11 Sanity Saving Tips For Traveling With Toddlers
What emotions are evoked when you hear the words “traveling with toddlers” in the same sentence?
Panic? Dread? Overwhelm?
While those 3 words lined up horizontally in a row will probably never make you feel excited, here are a few things that I’ve done with my littles that make traveling with them a little more bearable.
Southern California to Northern Ohio. Over 2200 miles. In a car. With a 2.5-year-old and an 8-month-old. BY MYSELF! I like to refer to this as “The Ridiculously Long Road Trip of 2017.”
I’m happy to sit here today and tell you I (and the kids) lived to tell about it.
Since then we have traveled by car a considerable amount (though not anywhere close to 2200 miles at once!)
We have another big road trip coming up this week (Northern Ohio to Southern Florida) and I’m definitely going to my stash of road trip essentials once again.
Here are my 11 sanity-saving tips for traveling with toddlers:
1.) Lower your expectations.
Good. Now lower them even more.
Seriously. The unplanned will happen, and the planned won’t happen, but it’s OK. By the grace of God, you’ll eventually get to your destination. I’m an overreactor by nature. I’ve been trying really hard not to overreact when something goes wrong, and it really helps. If I overreact when we get a flat tire, I just wind up working myself up and that just ruins the mood of everyone around me, including mine of course. Things happen in life. You do your best to fix them, and you move on. You could plan the most Pinterest-worthy “travel box” for your kids, anticipating the smoothest trip anyone with kids has ever experienced. And if your kids are anything like mine, they could fool you for the first 20 minutes and play quietly with the new and special activities in said box. Then, there’s a chance they could completely lose their minds and throw toys and books at each other for the next 9 hours. You roll with it. You might need to make an extra stop that wasn’t planned in your itinerary. It’ll be OK.
2.) Don’t push yourself — or the kids too hard.
I’m definitely a “cross your legs, no more bathroom breaks, we’re only 3 hours away!” type of person by nature. Since I have two young kids and a small-bladdered husband (love you, babe!) I haven’t been able to travel my way in years. I can’t expect to travel MY way when it’s not just ME traveling. It’s going to take longer, but you’ll eventually get there!
3.) New (cheap) toys.
Getting a few new toys will definitely help. Think about when we as adults get a new “toy,” we just want to play with it and figure it out. Getting a few new toys will help make the trip exciting. I went to the Dollar Tree and got enough new toys to fill a small plastic bin that I keep in between the kids’ car seats and could easily bring back and forth from the car to hotel rooms. In the next 2 points, I’ll link 2 toys I got on Amazon that are more than $1, but worth every sanity-saving penny.
4.) Magnet Fun!
This little contraption was inexpensive, doesn’t take up too much space, and entertained Judah off and on for HOURS from our CA to OH road trip!
I don’t know what it is about this thing, but my 2.5 year old LOVED it, and now my 1.5 year old is just as obsessed! It’s called a “drawing laptop” around here. It’s like a Magnadoodle on crack. I credit this toy for helping my son master his ABC’s at an early age! One thing I like about this is that the stylus is attached so there’s no “MOMMY! I DROPPED MY PEN!!!!” while in the car with this educational toy!
Pack a TON of snacks. More snacks than you think they (and you) will eat! Give them choices, it makes it more fun! Buy a few unhealthy snacks that they don’t normally get at home. They’ll survive. You’ll need to get your car detailed by the time you get to your destination, but your sanity will be saved!
7.) Annoying music
Load your phone up with kids songs that will annoy you within 5 minutes. The more actions the songs have the better (wear them our so they’ll nap!) Sing along with them! The 43rd time of singing “The Wheels on the Bus” will somehow make the time go faster, and creep by at the same time. Magic.
We are HUGE fans of Adventures in Odyssey around here. My husband and I both grew up listening to the tapes (remember cassette tapes?), CD’s and radio show, and now our kids are fans. The stories are seriously the best and can be listened to over and over and over. One of the episodes on the set that I linked is called “Nothing to Fear” and I am not exaggerating when I tell you I can quote it. From Arizona to Minnesota, Judah kept asking for “The mouse ‘ventures in odyssey!” It keeps kids of all ages engaged (and quiet!) There are YEARS worth of episodes to start collecting! You can also listen to a few for free on whitsend.org.
9.) Choose restaurants with play areas!
While the food isn’t the greatest (unless of course, you’re at Chick-fil-A *heart eyes.*) The climbing, jumping, and running will do your carseat strapped children a WORLD of good during meal stops.
10.) Imaginative Games
The age of your children will determine how much you can really use this tip, but as long as the kids can hold a conversation, you can play some form of imaginative play. One of Judah’s favorite, since he was 2, has been talking about animals. When he was younger he would just say the sounds, and now at his age, we can go back and forth and name animals from the zoo, animals that live on a farm, animals that start with “D,” etc. Find what your children and interested in and work their brains during road trips!
10.) Books, books, books!
Charlie was 8 months old during “The Ridiculously Long Road Trip of 2017,” so she wasn’t terribly into toys at that age. I did have some age-appropriate toys for her that she usually threw out of reach in about 2 minutes. Books were a much bigger hit than toys for her, and books are always a hit with Judah. They would pass books back and forth and flip pages and laugh and giggle and books just made portions of the trip calm. I did buy some new books right before the trip, so I know that helped too. I’ll link a few of our favorites below!
I hope this list of things were helpful to you as you plan a road trip with toddlers. Most of them can be applied to plane travel too, except of course, for stopping often and choosing restaurants with play places…though an airplane with a playground sounds like something I’d pay extra for! Let me know in the comments how you keep your children occupied on trips, or if you tried something from this post!