How to Survive a Road Trip With a Toddler

Being a military family, we take a lot of long car rides. Over the years, we have driven up and down the country with various ages of kids.

Traveling with kids, especially toddlers, takes a little more planning and patience. It can be stressful for everyone if you try to push through and ignore their needs.

Here are some simple tips on how to survive a long car trip with the kids.

Plan for a lot of breaks

Don't plan on driving straight through without stopping. Unless they are sleeping, kids need frequent breaks to use the restroom and stretch their legs.

Plan on stopping every 2-3 hours, and even more frequently if you are traveling with a baby.

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Be reasonable about how far you are going to make it each day and book motels ahead of time. I usually plan about 6 hours of driving if I'm alone, and 8-9 hours if my husband is driving with me.

Pack an overnight bag and a cooler

Getting in and out of the motel will be a hassle already – don't make it harder by dragging all your luggage back and forth.

Pack a small bag with changes of clothes for everyone, toiletries, and other basic necessities that you can grab quickly for a one-night stay.

It's also smart (and healthier) to bring a cooler filled with snacks and easy meal ingredients. We usually place our cooler down by one of the older children's feet so it is reachable on the go.

Bringing food with us helps us save money on eating out, it gives us healthy options at the motel, and it gives us flexibility about where we stop for breaks.

Prepare for unpleasant messes

You should bring along an emergency preparedness kit in case you encounter some travel tummies or other not-so-nice messes. Some ideas to bring are:

  • plenty of baby wipes
  • shopping bags (for holding wet clothes, trash, etc)
  • anti-nausea medicine (we use ginger chews and peppermint)
  •  a cup or small bucket
  • diapers, pull-ups, and extra underwear for each child
  • a towel for spills

This is also where your overnight bag comes in handy as you can quickly grab a change of clothes if needed.

Bring a variety of activities

Your best chances at keeping the kids busy on the road is a variety of activities that are new to them. That doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money in order to entertain.

You might be tempted to simply bring the iPad and DVD player and nothing else. I wouldn't recommend it. Moving screens and moving cars can often cause increased motion sickness, and they might grow easily bored. By all means, bring the technology, but bring some other fun things as well.

Here are some better ideas:

If you take the time to make sure your children are comfortable and happy in the car, your drive will be more pleasant. It isn't just about enjoying yourself, however. Comfortable kids also mean that your trip is safer because you can focus on the road.

Aadel Bussinger

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