Tips for Roadtripping with a Toddler

We love travelling, and have always just packed up our child and taken her with us. By the time she was six months old, she had been on six flights. By the time she turned one, she had been to over 20 states. That being said, she was a BREEZE to travel with as an infant. Whether by plane, car, stroller… she loved it. Once she hit about 18 months, it became a whole different story, and I was left wondering who took my happy little traveller and left me with a grumpy, impatient, incredibly vocal toddler. After a 9-hour roadtrip to Louisville, KY with my 2-year-old reaching decibel screaming levels I didn’t even know could be reached and lasting for hours, I was determined to make sure our next roadtrip was different… very, very different. I searched Pinterest, made lists, read Mommy Blogs on travelling with toddlers, and spent months preparing. Our next roadtrip was to Indianapolis, IN and took close to 12 hours (our toddler’s longest roadtrip yet). What a difference! It was like travelling with a different child. Here are some tips that helped make our trip much more pleasant:

—Snacks, snacks, snacks. I bought cheap, brightly-colored little containers at Wal-Mart and filled them the night before we left with cheerios, goldfish, and cheese crackers. These are treats to our toddler, so I knew she would enjoy them and each container would keep her quiet and busy for a good 15-20 minutes.

Roadtrip snacks!
Roadtrip snacks!









—Make sure to pack a no-spill sippy cup. Enough said.

We LOVE the Wow Cup. No spout, and spill-proof!
We LOVE the Wow Cup. No spout, and spill-proof!










—A Goody Bag with enough for one new goodie every hour. I was so nervous I made sure to pack enough for one every hour there AND back. This doesn’t have to be expensive, and the goodies don’t necessarily have to be “new”. Every year right before Christmas and right before her birthday, I pack up a bunch of her old toys, books, etc. (usually enough to fill a laundry basket), and stow them away in our bonus room. I’ve found this keeps her from getting overwhelmed and jaded with too many toys, keeps my house cleaner, and also provides “new” toys I can trade out little by little once her Christmas/birthday toys are no longer exciting. Before our roadtrip, I went through the laundry basket of old toys and picked several to take with us (she hadn’t seen them in months, so they were “new” to her). I also shopped the $1 aisle at Target and Wal-Mart for cheap little toys, books, stickers etc. that I could add to the Goody Bag. All in all, I spent about $20 and had a Goody Bag full of fun items to keep her busy… one new toy/hour for the trip there and back. Once we got home, I packed up the Goody Bag and hid it again for the next roadtrip. I learned that a sturdy, reusuable bag works best (can get them at Ross/TJ Maxx/Marshalls for $1). Here’s a few Goody Bag ideas:

-mini MagnaDoodle
-small, squishy ball (the squishy ones you play with in a pool are perfect!)
-small books
-window gel clings
-toy phone
-small pocket packages of tissues. My toddler LOVES to pull them out of the package and play with them. Usually means a mess to clean up, but if she’s happy, I don’t care.
-stuffed animals that “talk”.
-small toys that light up.
-small cars/trucks
-mini Etch-A-Sketch
-Mardi Gras beads
-BandAids (my toddler is obsessed with them – the more brightly colored, the better).

Have Goody Bag... will travel.
Have Goody Bag… will travel.









Hour 4. We've pulled out Tigger, Princess Cell Phone, and lots of Band-Aids.
Hour 4. We’ve pulled out Tigger, Princess Cell Phone, and lots of Band-Aids.










Hour 9. She LOVES tissues.
Hour 9. She LOVES tissues.









—Movie or Song CD. We don’t have a DVD player in our car, but my parents do, and it’s always a treat for our toddler to get to ride with them and watch Veggie Tales. However, we packed a CD full of kids songs, and that was just as fun.

—Teach your toddler “Quiet Time”. After the nightmare roadtrip to Louisville, we were determined to make the Indianapolis roadtrip different. We worked hard to teach our toddler that when we said “Shhh, it’s Quiet Time” that it meant it was time to talk quietly or to rest. This took… lots… of practice. However, the 12-hour trip to Indy was SO much more enjoyable for us AND her because she understood what “Quiet Time” meant. She would play/sing quietly, and many times fall off to sleep. A rested toddler, means a happy toddler!

Hour 6. "Shhh, it's Quiet Time."
Hour 6. “Shhh, it’s Quiet Time.”










—Fresh air and exercise! I was 7 months pregnant during the Indianapolis roadtrip, so we stopped every 2 hours for a potty break, and for me to stretch my legs. It did wonders for our 2-year-old too. Nobody wants to be trapped in a carseat for hours without stretching and getting some fresh air. My husband would usually try to find a rest stop that had plenty of space, and let her run while holding her hand.

Extended family joined us on our Indy roadtrip. Here, our 2-year-old is climbing mountains with Grandpa after a potty stop.
Extended family joined us on our Indy roadtrip. Here, our 2-year-old is climbing mountains with Grandpa after a potty stop.










I hope this brings some peace to your next toddler-included roadtrip. Please share your tips too… I’m always looking for new ideas to try next!




2 thoughts on “Tips for Roadtripping with a Toddler

  1. Love the ideas! I would not say I was close to that organized when we took our trips from Tampa to Chicago (20+hours), but we definitely did similar things with the kids and they turned out to be really great travelers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s