How To Road Trip with a Toddler

For the most part, Leo has always been a pretty good car rider, but I've found a few tricks that have helped keep everyone sane, so I thought I'd share them.

Most of our "road trips" are under three hours, and my thought there is - you can do anything for three hours - but as we were gearing up for our 6.5hr (without traffic and stops) car trip I had to do a little preparing.

The Gear We Use

ipad holder ::: toy organizer ::: car seat tray ::: spin toy ::: car shades ::: lovey ::: hand and face wipes :::

Books - Leo is obsessed and happily will flip through his own board books for a while. He is also learning the sounds animals make, so we spent probably 45 minutes re-reading his animal books. I would have at least 2 on hand. (I get most of our books from Marshalls)

Sassy Spin Toy - This toy is one of the few toys that can hold Leo's attention, so it came with us on the road trip. He gets a kick out of spinning it and it is a nice toy that I try to keep as a novelty so it only comes with us on car trips or to restaurants 

ipad Holder - I love this one because it's normally a mirror, but it also fits an ipad. I don't mind allowing Leo to watch shows, especially on a long car ride, so this is really handy for us! 

 Carseat Tray - This was a gift from my mom, and while we did use it to eat breakfast on, I wouldn't say it's a necessity. Leo likes clapping his hands on the tray part, and I think it might be handier when he is a bit older, but it was a nice distraction to have too. 

Sun Shades - These are not the exact kind we have, I found mine at Marshalls, but I used two on Leo's side since the sun was beating down on him and they were absolutely necessary to have. 

Lovey - Leo's lovey is his favorite thing ever, so that came with us too - and helped him know that it was time to go to sleep again.

Hand and Face Wipes - Not only do I keep these everywhere, Leo loves to play with them. They crinkle and make a loud noise, so they turned into a toy for us as well.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Movie - I found a movie version on itunes that I downloaded and it is basically 4 episodes, but it plays for 2 hours which is nice since the shows themselves are only 24 minutes. 

Toy organizer - I love this one. I keep extra diapers, wipes, more books, cherrios, and a few more toys. It kept everything off the floor and was really handy for me to reach into and give Leo whatever he needed.

The Secrets We Use

1. Leave EARLY. Really, REALLY early.
We woke Leo up at 4:30 in the morning, changed his diaper, kept his room really dark and then gave him a big, warm bottle of milk. He was awake for about 15 minutes, we loaded him into the dark car with his blanket and his lovey, and he was asleep until 8am! We were able to get 3.5hours without even realizing we had a wild toddler in the back seat.

Honestly, if I were to drive alone, I think I would try and leave the house even earlier! A tired baby made for an easy one! 

2. Break Bottle Rules and Have Lots of Snacks
We are down to just two bottles a day, but I decided to bring an extra bottle just in case, and I was really glad I did. It took him some time to drink it (sometimes you gotta buy minutes!) and then he was happy and chill for another 20 minutes after it too!

Between the bottle and pre-cut up snacks (and again, this isn't the time to try and force broccoli) keeping Leo well fed was a good key to happiness! Our favorite snacks to have on the road included lots of soft (because choking ranks high in my fear list) goodies - waffle, bananas, cherrios, apple sauce to-go packets, and fig bars.

3. Don't sit in the backseat
The worst car trip we had, I had to sit in the backseat with Leo because my in-laws were driving. The fact that Leo could see me made it horrible. He knew I was there so he spent the better part of 3 hours screaming his head off for me to put him on my lap/get out of the car seat.

Now, this long car trip, I did end up sitting in the back with him for about 3 hours, and it was ok. I was feeding him snacks and just didn't feel comfortable with him eating alone in the back. Plus, being back there for half of it allowed me to get creative with toys/games/etc.

 4. Overnight Diaper 

5.  Roll with it
Probably the key to everything - and the thing I fail at constantly - but just like with air travel, ya gotta just do it. Even if the baby cries, you are 10 hours late, the baby gets "too much screen time" or "too much milk" or whatever......just roll with it. And maybe bring a roll of paper towels too, now that I'm thinking about it.

Obviously, we are no parenting experts, and I'm positive that someday our second child will throw about 12,000 curve balls to my ways, but this has worked for us so far. I hope some of it helps you too if you are in need! 
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  1. This is so helpful! I love getting new ideas. Having low expectations ranks high on my list too!

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  3. These are such great tips! We've made multiple 5+ hour car ride trips now back to Ohio and I've learned so much from experience! Leaving early in the AM is a great idea! Never thought of that... we always try to leave around his nap time, but I think your idea is better. And overnight diapers! Why have I not thought of that??!

  4. These are such great tips! I completely agree about not sitting in the backseat. I made the mistake of doing it on our first long trip and it was miserable. But our last trip I didn't and he was so quiet and an angel. So I learned my lesson!