Travels with Toddlers

Last week, I went on my first solo road trip with my two children. We have a pretty busy work schedule planned for this summer, and I thought it would be a good idea to go visit family and change my routine for the week before all that started!

One of my goals with my kids is to limit their screen time as much as possible (I’ll write more about that later), so I was not eager to charge up an iPad with videos and let them veg out for 7 hours while we drove to visit family.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who wants to have a fun road trip with their family this summer, and may feel mildly ambivalent about having them watch 20 hours of television to make that happen.


Note: this post includes affiliate links to amazon. I receive a small commission if you decide to purchase something I’ve linked to or an item from my amazon store, which includes more affordable items that might help you have a a screen free (or screen less) summer road trip, too!

Here’s my “travels with toddlers” survival plan:

      1. Pack healthy snacks
        The last thing I wanted on my road trip was for my kids to be on a sugar high. I packed apple slices, hard boiled eggs, grapes, carrot slices and water. That was enough for my 7 hour trip. We still had to stop for lunch (could’ve packed a sandwich, but it was nice to get out and stretch our legs. See below).
      2. Books on CD
        Before we left, we bought a Moana read-along book with CD. I wouldn’t let my four-year-old listen or read the book until we got on the road. It was a special treat and kept her entertained for 30 minutes at a time. And she liked it so much, we listened to it several times.

        Be warned: After about the 3rd time through, my 20 month old was not impressed by the book on tape, so we saved it for her nap time.
      3. Make an Awesome playlist for your kids!
        Before we left, I helped my four year old create a playlist of her favorite songs from Frozen, Moana, Trolls, Zootopia and more. I put a few songs I liked (and vetoed a couple of her picks that make my skin crawl), and both kids LOVED listening to “their” music.
      4. Travel while they sleep, but not when you’re too tired.
        When my first daughter was born, we tried leaving for a few road trips right at bedtime, so we could drive while the baby slept. I don’t like that strategy anymore because unlike most people, I don’t think I’m an above average driver. I’d rather travel when I’m rested because…I want to arrive at my destination in one piece, and no one is a good enough driver to drive when they’re exhausted (and I’m traveling with precious cargo!).
        The solution? Now, I start early. I started my trip at 6:00 am. My girls usually sleep pretty late, and the sound of the road has always been pretty soothing to them. They slept for the first 3 hours of the drive, which meant that I only had to keep them entertained in the car for 4 hours. Win!

        Also, in the spirit of tip #3, I made myself a playlist of my favorite podcasts, so I could listen to something I enjoyed while we drove!

      5. Make their toys easy to access
        I packed a bin of toys (like the one below) that they could reach between their car seats and put groups of toys in a ziplock bag so they could reach certain toys rather than have too many choices.

    1.      6. What did I put in the ziplock bags?

Crayola Classic Color Pack Crayons 16 ea
Melissa & Doug Jumbo Triangular Crayons
Disney Moana Spirit of Adventure (Color It)
Melissa & Doug Jumbo Coloring Pad – Animals
Lamaze Flip Flap Dragon

and a few other things I’ve shared in my amazon store!

     7. Invest in some comforts to make your trip easier. 

I generally hate buying anything, but I found that a couple of organizers made our trip a lot more fun! These car organizers are great for helping your kids play and access their things independently while you drive.

     8. Use GPS.

The last thing you need is to be trying to read a map while you’re rocking out to “Let it Go.” My GPS took me around a huge interstate traffic jam and the audio cues helped me keep my eyes on the road!

9. Allow Plenty of Time.

My children do not know the meaning of the word haste. I had a very flexible schedule for my trip. I rely on my husband for a lot of co-parenting and moral support, so I kept my expectations low and my plans simple. I visited family; I had a lot of free time built in; we stopped at parks whenever we could, and my husband came up for the end of our trip, so we could all drive home together (just in case things weren’t going well). I felt like I was able to enjoy my trip more when I wasn’t trying to execute a lot of plans.

Are you planning a road trip this summer? What are your tips for surviving a road trip with your kids? I’d love to hear more ideas!!

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