We got back from our small trip to visit my husband’s cousins a few weeks ago. We had such a great time with them. Our boys had so much fun with their little cousin who is just a little bit older than them.
Even though we have done a long international travel to Japan when the boys were 13 months old and survived it (our experience and tips on international trip with babies on here), I was always afraid of a road trip. A road trip means a long car ride. Our boys are not so fond of car rides unless it is right at their nap time and they are asleep while riding in the car. They often cry or scream for a long time while being in a car so it makes a drive a little more stressful for us.
That’s why we haven’t really taken a long road trip anywhere. Airplane, airports, or ferries seem almost easier since they can be with us, move around, and have toys and snacks without being strapped by a seat belt. One good thing is that my husband was driving and I was able to entertain them / help them with their needs in the back seat if they needed.
I talked to a lot of friends and searched for ideas on Pinterest before we went on the holiday. I put together a list of what I found useful for a car travel with my toddlers (my boys are 18 months old).
1) Incorporate the nap time into the driving time.
We got them up earlier than usual and got them to play lots before we started driving. That way, they were ready to sleep in the car as soon as we started driving.
2) Sometimes, sitting in the back seat with them is required.
I did that maybe 80% of the drive… We have two big car seats in the back seat so I didn’t have much room so it was not very comfortable for me, but it was easier for me to pass them snacks, drinks, and toys. Also, my boys get separation anxiety, so me being close-by helped them calm down so that my husband could focus on driving without the boys screaming too much.
3) Make a stop where the kids can run around and burn some energy.
Sitting in a car seat for hours is not fun and I don’t blame them if they start to get fussy because it’s not very comfortable. So, we made sure to look for a big park / playground in a town we stopped for lunch. Since we were not in a big rush to get to the destination, we took more than a one hour break for the boys to play and move their bodies. It also helps us adults to move around in between the long car rides. This kind of activity wears their energy down and can lead to another nap time in the car, which is peaceful for us!
4) Pack treats and toys that are unfamiliar to them.
We packed some fun snacks and treats that they usually don’t get at home. I know they get tired of always eating the same old cheerios, so they got excited when they saw I had some Goldfish! I had a big box full of toys and books as well.
5) Show them videos or toddler Apps.
We do not have a DVD player in the car so I took our tablet with us. We had a few toddler apps downloaded beforehand, and when the boys got tired of playing with all the toys, I brought out the tablet and held it up so that both boys could watch the videos. My most favorite app is “Nursery Rhymes for Kids by Kidloland“. (I did a review on it a while back here) I find that other apps which included songs and videos needed wi-fi to use or other simple apps required me to always tap in order to go to the next screen. This Kidloland App was great in that once all the content was downloaded beforehand at home, it played the music video on repeat. The animals move and sing songs (just like a cartoon) so our boys were intrigued the whole time even though they have watched those videos many times!! I know I was introduced to this app for a review purpose at first, but I truly love it because it really saved my life. It was literally the only app that worked this wonderfully during the road trip. At first I was holding the tablet up so that both boys could see, but eventually I figured out that I could attach the tablet case to the middle head rest. Doing that allowed me to sneak back up to the front seat! Yay!
6) Be prepared for a restaurant / food stop that might not be kid-friendly.
On a road trip, we drive and stop wherever we need to, and we stopped in some small towns… where we had no idea what kind of restaurants there were! We just drove around until we saw a restaurant and we went in… The first one was nice but it was more adult oriented, they didn’t have crayons. I am so glad I carry crayons and papers all the time in my backpack. Also, because the place was pretty small, we had to use one high chair and one booster seat. Because our boys don’t sit still, a booster seat without a belt was very tricky. So we ended up using our “chair belt” that I carry everywhere (I explained how the chair belts work and how they save our life where we can’t find high chairs in the blog post here! It is a must have for a trip).
7) Pack lots of snack for yourself.
When our boys nap in the car, we can’t stop. That was the best time to keep driving to get most of the driving done in peace. Therefore, we couldn’t stop for a snack just because we were hungry or wanted to take a break. We made sure we packed lots of food, snacks and drinks for mommy and daddy too. That was important to make us happy and also let us enjoy our road trip.
8) Back of the car became our change table!
It was hard to find a change table nearby when we need to change them. Even though back of our SUV was pretty full, we had to move it around so that a baby could lie there so we could change them.
I don’t know how many times I had to move between the passenger seat and the back seat this trip. It gets stressful and exhausting in the moment sometimes but after all, we eventually get to the destination and we would all be fine so I shouldn’t have been afraid to take a long drive with my children. It is totally worth it to have a nice family get-away and for the boys to experience different scenery, environment, and people.
I want to encourage parents to travel with your small children. If you are prepared, it will be okay. We would like to do a camping trip this summer and hopefully have another road trip as well to go visit my friend sometime this year. We have kids and this is the form of family we are now, so I’d better get used to adjusting my travel preparation, travelling, and all the essentials to our family-of-four, and not to compare it to how “flexible and free” we were before we had kids. (My husband and I have taken a camping trip through the Canadian Rockies for 2 weeks, driving through the mountains and camping in a tent at a different site every night… that was an adventure. haha!)
Thank you so much for reading.
I hope everyone is having a great summer.