My family and I just returned from a week long vacation in Miami. We had a lot of fun but missed out on a beach trip as the weather was a little too chilly for my liking. We decided to drive down because I’m an over packer and my little Madison has an aversion to planes (funny, not funny). We have taken the girls on numerous road trips and have learned a lot along the way. Now that we are home, I wanted to reflect and share with you my favorite tips for taking long road trips with toddlers.
1. Choose your travel time wisely
Michael and I prefer to travel with the girls at night, during their normal sleeping hours. When we travel at night, the girls are far less cranky and we are able to make fewer stops. If you cannot travel at night, be mindful of the times of day that your child tends to be the most cranky. I would suggest avoiding travel during these (cranky) times altogether. Its not worth the stress for you or your little one.
2. Dress your child in comfortable clothing
As you will be in the car for a few hours, you will want to dress your child in appropriate seasonal clothing that is not stiff or bulky. Since we usually travel at night, I put the girls in their PJs before we leave. If we are traveling during the day, I put the girls in sweatpants or comfy shorts and a t-shirt. I also take off their shoes because I know that will be an area of contention later.
3. If your child is showing signs of crankiness, it’s time to plan a pit stop
Hopefully, you can tell when your child is getting frustrated. If you notice signs of crankiness or frustration, it’s time for you to stop and regroup before making your next stretch. Toddlers do not process concept of time as we do. This makes it difficult for them to understand that you only have an hour left. For them, an hour feels like a lifetime (unless they really enjoy the activity).
4. Be purposeful in your stopping points
If you stop at a rest stop, park far away from the entrance to give your child the chance stretch his/her legs before returning to the car. I love stopping at a Chick-Fil-A or other restaurants with a kloi90 for children. We stopped for an hour and gave Maddy lots of time to eat, play, and get tired before our next stretch.
5. Bring an assortment of snacks
If your child is anything like ours, he/she will want every snack they’ve ever tasted during your drive. I pack sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, and some treats that they may not get on a regular. I all about keeping the peace on a long drive and trust me snacks = peace.
6. Potty training?
If your child is potty trained or mostly potty trained you will need to make more frequent stops. You may also want to think about bring a small potty along for the ride in case your toddler has to “go” before the next rest area.
7. Keep children entertained
We love to sing interactive songs and play I spy to keep our toddlers’ spirits up on a long road trip. I also suggest loading a phone or tablet up with videos and games to mix it up a little bit.
8. Get your child excited about the destination
I told my little one we were going to the beach in case she didn’t understand where Miami was in relation to us. If you are going to see a relative that you are close with, tell them how excited you are to be going to see __________. Your excitement will be infectious!
9. Give your toddler something new to play with
I took a trip to the Dollar Spot in Target and got my girls a bunch of little toys to play with on the drive. They were so excited for their new toys. Just make sure you space them out a little before you give the next. You don’t want to lose all of your leverage!
10. Grace, Grace, GRACE
We were on the struggle bus a couple of times during our 9+ hour drives. It’s hard to keep all of their toddler energy bottled inside for hours and hours! Make reasonable stops and take your time. When the little ones start getting irritable, try to be patient and understanding. When all else fails, crying usually leads to a nap (if you’re lucky).
What funny stories can you share after road tripping with a toddler? I would love to hear them in the comments below!
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