The good news is that if you’re reading this, you’re still alive—which means you may already have survived a road trip with your toddler.
Unfortunately, you may have to partake in one of these adventures again in the future. To ensure that everyone makes it to your destination in one (mental) piece, it’s important to be as prepared as possible. In addition to bringing snacks and toys, you’ll need to get as much ready as you can the day before departure. And the adults, of course, may want a bottle of wine (or two) to celebrate the completion of the road trip.
Here are four ways to make family road trips with toddlers as bearable as possible.
1. It’s all in the packing:
Think about what you may need along the way—jackets, wipes, plastic zip bags—and make sure it’s not buried deep in your bags. Better yet, have it in the car with you or in a separate bag that’s easily accessible.
If you’re getting to your destination rather late, have a separate bag with clothes for the next day, pajamas, toiletries, and anything else you may need that evening. This way, you won’t have to dig through your bag when you arrive; you can just easily pull it out and get ready for bed.
Bring your toddler’s blanket and pillow, too, if you have room. This is especially if you plan to stay somewhere overnight.
2. Bring snacks—but choose their snacks wisely:
Not only do snacks fill your kids up, but they give them something to do. However, it’s probably not a good idea to give your toddler a lot of sugary foods. Instead, bring healthy snacks like trail mix (which will also help your kids feel full longer). Moreover, aim for individually-packaged snacks that will leave as few crumbs as possible. The last thing you want to do when you arrive at your destination (or get home) is clean up a bunch of crumbs!
3. A mix of (strategically-placed) toys:
Bring some of your child’s favorite toys ones, but if you can, try to add a couple new toys in there (maybe one or two toys from the dollar store) to add some novelty. Then, when you pack the car, leave the toy box/bag accessible—but hidden from the kids’ view. This way, you can periodically pull a new toy out and have it be a surprise. And voila, you’ve just bought yourself 20 minutes of quiet (or five, but we’ll take it, right?).
4. Seating and driving arrangements:
If you’re driving with a toddler and a baby, consider having one parent sit in the back with your kids, and then take turns driving. You can also keep the books, toys, and snacks in the front passenger seat, where your kids can’t see or access them; this also makes it easy for parents to pass these items back and forth.
With the right planning and tools, your road trip will be more manageable, and maybe even—dare we say it—enjoyable. Good luck, parents!