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Our kiddos may be international fliers because of our family’s spread between the US and the UK (read about how to survive international travel with kids here!), but only recently did they do their first long road trip! Even though we have taken them around the world by air, our domestic drive brought out my travel anxiety. Well, we did it, and we survived, and now I have tips and tricks to share. Here is your ultimate road trip checklist for traveling with babies and toddlers!
Travel anxiety, like any anxiety, can be managed with several coping techniques. One that I utilize a lot is to focus on what you can control, versus being sucked into the whirlwind of what you cannot.
So, when it comes to a road trip with your babies and toddlers, you can control several things: your expectation that there may be many pitstops and that the kids will probably get bored and loud at some point, your feel-good coping skills like singing along to your favorite music and your deep breathing skills to keep your cool, and what items you bring along for the kids and yourself to make the ride as smooth as possible!
With the following items on hand, you can prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Here is your road trip checklist for traveling with babies and toddlers.
For the kids!
Kids can get hungry at any moment on a road trip. And while they may be picky eaters when it comes to mealtime at home, most kids love snacks. I think ours could subsist on snacks alone!
For a road trip you will want to minimize mess and spillage while maximizing consumption, so we are big fans of easy to eat, handheld foods like snack bars and fruit/vegetable pouches.
These are our kiddos’ favorites:
The fact that the pouches have so many fruits and vegetables help relieve me of the mom guilt associated with feeding my kiddos snacks for the hours-long drive!
Your child will be restrained in their carseat for hours on end, so we’ve got to give them something to do if you have any hope of them not going completely stir crazy.
What are your children’s most cherished toys when they are at home? Bring one or two along so they have their familiar favorites along for the ride!
For us, that meant we had a case of Barbies, action figures, and cars at an arm’s reach!
Big bang-for-your-buck items can easily be found in the Target dollar bin. And let’s be real — we are all at Target at least once a week, so it’s easy to pick these up!
Load up on fun activity packs in the weeks or months that lead up to your travel.
Our favorites are the magic marker coloring and activity books, and the packs of stickers!
These are great because the marker will not mark the car when your toddler decides to experiment coloring on different surfaces. The marker only works on the special paper, so you can let them color without worry.
- SURPRISE TREATS – KINDER EGGS
These are a win-win item! Part sweet treat, part surprise toy, these will occupy at least a good half hour or more of your drive.
Kinder Eggs come with different themes so be sure to choose one or more that your kiddos are interested in! For us, it was Frozen all the way!
You could even use old magazine or newspaper pages to gift wrap these eggs in several layers (akin to the pass the parcel game) to make the surprise reveal that much more exciting — and take that much longer!
For your piece of mind…
- DESIGNATED GARBAGE BIN OR BAG
With all the snacks and activities, there will be some extra wrappers and waste to wrangle. Maintaining a designated space, bin, or bag for garbage, you can keep your car from becoming a dump heap on your many-hours drive.
- EXTRA DIAPERS, WIPES, AND CLOTHES ON HAND
Your trunk is full of your suitcases and items for your arrival, but it’s super smart to keep your diaper bag stocked with some extra essentials.
Extra diapers are always a good idea.
Wipes, we all know, have so many more functions than wiping bums. When your kiddo squeezes out a little too much pouch or they spit out their milk, wipes to the rescue to save your car from smelling icky upon arrival.
When your sweeties pour all their water out over themselves, you’ll be so glad you have a change of clothes in the diaper bag in the car with you so that you don’t need to dig through your suitcase to pull out an item not intended for the drive.
- TRAVEL TOILET, or travel diaper
When you have a newly potty-trained child, a long car drive can instill fear into the hearts of even the most courageous mom and dad. When a toddler has to go, they HAVE TO GO! Nobody wants an accident on a trip, nobody. So bring a travel toilet along!
There are lots of great travel toilets, with some that are super compact and perfect for a road trip pit-stop.
There were many hours of our recent drive where there was no rest area, and I was so glad we had our travel toilet for our three year old!
Another option is the “special travel diaper”. If you are uneasy to trust your child to tell you when they need to use the loo, it’s okay to make an exception and put them in a special travel diaper or pull up. Road trip travel with babies and toddlers requires a certain amount of survival mentality, so if that means a diaper, then that’s just fine!
With this ultimate road trip checklist for traveling with babies and toddlers you will be ready to take on the road!
What other tips and tricks do you have? Comment below!
Happy holidays and safe travels everyone!
Check out other travel tips here!
Christina is the writer behind the blog Real Life Mama. She is a mom two littles, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Christina and her family live in San Diego, where she is a full-time mama, part-time mental health therapist (LPCC), and round-the-clock blogger, writer, and author. If she ever gets a moment to herself, she can be found singing at the top of her lungs, cooking, and crafting. Thanks for reading!