12 Essential Tips For Long Road Trips With Toddlers

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Long road trips can be a fun adventure for families to embark on, but they can also be a daunting task when toddlers are involved.

Keeping children entertained, comfortable, and well-fed on a long journey (and keeping yourself sain in the process) is a challenge, but with some preparation, we believe that a long journey can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

1. Prepare The Car In-Advance

The key to surviving a long car ride with toddlers is preparation. Before you hit the road, it’s important to ensure that your car is in good condition.

This means checking the oil levels, tire pressure, and brakes, and making sure all fluids are topped up. By taking care of these basics beforehand, you are hopefully minimising the likelihood of unexpected car trouble during the journey.

Once the car maintenance is taken care of it’s time to prepare the car with the items you’re going to need for your journey. Toddler travel essentials include;

  • Blankets
  • Baby wipes
  • Tissues
  • First aid kit
  • Diapers (if required)
  • Changing mat (if required)
  • Travel-friendly toys
  • Travel-friendly snacks

If you plan on using an electronic device such as an audio reader, a tablet or a portable DVD player then it’s a good idea to download those kid-friendly movies, audiobooks, video games or podcasts in advance.

2. Pack Your Car Strategically

Packing your car strategically can make a big difference during long road trips with toddlers. By organising your belongings and packing them in a way that makes them easily accessible, you can reduce stress and make the journey more enjoyable.

When packing your car for a long road trip with toddlers, it’s essential to pack strategically. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Pack heavy items first: Place heavy items like suitcases and coolers at the bottom of the trunk, closest to the rear axle. This will help distribute the weight evenly and improve your car’s handling.
  • Keep essentials within reach: Pack essentials like healthy snacks, drinks, and entertainment items within reach. This way, you won’t have to pull over every time your child needs something.
  • Use packing cubes: Packing cubes are a great way to organize your belongings and make them easily accessible. Use them to separate clothing, toys, and other items.
  • Pack a separate bag for overnight stays: If you’re planning to stay overnight during your journey, pack a separate bag with everything you’ll need for the night. This way, you won’t have to unpack your entire car when you arrive at your destination.
  • Pack a first aid kit: Be sure to pack a first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. You never know when you’ll need it.

3. Expect To Make Multiple Stops

Let’s face it, toddlers have short attention spans, which can make a long car trip a challenge. To avoid meltdowns and keep them entertained, you’ll need to make regular stops along the way.

You can choose to either plan those stops in advance checking your route and a map prior to your trip. Alternatively, you can ‘wing it’ and stop as and when you need to based on how your journey is going.

The exact method you choose is likely going to depend on where you’re travelling from / to. If you’re travelling along major roads then you’ll find plenty of stops with a wide range of facilities. However, if you’re going off the beaten path then service stations may be few and far between.

Taking regular rest stops provides your little ones with an opportunity to stretch their legs, burn off some energy, get some fresh air, and use the toilet. All of which, not only keeps younger kids happy but also helps to prevent motion sickness.

Of course, kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from regular breaks as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends that drivers take breaks every two hours during a long car journey to reduce the risk of driver fatigue.

4. Separate The Kids

Travelling with more than one child on a family road trip can be challenging, especially during long journeys. To prevent bickering and disagreements during the trip, it’s best to separate them in the car wherever possible.

One of the best ways to do this is to use a seat divider or a large pillow to create a physical barrier between them. Alternatively, you could seat one child in the back and one in the front (as long as they are the appropriate age for a front seat).

5. Pack Snacks

When taking a long any journey with a little one it’s important to bring along some toddler-friendly snacks to keep them well-fed, happy and entertained throughout the journey.

While you can pick road trip snacks up from service stations along the way, you’ll typically find cheaper and more nutritious options available from grocery stores which you can prepare in advance.

When thinking about what snacks to bring for your toddler to eat during your long road trip it’s important to consider a couple of things;

  • Create single-portion servings in advance
  • Consider ‘crummage’
  • Pack a balanced range of snacks
  • This isn’t the time to try new snacks
  • Consider durability & spoilage
  • Avoid snacks with too much sugar
  • Pack extra snacks in case of an emergency

You’ll also want to be sure to pack a water bottle to keep your child hydrated throughout the journey. However, if your little one is no longer in diapers then you’ll want to monitor how much they drink to also prevent you from having to stop for the bathroom every 20 minutes.

6. Bring A Spare Towel & Carrier Bag

Long road trips can be messy affairs, especially when travelling with young children. Once again it’s better to be prepared for spills and accidents than scrambling to fix the issue(s) with limited supplies once on the road.

Two of the most essential items we’d recommend packing to prepare for accidents like this are spare towels and carrier bags. Towels can be used to wipe up spills quickly and easily, while the carrier bag can be used to collect rubbish throughout your trip.

When choosing a carrier bag, look for one that is sturdy and leak-proof. A reusable shopping bag or a plastic garbage bag works well. Be sure to pack a few extra bags, just in case.

7. Drive At Night

Depending on the sights, popularity and distance of your road trip you may want to opt for driving at night instead of throughout the day with the hope that the little ones will sleep through the majority of the journey.

While driving at night reduces the traffic on the road, and may mean fewer pit stops and less nagging as to whether we are there yet, it does come with an increased risk for the driver.

Driving at night can be challenging, particularly if you’re not used to it. You’ll want to make sure that the driver(s) are well-rested and alert before setting off. You’ll also still need to take a rest stop or two throughout your journey, to avoid fatigue and stay sharp.

If night driving isn’t for you, consider driving during nap time instead. This way, your little ones can sleep during the journey, and you can avoid the potential hazards of night driving.

8. Bring Travel-Friendly Toys

Boredom is no doubt going to set in with short attention spans on a long drive. One of the best things you can do to prevent this from happening is to have a wide variety of travel-friendly toys young kids are likely to enjoy on hand to give to them throughout the journey.

Some of our best travel toys include;

  • Travel trays
  • Sticker books
  • Colouring pages
  • New books
  • Water painting
  • Popsicle stick puzzles
  • Busy wallet / busy book

While you can buy travel-friendly kid toys from the gas station or service station they often have a limited range and are more expensive when compared to places such as the dollar store or Target.

9. Download Kid Friendly Movies, Audiobooks & Podcasts In Advance

Depending on the electronics you have available throughout your journey you may wish to download kid-friendly movies, audiobooks and podcasts in advance.

Your local library should have subscription services to various different platforms that you’re able to use for free as a member. Alternatively, you can use services such as Audible, Netflix and Amazon.

Some of our favourite family-friendly audio books include;

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl

10. Play Family-Friendly Games

Playing family-friendly games is a fun way to keep the whole family entertained during a long road trip. Some of our favourite family-friendly travel games include;

The License Plate Game

The goal of this simple game is to spot as many different state license plates as possible. You can keep score by writing down the name of the state or by using a map. This game can be challenging, especially if you’re driving through remote areas, so it’s perfect for older kids.

Mad Libs

Mad Libs is a game where you fill in the blanks of a story with different types of words, such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The result is a hilarious and often nonsensical story that is sure to have everyone laughing. You can buy Mad Libs books at most bookstores or print them off the internet.

I Spy

“I Spy” is a guessing game that is typically played between two or more players. The game starts with one player selecting an object within sight and then saying the words “I spy with my little eye something that begins with” followed by the first letter of the object’s name.

The other players then take turns asking questions, trying to guess what object the first player has chosen. The questions usually involve asking for more specific details about the object’s colour, shape, size, location, or other distinctive features.

The first player can only respond with “yes” or “no” to these questions, without revealing any other information that could make the object too easy to guess.

20 Questions

“20 Questions” is a classic guessing game that can be played by two or more players. The game starts with one player thinking of an object, person, or thing and the other player(s) asking up to 20 yes-or-no questions to try and guess what it is.

The questions can cover a broad range of topics, such as the object’s physical characteristics, location, function, and category. The person who is guessing can only answer “yes” or “no” to each question.

The players can also agree on certain restrictions or rules, such as limiting the questions to a specific category or setting a time limit for each round.

If the guessing player is able to correctly guess the object before they have asked 20 questions, they win the round. Otherwise, the person who thought of the object wins the round and gets to choose a new object for the next round.

The game can be modified to make it easier or more difficult, such as by increasing or decreasing the number of questions allowed, or by limiting the category of objects that can be chosen. It is a fun and challenging game that can be played by people of all ages.

11. Don’t Be Afraid Of Screentime

Screen time can be a controversial topic when it comes to parenting, but during long road trips with toddlers, it can be a lifesaver.

While it’s important to limit overall screen time for children, allowing a little screen time during a long trip can help keep everyone sane and happy.

When choosing screen time options for your child, it’s important to choose games and apps that are educational and age-appropriate. Look for games that encourage problem-solving, memory skills, and fine motor skills.

It’s also important to set limits and boundaries around screen time. Let your child know how much screen time they are allowed and when they will need to take a break. Encourage breaks for physical activity, reading, or other non-screen activities.

12. Don’t Panic Over Tears & Tantrums

Long road trips with toddlers can be challenging, and it’s normal for children to get fussy or throw a tantrum. However, it’s essential not to panic and to stay calm, especially if you’re the one driving.

When your child starts to cry or throw a tantrum, remember that your child is probably tired, bored, or feeling the effects of car sickness. Take a deep breath, and try to distract your child with a toy, snack, or game.

If your child continues to cry or throw a tantrum, pull over and take a break. Get out of the car, stretch your legs, and get some fresh air.


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