Traveling With Small Children: Road Trip Edition

I think we can all agree that letting your kid wear socks with sandals is bad parenting.

We don’t live near any of our family members (and none of them live near each other), so needless to say we do a fair amount of traveling.  We’ve learned that as enticing as the speed of flight is, it’s best to drive when we can so you can load up your car, and not worry about schedules.

Toddler and Baby Travel Tips

1: Don’t do it!  Just kidding.  Sort of.

2: Break your media rules.  We don’t let our kids have any screen time during the week, and limit their screen time on the weekends.  We also don’t let them use screens as distractions at restaurants and on vacations because we are gluttons for punishment.  During travel time, though, they can watch ALL THE MOVIES.  I don’t care if my daughter watches Frozen four times in a row if it gets us to our destination in peace.

3: Snacks.  Pack a million healthy snacks.  If you don’t you’ll have to grab whatever you can get at gas stations along the way, and will end up with upset tummies or sugar crazed monsters.  There’s something to be said for snacks keeping kids occupied in the car.  My son will sit through anything if you offer him some cheerios.  Bonus points for pre-packaging homemade trail mixes.  My daughter likes to hunt through her bag to pick out the good stuff.

4: Blankets.  More than you think you’ll need.  In the winter it might be chilly, in the summer they double as sun shades.  You can roll them up to prop up sleepy little heads, and use them as towels in a pinch.

5:  Fun books.  Seek and find books are great for older kids, and interactive books like “Pat the Bunny” are great for older babies and young toddlers.  Plus, you have them strapped down so even the wiggliest kid has to sit and listen.  Sticker books are also great.

6: Be flexible, and stop a LOT.  We have one potty trained kid and one in diapers so stopping frequently is a given.  It took me a long time to stop worrying about schedules, and just stay calm and remember we’ll get there when we get there.

7: But do plan a little.  Drive during sleepy times.  If you can drive over nap time or leave around bedtime things will be much more pleasant (if you’re lucky enough to have car sleepers).  We also try to find a Chick-Fil-A to hit up around lunch or dinner so the kids can play for a half hour or so before we get back on the road.  It works wonders!

8: Pack a couple changes of clothes for your kids.  There will be a blowout, or someone will barf, or a kid will spill their entire drink all over themselves.  Maybe all three will happen.  Be prepared, and by prepared I mean bring these plastic bags.  You NEED them.  I promise.  They contain and mask the smell of even the grossest incidents until you reach your destination.

9: Sit in the back seat if you fit.  My kids are still really little, and things go much more smoothly if I ride in the back for part of the trip.  It’s not the most comfortable, but neither is listening to an 11 month old cry for an hour.

10: Be organized.  Have separate bags for everything.  A fully stocked diaper bag.  A bag for snacks.  A bag for toys.  If you’re getting in late make sure your suitcase is accessible so you can just grab it and run inside.

Bonus tip for nursing moms:  Get a car adapter for your pump and use it during the drive.  Kills time, and you’ll have bottles ready to go on your trip!


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