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How To Survive A Road-Trip With A Toddler

Written by Rebekah Cook

Photography by Photographed by James Kicinski-McCoy

For most people, family holiday gatherings involve travel. And for some, that calls for long road trips in the car—with a toddler. Dun, dun, dun! We are the first to admit that toddler-temperments can be trying for parents, especially so when trapped in a moving vehicle for hours on end. To help a momma out, we put together some tips to survive—fairly unscathed—your next trip over the river and through the woods.

Allow For Extra Time.
If it used to take you 4 hours from point A to point B, it will take you a lot longer now that you’re traveling with a toddler. It’s just the truth and there’s nothing you can do about it. Make sure to plan ahead and leave before you normally would to allow yourself time for anything that might come your way—bathroom breaks, food stops, temper tantrums—who knows.

Sing Songs.
If you have favorite songs from home, sing them with your toddler. This can also be a perfect time to teach a new song. Sing it through a few times and then stop at certain words to see if your little one has caught on and can sing the words on their own. It’s a fun way to kill time, bond, and keep spirits high. Some classic favorites to try are Driving In My Car, These Are My Glasses, Old McDonald Had a Farm. And, if you’re not all that into singing yourself, you can put together a playlist of kid-friendly songs of your choosing let the car or cell phone do the singing. Though singing them yourself is actually more enjoyable.

Hide The Toys.
Keep a secret stash of toys in a basket in the front of the car with you so they are somewhat hidden. When your toddler starts to get antsy or cranky, take out one toy for them to be occupied with at a time. When they are done playing, put the toy away, hand them another, and put the toy away to be pulled out again later in the rotation. This helps your little one enjoy each toy one at a time, instead of immediately getting bored with all of them.

Don’t Eat In The Car.
Save yourself the headache of a huge mess and keep meals to restaurants or quick picnics along the way. This will also help break up the time in the car and gives your toddler a new environment to take in. Snacks with low ratings on the “mess-o-meter” (aka crackers, squeeze packets) are a lifesaver, however. Keep pre-rationed supplies so you can easily pass back in case of a “hangry” emergency.

Call Grandma!
Dial up Grandma, grandpa, an aunt, or a friend—anyone who your toddler enjoys and let him or her have a conversation! This can be a fun way to pass some time and also catch up with their loved ones. If you’e able, video chat is another great option, allowing your kiddo to see who they’re talking to. Prep the receiver with a text ahead of time so he or she can be prepared with questions and ideas.

Plan Play Times.
If you have driven the route before, chances are you are familiar with parks or play areas where your kids can get out, stretch their legs, and run out some energy. If not, this is a good chance to do some research. If you think your legs (and butt!) get tired from sitting in a car all day, same goes for your toddler.

Creative Play.
Opt for an Etch A Sketch! This magical tool is a life saver on road trips. Your toddler can let their creative juices flow and draw without marking up the car seat or head rest! Some examples are writing the alphabet or their name, working on shapes, or drawing funny pictures and having them guess what they are.

Children’s Books On Tape.
To save yourself from carsickness and having to carry extra bags full of children’s reads, download some of your child’s favorite books on tape and play them throughout the trip. You can even have a few of the books on hand for them to flip through on their own, if you’d like. You can download audio books online through Audible and most local libraries offer some in their online database.

Set Intentional Nap Times.
Many toddlers will eventually fall asleep in the car, but a helpful tip is to set the mood for an actual nap time while traveling. Turn off the music or play something soothing and quiet, and go about your normal nap time routine, such as giving them their blankie or favorite stuffed animal, read a book, sing a song, and announce that it’s sleepy time or nap time—whichever they are used to.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The iPad.
If needed, there are no judgements here for pulling out the trusty iPad for a show or a few games. Just keep the time limited. We recommend breaking up the iPad time with a pit stop so they can be distracted. Make sure you keep it in a toddler-proof iPad Case!

Practice Patience.
Above all, have patience with your toddler (and yourself, your partner, and your other kids, etc.). There may be some crying or temper tantrums, but the light at the end of the tunnel is your destination—which will more than likely be worth it all!

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