Babies and Toddlers

Tips for Road Tripping with a Toddler

Since our daughter Reagan was born, we’ve made the drive to Syracuse, NY once every couple months or so to see my hub’s family. When she was an infant, although it took a little longer because we stopped for a few breastfeeding pit stops, she was a total champ in the car. Now that she is a toddler on the move (and does she LOVE to move…) she isn’t such a fan of being strapped down in her carseat for 5-6 hours.

I can’t say I blame her.

For our most recent trip, I decided I was going to pull out all the tricks I could think of to hopefully get us there with minimal tears and a happy girl.

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Tip #1: Leave around nap time. 

I understand this may not always be possible, but it’s usually our first step to ensure a couple quiet hours at the beginning of the trip. Usually we leave immediately after she eats breakfast in the morning since that is when she tends to go down for her morning nap. Try to have everything packed into the car (which is preferably already gassed up) so you can just do a quick diaper check and hit the road.

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Tip #2: Bring comfort items from home.

Reagan still uses a binkie for sleeping, and she always sleeps with a “softie” which is what we call those little lovey blankets with the stuffed animal head attached. We have a “car softie” that she uses on just regular car rides, but when we go on a longer road trip, we bring the one she sleeps with in her crib at home.

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Tip #3: Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. 

We have a little piggy on our hands most days, and she is a huge fan of “nack”. So I packed several snack sized ziplock bags full of various snacks for her. I kept these within reach in a basket at my feet up front so whenever it seemed like she needed a little bite, I could fill up her snack cup and pass her something without trying to dig through the diaper bag.

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Tip #4: Keep toys where your little can reach them.

Many parents with just one child will choose to trade off having one of them sit in the backseat with their toddler on a road trip. While I don’t deny that this probably works wonders, I get carsick in the backseat, so this is usually a last resort. Try to keep some toys where they can reach them and select one themselves. If you can safely prop up a basket next to their car seat, fill it with some of their favorites, (or toys they may not have seen in a while). If propping the basket isn’t an option, use a toy leash like this BooginHead SippiGrip on a toy or two to make sure they don’t end up on the floor out of everyone’s reach.

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Tip #5: Wrap a few toys for him or her to open.

I’m not saying go out and buy new presents to wrap just for a road trip. I chose a few toys out of Reagan’s toy box that I know she loves and I wrapped them up. These will go in the basket up front with me, and if I can sense she is getting antsy, I can pass one back for her to open. I don’t know about your little peanuts, but ours loves unwrapping presents. Once she got a Christmas and a birthday under her belt, she made it her mission to unwrap any present she came across. You have to be OK with cleaning up some wrapping paper bits in your car afterwards, but I think cleaning up some scraps is better than a bored and screaming baby, don’t you?

Tip #6: Fill a wipes case with fabric scraps. 

Since I also run an Etsy business on top of being a mama, I have no shortage of fabric scraps in my stash. Any chance Reagan gets to sneak into my sewing room, she goes straight for the bin next to my table. As I’m sure is also the case with your babes, she also will take any opportunity to pull wipes out of the package. I decided to put the two together and fill an empty plastic wipes dispenser with scraps of fabric. I included lots of bright colors, and some different textures such as soft minky, bumpy grippy fabric used for the bottom of booties, some quilt batting, and lots of cotton pieces. She is able to pull them all out through the hole in the container just like she would with wipes (or a box of Kleenex if our back is turned…)

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Tip #7: A movie on the iPad. 

Before I had kids, I always sort of thought I would try and avoid any TV before a certain age…but then we discovered the magic of Frozen. (And seriously, is it actual magic? Are there subliminal messages hidden in “Love is an Open Door” that send kids into some sort of trance?) Reagan pretty much completely ignores the TV, but as soon as that movie shows up on the screen, she can’t tear her eyes away.

Although I will probably regret spending another entire day with “Let it Go” stuck in my head, I got this tablet headrest mount to hold the iPad over her seat so we can pop Frozen on for the last hour or two of our trip when she’s totally over being in her carseat. It has a strong elastic that wraps around the headrest, and the brackets are also adjustable so it will fit with any tablet.

This will be a road trip treat only, and we will definitely not be busting out a movie to drive to the grocery store, but I suppose listening to Ana and Elsa is better than a miserable toddler, amiright?

What tips do you use to keep your little ones happy and content on a long car ride?

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