Traveling with a toddler or small child is no easy feat. To help, we’ve put together five tips to get you on your way to making everything go a little more smoothly.
Know your child.
The first time we attempted a road trip with our small toddler, several people suggested that we travel at night. We were instructed to leave late in the evening and assured that—magically—our little angel would sleep the whole way. Genius, right? Wrong. At least for us. Our daughter is a wonderful sleeper—don’t get me wrong—but she likes to be comfortably curled on her belly over a pillow when she goes to sleep at night. The carseat would not cut it for her, and we ended up on the most painful 6 hour roadtrip of our lives with her screaming the entire way. We figured out rather quickly that traveling during the day is the best for her. Plan your traveling time around what works best for your child. Unfortunately, this may take some trial and error, but once you figure out what works for you and yours, stick with it.
Pre-plan stops throughout your trip.
It is amazing how refreshing a 30-45 minute pit stop can be for your child—and also for yourself. Look ahead at your route, and try to find areas that are good places to stop ahead of time so that way you aren’t desperately trying to find an exit when your child reaches a def con five level tantrum. We’ve taken several 10+ hour trips with our daughter, and we usually try to shoot for stopping every 2 to 3 hours in order to let her get out and stretch her legs. Sure, this lengthens the time of the overall trip, but it is well worth it to keep everyone in your car happy.
Speaking of stops, go kid-friendly.
Delving a little further into planning your stops, it is so important to stop at a place where your child can actually run around. Most people stop for food at a sit down restaurant, but for a kid, you’re just making them sit still even longer. We look for Targets, grocery stores (like Walmart), parks/playgrounds, or even shopping malls. Wherever you plan to stop, make sure it’s someplace that your little one can burn off some energy.
Bring car-friendly toys.
This specifically means bring toys without tons of pieces that go with them. I’m not sure about your toddler, but mine loves to throw things on the floor of the backseat and then yell like a banshee about it. Talk about a terrible combination for a roadtrip. We recently stumbled upon Magnadoodles, and it was a saving grace on our most recent trip. The pen for drawing is attached to the main part, it’s mess-free, and it offers hours of entertainment if your child likes to scribble and draw. Whatever you decide to pack, make sure it is something without a lot of lose-able (or throw-able!) pieces.
Pre-load your iPad.
This may sound like no brainer, but its something we didn’t think about until too late on one of our trips. Before you leave, take the time to put any movies, television shows, or videos that your child likes onto your iPad (or whatever device)—especially if you’re like us and don’t have yours on a data plan. That way, you aren’t searching for a place with free wifi while your toddler cries because she wants to watch Frozen. Again.
Hopefully, with some of these tips—and a little luck—you can successfully manage and—dare I say it—even enjoy your traveling with a toddler or small child!