A family road trip can be fun, but when one thing goes wrong, you may see a domino effect, making the vacation not so enjoyable. To prevent disaster and misery, be prepared for the unexpected. Traveling by car can be more economical than flying the whole family to your destination and you’ll have the flexibility of having your own transportation.
Get Plenty of Rest
Before you start out on your trip, make sure everyone in the family is rested. Many toddlers become cranky when they’re tired, so make sure they have something they can associate with their naps, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Holding a familiar toy may help calm your toddler and promote car napping, which is a much better experience than crying.
If you’ve been thinking about taking away your toddler’s pacifier, now is not the time to do it. Don’t make any unnecessary major changes until you return home from your trip. The pacifier may be the only thing that will soothe your child when she’s over-stimulated.
Keep Your Toddler Comfortable
Make sure your toddler is comfortable while traveling in the car. If you want to put her in that lacy dress her grandmother made, wait until you’re close to your destination to change her clothes.
Ideas for toddler travel comfort:
- Dress her in knits without scratchy embellishment.
- Leave her in her pajamas until it’s time to get out of the car.
- Layer her clothing so you can remove pieces if she gets too hot.
- Bring a blanket for additional warmth if you’re traveling during the holidays.
- If she squirms and seems uncomfortable, make sure she’s properly positioned in her car seat.
Bring Food for Your Toddler
A hungry child is a fussy one. Make sure you have plenty of nutritious snacks and treats for your toddler. Have an ice-packed cooler filled with anything that needs to be kept cold.
Ideas for food that travels well:
- Pre-cut fruit in zip type bags
- Single serving packages of crackers and cookies
- Small size cartons of yogurt
- Juice packs or sippy cups with milk or juice.
When traveling with toddlers, plan to take frequent breaks. Many rest areas have large grassy areas where you and your children can run around and stretch your legs. Look for kid-friendly restaurants with play areas.
If your toddler is potty trained or in the process of being potty trained, stop frequently without being asked. By the time most toddlers let you know they have to go to the restroom, it’s probably urgent.
Toddler Activities for the Car
Have a variety of activities planned for when your toddler isn’t napping. Children in this age group often have very short attention spans, so be prepared with enough things to keep them occupied.
Suggested activities for toddlers include:
- Board books
- DVDs and CDs
- Stickers and sticker books
- Crayons and coloring books
- Stories told by parents and older kids.
Travel Emergency Kit
Pack a small emergency kit and make it accessible. You never know when you’ll need something, and there may not be a place to pull over.
Items to pack in an emergency kit include:
- Wet wipes
- Fever reducing medications
- Plastic bags.
Additional Tips for Traveling with Toddlers
One of the purposes of a family trip is to bond and create memories. Getting to your destination is only one part of the excursion, so make car travel as fun and stress-free as possible.
More ways to make a road trip enjoyable and stress-free:
- Have a backpack or small suitcase for each child.
- Occasionally switch places with other family members.
- Pack meals or stop at a deli and have a family picnic.
- Rotate toys and activities frequently to prevent boredom.
- Wrap some surprises for your toddler to open as a reward for good behavior.
- If your child isn’t used to sleeping in strange beds, bring a portable crib or pack-and-play for hotels and your destination.
- Avoid rushing and embrace each moment spent with the family.
Traveling by car with toddlers can be challenging, but if you follow a few tips, you can remove some of the stress and make it fun for everyone. Get plenty of rest, dress comfortably, have plenty of food, take frequent breaks and make sure you have a variety of activities for the trip. Don’t forget to pack an emergency kit that is easily accessible.