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Thirteen hours in a car with 2 toddlers. Sounds like euphoria, am I right? Not so much. After flying to the beach last summer with one extremely squirmy Little Man, we opted to drive this year. The way down, we split up the trip and spent the night at the halfway mark. The return trip, we drove the whole way (not recommended). Here’s how we kept the kids entertained in the car (and all of us as sane as possible)!
15 Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Toddlers
1. Store napkins. Bring extra napkins and store them in the glove compartment (or grab some extras from the fast food stop). Spills, squirts, and even bodily fluids happen. I keep napkins in there at all times, even when we’re only headed down the street to the grocery store. I thank my mom for this tip!
2. Stay organized. Easy access is key during a family road trip. I already had to turn around a dozen times to fetch chucked crayons and sippy cups, so organizing the back seat made the trip more manageable. My After having my first child, I fell in love with the utility totes from Thirty-One Gifts. The large utility tote has a metal frame and fits 2-3 of the Double Duty Caddy bins. I designated one for each child, filling them with books, toys and crafts. They can easily be removed from the tote making it easy for me to disburse activities to each kiddo. Using just 2 left room for a folded blanket and extra books.
3. Use the seat backs. We added 2 Oh Snap bins from Thirty-One to the back of the driver seat (my daughter is forward facing now and sits behind the driver seat) and they were fabulous for small toys, tissues, extra socks, and anything else that needed to be accessed on a whim.
4. Cleaning supplies. In addition to napkins, travel with wipes, stain sprays, and towels in an easily accessible spot.
5. Change of clothes. If you’re headed on vacation you most likely have a plethora of clothing packed away in the truck somewhere, but that’s not easily accessible. Pack a small bag with a change of clothes for each child (including underwear) and extra diapers.
6. Car-friendly crafts. The blog Playdate Crashers had a BRILLIANT idea to use a small cookie sheet in the car. It makes a great drawing tray and since it’s magnetic, you can add a few magnets to keep paper in place. My daughter even used the cookie sheet to “race” her crayons. The shoelace game is also a travel-friendly activity. I picked one up at the dollar store, but you can also make your own lacing version like Arena of The Nerd’s Wife.
7. Car-friendly toys. Doodle pads are fabulous for road trips. Anything that is one piece and can’t be used to draw on my car seats is a win in my book. I recommend a doodle pad/board book combo like this Hello Kitty Story Book and Magnetic Drawing Kit.
8. Anything NEW. You know how that new Barbie keeps her entertained for hours (and then loses its luster the next day)? Capitalize on that. Stop by the dollar store the day before the trip and stock up new toys. Once the interest is lost, just try another one.
9. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Designate a bin or case for just snacks (let the kiddos try them before you leave to make sure they like the snacks). Tip: use a Thirty-One Timeless Beauty Bag to hold snacks. When your toddler gets hungry, hand her the beauty bag and let her pick her snack (the windows let her pick without making a mess).
10. Burn energy. 13 hours and limited movement – yuck! Just as we need to stretch during long road trips, kids do too! I found an app while in transit called PlayPlaces and it locates place places nearby (for iOS or Android for $0.99). We stopped for lunch at a Chick fil A that had a play place and let the kids play for 30 minutes. It really helped with the boredom of the car!
11. Keep them comfortable. Being strapped into a car seat for hours at a time can’t be enjoyable. After all, what toddler ever like to be restrained? You can at least bring some comfort by mirroring your toddler’s comfort space at home. If she loves to wear socks to bed, put socks on her in the car. If she has a special doll or blanket, bring it. Think about what your kids usually sleep with/are most comfortable in.
12. No iPad/DVD player. I hadn’t introduced electronics in the car yet, so I opted to continue to avoid them during the trip. I was able to keep them entertained through games and activities, and I feared so No iPad/DVD if haven’t introduced that in car yet. I also feared that if I did introduce them, that my kids would never want to go for a ride without them. However, if your kids are accustomed to watching shows in the car, you may want to bring the devices on the trip and stock up on new apps/DVDs.
13. Keep it cool. We brought 3 coolers on the trip – a large cooler in the trunk that held food for the vacation itself, a smaller cooler that was nudged behind my seat for easy access (with extra sippy cups and larger snacks), and a Thirty-One Chill-icious Thermal that held a few bottles of water, my son’s favorite Dory sippy cup, and smaller snacks.
14. Cruise through. Rather than stop in that long line every time we needed to pay a toll, we bought an E-ZPass ahead of time and got to cruise through the E-ZPass only lanes. There is a small fee when you pick up the pass, but you then get credited as you use it. It costs $0.75/month to own, but you end up get a discount on tolls in Ohio, so to us, it was worth the monthly payment.
15. Stop the spills. If your toddler loves to dump and squeeze, these two snack solutions will change the way you look at snacking in the car! Pick up an EasyPouch and a Snack Catcher before you hit the road.
Looking for more tips? My pal Janessa over at Thrifty Nifty Mommy put together a list of tips for summer road trips.