5 Easy ways to survive a road trip with a toddler

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Looking out the car window. Taking a road trip with a toddler? 5 easy ways to survive.

 

5 easy ways to survive a road trip with a toddler

Going on a road trip this summer with a toddler? Done it before? Scared out of your mind? How are you going to keep them entertained? Will we actually be able to get anywhere each day?
Well, let me fill you in on something….. it is completely doable! I know, because I’ve done it. And I want to share with you these 5 easy ways to survive.
When my little one was about 20 months old we took a four-day road trip, traveling across much of the U.S. Our road trip was not a sightseeing one. We were trying to get from point A to point B as quick as possible while keeping in mind the little one that still sat in the back, and faced backwards!
My mom sat in the back with my little guy while I drove and we managed to get in about 8 or so hours of drive time each day. And that was without rushing to get up in the mornings or rushing breaks/lunch during the drive.
We were driving east to west so we did get an extra hour each night to drive because of the time changes but that also affected how early we got up the next morning! We really went by my little guys’ schedule, especially in the morning. When he got up, we got up (which normally was around 5:30/6). We’d have breakfast at the hotel, pack everything back up and then head out – no rushing, no pressure. We even managed to get to our destination about half a day early.
Note: We all know every child is different, and you know your child best. Try to be flexible and you might be surprised.
So, without further ado:
1. Allow your little one to sleep
I know it sounds silly but hear me out.
My little guy at the time was still (blessedly) taking two naps during the day which was wonderful during the trip. Within probably an hour or so after taking off in the mornings he would fall asleep and sleep for around two hours. Same for the afternoon, within an hour or so after stopping for lunch he’d take his afternoon nap and sleep for two hours plus. By that time we only had about an hour or so left to stop for the night. He slept more each nap during the road trip than he normally did at home.
Typically, I am the one to want to wake him up so he doesn’t get too much sleep during the day and then we have problems at night. Thankfully that didn’t happen to us. By the time we got to the hotel, settled, eaten dinner and did our night-time routine he always fell asleep pretty easily. The trip was probably stressful for him too, so allow them they sleep they need. They may be in a seat the whole time but a rested child is better than a tired one – right?
Need extra help? This is the CD set we use at home for naps and at night. And yup, we used it during the road trip too.
Somehow I’ve managed not to get sick of listening to it and it’s probably been a year and a half since we got it and started using it!

2. Sing
I think this is a mom or caretaker basic but it will definitely help pass the time and your little one will love it. At the time, we did Itsy Bitsy Spider I don’t know how many times!!!!!! Yes, it can be exhausting but the smile on his face and his laughter…..better than tears. I think having the hand movements to go along with it was super helpful too. It can easily turn into a tickle fest too which is never a bad thing! Other ideas: The wheels on the bus, this little piggy and Mary had a little lamb.
Here is a great nursery rhymes book that we have and use. Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t even think about putting the CD in, honestly we’ve never even taken the CD out. And if you’re concerned about going overly crazy with listening to the same songs all day long the CD might be a bad idea – just saying.

 3. Play games

Honestly, the only game were really played during the trip was count the trucks. Luckily he could kind of see these from his backward facing backseat. So when grandma saw that we were going to be passing a few trucks she’d let him know and they’d count. Needless to say we’d lose count and have to start all over and we only went to 10 (practicing our counting) but it worked.
4.Let them have quiet time
You don’t always have to be trying to entertain them! Yup, you heard me correctly. I don’t know if it’s just my child or does every child do this? There would be a few times each day when he wouldn’t be talking or sleeping or playing or signing just looking around and, I guess, just soaking everything in. I did try to have music on most of the time, if for no other reason than for me, so maybe he was enjoying to music? I don’t know but let them have their ‘me’ time. He would always let us know when he was done! 🙂

5. Toys

I packed so many toys in the car it was ridiculous. Books and rattles and stuffed animals and cars…. We may have pulled one, I repeat one, out on the second day. And I think the same one or maybe a second one the third day but we came nowhere close to playing with all of them. With that being said, all parent’s know, it better to be safe than sorry and in a sense to be over packed than not have enough. But you may not need as many as you thing.

Fearful smiley face. 5 easy ways to survive a road trip with a toddler.

Ultimately, with naps, lunch and gas/bathroom breaks, actual awake time in the car was four or five hours. One before nap, one after nap, one after lunch, one after afternoon nap. Totally doable with trying to fill the time.
Lunch was usually at a rest area type place and we’d get him out of his seat but we’d stay in the car (so no chance to run around, etc.) and a gas/bathroom break was normally quick but I think we’d let him out of his seat for that too no matter how brief.
Now, in the mornings and evenings we’d let him have ‘free’ reign in the hotel room to run and jump and play, even while eating (which in our household is kinda a no no except for snacks).
I understand I was very blessed with my road trip as I’ve read in some cases it can be a nightmare. And let me tell you. We had never done a long road trip with my little guys (nothing over 2.5 hours in fact) so I researched and prepared, mentally, for the fact that it could just be a very, very long trip; that we’d have to stop every few hours for an hour and that our hoped to be four-day road trip would turn into a six-day try-to-be-patient trip.
All we can ever do is prepare, plan and pray. Outside of that it will be what it will be. If your little one just won’t sit still for an hour in their car seat then you’ll need to take more breaks. If they don’t like their car seat, try to take more ‘trips’ (like to the grocery store, mall, etc.) beforehand and hope they will start to accept it.
Again, only you know what your child is like. And if you’re like me, and didn’t know what my child would be like, prepare, plan and pray and know that you WILL make it through the trip and maybe everyone in the car will found out that they actually enjoy it!
Best Wishes!
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How about you? What are your tips? Please let me know if I missed something or have your own suggestions to share in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them in another post.