How To Road Trip With A Toddler: Ultimate Survival Guide

The idea of a road trip with a toddler in tow may seem crazy at first. Thanks to their unpredictable schedules, long packing lists, and crankiness as just a few of the challenges you may encounter.

But we will help make traveling with your toddler a breeze. After all, you and your toddler should enjoy every moment of seeing the world and create a lifetime of memories along the road trip. Isn’t that the most crucial point of travel in the first place?

14 Tips on How To Road Trip With A Toddler

Long road trips with toddlers may seem daunting even to intrepid travelers. But it should go without a word that the first thing you need to make your journey successful is the right car seat for toddlers. The car seat should not only be the right fit for your young one but also comply with the car seat laws in the state or country you are traveling in.

This will ease your worries of “how will I keep my baby content while on the road? How will I ensure that my whole family arrives safe and sane? What if my little one cries and throws tantrums throughout the journey?

Are you at your wit’s end on surviving long drives with kids? This article is for you.

Here are some time-tested tips for toddler car rides that will help you time and again.

1. Always Keep The Kids In Mind When Planning For Road Trip With A 2-Year-Old

When planning your trip itinerary, it is always crucial to keep your kids in mind. The hours you plan to take on the road and how you plan to break the hours by the time of day will go a long way in determining how successful your trip will be with your toddlers.

When taking a long car trip, it’s best to begin your journey early in the morning. Wake your kids and prepare them, ensuring they all go to the bathroom before leaving. With some luck, they might carry their sleep in the car and allow you some time.

Even if they do not fall back to sleep, it will take them some time to wake up fully. They can then eat their packed breakfast, with you having covered a two-hour drive without noticing it.

A toddler playing with a teddy in a car - road trip toys for toddlers

This will allow you to get the lion’s share of the day trip done, if possible, before lunchtime. Get a good long break somewhere as you take your lunch. A great idea would be a playground during the roadside stop. They will get to burn up some much-needed steam as they toss and run in the playground.

The early afternoon is also a perfect time for driving long distances with toddlers, as mostly this is when they nap. Do not plan on any road trip stops when your toddler is resting, or you might risk waking them up.

 Waking your toddler before they’re done with their sleep means you will have to deal with a grumpy and fussy child for the rest of the day, which is precisely what you are trying to avoid.

While on car travel with a toddler, try not to be determined to reach a specific destination by a given time. This will only spell trouble. Unless you have an urgent event that your presence is needed, remember that traveling with children is not a race. The goal is to reach safely and sanely.

2. Car Trips With Toddler At Night

While driving at night with toddlers is not the best, trust us when we tell you that it was the only way to survive the long drives as they were always fast asleep. Driving at night might be your last resort as it is not advisable, but if you are comfortable, why not?

Also, if you opt to drive at night with your toddlers, it will not be possible if you make a long road trip as you can not do sightseeing during the day and then have the same energy to drive the whole night.

Driving at night will only work for the safety of the whole family if you have a co-driver who will help you during the day, so you can take the wheel when its night time. There are no traffic jams or road constructions at night, meaning you will reach your destination faster.

Cjhild sleeping with their mouth open in a car seat at night

3. Create the Right Environment For Toddler Sleeping In The Car

The secret to road trips with toddlers is their naps and sleep timings. But how precisely do you get your toddler to sleep in an environment they are not familiar with? While others will not have a problem napping away the fatigue, others will be stubborn as they fight the much-needed naps.

Here is how you can make your toddler comfortable for naps:

  • Light: use some portable sunshades on the windows to prevent the direct sunlight from their face
  • Head comfort: we suggest you get some extra comfy head pillows or comforters that will help their heads from bobbing around.
  • Noise level: do you have a mixed passenger of older and younger sibs. Then get the ambiance right. Whichever soundtrack you settle for should be enjoyable to all.
  • Timing: for your tot to drift away into slumber land, they need to be exhausted and full. Ensure your timings for their naps is right.

4.  Stock Up On Healthy Snacks

Is there anything worse than a hungry toddler stuck in a car seat with a long drive ahead? You will need healthy snacks when driving long distances with toddlers. Healthy snacks for your toddler will save money and time and prevent you from choosing sugary snacks.

Mom handing out snacks in the car

Sugary snacks will only pack your toddlers with energy. They will be unable to utilize the energy, not to mention the sticky hands and cramps all over the place. Some great road trip snacks will include;

Remember to have reusable water bottles in the car, one per person, and use the toilet breaks to refill. We recommend the BPA-free reusable water bottle that does not spill easily.

5. Have Some Road Trip Games & Activities Up Your Sleeve

The best way to keep toddlers entertained in the car is by playing road trip games and also bringing your toddler’s favorite toys (remember to pack light). The road trip game will provide you with a few minutes for yourself.

You can also try toddler audiobooks while on a car trip, as most toddlers have their favorites.

We would caution against headphones for younger toddlers when they’re not within arm’s reach.

You can find our complete list of toddler-friendly car activities here!

6. Pack Strategically

Packing strategically and the right supplies will let you know exactly what you need to come into the car for the road trip. You can get a bag that you will put your easy-to-locate items as:

  • Snacks
  • Wet wipes
  • Sanitiser
  • Toys
  • Electronics
  • Toilet paper
  • Diaper and potties
  • Sick bags
  • First aid kits
  • Collapsible pail
  • Ziplocks
  • Change of clothing

You should also ensure that you have some instant picnic supplies, sunscreen, sun hats, and a few outdoor toys in a separate bag where they can be easily accessed for roadside stops.

7. Prepare Your Car

Preparing your car is one of the vital toddler road trip tips. You will be spending a lot of time in the car, so it will only make sense that you want it to be in the best shape. A lot can take place on the road, so do not put it off.

If you are taking a car trip, get all the safety checks done before hitting the road. Consider checking the air pressure, fuel tank, oil, battery, and coolant. Ensure that the organizers are in place with the easy-to-grab items fitted.

A car seat travel tray will be a perfect idea. Get one that fits over your toddler’s car seat, as it will help hold your toddler’s stuff and hinder them from falling on the car floor. Traveling with a toddler can get messy, so having removal car mats and toddler car seat covers can be a good idea!

The car mats will help avoid permanent stains on your car floor and make it easy for you to pick up things that might fall on the floor. For emergency purposes, do not forget to pack a travel cleaning kit.

8. Prepare for the Worst

If it is a rented car, ensure its plan covers roadside assistance. If it does not, will your vacation insurance policy be able to cover these scenarios?

Ensure that the plan covers the worst road trip nightmares like a fix for a flat, a tow to a service station or an unlock if you leave your keys in the car.

9. Separate The Kids

If it’s possible to separate your kids as far as possible, then do it. Traveling with kids and toddlers in a car together will almost inevitably mean fights. You will hardly be out of your drive, and they are already complaining about each other.

A minivan is a great car for trips as it will ensure that your kids are as far from each other as possible, thanks to its extra rows of seats.

A child sitting in a car seat in a mini van
A larger vehicle can be helpful for a long road trip so children can be separated and each has plenty of space

10. Avoid Leaving Your Child In The Car

When planning your car travel with toddlers, avoid leaving them in the car even if they are fast asleep. You must have heard the news of a child being left in a vehicle alone and wondered to yourself, “how would one leave their tot in the car?”

Well, it’s another story when your toddler is fast asleep, and you must rush to the bathroom or are driving on empty. While the situations are understandable, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have to wake up your tot, they will still fall asleep once you are cruising again.

11. Fasten Your Child In Correctly

Having a car seat that fits your toddler and is compliant with the car is not enough. Get a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician to ensure your seat is in good shape and installed correctly.

After your toddler’s seat is inspected and properly installed, then you can fasten your toddler in correctly. Though turning your toddler car seat around might be tempting, it’s safest when it is rear-facing.

12. Do Not Panic Over Tears

When on a road trip with a toddler, they will start to get weary of the ride, and the tears will start. You will have to remember that they are but tears. If you are nowhere safe to make a pit stop or pull over, you should do everything possible to calm and reassure your toddler without reaching your arm behind. Stay focused on the road.

Driving is your priority, and any distraction could have dangerous consequences. Should the crying and discomfort continue, look for a safe place to stop and handle the issue.

13.  What About Toilet Training?

It’s always advisable to avoid trying to potty train around the time you’re due to take a long road trip.

Sometimes circumstances do prevail, though, and you’ll want to be prepared for potty emergencies by having a complete arsenal of emergency gear at your disposal. This might include travel pull-ups, wipes, changing pads, and a portable potty seat.

Using car seat liners with a newly toilet-trained toddler is also a wise idea; it’s much easier to clean a liner than deal with the stench of urine in their car seat.

A child sitting on a potty in the middle of the road

14. Have A Full Tummy And A Full Tank

Do not forget YOU in all the tips for traveling with toddlers. Ensure that you have energy snacks and coffee. Do not forget water to keep hydrated, and don’t feel you need to power through just because your toddler is sleeping. You’re own rest, stretch and toilet stops are equally important on a long journey.

We hope these tips will have you well prepared for a long journey ahead with your toddler. We’re never going to say that toddler travel is easy, but with the right preparation and planning, you can still make road tripping with toddlers an enjoyable and memorable experience.

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