Tips for Traveling with Toddlers On a Long Trip
Books can pass time on a long drive.
Traveling with Your Toddler Long Distance
If you have family that lives a distance from you, you may dread the thought of frequent trips to see them with an active toddler in the car. When they were babies, it was easy to take them along on a trip and they slept most of the way. However, now you hear whines, cries, and outright grumpiness throughout the trip. I have learned the best way to travel with toddlers thanks to my own daughter. Here are a few tips I've used to make the trip an adventure instead of a prison sentence.
Bring toys for play during stops and don't forget the favorite stuffed teddy bear.
Work Around Their Schedule
One of the easiest ways to ensure some quiet time on your trip is to plan it around your toddler's sleeping schedule. You can drive during their naptime or leave early in the morning or drive at night after they go to sleep. The driving motion often lulls them to sleep and it won't seem like such a long trip to a young child if they sleep through part of it.
If there are two adults going on the trip, you may even want to consider driving all night to eliminate much of the waking time the toddler will spend in the car. One can drive while the other person naps so that someone will be awake when the children are.
I have friends that do this every year when they drive across country for their family Thanksgiving. Since they have multiple-aged children, it is a simple way to avoid the long hours in the car with unhappy kids.
Planning your drive time around your toddler's schedule also takes into account their eating times and when they are most energetic. Make sure you stop for meals around the same time as your toddler is used to eating. If that is not possible, at least have a snack available.
If your toddler is full of energy first thing in the morning, you may not want to tie them down in a car seat. Let them get some exercise first so they will be ready to sit still for awhile. My daughter takes awhile to wake up so that is a great time for us to drive. But later in the day she gets energetic so I try to be done driving for the day by then.
Bring special toys to pass time on the drive.
Make Traveling with Your Toddler Fun
Plan ahead on ways you can make the trip more fun for your toddler and you. Here are some tips to help you turn your trip into an adventure.
- Plan your route ahead of time. Figure in breaks that will allow your toddler to get some exercise. You may want to look up city or state parks where they can run around or attractions designed especially for young children. While you want to be flexible enough to allow for spontaneous stops when they are needed, planned breaks can be something everyone looks forward to.
- Schedule breaks according to your toddler's personality. You may know that your toddler gets bored after two hours or they may need a break every hour. Reduce the amount of driving time in a day that you plan to accomplish. If you are traveling a long distance, you will want to have no more than eight or ten hours scheduled for driving before you stop for the night.
- Bring toys just for the breaks. Balls, bubble machines, and other activities for outdoors can help relieve the frustration of sitting still for long periods of time.
- Bring toys for the drive that are special. I keep a small bag of toys just for traveling. This way, they feel like brand new toys instead of ones they play with every day.
- Pack a special toy such as a stuffed animal. This is especially important if this is your toddler's first trip away from home. They may sleep better in a strange place and just feel more secure in general with a favorite toy.
Make Memories with Your Toddler
Consider traveling with your toddler as another way you are making memories that will last a lifetime for you. Take a bunch of photos and relive the trip with your child when they get older. If you focus on the best part of the trip, you will forget the unpleasant times.