A few weeks ago, we packed all our bags, and the thousands of other things you have to bring when traveling with kiddos, and headed to Colorado for a little vacay (which you can read all about here and here). First of all, full disclosure... my parents road tripped with our toddler, while we flew with our infant (I know, we owe them!).
Through this 10 hour trip and other 3 hour trips we've taken in the past, we've learned a lot and I've gathered some tips to share for whenever you (or someone else on your behalf) drives your toddler across any sort of state for any amount of time over a couple hours. A road trip with a toddler requires a bit of planning ahead, flexibility and a little extra time... but totally doable (right, mom?!).
Pack a car-bag full of car-time activities. We gathered together some of his very favorite books and toys, and sprinkled in a few new items to pull out sporadically over the trip to keep him from getting too bored. The key is having a variety of things to do!
1. Board Books (vs. paper, to avoid page rips) - A few current favorites, like Little Blue Truck series and Madeline (he stole these from Nora's bookshelf and has been loving them!) with a new book, It's Vacation Time that I got via Discovery Toys. This books was great to remind him why he was stuck in his carseat longer than he'd like and get him excited about the vacation to come! :)
2. Art Projects - It's hard to do much of this in the car, though we brought crayons, we found that playing with stickers were easier! I got letter stickers, so he could practice his letter recognition and making words (with the help of my mom riding in back with him).
3. Games - We brought along this little "Game on the Go" game that we got from Discovery Toys. This was good for switching things up, using our soundings and tiring out that learning brain of his. :)
4. Videos/Movies - The one time it is a-ok to let your little one zone out, in my opinion. We had our Kindle Fire that was pre-loaded with 4 Disney movies, as well as a portable DVD player (this one is under $60!) that we brought, along other movies. Options here, because technology has a way of failing on us when we most need it! This was another opportunity to bring along some of his favorite movies/videos, and surprise him with a new one (or 10). The movie, Cars was a huge hit.
5. SNACKS - I'm not suggesting to just keep feeding them, but strategically planning out when snack time will be (at low points, after going through all the toys, books, games, etc) and what kind of snacks (ones that have minimal choking risks, but take longer to eat) can give you a break from being the entertainment! Liam had trail mix, raisins and other dried fruit to munch on throughout the road trip.
On a sort of side note, Discover Toys is an awesome online shop for really smart play time products for your little ones. All of their toys have ulterior motives to help your little's brain develop, but totally fun, too!
Road trips with a toddler is not the time to stick to an aggressive schedule. We tried to plan when they'd leave around his nap, hoping he'd sleep a good chunk, but Liam ended up not sleeping for any of the road trip, either way! That's when that bag of fun came into play, and they went through it all!
Plan a little extra time:
If you can, and my parents did, thus why they volunteered to make the trek with Liam, take some extra time to get to and from you destination. On the way out, they split the trip into two days, starting out after lunch time (after lots of morning activity to tire the toddler out).
On the way home, they actually pushed through in one day, and they could tell that was a lot harder on Liam, but they made sure to stop a lot. They looked for places that had either a park or play ground to let Liam move around more.
Any road trip traveling tips you have to share? Leave them in the comments below!