My family travels—-a lot! With family all over the country, it’s unavoidable. We mostly travel by car, but sometimes we fly. Recently, my toddler and I took a road trip of more than 1,100 miles alone, with an additional 300 miles having my tween along. Guess what? He didn’t cry—not even once!
Here are the secrets to my traveling success:
1. Snacks and drinks: I stocked up my passenger seat with all kinds of snacks and a few cups of water. I had endless supplies of cut-up fruit, crackers and cheese. Having multiple cups is key! That way, if one cup is empty or gets tossed, never fear! A new cup appears!
2. Stop! Stopping often and at the earliest sign of an antsy child will prevent many meltdowns. Try to find stops that have space for your toddler to run and play—maybe even a playground! A rule of thumb I go by when traveling by car with my son is to stop every one and a half to two hours (unless he’s sleeping), whether he appears to need it or not. It’s much easier to take 10 minutes every 2 hours for an energy break then to have to try to console and calm down a toddler who has sat too long. And then you have to coax them back in the car!
3. Books and toys: Books keep my son entertained the most in the car. I always bring some favorites and a few he hasn’t be using as much lately. Then it’s like a brand-new book! I bring some toys, too. Quiet, tolerable, toys. You don’t want to bring a toy that plays obnoxious music on a long car ride because you know that’s what your child will play with the most!
4. Music: Similar to tolerable toys, you want to make sure you have music that everyone in the car will enjoy. We like to listen to Toddler Tunes on Pandora because I can easily skip songs I can’t stand. Also on Pandora, we like the Lullaby station for times when I’m ready for my son to take a nap. There’s also music we both enjoy such as OK Go and Radiohead. It’s nice to hear some songs that aren’t made for children the entire car ride.
5. I Spy: Even toddlers can play versions of I Spy! I change it up a little bit, making it really simple. Christopher loves to find things out the window, so I give him something specific to look for.
Here are some examples of what I suggest he finds:
6. Shhhh-Toddler’s Sleeping: I plan my driving time so that at least a good chunk of the drive falls during my toddler’s afternoon nap or bedtime. The two times I’ve found best to leave are 9am and 5pm. Leaving at 9am, we can drive for about two hours, stop for lunch and a run break, and he will fall asleep around noon for his afternoon nap. If we eat dinner, then leave at 5, we can stop just before 7 for a quick snack and run break, allowing him to fall asleep for the night when we get back on the road.
Tailor some of these ideas to your toddler’s personality and enjoy the sweet success of a long, peaceful road trip!