Are you going on a road trip with a toddler this summer? Or maybe you want to but you’re not sure you can with a little one (or multiple) in tow. I’m here to tell you CAN and you SHOULD!! I am going to tell you ALL the secrets on how to road trip with kids the FUN way!!
For background reference, I grew up in a military family and have made many a looooonnnggg drive since I was itty bitty. We’ve driven from Texas to Alaska and back, Alabama to Washington, and Texas to Washington and back many, many times. Not to mention family vacations from Texas to Florida, Tennessee, etc. Basically, I have spent hours upon hours in the car as a child, and I loved it!!
Now that I am a mom, I have made some of these same trips with my own little ones! And while 30+ hours of drive time with a toddler and a newborn sounds MiSeRaBLe, I’m here to tell you it can actually be fun!! Even my super skeptical husband thought it was a blast and is already planning our next family road trip!
So how do we do it?? Here are my top tips for not only surviving, but thriving on a family road trip!
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Start gathering what you will need in advance and organize it in a way that will be easy to get to in the car.
- Use organizers! I used these fabric organizer cubes to keep stuff together and in reach of my toddler! I also used this car organizer for easy reach snacks and other essentials. I made one section snacks for my hsuband and I, the second section snacks for the kids, and the third section toys/activities that I could reach to hand the kids.
2. If you have one in diapers, make a diaper caddy complete with diapers, wipes, diaper cream, extra outfit or two, and “doggy bags” (bags to put stinky diapers in until you find the next trash can!!)
3. Back of seat organizers. I got a two pack from Amazon to help keep me organized. Then, put together one for each kid when we made a long trip with two kids in diapers. I put each kid’s appropriate sized diapers, diaper cream, and extra clothes in their own organizer on the back of seat in front of them. This way when it was time to change, we just opened their door and everything we needed was right there ready to use! These would also be amazing for older kids to keep their stuff organized! My favorite thing about these is that it keeps everything in reach but off the floor!
4. If you are freshly potty trained, this portable potty is amazing!! No need to worry about having to stop in the middle of nowhere, just keep this in the trunk and you child can go anytime they need to! Plus, it folds out and fits on any big potty so your child will be comfortable on any hotel, gas station, or Airbnb toilet! Pro tip: use a diaper or pull up to catch the urine for easy clean up!
5. These cup straps are super helpful! You can attach one end to your kids car seat and the other end to their water bottle, favorite toy, etc. then when they drop it, they can easily pull it back up! No more having to reach back to pick stuff up off the floor or stopping because of the devastation of a dropped toy!
6. Paci clips!! If your little one takes a paci, make sure you have a couple hooked up to a paci clip! These are a life saver! If they happen to get the one they have unclipped, just pop a new one on and they’ll be happy for a while! I love the ones with metal clasps vs. plastic because they seem to hold on a little tighter. These are some we’ve used and loved!
7. Car trays are super helpful for little ones who are constantly dropping things. This gives them a “table” to eat from and a surface to play or color on. You can find them on Amazon!
8. Cooler: Have a cooler stocked with drinks for you and the kids! Saves money and you never have to worry about being thirsty!
Have Plenty of Activities Ready
1.Tissue box pull-out: If your children are like mine, they are fascinated with pulling tissues out of tissue boxes. While this is usually a no-no, on a long road trip we are a little more flexible! I used an empty tissue box and went to Walmart to pick up some fabric square scraps. They sell them by the pack and you can choose one with fun or colorful patterns! I then put the fabric squares in the empty tissue box and wahlah! Entertainment for hours! Plus no ripped up tissues all over the car!
2. Pipe cleaner pringles can: Get an empty Pringles can with the lid on it and poke holes in the lid. Stick a pipe cleaner in each hole and let your child pull them out and put them in! I also used an empty water bottle and put a couple pipe cleaners in it. Both of these activities cause your child to concentrate on something other than being in the car!
3. Baking pan magnets: Go to the dollar tree and get a small baking pan and some magnets, or use some you already have, just make sure the magnets stick to the pan, because not all of them do! I brought animal magnets for my little one but for older children you could do letters or numbers and have them count and spell! You could even print some words on pieces of paper or use flashcards and have them copy them with their own letters.
4. Wrapped surprises: Also from the dollar store, pick up little toys, stuffed animals, snacks, etc. and wrap them in wrapping paper. After so many miles, at every stop, at every state, or whatever criteria you want to set, let your child open a present! This gives something to look forward to plus a new thing to play with!
5. Window cling stickers: Get a pack of window cling stickers and let your child go crazy! These won’t damage your car windows, have a cool texture, and can be places over and over again!
6. Books: Bring a good variety of books and hand them to your little one every once in a while, or put them in a basket next to them so they can reach them on their own! If you want some new books, check out these ones!
7. Mess free coloring: Use a mess free coloring book or two!
8. Ball on a string: My son LOVED balls when he was about one year old. So I got one of his balls, cut a stretchy headband from the dollar store so it was a straight line rather than a circle, and tied one end to a ball and the other end to a soft small hair tie to put on his wrist. This way he could throw the ball and play with it how he pleased, but he wasn’t constantly losing it!
1.Make sure you pack snacks that will give your little one fiber. I got these fiber pouches and gave them to him regularly. When in the car for long periods of time, it is common for little ones to get constipated. I would also recommend picking up fruit at gas stations every once in a while so they have a fresh, healthy snack!
2. Take breaks when you need it! Stop the car and explore along the way! If you’re stopping for a meal, try to find a little park or outdoor area to eat! This picnic blanket is super amazing and takes up very little space! It is also big enough for the whole family to sit on! Plus comes with stakes so you don’t have to worry about wind!
3. Have a safe car seat! This is a no brainer BUT, if you are going to be spending hours in the car, you definitely want to make sure your children are going to be safe. We absolutely LOVE Diono car seats. They are super strong with their frames made of steel, can be rear facing for longer and also work forward facing, and are super comfortable for my kids! We don’t use any other seats, these are simply the best!
4. HAVE FUN! As with anything, there will stressful or cranky moments, but try to make the best of it! Sing songs, make up stories, tell jokes, listen to books on tape, play car games like I spy, and enjoy the time together. These are memories you and your kids will never forget!
Now you know exactly how to road trip with kids the FUN way!! What tips you have to add? Are you planning a road trip anytime soon?