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Essentials for surviving a roadtrip with a Toddler



Essentials for surviving a roadtrip with a Toddler

As a child the longest road trip I ever took was 2-3 hours to Hershey Park or Wildwood, NJ so when my husband suggested we drive 10 hours to Captiva, Florida and back with our 1 year old toddler I thought he might be smoking crack. Why on earth would we do this? Turns out, as always, he had a good point. In order to get there we would have to take 2 planes and drive an hour which would likely amount to 10 hours of travel anyway, so why not have more control over her tantrums, feedings, and potty breaks. Suddenly this was sounding like an amazing idea and if we stopped a few times how bad could it be right?? Having now done this 20 hour round trip jaunt for the last 3 years I can tell you it can be…REALLY BAD. Prior to the first trip, I was ready to be “mom of the year” and did a ton of research on what to pack for a child on a road trip. I even got crafty and made some DIY entertainment options that I found on Pinterest… NONE of it worked. I also did not take into account how I would fare on such a long drive.

All my fails have led me to provide YOU with the essentials for surviving a road trip with your toddler.


Have No Expectations:

Throw out the idea that this will go smoothly because you are prepared and packed tons of crap. This way if you child screams for only an hour on the drive, it’s a win. But seriously, I was so focused on having her “behave” the whole time that I was irritable and stressed. Once I realized that there was no way I could control this situation, everything got better. Give in to the electronics, treats and everything you think is “not good for them”. They are NOT going to read books or play your pinterest games. They are going to stare at an ipad, phone or tablet for most of the trip. They are going to eat lollipops and M&Ms. There eyes and teeth won’t fall out. Let it happen, for your sanity and theirs.

Do Not Sit in the Back Seat:

If you have two children this is likely not an option, but for me with one I thought sitting back there with her would be easier for me and for her.  This way I could give her all the games, toys and food she would need. WRONG. Yes, it was physically easier, having me there just made her more cranky and less focused on her entertainment. It also made me feel completely green. I had never been carsick before but sitting in the back made me want to stick my head out the window like a dog.


You can never have enough food.  We pack a cooler and keep it in the back seat so one of us can reach back and grab snacks for her. We also pack a bag of dry snacks. I pack healthy options like grapes, carrots, apples, oranges, nuts and dry cereal (see my post on staying healthy when travelling and snacks to pack to stay on track)  She enjoys all of that and I let her help me pack it so she feels she “packed her own food”. But I also bring dum-dums, chocolate gold coins and jelly beans. These are her favorite treats and I reward her when she has gone an hour or so with good behavior. We pack food for ourselves as well like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, make our shakes (link to shakeology) and hit the road.  This limits the amount of time we have to stop for food and just do potty breaks.

Electronics and Apps:

As I said above, bringing all the games, books and toys I could find, NOTHING is better than an iPad. I used my old ipad and loaded up a few movies and some of her favorite shows. I also put educational games on there which turns out, is what she loves the most. Fisher Price makes a great app called Puppy Play which she can literally play for hours. She also likes the Eric Carle apps, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (and others of this brand), Daniel Tiger games, Disney Junior Appisodes and Sago Mini apps. To be honest I would much rather have her play these than zone out on a movie. At least they are teaching her some type of skills like identifying shapes, colors and letters. Be sure to bring a PORTABLE CHARGER so when it runs out of battery you can just plug it in and you are good to go. My favorite is the Mophie Powerstation  , one charge on that will last you hours!

Portable Potty:

This is for kids, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t use it too.  When your kid has to go and there is no rest stop for miles, you will thank yourself for keeping this in the car for them and for you.  I have the OXO 2-in-1 Go Potty for Travel It is light, compact and gets the job done. You can buy the bags for it or just use plastic bags like I do.  

A few bonus tips:
-Place the carseat behind the driver. I know this is opposite of what you normally have, but then the passenger in the front can easily hand things to the child without having to play twister trying to do it.  
– If you get carsick like me, bring a lot of TUMS and offer to drive for a little while.  I found that when I drive I feel much better.
-Limit the time you are at a rest stop.  Get what you need and get out. Taking long breaks will just make the drive seem even longer.  
-Use WAZE. That app is a life-saver for traffic jams!

These tips are essential if you really want to get the drive done in 1 day. If you have a more flexible schedule and budget, I highly recommend stopping for an overnight half way. Find a fun hotel or place to stop on your route. Get out and have some fun for a night which, will make the last half of the drive seem like a breeze.   I hope these will help you avoid my mom-fails (you can read more about those here) if you are thinking of doing a long road trip, the bottom line and electronics will save your sanity!!!

Are you a road trip pro? Post your hacks in the comments or send me an email to feature your ideas in my next post on Instagram

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