As a mom of a two year old, I've become accustomed to the ins and outs of traveling with a toddler. My whole family lives back in Michigan so the need arises every few months or so to travel with my toddler. When I first moved, the very thought of making the drive with my son gave me heart palpitations. My mind would immediately race through all the horrible experiences I might have when stuck in the car. I have come around though and have learned how to make traveling with a toddler an almost delightful experience.
1. Travel at night- This works best for driving longer distances. The drive from South Dakota to Michigan is 16 hours, so, if I can get my son in the car at bedtime and drive that gives me about 10 hours of quiet, stress-free driving. I make sure I have a coffee, water and plenty of trail mix within arms reach to keep me alert. Having someone who can take turns driving is also very helpful. When my toddler wakes up at sunrise, we get breakfast, run around a bit, change, then hit the road again.
2. Snacks!- Pack three times as many snacks as you think your child will usually eat. I once packed an entire case of fruit snacks for my son. My inner nutritionist shuddered. However, he was happy as could be with the endless buffet of fruit snacks being passed to him from the front seat.
3. Screen time free for all- I try to limit my son's screen time to an hour per day. Let's be real though, Trolls on the Kindle can be a lifesaver when all else is failing. When we drove from Michigan during our move to South Dakota my son watched Trolls about 12 times back to back. Oh well….
4. Leave room in the backseat- We have a small family sedan so when we travel, the car looks like we are the Beverly Hillbillies with items crammed in wherever they fit. My suggestion is to keep one seat open next to the car seat in back. This allows you to do diaper changes in the car if you don't want to haul your child into the gas station. It also is great if your child needs to see a familiar face. When my husband and I drove here the first time, I rode in the backseat with my son for a good 4 hours just so he would have someone to chat with and play silly games with. It got us through the vast tundra called Iowa quite nicely.
5. Be realistic- Long haul car travel is hard on everyone involved. Don't plan it thinking it will be all sunshine and rainbows. There will come a time when emotions get the best of everyone, toddler and adult. Keep in mind that this too shall pass and at least the other cars whizzing by you on the interstate can't hear all the crying coming from your car. Traveling with a toddler does not have to be a nightmare. Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!
Happy trails, Annika
This blog is written by Mallory and Donna - at Black Hills Birth Boot Camp. Expect birthy topics, parenting triumphs and trials, and community resources and interviews. Have a topic idea you’d like us to address? Drop us a note!