6 Ways to Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler
I recently took a road trip with Miah and it was only about a three-hour drive — practically nothing compared to the plane ride we took in January to Seattle.
There is something about car rides though that can put airplane trips to shame when it comes to the possibility of a fussy toddler. With the plane, it was all very new and exciting — plus she was able to walk around a little when allowed and mingle with other travelers. With the car, Miah knows that she will probably go to sleep, which she hates and she will be restricted. Needless to say I was a bit worried about our trip and also, we were camping overnight. She never spent time in a tent!
Though it may be obvious what parents should do when taking a road trip, I learned a few things along the way that weren’t super obvious to me until they came up and I’m sharing them with you! Plus my list may be controversial but we survived!
1.) Pack more than you probably need.
This may be met with some criticism but I tell you what, I’m so glad I did this. I wasn’t without A THING for her — granted I missed a few things for myself! I had extras times three of everything — snacks, wipes, diapers, clothes, towels, toys. I mean, don’t go MAJORLY overboard if you don’t have the room but if you can spare it, have your stuff. Note: This is probably more applicable for kiddos in the toddler crowd.
2.) Screen time is GOING to happen.
Miah is currently obsessed with Megamind — a cute movie that came out over a decade ago that even adults can enjoy and I’ve probably seen it 20 times now. Luckily, or unluckily, because HBO GO stopped having it in their catalog (they may have noticed a ton of repeat plays from us or something haha), I ended up buying it on Amazon Prime. I’m sooooo glad I did that because when she started to get fussy on the trip back home, she was mesmerized that she could watch her favorite movie on her iPad. We hadn’t done that yet up until this point and it was a lifesaver. Of course Miah went to sleep most of the way to our destination — also a blessing. Another note: This can help lull sleep but definitely don’t let your kiddo stare at it for longer than the duration of a movie without taking breaks between. This brings me to no. 3.
3.) Crank up the music and be silly.
Distract, distract, distract. Screen time is only ONE tactic for this and shouldn’t be the main crutch because….reasons! My kid loves when I pretend to be Beyonce. Nuff said. Whatever makes her laugh and stay happy. Bzzz. Bzz.
4.) Become the Santa Claus of snacks.
Ok, ok. I know we don’t WANT to raise snack-happy kids, but you can always steer them into the not-so horrible snacks. That means not a ton of sugar which is counterproductive to a smoother ride, anyway. I loaded up her carseat drink holder with Cheez-its and a lower-sugar cereal. The other holder hosted her water bottle. No juice. Before we took off, I handed her one of those Beech-Nut oat bars. Look, I can want gluten-free all day but the truth is a fed toddler is a happy toddler and while several of her snacks aren’t always gluten-filled, I do have to make gluten-y choices that aren’t super terrible AND aren’t things she eats daily. That’s the thing. You have to cut yourself some slack. It’s going to be a long ride and your kid is going to challenge you.
5.) Have a game plan for restroom breaks but also be flexible — things happen!
So this is the tip that came to me and wasn’t something I thought of, exactly. Obviously I knew our trip would possibly be longer with making stops we both needed — her more than me. As a matter of fact, she said poop about 15 minutes into the ride so I pulled over. No poop, but I took the opportunity to get her snacks secured and ready to go. I just figured that after about an hour I’d probably have to change her and use the bathroom myself. Well, when she fell asleep about 15 minutes after that stop, I plowed ahead. I wasn’t sure how long she would sleep but I figured I could get almost two hours in and that’s what happened. I planned to stop as soon as I saw her stir. Problem is I had a lot of water on this trip but I was happy that I waited until we reached 30 minutes to our destination to stop for the restroom. Know why? She started waking up just about then — feeling the car slow at stop lights, I’m sure. When I got her out, she was bright-eyed, happy, and I let her walk around the store a bit before we headed back on the road. Made the last 30 minutes a dream! Plus, if you can hold it, it’s worth it. Yes, I’m promoting self-sacrifice here for the greater good of their temperament!
6.) Finally, make unfamiliar sleep environments comfortable.
Like I mentioned before, we were in a tent. It was her first time and she freaked out a little. But I had all her creature comforts — her doll (an elf on the shelf I had way before she came along…that’s another story for another time), I explained what we were in and that it was OK (only kinda worked but didn’t hurt), and I let her sleep in just her pajama pants so she would feel free and cool. Something I never do. And yes, we had the iPad. She did puzzles until she grew sleepy. You are going to do things you normally wouldn’t because let’s be real, you are DOING things you normally wouldn’t because you are traveling. Remember, this is about survival, ya’ll!