Taking a Road Trip with Toddlers? 10 Best Tips.

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Traveling with kids always requires some organization, but taking a long road trip with toddlers just adds another layer of stress. That said, kids are much more likely to enjoy the ride if their schedule and comfort are taken into consideration.

Traveling families of the GoWhee App shared their favorite tips for a stress-free road trip with toddlers. It is never too early to start discovering with kids! Enjoy.

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1. Travel According To Your Kiddo’s Schedule

By the time your kid is a toddler, you’ll know when and how they like to sleep. Plan your road trip so that you’re working with their schedule as much as possible. If you drive at night or leave early in the morning, they might spend a lot of the car ride sleeping. 

You should pay attention to nap times and get long stretches of driving in while the kids are snoozing. It’ll cut down on the “are we there yet” question, and it’ll be quieter while you’re driving. Planning your drive time this way will also make your kids more comfortable!

Pro tip: Install suction black-out shades on the car windows to help kids sleep longer during the daytime.

Stress-Free Road Trip with Toddlers 101

2. Take Breaks Often

Taking breaks during long car trips is important. Taking breaks will let your kids get some energy out and stretch their legs.  You can play games like freeze tag or statues when you get out at a rest stop or park– letting the kids run around for a while will make it much easier to get back in the car when it’s time to get moving again. 

Stops can also make road trips more memorable and let everybody have some fun on the way to the destination. 

>>>Pro Tip: Use the GoWhee app to find playgrounds, rest stops, and other activities on your route!

Road Trip break with toddler at a playground
Photo by @gowheeapp

3. Have Appropriate Expectations

When you’re taking a long road trip, it’s important to remember that toddlers don’t have the same tolerance for a long drive that you might. Break family road trips into chunks, and don’t overestimate a toddler’s ability to tolerate a long car ride. Remember that toddlers experience the world differently than we do as parents, and have different feelings and expectations about what they’re experiencing.

Pro tip: Use visual aids like photos or videos, of your destination to help them get excited about where you are going and help with patience issues.

4. Pack a Change of Clothes for Everyone

No matter how you’re traveling, one of our favorite travel tips is to pack a change of clothes for everyone. Even if you’re all together in the car, you never know when something might spill or a mess might get made. If you keep a change of clothes for everyone in your personal bags, you don’t have to go digging around in your suitcase if accidents happen during family travel. 

Pro tip: Use a packing cube with an extra outfit for everyone so it won’t take up a lot of space and will be easy to pull out if something happens and you need an extra change of clothes.

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5. Go Mess & Sound Free

When you’re driving, the sounds and lights from a tablet or phone can be very distracting, and that’s not safe. Instead, choose quiet toys that won’t be distracting and will keep your backseat from getting too messy. The best toddler car toys are quiet but interactive– activity books can also be fun, and you can get triangular crayons that won’t roll around as much or choose a water-based coloring book. 

Pro tip: Road trip games are also fun– just make sure to choose ones that work with little kids’ shorter attention spans! 

6. Pack Lots of Snacks

Kids need road trip snacks on long car rides, and they like variety. When you pack snacks, you should try to cut down on sugar. Stay organized and makeup containers in advance using spill-proof snack containers

Pro tip: If they only want sugary treats, try using a “this or that” option– ask them if they want grapes or carrots, for example. This makes it easier to limit their choices to the snacks you’re happy with them having. Drinks are also important. Bring reusable bottles for every member of the family. 

Pro tip: Traveling families recommend sticking to water as much as possible, because if anything spills, it can get sticky and annoying to clean up.

>>> Find tons of kid-friendly restaurants along the way, here.

Road trip snacks
Photo by @SandraHarris

7. Prioritize Rest

Don’t push yourself or your kids too hard– instead, plan to prioritize rest and get a good night’s sleep. Book hotel rooms ahead of time so that you’re not scrambling to find a place to sleep. The GoWhee app has lots of hotels listed with amenities for kids, so it’s a great place to find places to stay. 

Pro tip: Make the journey to your destination, exciting! One of the biggest challenges for kids on car trips is not knowing where they’re going to end up, so if you can tell them something like “We’re stopping at a hotel tonight and it has a pool you can play in,” they’ll feel more excited and less anxious about how the trip is going to end.  

8. Have Your Car Looked At Ahead Of Time

Before you leave on your family road trip, get a car check-up so you don’t get stranded with a flat tire or a burned-out engine. If you’re going on a really long road trip, you should consider getting an oil change, too. Also, make sure that your car seats are up to current standards and that the seats are in good condition and haven’t had any recalls.

Pro Tip: Make sure that your child is in the right car seat for their size and age, and that your car seats are installed correctly. Your family’s safety is the most essential part of any vacation, and toddlers should always be in a car seat. 

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9. Screen Time With a Twist

Lots of parents are concerned about too much screen time, but when you’re on a road trip with a toddler, limiting screen time can be a real challenge. Just remember,  screen time can trigger more anxiety and restlessness in a toddler’s brain.

So, even though they’re sitting for long periods and the tablet games or movies could help keep them busy at first, screen time could backfire and make it more difficult to keep them calm and content in the long run.

Pro TIp: Families recommend using screen time as a reward or as a last recourse, on the later part of the trip. Use all the other activities and car games, nap, meal time, etc… first, and then plan for the movie time, it will be easier to keep the kids engaged.

10. Pack a First Aid Kit

Bumps, bruises, paper cuts, and other owies can really put a damper on car trips with toddlers (for parents too). Make sure that you pack a first aid kit with plenty of bandages, antibiotic ointment, and cleansing wipes. 

You should also make sure that you have sunscreen to protect your kids’ skin and prevent sunburn, aloe vera gel in case sunburn happens anyways, bug spray, and anti-itch or calamine lotion. 

Pro tip: If you’re traveling in the spring or summer, be sure to check your kids for ticks and bug bites after they’ve run around in the grass– you don’t want to bring anything unpleasant in the car with you.

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