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10 Brilliant Tips For Road Trips With Toddlers

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roadtripswithtoddlers

 

As parents, we can tell you that planning and successfully pulling off enjoyable road trips with toddlers is a monumental task. If you want your road trip to go smoothly, you will need a plan.

When it comes to planning road trips with toddlers, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Bad weather can come out of nowhere. Traffic can be a snarled crawling mess. Your planned rest areas can be closed. Your toddler can get sick.

Even worse, car trouble can leave you stranded, wishing you had purchased roadside assistance as your toddler is in a full-blown tantrum in the back seat or worse on the side of the highway.

Throw in two family dogs, an SUV packed for vacation, and bumper to bumper traffic heading to Cape Cod, MA into the mix and you are living our life and the inspiration for this blog post. That was just one nightmare trip with our kids that taught us so much!

But keep reading because what we learned from taking road trips with our toddlers turned our trips from hot mess to serious success!

Here are the 10 things we do before every road trip with toddlers and we discuss each of these topics in detail, share why they work, and suggest travel supplies that will make your trip so much easier!

  1.  Use a toddler activity-travel tray that attaches to their car seat.
  2.  Pack easy to eat snacks with low choking hazards.
  3.  Pack a cooler with water and Pedialyte.
  4.  Plan out your stops and rest breaks before you leave.
  5.  Prepare your vehicle for the trip.
  6.  Planning to eat meals on the road? Bring sanitizing wipes and Stick on disposable placemats.
  7.  Road trip toys and activities that will be easy for your toddler to use.
  8.  Movies, audiobooks, and music for road trips with toddlers.
  9.  Successful Road trips with toddlers include planning for the weather.
  10.  Dress your toddler in comfortable clothing for your road trip.

 

tips for road trips with toddlers

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Traveling problems are hard enough alone. Factor in a cranky, overtired toddler, and within no time the trip you had been looking forward to can turn into a nightmare.

Remember that your toddler’s behavior is age-appropriate. Toddlers cannot often verbalize their feelings of frustration. This frustration is what leads to tantrums and meltdowns.

So our goal is to share our best time-tested proven strategies for road-tripping with toddlers.

 

10 Brilliant Tips For Road Trips With Toddlers:

 

1.  Use a toddler activity-travel tray that attaches to their car seat.

We listed this one first because most of our other tips are going to revolve using the travel tray in some way to keep your toddler entertained and well-fed.

This is the travel tray our reader’s rave about and have purchased most often. It is the travel tray that has worked best for us too. I’m a boy mom so products have to be built to last.

I don’t know how we traveled so many years without one! If you are traveling to see relatives over Thanksgiving and Christmas, a travel tray needs to be on your must-have list with a toddler or preschooler. Consider it an early gift to yourself!

You can read the reviews on Amazon.

Using a travel tray will give your toddler a place to hold their snacks, sippy cup, and activities.

They will be less likely to drop their toys or food, which could lead to tears and worse a full-on toddler meltdown.

It eliminates you from having to twist yourself up like a pretzel to try to retrieve a dropped toy on the floor behind your seat.

Here is a quick video of the travel tray we love and our readers recommended to us and they were so right!

 

Now go check them out on Amazon! I have a feeling these will be flying off the shelves as it gets closer to holiday travel time and winter vacation.

There are so many options for travel trays for toddlers. You have choices ranging from plain trays to trays fully decked out with their favorite cartoon characters and built-in toys and even magnet boards! Here are the four out of those we would keep a toddler busy and hold up to multiple uses.

 

2.  Pack easy to eat snacks with low choking hazards.

Pack LOTS of snacks. Easy to open, easy to eat, low choking hazard. The last thing you want to happen is to have your child start choking while you are driving.

Snack ideas for road trips with toddlers:

  • Yogurt tubes
  • Goldfish
  • Very small cut up pieces of watermelon, berries or other soft fruits.
  • Cereal
  • Pretzels, but break them into small pieces.

Use your judgment on snacks, you know your child and what they can safely eat on the road. We are an MD and RN so we tend to worry a lot about toddler snack choking hazards. Personally, we leave things like grapes, popcorn, cherry tomatoes, and raisins at home.

Foods that can be a chocking hazard for toddlers

 

3.  Pack a cooler with water and Pedialyte.

Pack enough water for your whole family, plus extra in case of a breakdown or weather emergency you get stuck in.

You can never pack too much water. You may need it for potty blowout emergencies.

Bring some Pedialyte. Toddlers can get dehydrated quickly. The atmosphere in the car is usually dry from either the heat or air conditioning is on.

Outdoor temperature, humidity, and physical activity all contribute to how much water your toddler needs to consume each day. (source)

This is one of those easily overlooked issues on a road trip with toddlers.

How much should a toddler drink in a day?

Your toddler should consume 5 ½ cups of water per day. (Source)

If it is very hot or very dry your toddler may need more. An excellent way to ensure your toddler stays well hydrated on road trips is to offer them fruits like watermelon and berries which contain a lot of water for snacks.

 

4. Plan out your stops and rest breaks before you leave.

When traveling with a toddler, we could count on making frequent stops. Fortunately, we now have many mobile apps to help us plan our trips.

Paper maps have been replaced by smartphones. This has been a game-changer when it comes to planning our trips. We still have to remember that technology can give us a false sense of security. You never want to be solely dependent on your cell phone.

Why we never rely on our smartphone:

  • It can break
  • We could lose it
  • The charge can run out
  • Many areas of the country (especially where you might need it the most) don’t have cell phone service.

That is probably hard to believe for people who live in large cities or along the coasts of the US. But there are still large areas of the US with no cell service and vast empty areas with no places to stop.

We have rarely encountered that living in Boston, MA, but in Phoenix, AZ metro you do not have to go far before your smartphone says “No Service”.

Getting lost happens, at least among those of us who are willing to admit it…lol! Getting lost with our toddler in the back seat is a situation we want to try and avoid.

It is times like this when you will be glad you are a prepper and remembered to put road maps in the glove compartment.

Rand McNally 2020 Road Atlas

Rand McNally 2020 National Parks Atlas and Guide

There is one last thing you will want to consider when making stops during your trip. If possible, stop when your toddler is well-rested, ideally, after a nap.

A sleep-deprived toddler can be an exhausting experience. Trying to reason with a tired, cranky toddler is virtually impossible. This behavior is normal and is simply your toddler being a toddler.

 

Related: 10 Toddler Parenting Tips You Will Be Glad You Know

 

5.  Prepare your vehicle for the trip:

  • Update your car maintenance.
  • Be sure the first aid kit is stocked with the necessary items.
  • Check radiator coolant level and if correct fluid for winter/summer
  • Check tire pressures for safety. Proper inflation is also fuel-efficient.
  • Windshield wipers function well and washer fluid is full. You don’t want to find out there is a problem with your windshield wipers when you need them.
  • Bring an emergency car kit
  • Get roadside assistance (It is completely worth it). If you have a newer car it may include roadside assistance, but you will want to check exactly what it covers. See the chart below for the most popular car models and their roadside assistance plans.

 10 Most Popular Vehicles in the US and Their Roadside Assistance Availability (2019/2020)                                    

Ford   F-Series  (Yes)  

60,000 miles or five years.

Tow: 35 Miles to closest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-241-3673

https://owner.ford.com/service/roadside-assistance.html

Ram  1500 Pickup (Yes)

60.000 miles or 5 years or 100,000 miles or 5 years

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-521-2779

https://www.mopar.com/en-us/assistance/roadside-assistance.html

Chevrolet  Silverado (Yes)

100,000 miles or 5 years (2007 and up)

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-243-8872 or press the OnStar button if active.

https://www.chevrolet.com/frequently-asked-questions

Toyota RAV4 (Yes)

2 Years and unlimited miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-444-4195

https://www.toyota.com/toyota-care

Honda  CR-V (Yes)

3 year/36,000 miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-866-864-5211

https://owners.honda.com/vehicles/roadside-assistance

Toyota  Camry (Yes)

2 Years and unlimited miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-444-4195

https://www.toyota.com/toyota-care

Nissan Rogue (yes)

3 years or 36,000 miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-225-2476

https://www.nissanusa.com/connect/features-app/services-premium/roadside-assistance.html

Chevrolet  Equinox  (Yes)

100,000 miles or 5 years (2007 and up)

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-243-8872 or press the OnStar button if active.

https://www.chevrolet.com/frequently-asked-question

Honda Civic (Yes)

3 year/36,000 miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-866-864-5211

https://owners.honda.com/vehicles/roadside-assistance

Toyota  Corolla (Yes)

2 Years and unlimited miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-444-4195

https://www.toyota.com/toyota-care

Ford  Escape (Yes)

5 years or 60,000 miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-800-241-3673

https://owner.ford.com/maintenance/roadside-assistance.html

Honda Accord (Yes)

3 year/36,000 miles

Tow: Nearest Dealer

Fuel: Yes

1-866-864-5211

https://owners.honda.com/vehicles/roadside-assistance

 

If your vehicle is no longer covered by roadside assistance you can get it through AAA.  It is very reasonably priced and worth every penny if you break down.

 

6. Planning to eat meals on the road? Bring sanitizing wipes and Stick on disposable placemats.

The developer of the disposable stick-on placemats is a genius.

It could be the nurse in me, but I look at surfaces in restaurants on road trips and vacations as breeding grounds for “toddler typhoid”.

The placemats keep their food and hands off of table surfaces. We wouldn’t go on a long drive or on road trips with toddlers without these placemats!

Disposable Stick On Placemats
Road Trips With Toddlers
Road Trips With Toddlers

You will also want to bring plenty of paper towels and hand sanitizing wipes. They make clean-up a breeze. Do not forget hand sanitizing wipes. My kid’s wanted to touch everything in every rest stop and restaurant we have ever stopped at. Be prepared.

 

via GIPHY

 

7. Road trip toys and activities that will be easy for your toddler to use.

You should bring toys for your toddler to play with. Bring several different types of toys and if possible include a new toy they have not used before. But a key to having successful road trips with toddlers is allowing them time at home to be bored before the trip.

Toddlers who are constantly scheduled and entertained by their parents have a very low tolerance for the inevitable boredom of a long car ride.

  • Toddler Triangular Crayons and coloring books are always an excellent choice in travel toys. Triangular crayons don’t roll! 
  • Bring their favorite stuffed animal or item they can’t sleep without
  • Toddler travel boards are an excellent option for road trips
  • Make busy bags/containers filled with new toys for your road trips with toddlers

Here are several travel toys that we believe are best in class toys for road trips with toddlers:

 

Road Trips With Toddlers

Magnetic Drawing Board for Toddlers,Travel Size

 

Road Trips With ToddlersMelissa & Doug Locks & Latches Board Road Trips With Toddlers 

Road Trips With ToddlersRoad Trips With Toddlers Hape Go-Fish-Go Magnetic Wooden Puzzle

 

Road Trips With ToddlersRoad Trips With Toddlers Sesame Street Elmo On The Go Letters (Magnetic)

 

8.  Movies, audiobooks, and music for road trips with toddlers

Your toddler might enjoy listening to audiobooks in the car. If your road trip coincides with a holiday or seasonal time of years, choose audiobooks around those themes.

Add a playlist of songs your child loves to your phone so you can play it in the car.

Remember headphones, either for you or your toddler. I can only handle Blippi, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and Doc McStuffins for so long.

If your child will be watching movies or playing games on an iPad or other digital device keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 2-5 be allowed no more than one hour of screen time per day.

Toddlers 18-24 months are discouraged from any screen time, except video chatting with family.

Our advice on digital devices is to try to save them for the last few hours of the trip. When you’ll probably need them most. But you do you and what is best for your family. We don’t encourage saving screen time until the end of the trip because we think digital devices are bad or that screen time is bad.

It is completely based on being practical and trying to plan for when a toy, snack or digital device will give us the most peace on the drive. Road trips with toddlers require parents to be strategic with handing out entertainment options.

I would not go on a road trip with a toddler or teenager without a digital device and entertainment loaded on it or accessible through my cell service provider.

 

9.  Successful Road trips with toddlers include planning for the weather.

Planning for the weather is critical. Whether you are on a summer or winter trip the weather can be unpredictable.

Check the forecast well ahead of time and plan for the worst so there won’t be any surprises. Unexpected bad weather can be a nightmare.

Spring/Summer trip:

  • Pack plenty of fluids and cold snacks in cooler.
  • Keep an eye on the sky and a weather app on your phone
  • Thunderstorms can cause flash floods on roadways. Always remember: Turn around, don’t drown. Do not try to cross roadways filled with water or rushing water.

Fall/Winter trip:

  • It can be so much fun in the fall to take a trip to look at the changing leaves. Watch the weather as falling leaves and rain can make for very slick roadways.
  • Pack plenty of car blankets designed for cold weather.
  • Emergency car supplies for winter travel.
  • During the winter it is very important to plan your stops, especially if the weather is severe. You do not want to be looking for lodging during a snowstorm. Been there!
  • If you are traveling in extremely cold weather, check the antifreeze and store some Dry Ice Gas treatment in your trunk.

 

10. Dress your toddler in comfortable clothing for your road trip.

Long car rides can be uncomfortable in tight or restrictive clothing. Dress your toddler in comfy easy to move around in clothing. You’ll be less likely to have a fussy toddler on the road trip who can’t get comfortable.

Plan out diaper changes for road trips with toddlers. You’ll want to plan for diaper emergencies on the road and a spot in your vehicle where you can safely change your toddler.

I found some video of a parent trying to change the diaper of a tired and cranky toddler on a road trip. Nailed it.

via GIPHY

 What to pack for the long drive:

Summer:

  • Lots of diapers, Desitin and Wipes
  • Towels and more towels
  • Extra sets of comfortable clothing that are easily accessible

Winter:

  • Same as above plus the items below
  • Mittens, Gloves, Hats, Thermal socks
  • Snowsuit in case you have an emergency breakdown or find a great place to take a break and let your toddler play in the snow to burn off some energy.

We hope you have found these tips and ideas helpful as you plan your holiday or vacation road trips with toddlers.

 

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