I don’t know about you guys, but for us, summertime is the season of road trips. Not epic, long ones to the other side of the country, but we do a 2-4 hour trip pretty regularly during July and August as we head out to family and friend cottages. We actually just got back on Friday from our usual family week in the Adirondack Park, NY, which is about 3.5 hours (no stops). Here is our guide to surviving roadtrips with a toddler.
It used to be that Dan and I could throw a few things in the car, grab a coffee to go, and just hit the road. Daaaang, it was easy. Adding a kiddo into the mix definitely makes it a bit more of an ordeal. Little people seem to require the most stuff (is it just me, or does going away for a weekend look like you’re moving away for 6 months?), you need to think about snacks, activities, coordinating with naptimes, bathroom stops (if you’re out of the diaper phase), etc. As much as you can try to be low-key and easy-going, it does make it easier if you go prepared.
Maya is mixed about the car. She is usually fine for a little while, but gets bored after too long. Once that happens she starts to say “I want to walk! I want to walk!” to Dan and I and is just generally whiny. Plus, she can get carsick, but it’s thankfully mostly reserved for windy roads right after eating (we have learned the hard way – including last week on the twisty adirondack roads!). Oh the cutest though? After a little while I think she gets lonely back there and she says “hand! hand!” and wants me to lean back and hold her hand. It gives my shoulder terrible cramps, but I always do it. Because really, isn’t that sweet?
Our go-to tips for roadtrips with a toddler:
1 // Activities & Toys. Maya will usually only play with something for 10 minutes or so and then throw it over the side of her carseat and move on to the next, but we like to have a little bag of a few key toys with us for long trips. We pack up her own small backpack full of goodies. Our go-to:
>> Small board books (better than big ones that are more likely to be dropped). We particularly like these Dr. Seuss ones.
>> A favourite stuffed animal or two.
>> If you have any electronic toys that they like, this is the time to pull them out. We have this tablet thing with sounds that will keep Maya occupied for a while. We have a longer trip coming up this Fall on the plane, and we fully plan on prepping some shows and movies on one of our tablets for her.
>> A wallet. We have an old wallet that I pack full of old business cards and she LOVES taking them in and out, zipping it up, opening it again, etc etc. It’s amazing how much time this buys.
>> Even just having the backpack full of toys seems to take up time. Pack things in all the pockets and they seem to love opening and discovering what is in every nook and cranny. I really adore the Skip Hop backpacks.
>> Water. I am still nervous about giving her snacks while we are driving (choking fear), but we let Maya have her waterbottle and a smoothie snack pack to keep her a happy camper while we drive. Our favourite waterbottles that we recently discovered are these Camelbak ones (we have bought two and basically stopped using anything else – Maya loves them and they don’t leak).
Oh and don’t give them everything at once. Our strategy is to give each new toy as they start to whine and complain back there. That way you can stretch it out for as long as possible.
2 // Music. This is a big one. We love to play music in the car and as much as we try to get away with playing our own adult music, if Maya is getting really cranky, throwing on some kids tunes totally does the trick. We have a bunch of different tunes and recently added some Bobs & Lolo to our collection. Bobs & LoLo have a new CD out (here is the link on iTunes) and we listened to it on repeat about 7 times on the way down to the Adirondacks last week. We especially like the “Dirty Feet” song (here is the fun music video). The Bobs & LoLo music is catchy and doesn’t totally drive you crazy like some kids CDs can. Maya loved it and the messaging is great – the songs teach kids to care about themselves, their neighbours, and the planet.
Bottom line – have some music lined up on your phone or some CDs with you to make your little guys happy.
3 // Stops. Depending on how long your trip is, plan to make a stop or two along the way so everyone can get out, stretch their feet, and have a snack. We usually stop at a food place to grab whatever meal we’re on the road for, and then we try to eat it outside and let Maya run around a little. Even just walking around a charming little town or finding the local park for a few minutes is nice. Maya usually gets all cranky when we make her get back in the car again, but that dies down after a while and ultimately we’re all a little happier to get the fresh air, even if we do arrive at our destination a little later.
And hopefully… they are so pooped that this happens:
4 // Comfort. We try to dress Maya is super comfy clothes for car trips and make sure she has her sunglasses so that the sun doesn’t bother her. Oh and although she is mostly toilet trained (we have had a recent setback due to an infection… not fun), we put her in diapers when we are on the road as that eliminates the need for super rushed bathroom stops. I have a portable potty in the trunk though, in case there is the need for an emergency side-of-the-road situation.
Do you guys have any roadtripping or general travel with toddler tips? Seriously, I am all ears. I have heard a good one recently — getting a pill box and filling it with little snacks and goodies. Perfect to take up time on the airplane!
Disclosure: I am part of the Bobs & LoLo Campaign with Influence Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.