Road Tripping with Toddlers

We somehow were able to survive a 3 day road trip with over 21 hours of driving over Christmas with 19 month old twins, two dogs, two adults, and all of our things, stuffed into a minivan for 1,000 miles. Somehow.  I'll chalk it up to pretty good kids and everyone making a good effort to be in decent spirits despite the tough circumstances. Well, that and lots of snacks. And while we're certainly no experts on travelling with toddlers, we did learn a few helpful things on our trek to the PNW that I want to share.

The Essentials

Being cooped up in a car for 3 days basically just puts everyone in survival mode. All of my policies on screen time, snacks, messes,  nap times, pacifiers, etc. were tossed out the window before we hit the Colorado/Wyoming border. I tried to keep my resolve, but eventually we just felt like throwing anything and everything we could think of into the back seat so that toddler-screech didn't end up being the road trip soundtrack. 

  • Tablets + Headrest Mounts. We bought the boys Amazon Fire tablets and these headrest mounts so they could watch pre-downloaded movies. Or they could use the cases and play Fisher Price games on them. That helped a lot when they were getting antsy. 
  • Snacks + Milk. We didn't always get to stop right at meal times so we needed things with us to tide them over between meals. We packed things like pouches, Fig Bars, bananas, pre-filled snack cups with Cheerios and Goldfish, and individual cartons of milk.
  • New (and cheap!) toys + books.The mini Magnadoodles were huge hits (and have continued to be great for bringing into restaurants with us!), as well as some lift the flap books. We brought a few others but those were the only thing that really seemed to work well. 
  • Comfort items. A favorite blanket, pacifiers if they use them, stuffed animals, etc. Seems obvious, still worth mentioning.
  • Diaper Bag. Having the diaper bag ready with just the day's worth of supplies meant we didn't have to unpack the whole car for a quick change.
  • Designated trash bag. A bunch of Target bags stuffed in the seat-back pocket will do the trick. Just make sure you keep trash going into it instead of getting strewn about the car. Then when you stop for meals or gas, take the trash every time to keep it at a minimum.

Tips for the Car 

  • Keep it tidy! Reusable grocery bags are great for this kind of stuff. Just make sure everything has a spot to go, not just be loosely placed around the car.
  • Tidy around the car while the gas is pumping. 
  • Change diapers every time you stop. That worked out about every 2-3 hours for us, and luckily we didn't have to stop in between solely for diaper changes.
  • Get out of the car sometimes! Stretch your legs, grab a bite, let your kids wiggle some.
  • Try as hard as you can to be in a good mood. Road trips can be stressful for everyone, including your kids. But if you're stressed, they feed off of that. So go with the flow, and just know there's a light at the end of that long, long, long stretch of road.

Tips for the Hotel

I'm not sure if you'll be staying at a hotel, but we did for 4 nights before we left Denver, then again for 2 more nights on the road. Honestly, it's kind of tough and you kind of just have to do your best, but if I have any tips, it's these:

  • Bring your own Pack n Plays. Hotel Pack n Plays are likely not cleaned, could be recalled, or they may not even have them available at all. Pack n Plays don't take up much room, but they're really nice to have. Plus, when you roll in late at night, you can get it set up quickly without having to worry about waiting for one to be brought to you.
  • Check in. Take the kids up. Then take your luggage up, in that order. I mean, sometimes it's not possible and I get that. But don't try juggling toddler(s) and the luggage all at once. 
  • Use the plastic laundry bags the hotel gives you to stow dirty clothes in so you're not packing dirty clothes in with clean. (This is a general travel tip, but especially helpful with messy littles)
  • Bring a sponge and sample size of dish soap so you can wash sippy cups and snack cups before bed so they're clean for the next day.

SO - how about you? What are you road trip must haves when travelling with kids? Do you have any road trips coming up this year? Are you excited or dreading it? After this, I think we'll just fly to and from Colorado for now on.

Happy Saturday! Have a happy weekend! 

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