11 essentials to let the good times roll on your family’s next long-distance voyage.
If baby loves it, list it.
Make a list (probably on your phone) of fun songs and hand games that you know your little one enjoys. When your child gets cranky, it can put the pressure on and make it difficult to think of a solution. Keep baby’s go-to list of songs handy to knock out grumps fast.
Think “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Apples and Bananas,” and “The Wheels on the Bus” for starters.
Play luggage Tetris.
Luggage that you won’t need until you arrive at your destination should be packed at the bottom of the pile or in the trunk. Things you might use along the journey should be stowed within reach for easy access. This might include snacks, one change of clothes for little one, diapers and wipes, toys, books, and water.
If you are traveling with a partner, take turns sitting in the backseat with your tot to keep each other company and to serve as entertainment and comfort. Sometimes the easiest way to keep your babe happy is to simply be present. And you know what they say: If baby’s happy, everyone’s happy.
Bonus: If you can keep your tot content by providing your services, you won’t need to pull over as often to deal with fussing.
Anytime you stop for food, fuel, or fun, make sure the whole family pops out to stretch their legs and use the restroom…even if they don’t think they need to go. This will save you from making extra stops along the way.
When you gotta go...
Have a potty training tot? You may not always have a ton of notice when your little one needs to go (you know, like more than four seconds). Keep a child’s potty in the back of the car for those times when your tot really needs to go and there’s no rest stop in sight.
Treat your little one.
Not sure what toys to bring to keep your tot entertained? Buy an inexpensive backpack and fill it to the brim with special “road trip”toys.
Check the $1 Spot at Target or your favorite dollar store for inexpensive toys like coloring books and cardboard puzzles.
Road trip! The words don’t really inspire the same thoughts they did in the days before kiddos, huh, mama?
Glam selfies are replaced with handing over your phone to keep the little one entertained. Journey and Foreigner are replaced with “52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs!” on Pandora (joy…). Cruising with the windows down is replaced with “It’s too cold, mama,” and “Uh oh. Shoe ‘fell’ out the window.”
Okay, those glorious days may be over, but road trips with your whole crew may be even more lively (and definitely more exciting)—with a few key planning strategies that is.
Whether you are cashing in some of your hard-earned vacation time, moving cross-country, or simply want to make the most of your next three-day weekend, we’ve got you covered.
These 11 tips for ensuring a peaceful journey for your tot will keep your gang rolling along.
Instead of your usual fast food haunt, opt for a park or another open space for taking a pit stop with your crew. Let your tot run around and get those wiggles out before hopping back in the car. Bring a picnic blanket or Monkey Mat for snacks and diaper changes. Simple sandwiches and a variety of healthy finger foods are always a safe bet.
Save money, eat healthier, and have more fun on the trip? Yes, please.
Timing is everything.
A photo posted by J O Y O L S O N (@joyeolson) on
Know your toddler’s sleep schedule and use it to your advantage. If you are setting off during the day, eat lunch before nap time and time the trip so you are hopping on the highway right around baby’s nap time. (Stopping and starting at lights may not be conducive to sleep.)
If you are a night owl (or want to avoid rush hour), start the journey a little before your tot’s bedtime to clock in a few hours of smooth sailing while your little one sleeps. Just remember to fill up on gas, use the restroom, and stock up on snacks before little eyes start to droop. Stopping the car is guaranteed to wake up your tot.
Last but not least, make sure to pack the essentials for your excursion.
Water bottles for the whole crew. I love the CamelBak Eddy Kids bottle for my two-year-old.
Easy, healthy, and yummy snacks. Think nuts, whole grain bread, bananas, apples, Cheerios, pretzels, raisins, baby carrots, cheese cubes, fruit/veggie squeeze packs, or simple sandwiches like PB&J.
Blankets and pillows to make sure everyone is comfy (even with the A/C on full blast). ❄
Good music. Make sure to bring along a few options that everyone likes (read: you don’t need to listen to Raffi the whole time). My family usually agrees on The Beatles, The Shins, Foster the People, and Jimmy Buffett. ?
Travel games. Not necessarily anything that needs to be packed, but just something to keep in your arsenal. Games like Simon Says and a sitting version of the Hokey Pokey are usually a hit with toddlers.
A diaper changing station. I love the wipe-clean surface and the pockets on the Skip Hop Grab and Go Pronto changing station. I also recommend the SkipHop Grab and Go Wet/Dry Bag to keep dirty diapers contained when you aren’t near a trash can.
Hand sanitizer. A must when public restroom facilities just don’t cut it.
Adorable baby sunglasses. Nuff said.
Books! Pack options that don’t take up a ton of space and will keep baby interested for extended periods of time. Or, if your little one is happy just listening, audio books are a great option for the whole family.
Give yourself plenty of wiggle room.
I’m not talking about leg room, either. (My family’s go-to ride is a Honda Fit.) No, I’m talking about the most precious asset on vacation. Time.
Setting a hard deadline for arriving at your destination is a recipe for stress and turmoil. Allow yourself at least 25% more time than your favorite app says it will take to make the drive.
Between poopsplosions, snack breaks, and group naps (a must when the whole family is sleep-deprived), you will be glad you factored in more flex time.
Make it a PJ party!
What better way to ensure a comfortable ride for everyone than by dressing in your favorite comfy-cozy jammies? And what a great excuse to buy a cute new pair of PJs, mama!
Not interested in waltzing into a gas station at 1am in your pajamas? At least consider yoga pants and a super-soft shirt, girl.
PJs are great for the kiddos, not only because they are comfortable, but because they are fun! Sell the trip as a pajama slumber party and you are sure to make the trip more spirited for everyone.
Protip—If your little one is still in diapers, choose PJs that are easy to take off (read: no snaps), and have an extra pair (or two) within reach for any unexpected surprises.