Remember those carefree road trips before you had children? Sometimes you’d just wake up and hit the road… ah… the good ole’ days.
Now you’re dealing with naps, snacks and potty breaks. It can try your patience, especially if you’re taking a long road trip with toddlers or infants. Some parents stop traveling altogether, but that doesn’t have to be you!
We’ve put together some tips to help you stay sane when taking long car trips with toddlers. These will help you keep your little one well-fed, well-rested and entertained so everyone can enjoy the journey.
It isn’t always possible to shorten a trip, particularly if you’re visiting family across the country. If you just need to get on the road there are ways to prepare. Consider planning shorter road trips with your toddler. Short trips are an opportunity for your child to get used to being in the car for longer periods of time. It’s also a chance for you to get used to spending a couple hours in the car with them!
Unless the view is scenic, being stuck in a car isn’t very nice. You can’t move around. You get bored. Adults have ways of coping with that. They can read books, watch movies, and play games. Babies can’t do that. And they can’t understand that the trip will only last so long. Stop more often to let your child out of her car seat and get some fresh air. Breaks will help you survive the trip, too.
Let’s be honest, it’s much easier to endure road trips with kids when they’re sleeping. With infants, that isn’t very difficult because they sleep a lot. Toddlers are another story. The more time your little one stays awake, the more time he or she has to become antsy and inattentive. You can shorten that time by leaving at a time when your kiddo is used to sleeping. Early morning or late at night = more silence on the road.
On road trips, kids tend to get bored. Can you blame them? They’re staring at a seat for hours on end! Help them endure the ride by packing plenty of toys and other items to distract them. Kids Activities Blog has a wealth of ideas for things to pack and games to play to keep kids occupied during road trips. Parenting.com’s packing checklist is another good resource for making sure that you have everything that you need for long trips.
Along with toys, it’s a good idea to spend some time in the back seat with your child. Road trips can get lonely without company! When babies get bored and lonely, they cry. Sometimes your presence alone is enough to calm a baby down. Sometimes your toddler just needs a playmate to help them stay occupied. Switching up drivers will also keep you and your partner from getting too worn out at the wheel.
This is perhaps the most difficult part of taking long road trips with babies. Many people just aren’t wired to endure an hour of screaming in a small space. Actually, most people aren’t wired that way! But here’s the issue – children respond based on your attitude. If you get frustrated and begin whining or yelling, your baby will feed off that and – BOOM! – the crying gets worse. If you are the one who can’t handle the crying, consider keeping headphones with you and listening to music for distraction.
It isn’t hard to find a horror story about a long road trip with kids. These are good for keeping stress to a minimum. They cover the basics – food, entertainment, companionship, and rest. But a road trip should be about much more than that. After all, your child is experiencing new places and faces for the first time!
Be sure to stop and smell the roses. Take in the scenery as a family. He may not be able to discuss it with you, but your little one is curious about new sights, smells and sounds. Even a toddler can enjoy the open road. And your road trip doesn’t need to be an endurance test.