[One Year and Beyond] Traveling with a Toddler

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Traveling with a toddler...I'm not sure that I can fully provide any advice on this topic, but we have done our share of car trips with Mason from a young age, that I definitely have some tips.

1. Forget all the rules you have at home.

Obviously you wouldn't normally let your kid watch 6 hours straight of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Jake and the Neverland Pirates, but when you're on a 6-7 hour road trip, all the rules go out the window. You probably also wouldn't let them eat goldfish all day. But when you're stuck in a car for 6+ hours, all you want to do is get to your destination with your sanity intact. You will do whatever it takes. During our road trips to Arizona as well as Northern California, we watched more Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than I care to admit. But we all made it, happy and still sane, to our destination!

(extra tip : don't forget your phone/iPad chargers!)

2. Make sure you know how to access the videos before you leave home.

This is a follow up to #1. I thought I had fully prepared for our trip to Northern California for Thanksgiving last year by downloading like 15 episodes of Mickey and a couple episodes of Jake and a couple episodes of Doc McStuffins (hey, the parents have to have variety or they will go crazy) until... I tried to play one for Mason. Mommy fail. I thought I needed to access them through the app store but really I just needed to click on the videos app. So I started freaking out when it said I needed to have wifi to access the videos. I was so desperate (Mason was having a meltdown) that I made Seth call Verizon and turn his phone into a hot spot so I could use the wifi. Then about an hour later, I realized I just needed to click the video app. 
Do your homework before you leave home.

3. Bring comforts from home.

(this picture has nothing to do with the topic, but I just love it so I included it. it's from our vacation to New Mexico when Mason was 8 months old. although, we did bring his beanie from home.)

Of course this would depend on the situation, but since we travelled by car, we were able to do this. We brought our stroller, our pack n play, toys, etc. I think it definitely made it easier for Mason to be out of his normal environment that he had some of the comforts of home (things he was familiar with) with him.

4. Forget about your normal routine.

When we went on our road trips, we always thought it would be good to leave early. Like 5am early. It's still dark outside so we figured if we woke Mason up last minute, changed his diaper, and plopped him in the car, he would fall back asleep. WRONG. Thankfully he was good and happy, but he was definitely not sleeping. Don't count on your child falling asleep in the car. This is where the snacks and the iPad come in handy. We were lucky enough that Mason was content just hanging out for the first hour-ish, but we wanted to be prepared for all possible outcomes.
Also, while on your trip, you will want to do as many activities you can. This doesn't always allow you to be back home (or to the hotel, etc) during nap time. Just go with the flow. You're on vacation! Have fun! Kids will nap when they're tired.

5. Bring lots of snacks.

Snacks are key. While Seth and I can get cranky when we're hungry, we understand that when we are in the middle of nowhere, there's nothing we can do to get food. We just have to wait until the next rest stop. But babies/toddlers don't understand that. It's nice to be able to have something for them to munch on until you get to the next rest stop.

Oh and on the same topic, when you're on a trip, it's kind of survival mode. I've found that healthy eating goes out the window and ease comes more in to play. Would it be healthier to get a Subway sandwich? Sure. But is it easier to just drive through McDonald's and get some chicken nuggets or drive through Del Taco and get a quesadilla? Yes. 

6. Plan your route ahead of time.

Know your route. Seriously, SO important. Plan out where you will stop for gas. When you have a toddler, the last thing you want to do is run out of gas. This will either a) require you to push your car to a gas station or b) require you to wait a ridiculously long amount of time for a tow truck to bring more gas. Just don't do it. Seth has always been SO good about planning our road trips and where we will stop for gas. There was only the one time (that he will hate me for talking about) that he got gas the day before our trip, drove somewhere, and didn't account for it in his calculation and I crossed my fingers, toes, eyes, and anything else I could think of that we wouldn't run out of gas (we were literally in the middle of NOWHERE in Arizona). I must have done something right because we made it to the gas station (THANK GOD) just in time. And filling up the tank? We filled up more gas in the tank than he thought the tank would hold. That's how low on gas we were.

(and don't forget to take family selfies to remember your vacation by!)

7. Don't have any expectations. 

Expect to have fun, but nothing beyond that. There are so many variables with a toddler. Just go with the flow. Who knew my Starbucks cup would provide so much entertainment for Mason? I sure didn't!

And there you have it! We have gone on a couple of long car trips with Mason since he's been born. While I feel like I would be at a total loss for packing for an airplane travel trip, I feel like I am pretty set on knowing what to pack for a car trip. Hopefully some of my advice can help when you plan your next car trip.

I look forward to reading the other moms advice on air travel with a toddler! I'm terrified!


Linking up with Sara from Running from the LawAshley from Words About WaverlyCourtney from From Here to Eternity and the other lovely co-hostesses of the One Year and Beyond series.


  1. I wouldn't know how to travel in the car without the iPad! And it's so true that you can't count on them sleeping :(

  2. We have an anti car napper over here. Which makes our mammoth car trips that much longer! Thank goodness for TV, snacks, and rest stops!

  3. The picture of the guys sleeping in the car is too cute. You're right, with toddlers, 'go with the flow' is probably the best advice!! :) We haven't really had a LONG car trip yet, but I'm thinking we need a vacation, so possibly soon. Good tips!!

  4. Okay, I've GOT to figure out how to get shows on my phone!! Do I pay for each individual show? Or the app just let's us watch whatever? It's seriously pathetic that I haven't figured this out!

  5. Cutest pics!!! Thanks for the tips, too. :)

  6. Great tips. Especially number 1. AMEN. Rules schmules. :) And don't feel bad, I can never find the stupid videos either. Same exact thing happened to me. My husband kept telling me they were in an app called "Movies" which I could NOT find. URG.

  7. Yes to all of this!!! We've been on a few trips (plane and car) and these are the same runes we go by, oh and wine for mommy in her travel cup ;)

  8. Snacks are totally life savers! When we travel Callie drinks way more milk than she should but it keeps her happy so I go with it! I have a total anti-car napper so new episodes of mouse and other disney favorites are key. We're planning a trip to Chicago later this month (about a 5 hour drive) and I'm dreading the car ride. I think once we're there she'll be fine because we can bring all our stuff like you said. I'm hoping that maybe just maybe being forward facing will help her out in the car! Fingers crossed! :)

  9. We've never done more than a 3 hour drive, and he slept almost the whole way there! On the way home, though, he got sick of it and cried/screamed the last 20 minutes. I felt horrible, finally pulled over to nurse him, which helped temporarily. I think he was just sick of being in the car. But he was only 6 months old and wasn't really into watching shows (still isn't quite yet).
    Good tips I will remember for the future!


I love your comments and I love connecting with my readers! I respond back via email so please make sure that your email is connected to your profile. Thanks for stopping by :)