If you’re planning your first road trip with a toddler (or two), you may be worried about a few things.
In truth, traveling with a toddler is quite a bit different than traveling with an infant or older child. The toddler has begun to understand that he or she has choices and is pretty excited about exerting this newfound power.
But just like when traveling with an infant, traveling with a toddler provides its own unique set of challenges. It’s all about striking the right balance between naps and entertainment. Keep the toddler happy, and your time in the car will become much more bearable.
But you probably want some more specific advice than that (and I don’t blame you). So here are some of the best tips.
1. Charge the electronic devices
If you’re in the camp of people who don’t approve of screen time, you can skip this tip. The rest will be helpful for you. But even if you’re on the fence about screen time, this is a good time to bend the rules. Road trips become a lot easier and more pleasant when your toddlers are able to spend some time with a tablet or age-appropriate game.
In addition to a nap, you’ll also get 30 minutes to an hour with an entertained toddler, which we all know, is priceless.
2. Bring lots of snacks
Snacks might be more important than you realize. Not only can you keep your child from becoming hangry, but you can also keep them entertained for a short time. You’ll want to bring more snacks than you think you’ll need. But it’s also a good idea to keep the snacks healthy and low sugar. You don’t want to fill your toddlers with sugar while everyone is stuck in the car together.
Instead, bring healthy snacks like fruit, hummus and vegetables, and nut-based snacks. Naturally, you’ll want to avoid any choking hazards like grapes or some nuts. It’ll be a judgment call for what your child can handle. And even though your toddler has graduated from baby food, you may want to consider some baby food pouches and snacks for the road trip.
3. Organize your car
One of the biggest dangers you’ll face on a road trip is distracted driving. And we all know that driving with toddlers can be one big distraction. But if you have your car organized, it’ll be easier to avoid those distractions.
Here are some tips to keep distractions down:
- Keep your toddler’s activities within their reach whenever possible
- Designate a trash bag in the front and back seats
- Use a hands-free device for your phone
The real danger with distracted driving is that we never think resulting problems are going to happen to us. But think about a case where there’s a quick chain reaction accident. Two cars get into a wreck in front of you. You have about two seconds from the time you realize until when you have to react. Two seconds is not a lot of time. To put that into perspective: it takes about 5 seconds to read a text.
4. Service your vehicle
When you’re on a road trip with toddlers, you probably don’t want to extend the trip for a longer period than you have to. As it is, toddlers only have so much patience for the car. So you’ll want to avoid a breakdown if at all possible.
The best way to do this is to ensure your vehicle is getting everything it needs. Take care of any routine maintenance your car may need, including oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups, and more. And if you need new tires or brakes, you’ll definitely want to get these things taken care of before the trip.
5. Get lots of rest the night before
This is great advice for anyone before any big drive. But you know there’s a difference between driving with children vs. driving yourself. Safety is of paramount importance, and driving drowsy isn’t an option. So be sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before a big drive and pull over if you’re feeling tired.
6. Create a toddler-friendly playlist
One way you can keep the kids entertained is with their favorite songs. You may have heard their faves one too many times, but if you create a large enough playlist, you might be able to get some diversity. Maybe.
If you’re not sure what to put on the playlist, Disney soundtracks are usually good choices.
7. Take lots of breaks
You don’t necessarily have to plan a stop every hundred miles, but you should be prepared to stop often. If your kids are getting antsy in the back seat, be ready to pull over and let them stretch their legs. All you really have to do is set the time aside for a worst-case-scenario, and you’ll have plenty of time to take as many brakes as you need (without stress).
If you’re stressing out about driving with toddlers, know that it’s probably not going to be nearly as bad as you’re thinking. On the other hand, if you’re looking forward to it with rose-colored glasses, you might need a healthy dose of realism.
There will most definitely be ups and downs, but the experience will create memories that will last a lifetime. As long as you’re prepared, there’s likely to be more good than bad in your road trip.
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing with his son, playing his guitar, or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
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