Road Trip Survival Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Road Trip Survival Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

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So, you want to hit the road with your kids, but the thought of being stuck in a car for hours on end can seem a bit daunting, to say the least. Other than throwing a bunch of cookies, candies, and screens at them, what can you do to make the trip more bearable or even, dare I say it, fun?

Taking babies, toddlers, and preschoolers ANYWHERE is a lot of work, but taking them on #vacation is even a bigger task, one that can make us want to crawl back under the covers and forget the whole idea. But, traveling with toddlers is lots of fun and certainly worth doing! Click through to find out how to make #travelingwithtoddlers more fun and actually feel easy! #roadtrip #familyvacation #summertravel #traveltips

Tip 1: Be organized in how you pack things.

For example, activities for the car might be different than the ones you use when you reach your destination. This keeps things interesting for your kids and ensures they have something to do when you arrive and need to get settled in.

Some of our favorite activities for the car are:

    • Melissa and Doug Water Wow
    • Links- paper clips work well for making chains. If you get the colored ones, they can be used for patterns as well.
    • Anything magnetic. There are several magnetic travel games that can be fun for kids. Or, you can get creative and make your own by gluing magnets on stuff.  
    • Felt story boards. Grab a piece of felt and cute little felt shapes and cutouts so that your little one can tell stories and make pictures.
    • Books or magazines… reading is a great way to pass the time! Ebooks save space and the “screen time” makes for a great treat. Check out Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans and take both books for you and your little ones along on your trip!
    • Wikki Stix are loads of fun and super versatile. Oh, and they’re small so they’re space savers too.
    • Crayola Color Wonder (markers only work on their special paper. Yay!) But, losing the caps in a sea of kid stuff and pillows until you stop isn’t so fun. So, if you’re worried about that, bringing along a few extra caps from old markers might help. I like using Color Wonder in the car because they’re less messy than traditional markers and I don’t need to worry about lost crayons melting in the hot California sun. Colored pencils would be another good option for coloring. 

Tip 2: Plan Ahead

Consider what might happen and what you might need, but scale back a bit. Odds are, all the emergencies you plan for won’t happen, which means you won’t need all that just in case stuff. So, what can you take out? If you’re an over-packer (like me), think of what’s easiest to pick up if you need it when you reach your destination. 

Tip 3: Consider where you’re staying and what you need there

Staying at an AirBnB or something similar? Make sure you read through what’s provided and what’s not. For example, do you need to bring your own towels? Will you be able to do laundry (and do you want to!?)? If you have laundry services, you’ll be able to pack fewer clothes. But, it also means allocating time for doing the laundry and taking laundry detergent. 

What will you do in the evenings? Kids often go to bed early, so what will you do after it’s lights out for them? We usually bring along our Amazon Firestick so that we have something to watch. It’s worked great in Mexico, Seattle, Southern California… anywhere we’ve had WiFi.

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What will the little ones do while you’re in your hotel room (I LOVE the rewards at Expedia! Book early & save 25% or more), AirBnB, or wherever you’re staying? What will you need to keep them safe (and everything there safe!) and occupied?

Some of our favorite activities for once we arrive at our destination: 

  • Play dough
  • Small cars and other vehicles
  • Pom poms, chenille stems, straws and other items from our Busy Bags
  • Small puzzles (the Dollar Store is great for these!)
  • Tracing activities and other “workbooks” (yes, my kids think these are fun since we don’t use them much)

Usually, there’s enough new stuff to do and look at that we don’t need much. I’ve learned to take about half of what I think we’ll use.

Tip 4: When to hit the road

If your littles sleep in the car, consider traveling around nap time so that it shortens the trip for the kids. If they’re going to sleep anyway… might as well make the most of it, right?

Transitioning them from their beds to their car seats in the wee hours of the morning is another option for “shortening” a long drive by utilizing the time your kids are sleeping. So, if you think your little one would fall back asleep in the car, have it warmed up if necessary, blankets ready to tuck them in after buckling them in, and put them in the car RIGHT before it’s time to hit the road.

Tip 5: The logistics of driving for hours on end…

  • Plan your gas and food stops so that the kids can get out and move a bit. Finding parks or fast food restaurants with play areas helps a lot with this. But, even getting out and going for a short walk helps a bit.
  • Have diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes readily accessible. That way, you’re not digging them out and rearranging all your stuff just because you need to change a poopy diaper. I usually put this stuff on the floor by the kids’ feet because the trunk is usually too full to use it to change a diaper anyway. 
  • Consider little things that can make the drive easier, like adjusting the fade and balance of the vehicle’s speakers. 

Tip 6: Enjoy the scenery and the drive!

Yes, I’m serious. Life’s what we make of it, right? If we start off dreading the drive and with a negative attitude, our kids will pick up on that and they’ll start to hate long drives too. So, make it fun. Approach it with an open-mind and a positive attitude. You might just surprise yourself with how quickly the time passes. 🙂

  • Talk about what’s different than what you normally see.
  • Play a game of “I spy,” or count the number of things you see (how many trucks, billboards, etc.).
  • Listen to new music. Take turns choosing stations or genres.
  • Play “20 questions” or take turns playing “what if” and adding onto your own silly made up story.


So, there you have it! Some of my best tips for taking road trips with toddlers. Some trips I’ve done with another adult and others I’ve done solo.


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Taking babies, toddlers, and preschoolers ANYWHERE is a lot of work, but taking them on #vacation is even a bigger task, one that can make us want to crawl back under the covers and forget the whole idea. But, traveling with toddlers is lots of fun and certainly worth doing! Click through to find out how to make #travelingwithtoddlers more fun and actually feel easy! #roadtrip #familyvacation #summertravel #traveltips

What are your tips for traveling with toddlers?