Six Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

After taking several road trips with two toddlers, we've learned some helpful tricks.

In July, my family took a road trip to Washington State. I talk a bit about it in my post “Sustainability Isn’t Just About Going Green”:

“On Wednesday, my family began a two and a half day road trip to Washington State. Since we have an arrival time and final destination in mind, it was important for us to make sure that we made the trip sustainable for all of us. So, we planned stops each day. We packed food for the road, and picnicked for breakfast and lunch. We found playgrounds and stretches of grass that the kids could run around in. Each night we found a free or low-cost camp ground to pitch our tent. Yes, the drive is long and it’s tiresome sitting in a car all day, but it’s gone amazingly well.”

Over the course of the past two years, our family has road tripped across the country three times (twice to Vermont and once to Washington) so that I could attend a seven day residency for my graduate school program. We went together because I breast fed my kids and it was difficult to be away from them for long periods of time. We didn’t fly because it’s actually more expensive to fly as a family, and we liked the idea of a long road trip. Ideally, our road trips wouldn’t have a time constraint, but hopefully one day that will be possible for us.

Through these trips we’ve become really good at traveling as a family, and each time we do gets just a little bit better. So, with this experience in mind. Here are my 6 tips for traveling with toddlers:

1. Pre-Make Your Meals and Snacks

On such a long road trip eating out could cost quite a bit. To make the trip cost effective, we packed our own food. Plus, it’s much healthier. Having a  snack on hand anytime one of your children gets fussy is so nice.

2. Pack a Travel Bag

This bag should include extra clothes for you and your kids as well as diapers and/or pull-ups. Keep it up front or somewhere easily accessible because you don’t want to have to dig in the trunk for clothes if something gets spilled on during the drive. It’s also especially handy for your nights on the road.

3. Prepare a Playlist

Your playlist should include a music that you enjoy, as well as music for the kids. You don’t want to be scanning radio stations, as that’s over stimulating in my opinion. Also, audiobooks and podcasts are a must. Some of our favorite podcasts include: This American Life, Invisibilia, and Radiolab. (These aren’t always kid appropriate, but you can listen while they nap.)

4. Plan Your Stops

Sometimes it’s impossible to plan for potty breaks, especially with a toddler, and sometimes you miss your exit or are on a road for miles with no stop in sight. So, we put a pull-up on our oldest this last road trip to avoid an accident and a wet car seat, but we plan our stops every two or three hours, which usually worked well.

5. Take a Lunch Break

Don’t eat your lunch in the car, especially if you’re going to be in the car for 12 hours that day. We planned an hour lunch break somewhere we could find a playground or a park for the kids to run. It was amazing how much smoother things went when we gave ourselves a long break from the road in the middle of the day.

6. Have a Destination in Mind

Okay, so this may be obvious, but when you’re on a multi-day road trip, having preplanned destinations in mind helps with the mental load. Our trip to Washington took us two and half days, so we camped about a 12-hour drive away each day.

Those are just a few of tips that have helped us on the road. How does your family prepare for road trips? We’d love to hear from you!

Categories: It’s Simple