Tips for Road Trippin’ with a Toddler

Road trips with little kids can be a daunting task but it’s not impossible and with the proper planning and preparation it can actually be a mildly pleasant time.  The key is to fend off boredom and reduce the amount of times you are asked “Are we there yet?”

We have taken several road trips from Connecticut to Florida (24 hours driving time) and a trip from Florida to northern Michigan (36 hours) with our little kids. Here are a few of the ways we have found to make the trips more enjoyable.

Night Rider

I’m not talking about the epic TV show with The Hoff, I’m talking about taking advantage of the fact kids can sleep upwards of 12 hours a night. One of the best ways to travel is when they are asleep. Assuming you don’t want to give them a glass of Benadryl before you leave, driving through the night is the best way to have them sleep. This might not be for everyone. You certainly don’t want to fall asleep yourself while driving your family but if you are a night owl or you and your spouse can take shifts then it might be a great option. You can also avoid a lot of traffic this way.

Movies

Get a stockpile of your child’s favorite movies to show to them. That is a great way to keep them entertained for roughly 90 minutes at a time. If your vehicle doesn’t have a DVD player you can invest in a portable one. They are becoming quite inexpensive these days.

Tablet/Smart Phones

This could also be an alternative for a portable DVD player. You can load movies onto a tablet or a smart phone and they can watch movies on that. They could also play games and listen to music. At this point anything to keep them from asking “are we there yet?” for the 300th time.

Books

Bring some books. If your kids can’t read yet, they can look at the pictures or you can read the books to them.

Toys

Bring a few of their favorite toys along for them to play with in the car. Let them be involved with picking out which toys they want to bring along.

Lap Desks

If you have a lap desk (or some other hard surface they can put on their lap) then they can color or write.

Snacks

This is not the time to worry about 3 balanced meals.  Go to the store and buy bags and bags of snacks. It’s amazing what a properly timed snack can do to calm an antsy kid. (Letting them eat 6 pounds of gummie bears in 20 minutes is a bad idea for several reasons, so have SOME discretion here) You also wouldn’t want to bring snacks that make you thirsty since you don’t really want your kids drinking a lot of liquids unless you want to stop at every gas station along the way.

Travel Apps

There are quite a few apps that can help you on your road trip journey. I’m fond of the one that lets me know when rest-stops are coming up so I can know if we will make it, or if I just need to pull off and find a gas station. There are also apps that help you locate restaurants and gas stations and scenic attractions. Spending a few minutes to load these up beforehand could save you some frustration later.

Games

Not only can you play games on your smart phone but there are some classic road trip games like “find the alphabet on billboards” that you can play with your kids to help pass the time. You can also play 20 Questions or bring along some travel edition games.

Break the Trip into Segments

Depending on how long your trip will be, you might end up eating Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on the road. Game plan what you will do from breakfast to lunch. Maybe that will be movie time and a game of find the alphabet. Then you stop for a lunch break. Then between lunch and dinner is reading some books, coloring and a game on the tablet. Then stop and enjoy dinner and stretch your legs. Don’t be afraid to take extended breaks at meal time and find a place where the kids can run around. McDonald’s or Chick-fil-a’s with playgrounds are the perfect destinations to let the kids blow off some pent up energy. Understand you won’t get there quite as fast but which is better? An 8 hour road trip that everyone hates and is grouchy or a 10 hour road trip where everyone has a good time?

Bring an Actual Map

Kids love to see where you are and note the progress you’re making. Plus it gets them familiar with reading maps at an early age and slows the “are we there yet questions” if they can easily see you aren’t even half way.

Going on a road trip with kids is certainly a different experience than going on a road trip with your friends or significant other, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad experience.  With the proper planning it can build life long memories and cultivate a love of traveling in your kids. So how about you? What other things have you found to help you on your family road trips?

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15 thoughts on “Tips for Road Trippin’ with a Toddler”

    1. Ha, yes we have. It’s getting to the point where flying anywhere would be too expensive. So unless we have to cross an ocean we’re probably going to drive. 🙂

  1. Great advice. Although not a road trip, our recent round trip to Hawaii was approximately 26 hours on a plane. The snacks, movies, smart phone app games and surprise brand new ninja turtle toys were all life savers. Especially on the flight home when we had no tvs built into the seat backs in front of us. Uurgh!!! 1st world problems!!!

    Fruit snacks. Fruit snacks. Fruit snacks!!!!!

  2. Great road trip tips! I especially like bringing an actual map so kids can measure how far along the destination is..
    Your tips are important for kids and adults alike, I think! I often get bored on long car trips and ask if we are there yet…
    But for me, gummy bears are a must!

  3. Good tips, I couldn’t imagine spending 24 hours driving or being a passenger for that length of time. wow. The longest I have ever done is 4 hours and is by far enough for me. I’m not good at being stuck in confined spaces for too long. I defiantly think night time driving is a must with kids.

    1. Night driving eliminates a whole bunch of the issues with the kids, assuming they can sleep in the car.

      I’ve always felt like the 4 hour mark was a milestone on a road trip. The first 4 hours always seem the hardest, then you settle into the zone and time starts to pass a little quicker.
      Thanks for coming by.

    1. Oh I’m sure you guys have exciting road trips. I’ll bet sometimes it’s nice they can keep each other company and others times it’s challenging when they are trying to kill each other. 🙂
      Thank you so much for stopping by. Have a great week.

  4. I grew up before the electronics age. We would count cows on your side of the car and if you had a cemetary on your side you would lose all of your cows and have to start over but only if your competitor saw the cemetary, so you would try to divert their attention to something else so they wouldn’t see the cemetary. There was always riddle riddle ree, I see something you don’t see and it’s blue and they try to guess it or coke bottles used to have cities on the bottom and we would try to guess
    the city of origin.

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