10 Tips for a Toddler Friendly Road Trip

Summer is upon us, which means it’s prime vacation time. Whether you’re taking a road trip to visit the grandparents or simply taking a jaunt across state lines, don’t leave yourself feeling ill-prepared. Use this list to ensure you don’t forget a single thing, and look like a pro when you have a happy little camper for the entire trip.

1. Surprise Your Toddler

Going on vacation with a toddler can be a really exciting experience, for you and for your child. Once you’ve decided where you’re headed, why not surprise them with one big grand gesture, and help make the experience more fun!

Are you going to visit the grandparents, or possibly headed to Disney? Take a picture that your toddler is familiar with and have it made into a puzzle. When it comes time to surprise them, pull the puzzle out and help them put it together. Allow them to guess, give hints, work together to figure it out and then, finally, announce where you’re going. Be sure to get it all on video! There’s nothing more adorable than the giddy excitement of a toddler.

2. Do a Safety Check

The safety of your child is of the utmost importance, so take the time to double check that their car seat is strapped in properly and tightly.

Also be sure to have the following in your car in case of an emergency; first-aid kit, bottled water and a roadside assistance kit. Unfortunately a car can break down at any time and being unprepared with a toddler can lead to chaos.  Take the time and gather all items before leaving the house.

3. Prepare Awesome Toddler Activities

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When you have a toddler you need to keep them occupied, and looking out the window can only last so long. Places like Pinterest or Google are great places to find hundreds of ideas to keep your child entertained.

Want to make your own Toddler Travel Kit?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A storage container with handles, like this one.
  • Colorful pipecleaners can be incredibly versatile, make jewelry or different shapes, and then guess what each other has made.
  • Quiet Books are an excellent way to engage your child’s brain.
  • Bring bright colorful magazines full of toys, or possibly pictures of the destinations you’ll be going to. They’ll be intrigued by the bright images, and will forget they’re stuck in a car seat.
  • Buy an inexpensive metal baking sheet and magnetic alphabet letters. Your child can have fun experimenting with different words or letter combinations.
  • Bring along TOMY Little Chirpers Sorting Eggs Learning Toy, there’s different colors, textures and sounds to keep your child entertained.
  • Duplo legos offer an imaginative outlet for bored backseat riders.

4. Bring a Map

Toddlers love listening to their parents speak, they love mimicking their voices and the words that they’re saying, so why not bring a map of where you’re headed and look at it together. Point out the different places on the map, talk about what types of events occurred where you’re headed. They may not understand everything you say, but it will help expand their vocabulary, just by listening.

Topics like the kinds of flowers that bloom, the state fruit or where the capital is located can be highly intriguing for a young one. Hearing you say words that are new and different can really hold a child’s attention, plus the assorted colors on a map can entice a toddler to grab and touch.

5. Children are Tactile Creatures

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They love to touch and manipulate everything. By having objects of different shapes, sizes and textures, you will ensure your child is constantly occupied.

Bring your toddler’s favorite cuddle toy. We love the new extra soft and fuzzy Little Cuddle Bear from Elks and Angels in the photo above, a mini version of a full size Cuddle Bear, perfect for roadtrips and adventures. Extremely soft to touch and nice to cuddle, but small enough for toddlers.

Fill a sandwich bag with several pumps of this organic foaming hand soap, squish all the air out of the bag and zip closed. Your child can use the bag to draw shapes, letters, squiggly lines, anything their imagination allows.
Or, you can make your own edible goop, using this recipe. Sure, it can be a little messy, but the texture, watching it fall, and smooshing it, is bound to hold your child’s interests. Just make sure to have plenty of baby wipes available for clean-up at the next stop.

6. Be Sure to Stop Along the Way

Going on a road trip can be an exciting adventure. Since you’re driving, you have the luxury of stopping whenever you’d like, stretching, and exploring this new area you’ve just arrived in. Maybe there’s a fun roadside attraction, or a park to have a picnic lunch in, either way make the most of your time on the road.

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7. Bring Books, Lots of Books.

Pack all those books that your toddler is constantly pulling off the shelf to have you read over and over again, and maybe even splurge and buy a few new ones for the trip. Even, if you don’t read all of the books, having them for your child to flip through will help to keep them focused on something other than being strapped in a car seat.

There’s another option too! You can download some audio books, via any smartphone and plug that into your car’s speaker system. While listening to the book, you could be acting out the motions, which is sure to illicit a great deal of giggles from your little one.
Looking for some great new book ideas? Check out our post, The Coolest New Baby Books.

8. Don’t Travel Alone

If at all possible, try to bring another adult along for the trip. Not only will you have someone to talk to, but you’ll have someone you can share the driving and parenting responsibilities with. However, doing it on your own is possible, just be sure to plan strategically.

9. Ride in the Backseat

No one likes to ride alone, especially your child. Why not join them in the backseat? With you sitting next to them, you can engage them in conversation, read, tickle, laugh and have a good old time. Plus, sitting in the backseat will give you the opportunity to relax and get your eyes off the road (as long as someone else is doing the driving).

10. Load up your iPhone, iPad or Other Electronic Device

The longer the road trip, the more likely it is that your child will get bored. Don’t fret! As a last resort, be sure your electronic device of choice is full of child friendly apps, songs and TV shows. TV is not always the answer, but sometimes everyone just needs a breather.


Bonus Tip:

Don’t forget to make it comfortable and safe for yourself, too. Bring a back pillow for the seat, and get some books or movies for when the toddler sleeps. If your trip is several hours long and you’re the one driving, we recommend making sure you have a mirror installed to be able to see how your toddler is doing in the backseat. We love Diono’s Easy View Mirror for how easily it adjusts. Diono also has several other great products for travelling, like the Trio Cupholder, which allows three drinks to be placed into one cup holder spot.

Don’t get frustrated! If you’ve tried all of the above and you still have a cranky toddler on your hands, remind yourself that they’re little humans too and can get just as uncomfortable traveling. Take the time to talk to them, they’ll likely be willing to tell or show you what’s going on, and then you can fix it.

For tips on airplane travel with a toddler, read our Tips for Flying with a Toddler

Photo Credits: Baby Doodah! The Art of Making a Baby

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