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Best Tips for Car Trips with Toddlers, Kids & Babies

June 7, 2018

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Best Tips for Car Trips with Toddlers, Kids & Babies

Your family’s summer travel survival guide for car trips with toddlers. These simple tips will help to make family road trips with kids, babies & toddlers a success!

road trip kids

Our first road trip with kids was when our oldest was 18 months old. The trip was definitely a long one but we were really excited to head to the beach with our toddler. Since that time, we’ve gone on a road trip with our kids each year. Every year we learn new tips and tricks for traveling with kids.

With a little bit of planning you can have a stress-less trip. It may not be a “vacation” but it is fun to get away with your family!

These are my Top Tips for Car Trips with Toddlers, Kids and Babies!

things to bring on a road trip with kids

What to do on a long car ride with kids

Depending on how long your car ride is, you will want to be ready with the two main road trip essentials; activities and snacks.

When we first started traveling with kids, we still wanted to maintain an order and schedule. When reality set in and our 18 month old started screaming for milk 20 minutes into our 12 hour drive, we realized that sometimes it’s OK to relax the rules. That’s all part of vacation, right?

car trips with toddlers
actual photo of the post-milk meltdown

I’m not saying to totally abandon everything, but with a ride that long, you’ll want to have different ideas for what to do on a long car ride.

Travel Box of Activities

The travel box of activities has saved us. Literally.

The travel box of activities must be two things: a novelty to your kids and filled with age-appropriate activities.

For a toddler, that might mean a magna-doodle, dry erase markets, number cards, or new books.

For a school-aged child, you could do markers, crayons, new coloring books, etc. The Target dollar spot is always a great place for finding road trip essentials like stickers, books, markers, etc.

One of the easiest things we throw into our travel box are any toys we get from Chick Fil A or kids meals. A lot of times they are coloring books or little toys that seem to be really fun during a long car ride.

Travel Box Rule #1 – Only open the travel box when you are on a trip! We got road trip bingo this year which I know my girls will love! They keep asking to play with it now and I keep saying no. The travel box only works when there is a novelty about it!

So, just grab a plastic box and fill it with some age-appropriate activities!

These are just a few of my girls favorite travel toys! These toys are great because they are generally mess-free and keep them entertained for hours!

My girls top picks for activities for travel with kids!

Library Destination Kit

Before you head out for your family road trip, check your local library. Our library will put together trip boxes that are full of books, audio CDs, and DVDs that are all about the place we are traveling too. It’s also nice to have the box for downtime in your hotel or condo.

Media Must-haves

I know that there are some families that will not want to break out media or iPads during trips. That is totally OK if that works for you! For us, we like to plan some time for movies in the car.

We don’t have a DVD player in our car but we do have a travel DVD player. We usually stock up on some favorite movies and cartoon DVDs from the library. Since we don’t have the DVD player all the time, the novelty of being able to watch TV in the car helps to make the time pass.

Plan for play stopsroad trip with toddler

Play stops were one of the best things we ever started doing with our kids on road trips. Traveling with a toddler can be stressful when they have a bunch of energy to get out! When you are looking for your stops during your road trip, use Google Maps or Waze (my favorite app!) to find a local park or rest stop with a playground or place where toddlers or kids can play and get some energy out.

On our usual drive to Hilton Head we stop around five hours in for lunch. The first year we went we noticed a park right before the restaurant. We decided to make a post-lunch park trip an annual thing. It does take a bit more time during the stop but it helps when everyone falls asleep and you can go even further on your next leg of the trip!

Traveling to Disney with kids? Check out these resources!

Disney Dining Plan Tips
Top Disney Splurges – what’s worth the Money!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – worth the cost?

Best Road Trip Snacks

We always travel with a cooler when we are on a road trip with kids. Although we like to limit liquids (and subsequent potty stops) we still know it’s a lot cheaper to bring your own snacks and drinks rather than stop at gas stations!

Travel snacks like granola bars, raisins, and pretzels are huge hits for our family. Parents Magazine listed their 10 Best Travel Snacks for Kids which is a great resource for finding healthy road trip snacks for toddlers and kids.

Potty Training while on a Road Trip with Toddlers

Potty training while road tripping is not for the faint at heart. One year we were in the thick of potty training during our 12+ hour ride to Hilton Head. Here are my Top tips for potty training while on a road trip with toddlers

Pack your travel potty

When they gotta go, they gotta go. When my youngest was potty training, we brought our travel potty and if she said she had to go, we stopped. It made for a long trip, but we were determined.

Plan bathroom trips around stops

Given that our kids almost always have to go potty within a half hour of eating, we figured that we should plan a bathroom stop shortly after lunch. It sounds drawn out but by having lunch (or dinner) and then following up with a potty stop in a half hour, we were able to extend our next leg of the trip.

A lot of times our kids fell asleep after that second potty stop and we were smooth sailing for a few hours.

Our Potty Training essentials for Traveling!

Expect a longer trip

If you’re a parent you know that basically anywhere you try to go with your kids takes more time. When you pack your patience and realize it’s not going to be lickety-split, it helps to level set everyone’s expectations.

Pull-ups are a good option while on a road trip with a toddler

If you’ve made the transition to underwear, consider a pull-up while in the car on a long-trip. This helped us to have a little reassurance that we wouldn’t have a wet carseat if there did happen to be any accidents while traveling.

Packing List for Travel with Kids

Overpacking is so easy to do when you are creating a packing list for family travel. This packing list for kids will simplify what you pack for your kid and prevent overpacking!

Get your Simple Kids Packing List!

printable packing list for kids

You May Also Like

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Summer Activities for Kids in Pittsburgh

What are your summer travel plans? Are you going on a family road trip with kids? Tell me in the comments!

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  • Melissa C.

    September 20, 2018 at 9:01 pm

    I love the box idea! We just finished our second cross-country road trip and the car was a DISASTER by the end haha. I would have loved to have something compact and organized like that.


      September 21, 2018 at 9:57 am

      the box has helped SO much! Now sometimes it does get messy but we try to clean it out at least once during the trip. It’s been a sanity lifesaver!!

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