5 Tips to Survive Road Trips with Toddlers
As darling and sweet as your kids are, being trapped inside of car for a long road trip has the power to transform them into wailing, sibling-hating monsters. There’s a reason movies have been made solely dedicated to depicting this pain. At this point, my 3-year-old and 2-year-old are both still safely confined to their car seats which prevents hearing “She touched me!” 800 times within the first 20 miles. But there are still challenges to overcome:
Pack the Snacks – A large variety of snacks is a great road trip arsenal. Things like whole grain cereals, snack crackers and granola bars don’t require being kept cool but can be messy. Keep them contained in a handy drink and snack combo cup with your child’s favorite character. Buy a small Styrofoam cooler and stuff it with ice, milk, juice, cheese sticks and other healthy snacks that will keep your kids full without overloading them with sugar.
Make Room for Potty – When you’re in the midst of or have recently completed potty training, a long road trip is the perfect storm for someone wetting their pants…or worse. With all the snacks and drinks you’ve given them to keep them occupied, their little bodies get full faster than your car can legally make it to the next rest stop. When little one has to go RIGHT NOW, you can pull off on the nearest side road and let him sit on his potty chair in as discreet location. When you get to the next rest stop, you’ll be able to dispose of the potty and clean up. (Don’t forget toilet paper and a jug of soapy water for cleaning out the potty.)
Face the Facts – Messes are going to happen. There will be spills. Instead of hoping they want, it’s best to prepare for them. Those plasticy mattress protectors are great for protecting your back seat. Just lay it over the top and cut holes so the seat belts are all fully functional. If one of the kids spills, you won’t have to panic about the value of your car decreasing because of a giant fruit punch stain. (Also, don’t give your kids fruit punch on a road trip unless you really feel like living on the edge.)
Planning Pays Off – Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. This will allow more times for stops that would otherwise be a stressful rush. Find a couple of possible locations to let them out and play will ease some the restlessness that comes with the territory. Anything from a local playground to a McDonald’s with a playplace will let them run out some of that pent up energy. Pro tip: Plan to play right before you eat lunch and then tuck them back into the car for naps.
Master of the Games – One of the biggest mistakes you can make is showing your kids all of the options they have to entertain themselves all at once. Try to pack books, games, toys and videos in phases. When they get bored with one thing, you can look like a hero by surprising them with the next activity. And although you’re supposed to limit screen time, road trips are one of those magical times when rules are meant to be broken. So don’t feel bad if when all else fails you turn on the DVD player at have a matinee showing of Mickey Mouse. That guy knows how to party!
The key to surviving road trips with toddlers is to think ahead, plan carefully and don’t forget the most crucial supply of all: patience.