*Guest Post from Nikki Pezzopane
Although six hours may seem like an average road trip to your vacation destination, when you calculate traveling with a toddler, it may feel like eternity. Some may use Google to type in long-tailed searches, such as “how to entertain my toddler on a road trip” or “what to pack for a long road trip with a toddler”, however many children are different.
Recently, we took my 18 month old on a road trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas with only desert in between. A week before the trip I panicked, thinking that it would not be possible to keep him entertained for that long. He barely sits on the couch for five minutes before running off to his next activity. I Googled, researched, and asked other moms what they have done on road trips with toddlers, but I always came up with different answers, so I decided to just run with it.
The best thing you could for road trips with babies is plan ahead. I took note of toys that grabbed his attention for long periods of time, especially in the car. I shopped for new toys that may gain new interest and hid them away for the trip. Also, I came up with a grocery list of healthy foods that were easy to eat in a car seat.
A day before the trip, I gathered the toys in a “toy bag” that was easy to access. Just a reusable grocery bag works just fine when traveling with a toddler. Books, stuffed animals, and interactive toys filled the bag. Although controversial to some, I packed his Nabi tablet. This thing is an absolute lifesaver on road trips with babies! Along with the educational apps already pre-loaded, I was able to load additional kid-friendly and learning apps, music, and videos onto it. I even packed a small baking pan with alphabet and letter magnets.
Separate from the “toy bag”, I packed a “food bag”. I also used a reusable grocery bag, however placed a couple of ice packs in sealable bags, to eliminate mess, and to keep things cool. I included pre-sliced fruit and veggies, pre-made and cut sandwiches, drinks to fill his sippy cup, puffs, cereal, fruit snacks, and even a can of Pringles if he got very antsy. I recommend packing extra non-perishable foods for road trips with babies as well to reduce extra costs.
Of course, we also packed a diaper bag, with the normal essentials in it, for traveling with toddler. It was one of the last things loaded into the car, so it was easy to access. Don’t forget a changing pad for road trips with babies! Whether you choose to do diaper changes in restrooms, or in the car (when stopped), the changing pad helps keep the germs away while traveling with a toddler.
Introduce Food and Toys Slowly During Road Trips With Babies
For the first hour, we did not give him any extra toys or snacks. He left with a full belly, and we treated it as if we were going for a typical car trip. We slowly introduced toys and snacks, one by one, so he wouldn’t get bored with all at once. Surprisingly, he was very good and even took a little nap. On the way home, he did not nap and we got stuck in traffic to make the trip longer, however we did the same thing as on the way there. As my fiancé drove, I was able to sit next to the car seat to entertain him, play with his toys, and make goofy faces.
In my case, traveling with a toddler was very successful. Knowing that toddlers have different attitudes, attention spans, and interests, make sure to plan ahead for any road trips with babies. This will also help you find ways of entertaining toddlers on road trips and really get to know your own as well as to learn with them. Do not panic or overreact. Relax. Our little ones will surprise us more than we give them credit for.