No matter what age your kids are it’s always the perfect time for a family road trip. For those with toddlers it’s a different ball game when road tripping — from travel time and breaks to activities and toys. Whether for a day trip or a longer adventure, a little advance planning goes a long way when taking a road trip with toddler.
Let Them Sleep
Timing is everything with a toddler. Most kids work best with a schedule and it’s especially important to stick one while traveling as well. If you are lucky to have a toddler that will sleep in the car try planning a majority of your around their sleep schedule.
Road Trip Activities for Toddlers
If your toddler isn’t one for sleeping in the car keeping them busy is a task all in itself. Here are essentials for entertaining them. (Links below may be affiliate links which means I receive a small commission for referring you at no added cost to you – thanks in advance!)
Kids music CDs, iTunes playlists or just singing songs can keep your child’s mind busy. Make up your own lyrics for well-known songs like Old McDonald (challenge yourself to do the animals A-Z).
Even toddlers can play car games (bonus: it will help develop language and learning skills). I Spy, Counting (car, trucks, semis, etc) and other games can be altered for young ones.
Books, Books, Books
Busy books are great for keeping little hands busy with activities on each page. Another option are board books which are durable and have pages that are easy to turn for kids.
Portable art kits are awesome for toddlers who love to create. Even something as simple as a pad of paper and a set of jumbo crayons (easy to grasp for little hands and hard to break because of their size) are easy to contain in the car.
These car-inspired toys are fun, functional and screen-free! (**be sure to note the recommended safety ages for toys – some are not recommended for kids under 3)
- 1-2-3 Build It! Car, Plane, Boat – This three-in-one toy transforms from boat to car to plane with a couple of quick changes. The best part is that the pieces are big and won’t easily be lost in the seats.
- Magnetic Game Box Zippy Cars – Contain the chaos with this compact magnetic box. Kids can create scenes and tell stories with this kit without fear of losing pieces during the drive.
- PlayTape Road – Have a kid who loves hot wheels? Create instant roads (complete with curves) that they can drive their cars on.
- Playgro Music Drive and Go: Put your toddler in the driver’s seat with this small dashboard with steering wheel, turn indicator, gear shift and more. It easily straps to a car seat or stroller for play. This toy does make noise but has an off switch when quiet play is necessary.
- Bright Starts Lots Links – Though not car-inspired like the above, these links double as toys and “toy keepers”. Use them to attach teething, busy and developmental toys to the car seat so toys don’t go flying during the drive.
Related Post: 5 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with Baby
Related Post: Road Trip Sensory Toys
Flexibility and Breaks
As with any toddler always expect the unexpected. When planning a road trip with a toddler it’s good to add extra time to your travel time. What you think will take 4 hours can easy be more like 6 (or even 7). Plan to stop every couple of hours for bathroom/diaper breaks, tantrum busters and meal times.
To keep these break short and somewhat seamless keep everything you might need together in a tote bag or bin so you are not searching through a packed car and pulling everything out to get to the diapers.
Related Post: How to Pack Your Car for a Road Trip
Another way to keep your toddler happy is to keep their belly full. Snacking is also a known boredom buster for kids AND adults! For snacks on-the-go use items that are going to contain the mess as much as possible. Here are a couple of great options for snack on-the-go:
- Simply Spoutless Sippy Cup – This cup is better than your average sippy cup – it’s easy to disassemble for cleaning and comes in fun Disney character options that your kids will love. Toddlers can sip from anywhere around the rim – there are no spouts, straws, or valve pieces to clean or lose.
- Snack Catcher – Snack catchers are great for containing the mess of small snacks. The containers are durable and make it hard for your toddler to make a mess by dumping their food everywhere. They also can’t grab handfuls to shove in their mouth!
- Drink in the Box Reusable Juice Box – If you have a toddler who loves sipping from juice boxes but don’t appreciate the high price and disposability of the boxes, this is a great option. You can refill the liquid and it has a built in straw.
Don’t forget to pack some paper towels and extra wet wipes to help clean up if a mess does happen.
Related Post: Road Trip Snacks for Family Travel Vacations
Keep Them Comfortable
Once you’ve got a handle on keeping your toddler entertained, you next need to make sure they’re comfortable during the trip. Save some of your sanity with these travel gear options.
- Baby Sight Mirror – For toddlers who are still rear-facing a mirror goes a long way for parents’ sanity in the car. Keep one eye on your little one while keeping the other on the road.
- Car Window SunShade – This colorful sunshade not only protects your toddler from the sun but also keeps them distracted with fun shapes. Bonus: it doesn’t cause distraction for the driver!
- Seat Mat – This isn’t for your toddler’s comfort, but instead for yours. Protect your car’s seats from your toddlers car seat with a seat protector. It will help keep the shoe marks off the back of your seat for rear-facing kids and protect the seat from the scruffs of the bottom of the car seat.
- Bad Weather Kick Mats & Backseat Organizer Pocket – These are great especially if you’re traveling in bad weather with kids who will have dirty shoes. These mats protect your front seats from kicking feet and also keeps your toddlers toys and activity items organized and easily accessible.
Related Post: Car Seat Safety Tips for Road Trips
With these tips you are sure to have a fun road trip with your toddler. Anything I’m missing? What are your best road trip activities for toddlers or road tripping tips for traveling with toddlers?