Does being crammed into a small space with your toddler strapped to a car seat for hours on end sound like a good plan?
Let's add nasty traffic, carsickness and loud AM news radio … and take it up a notch with a grumpy spouse for added fun and torture? Now we are talking about a REAL party!! Let’s go on a road trip!
If that doesn’t sound like the plot for the scariest horror movie of all time, I don’t what does. I promise, road trips with the family don’t have to send you to the realm of your worst nightmares. As a creative and tenacious momma, I’ve put together my best tips and tricks to get you to your destination safely and sanely.
Please observe the image above. My son is typically only allowed a pacifier to go to sleep, but see that happy face?!? He knows he shouldn’t have it, but all bets are off because we are high flying and road trippin!!!
We’ve already tackled surviving airplane travel with your toddler. I highly suggest you take a peek at that post too, because the tips I gave there are perfect to employ in this potentially dangerous scenario as well.
First off, you’ve got to keep your mind in the calm zone. Remember, toddlers can smell fear. You must ALWAYS remain the captain of the ship and it is your job to not let it go down. In this case your ship has four wheels and nowhere to hide! Calm, cool and collected wins the prize.
What about a Zen playlist at the ready? Heck, make a few! You know the songs that can turn that frown upside down for each and every member of your family. I’m talking about Daddy, too! One of my recent favs to listen to is Lake Street Dive. They would make the perfect accompaniment for any road trip compilation.
Make Naptime “Go” time:
Use sleep time as your time to put some miles toward your final destination. I have fond memories of summer road trips with my family. My dad and mom would make the back seat of our car as cozy as a bed at the Four Seasons with blankets and pillows galore. If nighttime driving doesn’t float your boat, then make best use of naptime. Load your posse up right after lunch and keep the mood very mellow so your kidlets can drift off to sleep while you hit the highway. How about this cozy travel blanket?
Pack it up, Pack it in:
...in a VERY organized and contained fashion. Ziploc bags are heavenly for this project. Keep like items together and do your best to keep it all organized for the duration of your trip. There is nothing worse than trying to climb over the backseat while your spouse is driving at top speed (just kidding, Scott) while trying to dig through multiple bags, suitcases, etc. to find the truck. NO MOMMY!! Not the red truck, but the blue truck and not just the blue truck but also, the blue truck with the big tires. The job of a mother is never done. Especially, when the blue truck with big tires has gone missing. Make sure and bring a few extra Ziploc bags for leftover snacks, trash or even a dirty diaper. A mesh bag used for bath toys is great option for easy access.
A few BUNCH of their favorite things:
You know your little monkey best and what keeps them occupied longest. Whatever that is, make sure you pack it and LOTS of it. If your kid loves putting Band-Aids on, then I would have two full boxes at the ready. I made various treasure boxes filled full of toys and books that I know Brooks loves. One of his favorite things lately is this hinged farm themed puzzle. Thankfully no pieces are loose, so this is perfect for road trip land.
I also purchased specifically for my little road dog this Doodle Pro Traveler, from Fisher Price. I love that the writing stylus is attached, so I won't have to dig between the seats to find it later. I also really like the smaller travel size, which is ideal for the car and small toddler laps. This toy is supposed to be great for enhancing fine motor skills strengthening eye/hand coordination.
I would bring a good variety of toys because you never know the mood (they are toddlers after all) that may strike. Always do a final check for all items each time you change locations. Losing a favorite blanket or toy on the road is just asking for an epic meltdown. Better still, pack a back-up of your child’s favorites so you aren’t scrambling to get blankie shipped overnight from Kathmandu.
Gift-Wrap Small Toys Individually:
I first told you about this trick in my post about plane travel with a toddler and this tip is absolutely worth repeating for the road trip as well.
Lucky for you, you aren’t restricted to one carry-on for this adventure. Like my advice about the toys and books, you need to be flush with snacks. Bring lots of healthy snacks with a few treats to keep you singing “on the road again.” Don’t forget straws, Sippy cups and napkins. Don’t forget the water either. Bring a small cooler like this one from Coleman. Perfect for your drinks and perishables.
I-Spy (the toddler years)
I-Spy is not limited to the older kids. I-spy a tree, a truck, and a cow… Keep it fun and simple with a version your toddler will love! Feel free to use your imagination and make up your own games. Brooks LOVES trucks so we sometimes play a game where we count the number of trucks we see on the road. Now that he is learning his colors we can practice while the miles whip by.
Plan your stops and don’t stress out over the unplanned ones:
Find a park or restaurant that has outdoor seating so little legs can stretch out and run. With a little planning you can find a point of interest that will be suited for your pint sized traveler. Don’t let multiple stops get you down. Traveling with kids takes longer than traveling alone.
Whatever it takes:
Normally we limit the amount to television Brooks watches, but I am NOT above letting him watch the iPad or movie player to his heart’s content during travel time. If watching multiple episodes of “the monkey” (aka Curious George) keeps my boy happy, I am all about it. You already saw the rule I broke with his pacifier usage. Whatever it takes!!!
Make sure you pack the goods (other than the boxes of Band Aids for Dr. Toddler pants) and bring your usual suspects along. (Baby Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Diaper rash cream, etc.). Add something for motion sickness and don’t forget to bring a small bucket or pail just in case carsick emergencies.
What are your road trip travel tips? I would love to know and I’m sure the readers of MollySims.com are VERY interested too!! Wherever you summer vacation takes you, may the road treat you kindly!!
Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.