock them to sleep and get a short nap in even when they’re not in their normal environment.
9. Get Them Their Own Headphones
If there’s one thing to remember when packing, it’s don’t forget a pair of headphones for them that is comfortable on them and they have worn before!
You don’t necessarily want the whole car listening to their shows for hours on end, and you may want to play different music than they want to listen to.
Whether they’re watching a movie or listening to something, having them listen to it through headphones (these are our favorite kid-friendly headphones) will both help them hear it better amid the noise of the car and save your sanity.