We took a long road trip with our 2 year old last week. I was not super excited to drive a long distance because past trips have not been fun–lots of whining and crying. During this trip, we had a very short crying spell on the way there because he only napped for 10 minutes, but other than that, he did wayyy better than past trips. On the way home, there was almost zero whining or crying (and still no nap). I chalk this all up to lots of activities and snacks.
Before this most recent trip, I wouldn’t have called him a great traveler, but we took lots of mini 30 min-1 hr trips over the last few months to try to help accustom him to being in the car more. I also tried to prepare a lot because I think that a crying baby/toddler is one of the worst sounds in the world lol…but really. I researched, watched YouTube videos, basically anything I could to thrive on this trip instead of just survive it.
Here are my top tips of the things that actually worked for us:
1.Take your time-My motto for traveling has always been to be prepared and be as comfortable as possible. Part of being comfortable for me means not rushing. Vacation for us starts when we leave the house. If you try to rush to your location with a toddler, it’s just going to be miserable. Our trip was supposed to take 6.5 hours, but it took about 8-8.5 hours, and that’s ok. We allowed for multiple stops to let him get out and run around and we sat down outside to eat once on the way there and once on the way back. This made for an overall more enjoyable travel experience for us. On the flip side, you also don’t want to take too long at stops or it could just start getting way too long.
2. Travel as long as you can with no entertainment or snacks-my husband and I both started the trip riding in the front seat. We didn’t give him any entertainment or snacks right away. We just let him enjoy the scenery for as long as he would. This lasted for about 45 min to an hour.
3. Baskets-I had 4 different baskets ready for the car ride: a snack basket, a quick-grab basket, an entertainment basket, and a throw-all basket. If you don’t have foldable baskets, you could also use those re-usable bags you get at grocery stores.
SNACK BASKET–I packed lots of snacks and drinks. These kept him super happy. I had a basket of snacks and then I also packed a cooler with smoothies and things to make wraps for all of us. We stopped and had a little picnic outside on the way down. I planned to have these snacks while we were there and on our way home too, so I packed a decent amount of things.
QUICK GRAB BASKET–I packed anything in this basket that I would need to grab fast (paper towels, pull-ups, a change of clothes for Luke, arm-n-hammer diaper bags, wipes, small trash bags, Thieves cleaner for spills, shout wipes, ginger & b6 tablets for car-sickness, etc.
ENTERTAINMENT BASKET-Pictured below is everything I packed for entertainment for Luke. His favorite thing to do was to read books. I packed about 8 different books. The Usbourne re-usable sticker books, and lift-the-flap books were big hits. He also loved the Poke-A-Dot books. The Leap Frog interactive book was also something that he played with for a long time. A lot of the little toys are from Amazon.
THROW ALL BASKET–I packed an empty basket to throw random stuff into. This was helpful because the car can get messy quick with a toddler. When we got to our location, I just took stuff out and re-organized it.
4. Crunch items-We had a few items that we could pull out in the case a total meltdown happened, but it never actually did. Those items were a tablet, Annie’s fruit snacks, and bubbles. I know, I know, bubbles in the car sound horrible, but they were recommended as a last resort item. We did end up letting him watch the tablet for about 25 minutes down and 25 minutes back, but only because he was getting bored towards the end.
5. Sitting in the back seat-Neither my husband or I love sitting in the back seat. We both can get car-sick, but on long trips it is so much easier to just sit back there sometimes. We both road up front as much as we could, but eventually it was easier if one of us was in the back to hand him snacks or items to play with. I got some kids ginger tablets and some kids b6 melts and we both took those if we were going to sit in the back. This worked well. Neither of us got sick. We also gave these to Luke before he road all the crazy kid rides on vacation.
Overall the traveling went super smooth and I was kind of shocked how easily entertained he was. Preparation is key y’all. Do the work for a smooth trip!
What are some of your best travel tips with babies/toddlers?