Surviving a Road Trip with a Toddler
10 Tips to Driving Long Distances with Children!
Little Man, Hubs, and I take a LOT of road trips! I mean we drive between Charlotte and Atlanta almost on a monthly basis!
Last month we drove from Charlotte to Orlando to Miami and back….so we’ve got the road trip with a toddler down pat at this point! We used to fly a lot but since Little Man is now 2 and requires his own seat, which he refuses to use, it’s just become more economical to drive…it takes a little bit longer – although when you consider all the extra time it takes at the airport when you’re traveling with children it’s really almost a wash. If you follow a few certain steps you really can make your road trip with a toddler a fun and exciting adventure!
So, I share with you my Top 10 tips to a successful road trip with a toddler:
1. Leave EARLY!!
The earlier you leave the better! When you’re child is still groggy eyed and hasn’t fully waken up is a great time to get on the road. You would think letting you toddler wake up, eat some breakfast, run off some energy, etc. would be a good start to a road trip with a toddler but it’s not! Trust me!! At that point they’re hyped up and revving to go only to be strapped into a car seat for the next several hours. Plus, the earlier you leave the earlier you get there and the more time they’ll have to play and get out all of that pent up energy!
2. Schedule Stops Ahead of Time
Take a look at your route and decide where you want to stop before you get on the road. The night before a big trip (like the one to Miami last month) Hubs will take a look at Gas Buddy and Google Maps to decide where we’re going to stop. Gas Buddy helps him find the least expensive stops for gas and then we look at Google Maps to find restaurants or other stops along the way…we try to stop about every 2 hours….by that point Little Man is ready to get out and stretch his legs! Plus, by knowing ahead of time when and where we are stopping we can tell Little Man how much longer we have til we can get out. I know he doesn’t understand time tables yet but I can put on a video and tell him when it’s over we’ll be stopping and that he understands.
3. Beef up on your Kindergarten Songs!
Little Man LOVES LOVES LOVES to sing in the car….I know it’s cheesy and straight out of a Brady Bunch episode but when we all start singing songs the time really does go by quicker. And you have to do the hand motions with them….the kids will start doing them too and then it’s a blast!
Some of our favorite car ride songs are: The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, ABC’s, 5 Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed, Where is Thumbkin, Old McDonald Had a Farm, etc. Just Google nursery rhymes and you’ll have a ton!
4. Play a “Lite” version of I Spy
Instead of making your toddler try to guess what you spy ask them if they see the blue car or white cloud or green trees…you have to make sure that what you’re pointing out is moving along with you or there’s plenty to see since the car is passing everything by so quickly. You can even play this game with items in the car. It’s fun and a great learning experience.
5. Play “What Animal am I”
This is a fun game that helps your toddler learn their animal sounds. I’ll make an animal noise and Little Man will have to tell me what animal makes that noise. Then we’ll switch it up and I’ll ask him “What does a cow say” and he’ll respond with the appropriate noise. This is really fun out in the country when you can even incorporate seeing those animals as well.
6. Bring Board Books
I always bring a couple of board books for Little Man to read on the trip. Now, don’t load yourself down with tons of books…Little man usually reads the same 2 over and over again….it’s also fun to go by the library and get brand new books that are special just for our trip.
7. A Tablet loaded with videos or a travel DVD player
Yes, if you want to survive a road trip with a toddler then you MUST bring some cartoons! Granted, we want to cut back on the TV watching at home but on a road trip I say embrace the TV!!! For your own sanity please EMBRACE THE TV!!! It won’t rot your toddler’s brain to watch a few hours of Bubble Guppies or Mickey Mouse….and it will make your trip so much more peaceful!
8. Snacks and Drinks!!
Bring plenty of snacks and drinks. I like to pack granola bars, cheerios, fruit snacks, ziploc bags of popcorn, bananas, etc. Anything that you can easily grab and hand to your little one is a must. Kids get munchy while riding….a few special road trip snacks are great for calming a toddler who’s sick of the car.
9. Play at EVERY Stop!
Every time we stop the car we get out and play for at least 10 minutes. We let Little Man run around inside the restaurant or gas station and don’t worry too much about him being too hyped up. I mean, we’re never going to see any of the people there again (well, at least until our next trip) and the kid needs to burn off some steam. So, while we usually keep him well behaved and contained, when we do road trips we let him exude a little more energy. Now, don’t get me wrong, we don’t let him just run wild and destroy stuff or run into people but we don’t make him sit or stand quietly with us. Our favorite places to stop are QuikTrips, Targets, Cracker Barrels, and Wendy’s…..they’re great places to relax and burn off a little steam.
10. Have some Kid’s Music Ready to Go!
I’m not saying you need to have kid music playing all the time but have some FUN kid CD’s to pop in when the trip hits it’s “never going to end” phase…usually the last hour or so of the ride for us! I like to pop in Disney’s DJ Shuffle CD— it’s fun and upbeat and Little Man loves dancing in his seat and singing along to all the songs. It’s the perfect little pick me up to get us through that last little bit of the trip! That was the BEST $10 I think I’ve ever spent! Little Man recognizes all of the songs from Disney Jr and get’s super excited when it’s time for the next character’s section.
There you have it, my top 10 tips for surviving a road trip with a toddler!
What tips do you have for taking a road trip with a toddler?