Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means—it's time to pack up the kiddos and hit the open road for your next holiday destination. But before you start picturing a calm journey where everyone gets along perfectly, let's get real for a second. Traveling with toddlers can leave you a little frazzled. That's why we're here to help you plan the perfect summer road trip with your little ones. So buckle up, grab a snack (or three), and let's dive into our tips for a smooth road trip with toddlers.
Leave Early in the Morning OR late at night
The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, a little peace and quiet. We all know that tired kiddos are more likely to snooze through the journey, so why not use that to your advantage? By hitting the road bright and early, you increase the chances of your little angels getting some much-needed shut-eye. Plus, leaving early helps you beat the dreaded traffic jams, ensuring a smoother ride for everyone involved. If you’re the night owl variety, we recommend getting the kids in PJS and leaving at bedtime! Some parents swear by driving through the night. We say don’t knock it ‘till you try it!
Give the Car a Deep Clean Before You Go
Picture this: you're trapped in a car with your toddlers for hours on end, and an unpleasant smell starts creeping its way into your nostrils. Not exactly the ideal scenario, right? To avoid this nightmare, empty your car and give it a deep clean before packing things in for your adventure. Keeping things organized and fresh will decrease travel stress and save you from enduring hours of funky fragrances and misused space. There’s no need to drag all those items you’ve been meaning to get rid of halfway across the country. Plus, you'll know exactly where you put everything—no more desperate searches for that beloved stuffed animal under the seats!
Pro tip: after cleaning your car, load up the essentials ahead of time! The Traveler is the perfect road trip companion, since it packs up easily and fits seamlessly in the trunk of your car.
Keep Everyone Entertained
We’ll cut to the chase. Road trips may not be the time to focus on earning your “Parent of the Year” award when it comes to sticking to screen time limits. Vacations are all about breaking up the routine, relaxing, and having fun. Don’t forget that the kids deserve to let loose a little, too! Download plenty of favorite movies, bring some new books, and play some car games, as a family. Don’t forget to bring along your Entertainment Holder to make things easier. But, our favorite form of entertainment has to be something a bit more interactive. You can thank us later, but something as simple as these gel clings can provide tens of minutes of entertainment. Or, pick up one of these mess-free coloring books before you go. This “I Spy Travel” Deck is a great one to play all together, and it doesn’t take up much space, either.
Use a visual timer to show kiddos how much longer until the next snack, the next stop, or the next activity. I like to start the timer when they get a snack or new toy and say that they can’t ask for another one until the timer goes off. This cuts out a lot of whining and often they find a way to distract themselves and stay entertained that when the timer goes off, they’re surprised!
Strategically Schedule Breaks
Just like adults, little ones need a break from the monotony of the road. Do some research before your trip to identify potential pit stops that will allow the whole family to stretch their legs and have some fun. Parks, museums, or family-friendly restaurants are great options to consider. These breaks provide an opportunity for your little adventurers to burn off some energy, explore new surroundings, and keep the journey exciting.
*Use Road Trip Clips - decorate a clothes pin for each kid and clip them to your visor. If they are well behaved, the clip stays up. If not, the clip comes down. Everyone with a clip on the visor at the next rest stop gets to pick a treat!
Have a Few Surprises Up Your Sleeve
The key to parenting (at least when it comes to road trips), is novelty. Keeping your kids entertained and engaged during a road trip often requires you to have a few surprises up your sleeve. Pack some small toys, games, treats, or activities that they've never seen before, and reveal them at strategic moments during the trip. The element of surprise can work wonders and create really exciting moments for your littles.
Always Have Snacks Ready to Go
When it comes to road trips with toddlers, snacks reign supreme. We can't stress enough the importance of having a well-stocked snack arsenal. Pack their favorites, and consider indulging in a few special treats that are reserved for special occasions. A satisfied tummy equals a happier child, and a happier child makes for a more enjoyable journey for everyone. Don’t forget to pack some wet wipes and a bag for trash! Road trips are no time to let sticky fingers ruin the fun. Serving a variety of portioned snack foods in this snack spinner or this grid case turn ordinary into exciting - a win win on the road!
*If stopping in a drive-thru for a meal, ask for one drink carrier per kid. These make the perfect lap trays with compartments for each part of their meal.
Pack an Overnight Bag
If your road trip involves overnight stays, here's a pro tip that will make your life so much easier. Instead of lugging around giant suitcases from the car to the hotel, pack an overnight bag for the family. Make sure it has what everyone needs for one night, including clothes, toiletries, diapers, wipes, PJs, sound machine you get the gist. This way, you can leave the bulky luggage safely stowed in the car while effortlessly transitioning into the hotel for the night. Say goodbye to the hassle of unpacking and repacking—this little trick will save you time and energy.
*Call the hotel ahead of time to see if they can put a pack n play or crib in your room for you. That way you have one less thing to tote from the car.
Planning the perfect summer road trip with toddlers might seem like a daunting task, but armed with our tips, you're ready to hit the road with confidence. Looking for more tips? Head to our blog!