Top tips for toddler road trips

child safety
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Whether you’re going to visit far away relatives for a reunion or taking a family vacation to Disneyland, everyone knows that taking a long car ride with a toddler can be a stressful ordeal. If you’ve never gone further than a few hours with your toddler before, you may be unsure of how to best plan for your road trip. From activities to pass the time to easy snacks for the picky road-trip eater, here are some of the top tips and tricks for toddler road trips.

Tip 1: Leave early

Since you’ve probably taken a vacation from work to take this road trip, you may not be inclined to begin your trip earlier than necessary. Leaving early, however, can save you a large amount of stress along the line. Many toddlers are naturally early risers who are at their happiest early in the morning, so leaving early will lower the risk of fighting your toddler about getting on the road. Depending on the length of the trip, there’s a good chance that your toddler will take part or all of their nap on the drive, giving you and your partner a built-in break. Finally, leaving early means that you will be able to arrive at your destination early enough to keep to your child’s bedtime, meaning that they will be less cranky the next morning and ready to start exploring your new location.

Tip 2: Make comfort a priority

Sitting in their car seat for a long time can be unfamiliar and uncomfortable for any toddler, so you will want to go out of your way to make comfort a priority whenever you can. Make sure that your toddler is in comfortable clothing – sweatpants rather than jeans, for example – and keep the AC or heating at a comfortable level. Look into simple road trip products, such as sun shades for your car windows or car seat head support for toddlers, that will negate some of the minor annoyances that can build into a major tantrum if ignored.

Tip 3: Plan toddler-friendly rest stops

Of course, just sitting still for a long time can be the most uncomfortable aspect of a road trip for an active toddler who is used to being able to run around and vent their energy. When planning your road trip route, look ahead on Google Maps and see if there are some toddler-friendly short activities that you can use as an opportunity to break up the drive and get their energy out. Many rest stops have a playground, but if there’s a stretch where there aren’t many rest stops available you may have to get creative. Just remember that, for toddlers, even seemingly insignificant things can be an opportunity for a toddler-friendly break. Just stopping on a convenient service road to look at a field full of sheep can break up the monotony and get your toddler back in a good mood.

Tip 4: Get creative with activities

You probably already know that toddlers can find a lot of entertainment in seemingly simple activities. When you’re stuck in a car, however, some of their favorite activities may be inaccessible to them. But with a little creativity and planning, having activities can be relatively simple. First, get a box or a bag, so that you’re able to easily gather up the activities once your toddler is done with them and minimize the mess. Second, think of simple activities that will keep your toddler occupied for a while. Depending on your toddler, this can be anything from bringing along some matchbox cars and a portable play mat to using dried pasta and string to make necklaces. It all depends on what you already know your child enjoys.

Tip 5: Pack toddler-friendly snacks

When you’re on a road trip, you’re naturally going to be relying on convenience stores and fast food to a certain extent. Unfortunately, with toddlers there are two potential problems. First, you obviously don’t want to mess up their diet with constant junk food, at least not too much. Second, there’s always a chance that your toddler will refuse to eat whatever you manage to pick up on the road. With this in mind, you should make sure to pack a number of toddler-friendly snacks that can replace convenience store junk food or supplement a picky eater’s insufficient lunch. Some good suggestions include baggies of breakfast cereal, cut up apples, dried fruit, and other snacks that you know your toddler enjoys.

Story by ​Yunas Chaudhry

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