We just got back from a trip to Central and Northern New York to visit my parents and grandparents, and traveling with toddlers is ROUGH. It’s about a 12 hour drive (without stops) to get from Charlotte to where they live. Doesn’t sound too bad? I beg to differ. Bubs is potty trained, which in reality means that we have to stop every 32 minutes for him to use the restroom. I swear, it must be the angle of the car seat, because at home it’s a fight to get him to go to the bathroom every 2 hours! So all in all, it took us 19 hours. NINETEEN. Mama needs a margarita.
Boogie Monster is 1 1/2, so he’s still in diapers. He also doesn’t talk yet, but he can squawk like a dinosaur who’s under attack and calling for backup. And in the car, it echoes. SO MUCH. He’s also got the attention span of a typical toddler his age, so he will play with something in his car seat for exactly 63 seconds (and not one second more) before promptly throwing it aside. And I swear he does this on purpose, but he only throws toys to one side, so they end up between the seat and the door.
This is for 2 reasons:
- So I can’t reach them and hand him “repeat” toys (how dare I?!)
- It’s extra fun for him when I have to open the door and get him out, and I’m lost under an avalanche of car toys that have been set free.
See that face? Nothing but trouble, that one!
So with all of these “super fun” circumstances, how did I make it through the road trip with toddlers? Calculated packing.
Packing For a Road Trip With Toddlers
- Food – Don’t judge me, but I put this first on the list for a reason. I don’t know about you, but my boys live for their next snack. So having good snacks on hand are awesome for keeping them occupied, especially if they’re snacks that they don’t get often (like organic fruit snacks and juice boxes galore) And a bonus of feeding them in the car- you don’t have to stop for long dinners and can keep up the pace! Just make sure it’s not a lot of sugar-filled snacks! You don’t want to sugar them up while they’re stuck in the car. Not a good idea. Not that I know from experience or anything…
- Movies – This will obviously depend on how old your kids are and if they enjoy TV enough to remain engrossed in a movie. My older one will watch movies, but the 1 1/2 year old doesn’t always sit for the whole thing. But in the car, the portable DVD players are fantastic because they get their own little TV and will watch them for a good bit. This is a great card to play when they’re starting to get antsy but you can’t stop yet. Also, they’re so cheap that
ifwhen the 1 year old throws it to the floor for the 18th time and it breaks, you’re only out $40.
- Coloring Books – If your kids like to color, then these are great for the car! We take them shopping a few days before a trip and they get to pick out new coloring books at Target (dollar bins, y’all!). Crayons and coloring books are cheap and awesome. They can’t color on the walls or anything they’re not supposed to when they’re strapped in, bonus! We especially love the Color Wonder supplies for this reason. The markers and paper are specially made for each other and won’t work on anything else. A marker that won’t write on a face, clothes, or car window? That’s a MUST for a road trip with toddlers. Yes please!
- Bedtime Essentials – This applies for sleeping both in and outside of the car, but I have found that bringing a few of our favorite things from home help to make sleep easier when we’re away. This includes Bubby’s teddy bear, Boogie’s favorite blanket, a sound machine, books, and a diffuser with relaxing essential oils. My favorite travel diffuser is this one, because you can use it in the car and in the home. This always makes for a better bedtime routine in a strange place. When we’re in the car, we don’t use the sound machine, but we use Motley Crue’s Greatest Hits instead. Don’t ask me why, but I turn it on and the kids are out like a light in 30 seconds. No joke! It must be the glorious sound of the 80’s Hair Band guitars.
- Toys – Our boys can’t make it more than an hour without playing with their cars, so we always pack a bunch of their cars for trips. They roll them in the car seats, up the doors and windows, and sleep with them in their hands. And once we get where we are going, they’ll find their way to dirt, water, food, and whatever else they can find to roll the cars in. #boymom
- Mom Essentials – Whatever it takes to make the trip easier for you, mama! For me, it’s coffee all day, and wine for the hotel. My kids act like it’s Christmas Eve every night we sleep in a hotel, so while they’re not sleeping, mommy and daddy are also not sleeping. But with wine. Also: ear plugs, audio books, and if you’re super lucky you can get one of those plexiglass dividers like they have in police cars to keep the rifraff in the back 😉
What kinds of things are necessities for you to pack on a road trip with toddlers?